The nearly 700 part-time and full-time faculty at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena now comprise CFT’s newest local union in the Federation’s recent surge of organizing victories among private sector universities.

The ArtCenter faculty voted to form a union with AFT/CFT with 60% of those participating in the mail election voting in favor of the union. The National Labor Relations Board counted union recognition ballots June 21 in Los Angeles.

Faculty at the college are proud of their union victory and excited about this opportunity to improve the college for faculty and students alike.

Union Yes graphic!

“We are thrilled that both full-time and part- time faculty joined together to create a unified voice,” said Cole Case, a part-time faculty member in the Integrated Studies department. “This will make the ArtCenter we love an even stronger home for our students and faculty,”

ArtCenter faculty first contacted CFT in November 2020 to learn how affiliating with a statewide union could bring them more power and resources. Over the last two years, faculty leaders developed a strong organizing commit­tee with more than 60 faculty members.

Kim Fisher, a part-time faculty member in Fine Arts said, “We organized this union for transparency around issues like hiring, salary, raises, and promotions. Too many part-time faculty members have been waiting on fair wages for years. Some haven’t had a raise in 10 years. It’s time for things to change.”

The ArtCenter College of Design is a global leader in art and design education with more than 2,000 students currently enrolled. The college offers 11 undergraduate and seven graduate degrees in a wide array of industrial design, visual, and applied arts disciplines.

Support for unionization was widespread with faculty leaders and supporters emerging in every department. By early 2022, the committee had collected hundreds of union authorization cards. With more than supermajority support from the workers, the CFT filed a union recognition petition with the NLRB.

“The result of our union vote comes after almost two years of organizing one-on-one with our colleagues,” said Armando Zuniga, a full-time faculty member in the Humanities and Sciences department.

In response to the union campaign, ArtCenter administration instigated a widespread anti-union effort designed to confuse faculty. They claimed it was not faculty who initiated the unionization effort and sent campus-wide emails with aggressive missives from a few department chairs. Some chairs also held departmental meetings to share the administration’s anti-union perspective.

However, organizing committee members and supporters of the Art­Center Faculty Federation maintained a unified voice in response to the attacks. They focused on the method that works: one-on-one conversations.

“A public forum is a great place to sow confusion and bad feelings about unionization,” said Arden Stern, a faculty member in the Humanities and Sciences department. “But in colleague-to-colleague conversations, we can answer all the questions people have.”

ArtCenter faculty also drew on their innate talents—design. The communications subcommittee created a website and a strong presence on social media. Faculty designed creative images for Instagram and Facebook and sent emails using Action Network to address frequently asked questions and counter misinformation.

Simultaneously, the community outreach subcommittee worked with student groups on campus, community organizations, and labor groups to solicit messages of solidarity and support on social media.

The faculty also worked with a pair of alumni to create a helpful (and humorous) video that showed the design teachers how to cast their union recognition ballot in the NLRB election.

CFT President Jeff Freitas congratulated the faculty on their hard-won union victory.

“We are elated to welcome the ArtCenter faculty into the CFT family and are eager to support them as they begin the process of negotiating their first contract,” said Freitas, who also noted that ArtCenter net assets are up 63% since 2014-15. “We look forward to helping faculty obtain the professional wages and benefits they need and deserve to do their important work.”

—  By CFT Staff