New Jersey Passes Contingent Faculty Bill of Rights

Great news from the state of New Jersey.

Filed passed, filed with the New Jersey Secretary of state as of January 13th, 2020, New Jersey bill NJ SCR185 (Urges New Jersey institutions of higher education to take action on ensuring rights for contingent faculty), provides a sort of Contingent faculty Bill of Rights calling for the right of contingent faculty to have:

  • Equal pay for equal work
  • The same academic freedoms provided to tenured faculty
  • Professional support such as office accommodations and technical support and supplies
  • An orientation to the institution and department, or a comprehensive handbook specifying the duties and rights of contingent faculty at the institution
  • Be included in the shared governance of the institution, and to hold voting rights
  • Be included in department meetings and events
  • Professional development opportunities
  • Attend appropriate academic conferences without penalty
  • Audit tuition-free classes at the institution, when space permits
  • Access unemployment benefits

Now it should be incumbent upon those of us outside the state of New Jersey to get our respective legislatures to adopt this language.

Below is the full text of the bill with line numbers edited out.

A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION Urging Institutions of Higher Education in the State to Take Action on Ensuring Rights for Contingent Faculty.

WHEREAS, Institutions of higher education have become increasingly reliant on contingent faculty, which include both part- and full-time non-tenure-track appointments. This includes positions that may be classified by the institution as adjunct professors, part-time lecturers, and non-tenured faculty; and

WHEREAS, Contingent faculty are professionals who hold a minimum of a master’s degree, with many having acquired the terminal degree in their field and years of valuable academic and professional experience; and

WHEREAS, Contingent faculty now account for over 70 percent of all instructional staff appointments in American higher education. The excessive use of, and inadequate compensation and professional support for, faculty in contingent positions exploits these colleagues; and

WHEREAS, Many institutions have invested heavily in facilities and technology while cutting instructional spending; and

WHEREAS, Contingent faculty are typically excluded from curricular and department planning, even though the knowledge they have of their students would benefit these objectives; and

WHEREAS, Although contingent faculty are both qualified and dedicated, faculty who are teaching in these positions are hobbled in the performance of their duties by a lack of professional treatment and support. Many lack access to such basics as offices, computer support, and photocopying services, and they typically receive little or no evaluation, mentoring, or professional development opportunities; now, therefore;

BE IT RESOLVED by the General Assembly of the State of New Jersey (the Senate concurring):

The Legislature recognizes the need for and urges each institution of higher education in the State to take action on ensuring certain rights for contingent faculty including the right of contingent faculty to:

  • Equal pay for equal work
  • The same academic freedoms provided to tenured faculty
  • Professional support such as office accommodations and technical support and supplies
  • An orientation to the institution and department, or a comprehensive handbook specifying the duties and rights of contingent faculty at the institution
  • Be included in the shared governance of the institution, and to hold voting rights
  • Be included in department meetings and events
  • Professional development opportunities
  • Attend appropriate academic conferences without penalty
  • Audit tuition-free classes at the institution, when space permits
  • Access unemployment benefits

Copies of this resolution, as filed with the Secretary of State, shall be transmitted by the Clerk of the General Assembly to the Secretary of Higher Education and to the president and governing board of each institution of higher education in the State.

STATEMENT

This concurrent resolution recognizes the need for and urges each institution of higher education in the State to take action on ensuring certain rights for contingent faculty including the right of contingent faculty to: equal pay for equal work; the same academic freedoms provided to tenured faculty; professional support such as office accommodations and technical support and supplies; an orientation to the institution and department, or a comprehensive handbook specifying the duties and rights of contingent faculty at the institution; be included in the shared governance of the institution, and to hold voting rights; be included in department meetings and events; professional development opportunities; attend appropriate academic conferences without penalty; audit tuition-free classes at the institution, when space permits; and access unemployment benefits.

California Adjuncts (and Their Supporters), Help Yourselves: Send Governor Newsom a Letter

Hi All:

Below the sign out of this post, is a letter Adjunct Crisis is asking you to print out and send to Governor Newsom to the address listed on the letter.  It calls for 150 million dollars to set set aside from the existing Education budget for:

  1. More full time positions
  2. More money for paid part-time office hours
  3. Equity pay

The sum is based off of projections of what we estimate, in working with our AFT lobbyist, the state of California has.  We’ve been doing this since 2014, and each year, it has gotten more money for at least one of the three items.  This is direct action, and one even a harried adjunct going between multiple classes can do.

