James Brown / WXXI

Tamiko Matthews received her second pink slip from the Rochester City School District this week. The 40-something mother of one has worked for the district for just two years. 

"What am I going to be able to do next, after this?” Matthews asked. “Am I gonna be able to come back to my job or continuously look for another job?”

Adjunct faculty at Nazareth College approved their first union contract Wednesday.

A statement from Local 200 United said the majority of adjuncts will receive 50% pay raises spread out over the next four years. A union spokesperson said most Nazareth adjuncts make about $2,700 per course. 

The deal also includes longer-term contracts and professional development funding.

The wage increases will be retroactive, so qualifying adjuncts will receive pay increases for this semester’s courses. 

Are construction workers paid fairly in New York State? The legislature has been debating the so-called “prevailing wage.” Non-union workers and business leaders have warned that expanding the prevailing wage will cripple businesses that want to expand, while stalling the clean energy industry. Union leaders have joined many Democrats in calling for more wage protections, arguing that the business community always claims the sky is falling when they have to pay people a little bit more.

Our guests debate it:


Rochester’s annual Labor Day parade steps off  at 11:00 a.m. on Monday near the corner of East Avenue and Alexander Street, proceeds down East Ave. to Main Street, then turns west on Main Street to South Plymouth Avenue.

The parade, which is traditionally one of the largest Labor Day parades in the state, this year will honor Florence ‘Flo’ Tripi, the former CSEA Western Region President who died in July at the age of 79.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that government workers who choose not to join a union cannot be charged for the cost of collective bargaining. The plaintiff in this case, Mark Janus, a child-support specialist for the state of Illinois, challenged a requirement that government workers who opt out of a union still have to pay partial dues to cover the union's cost of negotiation and other functions. It was a predictable 5-4 decision. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion with the court's conservatives joining him.

The decision is expected to be a blow to organized labor, but how detrimental can it be? Our guests discuss:

Three-quarters of American college professors are adjuncts, according to various recent studies. The Atlantic Monthly framed the issue in terms of a battle for not just working professors, but the quality of higher education; the magazine explored the question, "Can a budding labor movement improve the lives of non-tenured faculty - and, in the process, fix higher education?"

We discuss the move toward unionization among adjuncts, and what that might mean for professors and students. Our guests:

  • Colleen Wolf, adjunct lecturer in music at Nazareth College
  • Jake Allen, organizer for SEIU-Faculty Forward at Nazareth College
  • Pat Domaratz, labor relations specialist employed by NYSUT
  • Paul Ciminelli, Second Amendment expert and attorney at Ciminelli & Ciminelli, and adjunct professor in homeland security management at Monroe Community College

Officers from New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) are in Rochester. They join us to discuss a range of issues, including school safety; testing; a feared teacher shortage; the New York State budget; and the Janus vs. AFSCME case, which could impact union member and worker rights.

In studio:

  • Andy Pallotta, president of NYSUT
  • Jolene DiBrango, executive vice president of NYSUT

The union representing about 1,800 Monroe County employees says they have reached a tentative agreement with the county.

The Civil Service Employees Association says the collective bargaining agreement has been reached following “years of contentious negotiations.”

The CSEA says details will not be released until county employees have reviewed the specifics of the proposals and not until after a ratification vote which is scheduled for later this month.

Graduate Assistants At U of R Want To Unionize

Aug 24, 2016
Caitlin Whyte / WXXI News

Graduate students, faculty and union officials gathered on the Wilson Quad at the University of Rochester on Wednesday to say that the graduate assistants at the U of R will try to form their own union.

That’s after the National Labor Relations Board ruled this week that graduate students who assist in teaching and research at private universities have a right to union representation.

This ruling reverses the 2004 Brown University decision that blocked graduate students from collective bargaining.

Non-tenured faculty members at the University of Rochester are considering forming a union to help adjunct and contingent professors improve their compensation. They could join colleagues at more than 40 colleges around the country who have unionized.

Those who support unionization say it would improve adjunct faculty members’ standard of living, provide a more stable environment for students, and increase retention and graduation rates. Opponents argue that it will result in fewer jobs, larger class sizes, and less money being available for scholarships and tuition relief.  

Our panel discusses both sides of the issue. Our guests:

  • Lisa Cerami, adjunct professor of German at Nazareth College
  • Matt Witten, adjunct professor of contemporary music at the University of Rochester, Monroe Community College, Finger Lakes Community College, Rowan University, and D’Youville College
  • Christopher Niemiec, senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Rochester
  • Miles Meth, University of Rochester student in favor of the union
  • Darya Nicol, University of Rochester student in favor of the union