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Contingent Faculty Bargaining Part Two

Contract Provisions that Make a Difference

Contingent higher education faculty—part-time and temporary employees hired without the chance for tenure—have long had few rights or benefits. But NEA higher education affiliates and other unions are establishing, ensuring, and expanding the rights of "contingents" and providing them with "conditions of work befitting professionals." From this experience emerges a list of workable goals for new and veteran NEA contingent negotiators:

Salaries and Benefits

  • Pay parity with tenure system (tenured or tenure-track) faculty, built atop a rock-bottom floor: a contingent faculty minimum starting salary that equals, then exceeds, the area living wage (which can be calculated through the Economic Policy Institute's family basic budget calculator.

  • A merged, single salary schedule for both tenure system faculty and contingents, offering equal pay for work of equal value, prorated for classes or hours worked.

  • A schedule that is easy to understand, that contains a small number of steps in each column, and that includes added columns that reward education and training. The goals: create a sound ratio between starting and career (top) rates, upward faculty mobility, and a fair, equitable, and consistent schedule that maximizes career earnings.

  • Where it is not possible to reach full parity with tenure system salaries, bargain additional "piecemeal" rates for non-classroom duties such as office hours, curriculum development, student advising, individual instruction, field learning supervision, required meetings and committee work, and distance learning development.

  • Reimbursement for required professional development.

  • Comprehensive health care and retirement benefits, with year-long coverage at no extra cost—along with prorated leave, including rollover of unused sick leave.

Job Security

  • Full grievance rights (over issues such as appointment, evaluation, and workload), binding arbitration, and discipline only for "just cause."

  • Seniority language giving contingents with longer service: preference and a choice in course assignments, priority over probationary employees/new hires, right of "first refusal" of new course opportunities, priority in layoff/recall, and automatic priority when two employees with equal qualifications seek the same assignment.

  • "Presumption of renewal" for a defined number of years after a contingent teaches a certain number of semesters/quarters over a certain period of time—renewal that is automatically granted unless the institution can document unsatisfactory performance.

  • "Preference for new and additional work" for contingents who successfully gain multi-year contracts, allowing them to move steadily towards full-time status.

  • A dedicated seniority list, with a minimum course guarantee, for contingents who successfully teach a class over a defined period of time.

  • Language prohibiting "arbitrary and capricious" decisions to remove contingents from courses, be it through failing them in performance reviews or renaming courses.

  • Credit for breaks in service after completion of a probationary period.

Paths to Tenured Status

  • Preference or "careful consideration" for contingents in all institutional hiring searches for full-time tenure-track faculty.

  • Conversion of contingent positions to tenure-track status.

  • A defined ratio of tenure system-to-contingent positions.

  • Full-time sabbatical replacement faculty, with full-time salary and benefits.

Professional Status and Respect

  • Appointments made with the same care, timeline, and schedule accorded to tenure-track faculty—and appointment letters that clearly state status, rights, and benefits.

  • Adequate advance notice of teaching assignments and opportunities.

  • Full access to professional support, including office and storage space, telephones, E-mail and voicemail, computers, library privileges, and secretarial services.

  • Opportunity to participate in professional conferences and professional development workshops, and to apply for grants and tuition assistance.

  • Periodic evaluations based on consistent, explicit, and jointly developed criteria.

  • Advance notice of observations and the right to a post-observation conference—along with the right to request a second observation by another observer.

  • Release time and compensation for attendance at departmental meetings.

  • The contingent's right to examine his/her personnel file, copy its contents, and place responses to notices of disciplinary action.

  • Consistent job classifications and descriptions.

  • Explicit paperwork filing procedures for positions and appointments.

Union Rights/Union Building

  • Guarantee of a contingent's right to union representation at every step of the grievance/disciplinary process.

  • Management transmittal to the Association, once per semester, of contingent faculty contact information—including names, assigned courses, schedules, and compensation.

  • Association time on the agenda of orientation sessions for new contingent faculty.

  • Contingent faculty voting representation on all university/college bodies that make decisions affecting contingent teaching or terms or conditions of employment.

For more on contingent faculty bargaining, contact Dave Winans in the NEA Collective Bargaining & Member Advocacy Department at

* Maitland, C. and Rhoades, G., "More Than They Bargained For: Contingent Faculty," The NEA 2006 Almanac of Higher Education. See this article for a current national overview of contingent faculty language. For a full list of recommended higher education contract provisions, see the Organizing Manual for Association Leaders in Higher Education Units, NEA Office of Higher Education, spring 1992.

Other Contingent Faculty Bargaining Fact Sheets: