Over 250 non-tenure-track faculty members at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) have announced their intent to unionize. According to a letter published yesterday, May 10, non-tenure-track faculty, which include lecturers and adjuncts, make up three quarters of all SAIC professors.
The letter describes working conditions at the school as “intolerable,” stating that faculty members without tenure do not make enough money to cover the cost of living, lack adequate benefits, and “do the work of full-time professors, but without the corresponding titles, compensation, or job security.”
“Lecturers have recently been pushed into in-person instruction without health insurance during a pandemic; at the same time, they have been denied access to the highly competitive promotions process that is their only route to basic benefits,” the letter reads.
All other staff at SAIC and the Art Institute of Chicago, the museum associated with the school, unionized in January, forming Art Institute of Chicago Workers United (AICWU). Non-tenure-track faculty members now hope to join the union as well. (In the United States, most tenured and tenure-track faculty cannot unionize because a 1980 Supreme Court decision, National Labor Relations Board v. Yeshiva University, labeled them “managerial” workers.)
The letter adds that part-time workers comprise “the largest number of faculty who hold marginalized identities.”
“The precarity we face is thus inextricably linked to racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, ageism, classism, and the innumerable extensions and intersections of oppression,” it reads. “SAIC has pledged to dismantle inequity, yet the School’s imbalances in compensation, benefits, security, and support further entrench it.”
An AICWU spokesperson told Hyperallergic that after the letter was published yesterday, the school sent a staff- and faculty-wide email announcing the unionization effort.
There are two ways for the union to become official: The school can voluntarily recognize it, or faculty members can vote for it in a National Labor Relations Board election.
“If a union is voted in, the School will work with the bargaining team on matters relating to pay, benefits, appointment terms, and other working conditions,” a SAIC spokesperson told Hyperallergic.
The museum and school did not voluntarily recognize the staff’s union last year, either. In November, when staff were set to vote, workers accused management of union-busting tactics such as telling people they were ineligible for the union and threatening to take away their benefits. This is against federal law, and the museum and school denied the allegations.
“We urge senior leadership to honor our legal right to organize without intimidation or coercion,” reads the non-tenure-track faculty’s letter. “And to avoid wasting time and resources on expensive lawyers, propaganda campaigns, or mandatory anti-union meetings. SAIC can demonstrate its commitment to equity by respecting our right to organize.”
Three Looted Antiquities at the Met Repatriated to Turkey
Nine other repatriated works were seized from Met Trustee Shelby White, whose collection was subject to a criminal investigation.
This week, the world’s lightest paint, Pakistan’s feminist movement, World Puppy Day, and were some of Vermeer’s paintings created by his daughter?
The Wider World and Scrimshaw
On March 28, join the New Bedford Whaling Museum online and in-person for a symposium on global carving traditions from across the Pacific Rim.
Who Will Decide on the Future of a Miami Native Burial Ground?
Native activists say sacred remains and objects dug up from a Brickell construction site should remain there, but mega-developer Jorge Pérez is pushing back.
How Can a Curator Approach South Asian Futurisms?
How do I acknowledge my shortcomings while reckoning with obscured histories and the exclusion of subaltern narratives in the fine art landscape? A working checklist for curators.
MCA Chicago Presents On Stage: Frictions
Will Rawls, Shamel Pitts | TRIBE, and Barak adé Soleil explore Blackness, queerness, movement, and dance in performances at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
The Complicated Legacy of Camilo Egas
The Ecuadorian painter, a leading figure of Latin America’s Indigenismo art movement, has been both praised and scorned for his representation of Indigenous peoples.
Tom Jones Zeroes in on Ho-Chunk Visibility
“I think about the young kids, the teenagers, and I think being able to see yourself represented in art is so powerful,” says the artist.
Haggerty Museum of Art Presents Tomás Saraceno in Dialogue With Dr. Somesh Roy
The artist and researcher will explore soot’s effects on climate change and public health in this online conversation.
Hundreds of Artworks by NYC Teenagers Go on View at the Met
The talented seventh through twelfth-grade students are recipients of the 2023 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.
NYC’s Flatiron Building Sells for a Whopping $190M
The sale to outsider bidder Jacob Garlick puts an end to the protracted legal battle between the iconic skyscraper’s five former owners.
McKnight Visual Artist Fellows Discussion Series at the Minneapolis Institute of Art
The series features 2021 Fellows David Bowen, Mara Duvra, Rotem Tamir, Ben Moren, and Dyani White Hawk in conversation with renowned curators and critics.
The Best Memes Roasting the “We ❤️ NYC” Campaign
A graphic designer on Twitter created a hilarious send-up of the universally reviled logo, and the rest is history.
Did You Know These Museums Were Free for New Yorkers?
The “Free Admission” campaign is advocating to make ticket pricing information more transparent to visitors, who may be confused or misled by institutions’ language.