Non-tenure-track faculty at Loyola University Chicago walked out in April over failed contract negotiations. (Service Employees International Union)

The first faculty union at Loyola University Chicago has voted to ratify a three-year contract following two years of negotiations with the Jesuit school and a brief strike this month.

Instructors wrapped up several days of voting Thursday, more than a week after reaching a tentative deal with the university. The agreement covers about 360 non-tenure-track faculty in Loyola’s College of Arts and Sciences and its English Language Learning Program who are represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73. It goes to the Loyola Board of Trustees in June for approval. The agreement is the first contract the instructors have negotiated since forming the union in 2016.

“I’m thrilled that my fellow faculty turned out to vote and voted in such a strong majority to support this contract,” said Alyson Paige Warren, an adjunct instructor in the English department and a member of the bargaining committee. “Of course, it’s not perfect, but it’s truly a massive change. It’s going to really improve the lives of faculty exponentially, improve the university exponentially.”

The contract will increase pay for each course taught by part-time instructors by up to 51 percent, while providing full-time lecturers an average pay increase of 5.2 percent, according to the union. Adjuncts will receive a fee of $900 if a course assignment is canceled within three weeks of the start of the semester, ensuring that faculty receive some compensation when their classes are abruptly canceled.

Part-time instructors will also receive renewable one- and two-year appointments with course guarantees, while full-time lecturers will have a shorter path to five-year appointments. This addresses one of the issues that brought negotiations to a halt and led instructors to stage a one-day strike earlier this month. Many instructors are employed on a semester-to-semester basis but wanted at least a one-year contract.

Ninety-seven percent of instructors voted in favor of the contract, according to the union.

“We are pleased to have secured this agreement with our non-tenure-track faculty, who are integral to the fabric of our academic community,” Loyola President Jo Ann Rooney said in a statement Friday. “These agreements provide highly competitive pay and greater job security for our full- and part-time non-tenure-track faculty. We are grateful to all of our faculty and staff for continuing to put our students first throughout the negotiation process.”

Loyola instructors are part of a growing movement of adjunct faculty fighting for better working conditions. Adjunct instructors are part-time or full-time faculty who often teach for much lower pay and less job security than their peers on the tenure track. That disparity, which is pervasive throughout higher education, results in adjuncts working multiple jobs and having no guarantee they will have a class to teach from one year to the next.

Many adjuncts say collective bargaining is the only way universities will take seriously their demands for higher wages, greater benefits and job security. Instructors at Loyola have pressed the university on those issues for the past two years.

“We’ve opened the door on a lot of things, but a lot of that was just bringing us up to where we already should have been,” Warren said of the contract at Loyola. “Now to really be able to work from this position of being able to build forward and not just catch up from a deficit . . . will be even more beneficial.”

When the union was formed in 2016, Loyola appealed the vote on religious grounds, arguing that the National Labor Relations Board had no authority over the Jesuit school. University leaders said they had the right to govern the school in accordance with their Jesuit values and beliefs, free from government interference. The labor board rejected the university’s appeal in March 2017 but agreed to exclude faculty in the theology department from the bargaining unit.

Other private universities, including Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and Saint Xavier University in Chicago, have objected to adjunct faculty unions on religious grounds. Nevertheless, adjuncts have made significant gains in collective bargaining in recent years, said William A. Herbert, executive director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College.

Herbert tracked a 30 percent increase in faculty bargaining units at private universities in 2016, compared with four years earlier. While one of those units involved tenured and tenure-track professors, the rest were constituted of contingent faculty — adjuncts, lecturers and graduate assistants who teach college classes.