So what are you waiting for?  Print it out, fill it out, and send it.

Geoff Johnson

AFT-ACC President

 

Governor, State of California

State Capitol, First Floor

Sacramento, CA 95814

RE: Part-time Community College Faculty

Dear Governor Newsom:

The efforts of yourself and the state legislature over the past year have demonstrated a strong desire for creating equity and opportunity in Higher Education for California’s lowest income families. Beside the improvements that need to be made to enable the students to have greater access to financial aid programs, and that public education funding needs to meet current and future costs, there remains the issue of adequate support for the faculty who directly provide.

As of Fall 2018, approximately 69% of California Community College instructors were employed “temporary” academics, or adjuncts, who were responsible for teaching 45% of instruction, according to the CCC Chancellor’s office.

These are instructors who are mostly paid only for their classroom time, at wages that are only a fraction of what the full-time counterparts make.  In addition, they with few exceptions have limited or no health benefits, and are hired on an at-will basis, with often limited rehire rights. Many suffer financial hardship, and often to rise above it, they are require to take on teaching assignments in multiple districts, and often have teaching loads in excess of their full-time counterparts.

These working conditions clearly impact adjunct instructor effectiveness, limiting the time they can either interact with their students, or connect with the curriculum, mission, and learning culture of their respective campuses.

Equally significant is that in higher proportions that their full-time colleagues, these adjuncts are people of color, immigrants, and women. Presently, 73% of California Community College s students are students of color, immigrants, or both.

A true commitment to equity and opportunity on California Community College Campuses means supporting these adjunct faculty so that they can better support their students. To do so, I ask you set aside $150 million dollars for:

  1. The conversion of part-time faculty to full-time, tenure track positions, following the recommendations of the Faculty and Staff Diversity Task Force.
  2. The state part-time office hours fund.
  3. Equity pay.

To push for true equity and opportunity, more than words are required.  Serious funding concerted and action is necessary.

Sincerely,

 

NAME (Print) ____________________________ CITY& ZIP: _____________________

ADDRESS:____________________________________________________________

 

 

Letter to Jill Biden

Recently Sandra Baringer, one of American Federation of Teachers Adjunct Contingent Caucus’s members with UC-AFT, had a chance to deliver the letter below to Jill Biden, Joe Biden’s wife, and notably a former adjunct and now full-time instructor at Northern Virginia Community College.  Because of both her work experience as well as her obvious connection to the 2020 Presidential Campaign, we have approached her to make her aware of the contingent struggle and ask for her to advocate for change.

Expect that we will raise the issue to all and any other major presidential candidates during the 2020 campaign.  We will be heard. #adjunctlife #campusequitynow.

Geoff Johnson President, AFT-ACC

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Here’s the Letter:

Jill Biden, Ed.D.

Professor of English and Reading

Alexandria Campus, Northern Virginia Community College

Re: Contingent Faculty and Student Success 

Dear Dr. Biden:

As a fellow community college English professor, I salute you in doing the hard work of teaching in an environment where the work we do, among some of the most diverse, yet economically and educationally challenged students, can have the greatest impact.  I’m sure that for you, as it is for me, a labor of love.

I’m reaching out to you now, in this time of challenge, and with a presidential campaign at hand, to speak of a significant challenge to the US Higher Education system and its main objective of student success.

According to the AAUP, approximately 73% of American College educators are off the tenure track.  As a former adjunct yourself, you are aware that with few exceptions, they are paid significantly less than their full-time counterparts, and lack the job security of tenure, as well as health and retirement benefits.

In fact, to simply say this is an understatement.  In a recent nationwide survey of 3,076 contingent faculty conducted by the American Federation of Teachers, the following statistics were revealed:

  • 64% of contingent faculty make less than 50,000 dollars a year, and 31% report making less than 25,000 dollars a year, placing them below federal poverty guidelines for a family of four.
  • 40% of contingent households struggle regularly, or during Summer and Winter breaks, to pay the bills. 26% are at some level of food insecurity.
  • 70% of contingent faculty are hired term by term, and most were notified of their employment in any term less than two months before its start. 65% of contingent faculty have worked at their respective institutions for 10 or more years.
  • Only 43% of contingent faculty receive some form of health insurance from their employer. This has led to 18% postponing care, 12% cutting pills in half.  Close to 45% put off seeing a doctor, and over 65% have foregone dental care.
  • 38% of contingents, many of whom do not pay into or receive social security, have no idea how they will retire.

