AFT Makes New Effort to Offer Benefits to Contingent Faculty Members

July 11, 2014

The American Federation of Teachers announced on Friday that it was teaming up with a nonprofit organization for independent workers to provide colleges’ contingent faculty members with access to health insurance and other benefits.

Benefits offered by the new partnership—between the AFT and the Freelancers Union, which serves a wide range of independent workers—will be open to all contingent faculty members at American colleges, whether or not they belong to the AFT. The deal will enable them to tap into a web portal with access to both AFT and Freelancers Union programs and services, including health, dental, liability, disability, and life insurance offered by the Freelancers Union through a benefits platform established last month.

"This partnership provides access to much-needed benefits contingent faculty wouldn’t otherwise have, as well as access to information, resources, and supports to improve their lives and professions," Randi Weingarten, the AFT’s president, said on Friday in a written statement announcing the new collaboration. Contingent faculty members will have access to the new web portal beginning this fall.

Maria Maisto, president of the New Faculty Majority, an advocacy group for contingent faculty members, on Friday said the new collaboration would be "a really great thing for contingent faculty who need these sorts of benefits." She said her own organization had discussed establishing a similar program but decided it lacked the resources to do so.

"The more we can help contingent faculty take care of these sorts of needs," she said, "the more energy and resources they will have to engage in advocacy to help change a system that is not working for either faculty or students."