Philadelphia’s University of the Arts Faculty Union Reaches Its First Contract Agreement

The tentative agreement was reached just hours head of a strike vote.

Philadelphia’s University of the Arts faculty at a union rally. Photo courtesy of Philadelphia’s University of the Arts Faculty.

The recently unionized faculty of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia reached their first tentative contract agreement with administration, just hours ahead of an expected strike vote.

The faculty first unionized under the United Academics of Philadelphia three years ago and the efforts to reach a first contract were carried out over more than 70 bargaining sessions, leading frustrated faculty to the brink of picketing. The tentative agreement was reached Sunday, February 4, as faculty prepared to cast ballots on a strike on Monday. Details about the contract have since come out throughout the week.

“Our planned strike vote created enough pressure for us to WIN SO MUCH for ALL UArts Union Faculty!” the United Academics of Philadelphia said in a post on Instagram. “THANK YOU to all the UArts students, parents, staff and alumni who have supported us during this process!”

Philadelphia’s University of the Arts faculty union

Philadelphia’s University of the Arts faculty at a union rally. Photo courtesy of Philadelphia’s University of the Arts Faculty.

The union has secured a 13 percent raise for adjunct faculty on average and an 11 percent raise for full-time faculty on average. Adjuncts will receive a new minimum rate of $1,275 per credit when there was previously no required minimum. Some adjuncts previously made as little as $700 per credit.

Under the wage hikes, 40 percent of adjuncts will now get at least $5,000 for a standard three-credit course and all adjuncts will get an automatic pay increase every year they return to teach. The new minimum salary for full-time faculty will be $57,850 per year when there was previously no required minimum. And the new medium pay is $70,000 per year. Full-time faculty will get $1,500 increase to base pay per year, at minimum.

Other wins for the union include healthcare stipends for adjuncts with seniority and multi-semester contracts available for adjuncts. The union has scored three guaranteed faculty seats on the board of trustees and its committees.

The union provided a document outlining the terms of the agreement, which show it would be retroactive from January 2024 and be in effect through August 2026. Adjuncts who taught in the fall would also get a $250 signing bonus, if the contract is ratified. Ratification meetings are ongoing.

The agreement also has other standard measures including requiring the university to provide an office space for the union and guidelines for laying off full-time members, as well as the outlining of other benefits such as bereavement leave, tuition remission, and other privileges for faculty and their children.

The contract won praise from major unions including the powerful AFL-CIO and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, which said that United Academics of Philadelphia had fought long and hard for the contract.

“I commend both negotiating teams for their dedicated work, day in and day out, that brought us to a tentative agreement,” university president Kerry Walk said in a statement. “It is heartening to see the two sides come together to uphold UArts’s academic excellence across the visual, performing, and creative arts.”


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