These are all academics who believed in the promise of education, have made personal sacrifices, as have their families, and go into the classroom to instruct and show the potential of that promise. Consider that as we have placed primacy on student learning conditions, it only stands to reason that the poor working conditions of these faculty limits their potential to set the proper working conditions these students deserve.

To do the proper thing by these faculty and their students, we ask that you support:

  • The efforts of college faculty locals to negotiate pro-rata pay (i.e. equal pay for equal work).
  • Key provisions of the “AFT Recommendations for the Higher Education Act Reauthorization,” namely those concerning the overuse and poor working conditions of “temporary” contingent faculty, and the cancelling of existing student debt, which severely affects contingent faculty.
  • A repeal of the WEP, or Windfall Elimination Provision from Social Security, which reduces the social security benefits of contingents receiving meagre and often inadequate state or local pensions.

Additionally, I ask that you encourage your husband, Vice President Joe Biden, to speak to these issues within the context of the current presidential campaign in hopes of creating larger awareness of the issue.  Further, should he achieve the presidency, I ask you encourage him to work towards a change in contingent academic working conditions that these faculty and their families need, which will in turn create the learning conditions American Higher Ed students deserve.

In solidarity,

Geoffery Johnson

President

mixinminao@gmail.com

“Going with the Carnies” A Campus Equity Poem

the_carnie_life_poster-r3a5b52488ea64e549b38051b90c56486_wg4_8byvr_307

For our poetry reading tonight I decided to write a poem about one Summer night I had when I was 16. It’s not about Adjuncting per se, but it’s about how we lead ourselves into abusive work environments, which is due to either where we’ve been, or how we don’t value ourselves.

I ask that even, if after all the exhortations I have made about doing something for Campus Equity Week, that you still have done nothing, that you at least value yourself.

You are not just the work you do, nor should it ever define you.

Going with the Carnies

Dog day turned dog night,the
summer sultry air was suffocating yet
not enough to cut the tension of getting a
paying gig after a summer of
mowing lawns for free.

Jeff and I waited in the Southgate Lot for Jason,
a guy Jeff said would pay us to help
break the carnival down.

At 9:15 the midway went dark and out
came Jason, 5'2' blue black and hard,
smiling with eyes that cut through
any pretense of care.

"You two look ready to work, that's good because
there's no time to mess around.  Along with you
I got Mike and Earl who just showed up
and if you want pay you'll have to work and
move your ass cause I'm
gonna ride you hard."

Of Mike I only remember stringy hair
like a person who wasn't there but a
shadow to Earl, matted hair, unshaven,
dressed in a stained shirt, pocket holding a
half-crushed pack of Camels--
my age and from the other side.

"Let's start with the kiddie rides--
you two pull the plating, and--we're already behind,
so GO!"

Pulling at the steel plates, with
soft hands and fingernails off the
platform of a race car ride, I
recalled a time at five and

"How come you fuckers aren't done yet?
We need to be out by two! Hump your ass,
I don't have time to fuck with you!"

And so it went from ride to ride, fingers
pinched three times collapsing awnings, hands
cut on the tilt-a-whirl, head smacked on
the octopus--no time for band-aids.

Jason gave it to us in equal parts--
ringmaster, his voice cracked with the
anger of my father, only without the
cuffings of ears--it's perhaps why I, and 
maybe Jeff too endured.  We leaped and
jerked, strained and sweat--
yet no one dared to speak.

Four hours later, we were done,
drenched, black and sore. Jason
harrumphed, sighed, and from his pocket
pulled a thick wad of dollar bills, counting off
eight bills for us four each like a 
seasoned cook peeling an onion.

"Sorry I rode you hard, but then
you should know how it is.  Say...
you guys, you're not so bad,
I could use a team like you."

We walked away, but as we did I
looked back at Earl, now sitting in the
carny van.  Our eyes met just as it rolled
into the black and gone.

I still don't know what I saw.

