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ASU union workers demand $25 by 2025, stronger job security

UCWA is collecting signatures for a petition that advocates for increased wages and more job security for campus workers and faculty


A protester holds a sign resembling a tombstone with “RIP CROW’S SPINE” written on it outside Discovery Hall on the Tempe campus on Sept. 30, 2021.

A union of ASU students, faculty and staff is petitioning the University to pay all campus workers at least $25 an hour by 2025 and increase job security for faculty on short-term contracts.

United Campus Workers of Arizona is a union made up of campus workers from ASU and UA. It is circulating two ASU-related petitions.

One petition demands the University create better working conditions, including equitable pathways to promotion, more multi-year contracts and a fair grievance process for terminated contracts. Their second petition is focused on increasing the pay for all campus workers to a base-wage of $25 an hour, or the salaried equivalent, by 2025.

State law does not require the University to pay workers on campus Arizona's hourly minimum wage of $13.85.

UCWA wants 1,000 signatures before delivering the petitions to ASU President Michael Crow and the Arizona Board of Regents. So far, it has collected over 750 signatures since its Labor Day launch of the campaign.

The Young Democratic Socialists of America at ASU support the $25 by 2025 campaign.

YDSA Chair Samuel Ndinjiakat said the student organization started working with the union in September to gather more signatures and recruit more UCWA members. He said the union is focused on ensuring faculty's ability to "know that you are secure in your work and the path you want to take."  

"A lot of professors specifically talk about their ability to teach and their ability to live," Ndinjiakat said. "...Whether that be being a custodian or being a professor, you have that ability to know that you're going to be okay financially and continue to grow on other levels that aren't just completely based on your income."

Richard Newhauser, a tenured English and literature professor and union member, said a large percentage of teaching is done by nontenure track employees and worries about the heavy workload of instructors affects the quality of teaching and learning at the University.

Nontenured faculty members teach many of the entry-level courses that have higher enrollments, often hundreds of students, in one classroom, and make up a majority of the teaching positions at ASU – a minimum of 61%, according to 2021 data from the University.

"Students are not getting the best attention, the attention that they, as students, deserve, if faculty are constantly worried about whether their contract is going to be renewed for another year," Newhauser said. "If they are having to work three jobs, going to different universities around the Valley, and teaching large numbers of students even just to make ends meet."

ASU Vice Provost for Academic Personnel Deborah Clarke said in an email the University provides "a wide range of kinds of appointments, ranging from one-semester appointments to teach a single class to multi-year contracts of up to three years."

ABOR, the governing body for the state's three public universities, sets the maximum number of nontenured faculty who are offered three-year contracts. It was increased in fall from a number equal to 15% of the tenure-eligible faculty to a number equal to 30% of the tenure-eligible faculty, Clarke said in the email.

READ MORE: ASU's union struggles to get recognition from administration

Laurie Stoff, a lecturer and faculty fellow at the Barrett, The Honors College is grateful for her three-year teaching contract. But, she said that number still leaves 70% of contingent faculty with one-year contracts or less, and many faculty associates "without any recourse at all."

"If they truly believe that they want to invest in us," Stoff said, "like they think of us as long-term employees, then they need to change the way that we're awarded contracts and give more multi-years, or provide more access to tenure-track positions, create more tenure positions, and give the current faculty who are in contingent positions first access to those."

Stoff said the union doesn't think that’s not too much to ask for, and it will continue to push for incremental paycheck increases "so that people can have enough money to...provide for a healthy livelihood."

There have been small wins, with the University announcing a 12.84% increase in the graduate student stipend to $24,586 – up from the previous year's $21,789.

Newhauser says he still hopes more will come from the new campaign. 

"I signed the petitions," said Newhauser. "I'm hoping that the management of ASU will follow up on that, and we will ultimately receive enough signatures so that the petitions will then be more widely distributed."

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly called United Campus Workers of Arizona "University Campus Workers of Arizona." The story was updated on Feb. 9, 2023, at 3:15 p.m. to correct the error.

Edited by Shane Brennan, Reagan Priest, Caera Learmonth, Piper Hansen and Greta Forslund.

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Tori Gantz Politics Reporter

Tori is a politics reporter covering voting rights, labor, and University Student Government Polytechnic at the State Press. They are currently working for the News Collab and Wick Communications to create the Voices Listening Project, a collaborative research project in Arizona funded by the Google News initiative.

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