Faculty Forward scores victory at Iowa university

Iowa City, Iowa — The members of Faculty Forward Iowa, part of a national organizing campaign by the Service Employees International Union, scored a major victory at the University of Iowa earlier this month when administrators agreed to expand benefits for visiting faculty.

For several months, more than 200 FFI members have been organizing on behalf of non-tenure track (NTT) faculty at the university. As noted in the FFI mission statement, “We believe that through organizing we can build power to stand up for what we are worth, demand inclusion in the academic community, and claim a voice for quality education.” (­seiufacultyforward.org)

The University of Iowa Non-Tenure Track Organizing Committee has drawn up a list of 12 demands they are urging administrators to implement. Among these demands is plank #8 on the list — the demand for health insurance coverage.

As affirmed in this plank: “The University of Iowa should provide all non-tenure track faculty with access to health insurance on par with what is offered to their tenure track colleagues, including access to family plans. We believe health insurance should be a right of all non-tenure track faculty, not a privilege.” Thanks to the ongoing efforts of FFI, this plank has become a reality.

This summer, dozens of NTT faculty have met with administrators to discuss their demands. As a result of these meetings, administrators have granted visiting faculty full benefits. As of this semester, faculty with a one-year academic contract and 50 percent appointment (as legally required) will be entitled to the same benefits as those for tenured and tenure-track faculty and lecturers.

As noted in a FFI public statement: “That means that our visiting faculty colleagues will now have access to health insurance, retirement benefits, and sick leave, as well as subsidized dependent coverage, dental, and life insurance. For some of us this means we’ll finally be able to insure our children, or stop having to rely on Medicaid, or that we can start to feel more secure knowing that we’re building up something to retire on.”

This was a major win for NTT faculty at the university. This is welcome news in the midst of statewide attacks on workers and budget cuts leveled across the Hawkeye State.

UI Visiting Assistant Professor of History Faye Bartram said, “This is a fundamentally important policy change that will make a positive difference in the lives of visiting faculty like me.” (seiufacultyforward.org, Aug. 9)

But this win is only the beginning, for there is still much more to be gained for UI workers.

According to FFI: “We’ll continue to meet with the administration, organize, and work to win improvements on all of the other issues that are important to us. We hope to work with them to effect similarly sweeping improvements on the issues of job security, predictable, decent raises, parental leave, contract consistency, representation on campus, and more.”

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