			

Campus Equity Week 2019 Facebook Campaign

Hi All:

Whether you have something going on for Campus Equity on your campus or not, you can still make a Campus Equity Week Statement via Facebook.  Below is a campaign put together by Bobbie-Lee Smart, a Sociology Adjunct out of Cerritos College in Southern LA:

For Campus Equity Week my local decided on a social media campaign and I encourage everyone to participate if they can or feel comfortable doing so.  First there is a Facebook frame, which can be changed for the week, a day, or longer.  If you click on you Facebook photo to edit it, there is an option to add a frame.  At the top you can search for the frame CEW2019.  This is a way for adjunct faculty and those who support us to raise awareness for our work conditions.

                         

The other option is to post a “back to school photo”. Use a white board, chalkboard, piece of paper, or note application on your phone.  Add your name, discipline, how long you have adjuncted, how many “gigs” you have both paid & unpaid, and your #1 equity wish.  I will include all 3 boards we have in the photos, as we have boards for PT, FT, & students. Get creative & add subjects, take some out, rearrange at will! It’s simply important to use the #CEW2019 so we are all on the same page.  If you really want to get bold tag your campuses & the governor in the post.  We will be posting people from our local on Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter. Ask participants to also post on their personal pages to reach more people!

             

Do it good adjuncts! Be the change you seek.

Geoff Johnson

Contingent Faculty Quality of Work Life Survey One Page Reports

Hi All:

Here are five flyers based on the first nationwide survey of adjunct and other contingent faculty to be circulated since 2013 — the Contingent Faculty Quality of Life Survey. The 52-question survey was completed by 3,076 contingent faculty — adjuncts/part-time faculty, full-time non-tenure track faculty, and graduate employees — between May 22 and June 30, 2019. AFT advertised the survey via email and social media, and was able to draw some robust conclusions about the conditions faced by this new majority of college faculty in the United States.

Here are links to the materials:

Basic Needs and Food Security

Low Pay and Public Assistance

Retirement

Lack of Job Security

Healthcare

Please disseminate this information.

Geoffery Johnson

AFTACC President

Useful Campus Equity Week Links

Hi All:

With Campus Equity Week (Oct. 21st-25th) around the corner, I would share some materials with you which can give some context as to what Campus Equity Week is about.

Campus Equity Week is about recognizing the manifestations of inequity on college campuses first with regard to teaching working conditions, but also, by extention, student learning conditions. It is also about communicating these concerns beyond contingent faculty to our respective campus communities at large.

The underfunding of public education, coupled with an economic business model built around providing workers “flexibility” in the forms of “at will” labor with no benefits, has left many students, faculty and staff economically challenged and impairs our collective capacity to create better outcomes for our students.

My hope is that you and/or the students you work with will have the opportunity to participate in Campus Equity Week events however you choose or address them at your respective campuses.

Below I have provided links videos and articles which speak to the issues of adjunctification, student housing and food insecurity, and the “gig economy” impact on students and workers.

You may want to share them with students in your classes to either give them a sense of what Campus Equity Week is all about, whether you discuss it in your classes or not.

In solidarity,

Geoff Johnson

AFTACC President

Adjunctification

Growing number of college professors in poverty

Adjunct Professors in the Gig Economy

The Death of an Adjunct

The Contingent Campus – Adjunctification And The Growth Of The Academic “Precariat”

Homeless San Jose State Professor Forced To Live In Her Car

Student Food and Housing Insecurity

Student Homelessness & Basic Needs Insecurity

Survey: 1 In 5 LA Community College District Students Homeless

Homeless Student 

The Hope Center 

How Higher Ed Funding Has Fared in All 50 State Since the Recession

The Gig Economy

What is the Gig Economy? How it Works, Benefits, and More.

The Recession Hasn‘t Ended for Gig Economy Workers

The Gig Economy is Fueled by Exploitation, Not Innovation

‘Gig Economy’ Work is too Precarious for College Students

 

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“The Gig is Up: Campus Equity Now!” A Campus Equity Week 2019 Call To Action

One of the main organizing tools for improving the plight of adjunct-contingent faculty has been Campus Equity Week or CEW.

Initially, CEW was a biannual adjunct-contingent organizing tool, where, during the last full week in October, adjunct-contingent faculty, faculty unions, and other supporting groups would, at their respective campuses, hold everything from rallies to seminars to guerilla theater to call attention to the unequal labor conditions faced by adjunct-contingent Higher Ed faculty.

