CCAD faculty members announce their intent to form a union

The college is the latest Columbus arts institution to experience a union push, following in the footsteps of the Columbus Museum of Art and the Wexner Center for the Arts.
CCADJinjian Liang for Flickr

When workers at the Wexner Center for the Arts announced an intent to unionize in March 2022, they were pioneers in the Columbus art world.

“With the union movement, a lot of people tend to think of mine workers and auto workers — these blue-collar entities,” AFSCME organizer Corissa Spence said at the time. “And there’s really been this shift in understanding that a union is for everybody. Your job doesn’t have to be physically threatening to need protection.” 

In the years since, the movement has carried deeper into the local art world, joined first by workers at the Columbus Museum of Art and now by the faculty at Columbus College of Art & Design (CCAD), which announced its intent to unionize today (Wednesday, Sept. 13).

According to a press release, 72 percent of the school’s full-time and adjunct faculty submitted signed union cards to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and the group has called upon the school’s Board of Trustees to voluntarily recognize the union.

“We’re forming our union because it will give faculty a larger voice in the way our institution is run and lead to more innovation,” Associate Professor in History of Art & Visual Culture Carol Boram-Hays said in a press release. “It will also help bring about better working conditions for adjuncts and full-time faculty, and a more creative and equitable college for everyone.”

If CCAD’s Board of Trustees declines to voluntarily recognize the union, the process would move to a secret ballot administered by the NLRB.

In a press release, members of the potential union, dubbed the CCAD Faculty Alliance (CFA), said gaining a voice in academic decisions made at the college and improving the work environment for adjunct faculty are top priorities. 

“Two out of three faculty members at CCAD are adjuncts with no benefits, no contracts longer than a semester, and no voice,” said Brian Williams, an adjunct faculty member who teaches Illustrative Figure Drawing.

The CCAD announcement lands at a time when the union movement continues to gain steam across industries. Melissa Cropper, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT), said many workers have been galvanized by the arrival of COVID-19 to form unions.

“I think the pandemic had a huge impact to where people started to have a different perspective on what they wanted their lives to look like and what kind of voice they wanted to have in the workplace,” Cropper said by phone in early September.

While Cropper couldn’t recall the last time OFT helped organize a new local union chapter prior to the pandemic, she said the group has helped advise seven groups who have gone on to successfully form unions in the few years since, including KIPP Columbus, Worthington Libraries and Grandview Heights Public Library, among others.

Most recently, OFT helped advise Pickerington Public Library, whose workers announced in August their intent to unionize, and who are currently moving toward a secret ballot election.

“I think it gets more exciting as you get further down the process,” said Pickerington teen librarian Moth Meuser, who hoped the workers could unionize and successfully negotiate benefits such as health insurance for part-time employees and paid family leave. “It becomes more real, and you realize you’re organizing for something that’s tangible, that’s right in front of you. It’s like, oh, we can actually make a difference. We can improve our workplace for everybody and make it more democratic.”

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