The Part-Time Faculty Union (PTFA) rallied on Wednesday, March 2, to demand fair contract negotiations from University officials.
A group of more than 80 people, including students, faculty, staff, and San Francisco community members, filled Gleeson Plaza on Ash Wednesday. Accompanying them were signs that showed appreciation for adjunct faculty and called for University officials to live up to their Jesuit values.
“It’s appropriate for a Catholic university as we enter Lent to think about what we owe each other as members of the community,” said PTFA event organizer Rebecca Gordon.
At the start of the year, on Jan. 12, the PTFA stated that University officials “walked away from the bargaining table in the middle of contract negotiations,” according to their press release.
The purpose of this rally was to bring the bargaining table back to University administration, with protestors carrying a physical table from Gleeson Plaza to the top of Lone Mountain, ascending the Hilltop.
“We would like to reach an agreement that meets our needs as soon as possible,” said Michael Hammond, secretary of PTFA and adjunct rhetoric professor. “This event is designed to send that message, that we really need the administration to get back to the table and to start taking the responsibility to meet our needs seriously.”
The demands of the PTFA are “a 2% guaranteed cost of living increase during each of the next two years, reduced health care costs, protection of seniority rights, and a more transparent promotion process,” according to their press release.
These demands were often repeated at the event by PTFA board members, students, full-time faculty, and government officials, including Connie Chan, San Francisco District 1 Supervisor.
“Why don’t you care about our faculty?” Chan said to the crowd, questioning University officials at large. She echoed the concerns of the PTFA, calling for a University response to their demands.
“We need the next generation of leaders to be thoughtful,” she said. “They cannot be if they don’t have a space where they can be educated by the people who are just as thoughtful.”
“We shouldn’t have to fight this hard,” said Jill Schepmann, president of PTFA. “We’re just trying to do good work.”
The crowd exponentially grew throughout the rally on Gleeson Plaza. Their presence and positionality on campus made it so that many community members, who were just walking by, joined the protest.
The turnout, in part, could be attributed to the California Federation of Teachers (CFT). With approximately five members in vivid, neon orange vests, they welcomed passerby into the event, giving them information on the PTFA’s platform.
Other unions and coalitions were at the event supporting PTFA, such as Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) and Jobs with Justice.
“We stand in strong unity with USF PTFA,” said Nat Naylor, OPEIU Local 29 SF Director of Representation. “We join together with all our union siblings on campus at USF to fight for economic equity and justice for all workers.”
As a representative for Jobs with Justice, Danich Ho, put it, “when you mess with one union, you mess with the whole city.”
Annika Melies, CFT worker noted the care and consideration they found when speaking with students. “Students here really care about this, every student that I’ve talked to,” they said. “It’s been really lovely to see that.”
Throughout the rally, it was reiterated that students are the most important part of any university. As such, the event lineup featured acts and affirmations of solidarity from many students.
“I came to USF under the impression that this institution also valued education, especially in its ability to inspire students to ‘change the world from here’,” said Sophie Williams, a first-year undergraduate student and representative from the Young Democratic Socialists of America. “But how can I continue to use this justification when in fact I am investing in an institution that refuses to invest in its own educators?”
Samson denied all accusations, stating that USF has “one of the most attractive compensation packages for part-time faculty at any similarly-situated West Coast private institution of higher learning.”
Samson continued by stating that “no other private comparator school provides retirement benefits to its part-time faculty like USF does. USF spent over $600,000 on part-time faculty retirement contributions in 2021. Part-time faculty members at USF received salary increases ranging from 5.5% to 6.5% over the past two years, i.e., during the middle of the pandemic, and when other groups were not receiving increases.”
After marching up Lone Mountain, a PTFA delegation attempted to take their demands to University officials in the Rossi Wing. Instead of finding administration, they were met with public safety officers and no clearance to enter the building. They shoved their demands under the door.
“If members of the delegation are employed or students at the university and they completed the Don’s Health Check that day, they should have been able to use their One Cards to access the Rossi Wing of the Lone Mountain Complex,” Samson said.
It remains unclear why the delegation, composed of USF students and faculty, did not have access to this building.
Late on the evening of March 1, PTFA was informed that their next negotiating session would be on March 17. “We’re very excited to be getting back to the table,” Hammond said. “We think this event had a lot to do with making that happen.”
The Foghorn will continue its coverage of the Part-Time Faculty Association as contract negotiations continue in the coming weeks.
Megan Robertson, a sophomore media studies and performing arts & social justice double major, is the Foghorn’s deputy news editor and general assignment reporter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.