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The professors of the Dominican University of San Rafael unionize

Full-time faculty at the Dominican University of California, San Rafael voted to unionize, joining the California Federation of Teachers.

Faculty members voted in a mail-in election organized by the National Labor Relations Board. The ballots were counted last week. Seventy-three respondents out of 87, or 84%, voted yes. The total bargaining unit is 103 people, according to the union.

University president Nicola Pitchford released a letter this month notifying faculty and staff of the vote. The letter expressed gratitude to those who participated in what she called a “smooth and collegial process.”

She said the university has experience working with unions to identify and achieve common goals. The adjunct faculty joined Service Employees International Union Local 1021 in 2015.

“We hope to apply these skills to both our partnership with CFT and our work with Dominican staff, which will absolutely progress as well,” she wrote.

Veronica Fruiht, a Dominican psychology professor who helped lead the union campaign, said an effort to unionize in the 1990s failed. The recent push has galvanized around raising salaries to match the cost of living and establishing a unified voice in campus decisions.

Regarding decision-making, Fruiht said, “As teachers, we realized that we felt our voice was not always raised as high as it could be.”

“The government structure in place was not really enough to give professors the voice they needed to ensure that the working and learning environment was what they wanted for students. said Fruiht.

Fruiht said professors felt too spread out because they were being asked to do more with fewer resources.

“That means it’s getting harder and harder for us to show ourselves as the best teachers and mentors for our students,” she said.

Fruiht said few faculty members have received cost-of-living salary increases in recent years, and salaries are not competitive enough to recruit new talent.

“We want to make sure wages are sustainable,” she said.

According to the university, full-time salaries this school year range from $62,400 to $131,537 for nine-month faculty and $66,000 to $174,044 for 12-month faculty. The range for nine-month faculty peaks at $133,000 for the 2022-23 calendar, while the 12-month range remains the same.

Pitchford said the institution is committed to fostering the social mobility of its students and understands that “ensuring fair and sustainable salaries for our highly qualified and dedicated faculty is also a crucial part of being true to this mission.”

“It’s an urgent challenge,” Pitchford said. “At the same time, we cannot pass on our rising costs to our students and their families – so it has been difficult to make meaningful progress, particularly when our budget has been further stretched by the impacts of COVID.”

Pitchford said the administration and board “fully share our faculty members’ goal of increasing compensation and creating a work environment that will be supportive and sustainable over the long term.”

“We respect and understand the desire of the majority of faculty to be represented by CFT,” Pitchford said. “We look forward to working with them.”

Jeff Freitas, president of the California Federation of Teachers, congratulated the faculty.

“We are honored to welcome the full-time faculty of Dominican University of California to the CFT family,” said Freitas. “We look forward to negotiating a contract with the administration that recognizes the contributions that faculty make every day to students and to the mission of the university.”

The union represents 120,000 employees of public and private institutions.

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