Some campuses, such as my own, which are two-year colleges, have chosen to make Campus Equity Week an annual event because, with our ever-revolving student population and leadership, doing the event biannually would cause a lack of continuity and connection.

Some campuses and organizations, out of their own institutional necessities, will hold the event earlier or later by a week or so.

What’s important is that adjunct-contingent faculty get out and advocate, and encourage others, from students, to full-time faculty, community and labor leaders, and yes, even administrators, to push campus equity.

At my campuses (those of the San Diego, Grossmont-Cuyamaca, and Southwestern Community College Districts), I am calling for and organizing Campus Equity Week events for the week of Oct. 21st-25th around the theme “The Gig is Up: Campus Equity Now.”

Why?

Adjunct-Contingent (AC) Work is “Gig Work”:

AC teacher/workers, not unlike “gig” workers Uber and Lyft drivers, or Amazon delivery persons, are . . .

  1. Hired to work only on an as-needed basis, and paid only for their direct contact time. If there is not adequate demand as defined by management, there is no work. There are no or minimal guarantees for future work.
  2. The core or majority of employees that directly deliver a service but are treated more or less as independent contractors, generally meaning their loss of work does not make them eligible for unemployment benefits.
  3. Expected to bear the costs of additional training, certifications (talk to Nursing and Fire Science Educators about this), licensing, as well as to bear the costs for some equipment required to do the job.
  4. Often denied healthcare and retirement benefits, and in many cases, restricted from taking on additional work assignments if the additional hours worked qualifies them as full-time, or “true” employees.
  5. Not truly given a voice or allowed input on the basic management of the enterprise, which in the case of AC teacher/workers, is the institution of higher education.
  6. Made to suffer economically and emotionally due to the lack of job, housing, and even food security.
  7. Exploited in general in the name of managerial freedom, flexibility, and convenience.
  8. Looked down upon, or treated as lesser by full-time employees who see them as less qualified, unstable, and even unworthy of equal status and consideration.

Further . . .

  1. The expansion of gig jobs in academia has strained the capacity of AC teacher/workers to teach their best, meanwhile many students are bound by economic necessity to work gig jobs. The poor pay and working conditions of “gig” jobs has negatively impacted the success of students, making it additionally challenging for AC teacher/workers to help their students succeed academically.
  2. Many AC teacher/workers not only work academic “gig” jobs, but are themselves participants in other areas of the gig economy, such as Uber.
  3. “Gig” work, or contingent labor (‘freelancing”) is expected to become the majority of the workforce by 2027.
  4. Increasingly, para-professional staff are either being hired or replaced by workers whose status is decidedly “gig.”

What do We Mean When We’re Talking Equity? 

That all Work and Workers be Respected. We live in an inequitable society, and while it’s important for AC teacher/workers to call attention to their plight and its impact on students, the campus, and the community, we need to acknowledge that AC teacher/worker and socioeconomic injustice of other campus workers, our students, their parents, etc. The main goal of Campus Equity Week is to create awareness and encourage an impulse to action through the building of solidarity.

Teacher and campus workers ultimately deserve equal pay for equal work with respect to their responsibilities, work and professional experience, and qualifications, and in cases where a worker is working a percentage of a full-time position, he or she should be paid directly proportionate to the full-time wage for the duties they are assigned. (This should need no explanation, and such equity should extend to healthcare, retirement, and other benefits.

That the Other Aspects of Campus Inequity be at Least Acknowledged. Our faculty, students, and fellow campus workers are of all races, gender designations, religions, sexual orientations, and abilities. Many have faced Racism, Sexism, Religious and Gender Discrimination, along with Xenophobia and Ableism, which have also contributed to campus inequity.

That students be empowered to achieve educational success free of housing and food insecurity. While it is not unreasonable to expect students to work their way through school, it is unreasonable to place such a financial burden upon them that they effectively go hungry or homeless. In this regard, we call for: 1) Free or greatly reduced tuition, 2) the establishment of foodbanks, “closets,” and student low cost farmers’ markets supported by “fresh” programs, 3) community-supported low-cost student housing, 4) and campus-wide support and promotion of OER (online educational resources) as cheaper or free textbook alternatives.

That Adjunct-Contingent campus workers (AC Faculty, Staff) have access to these services when in need. A campus can only succeed in its mission when its faculty and support staff are secure.

That these Same Workers Be Allowed the Opportunity to Fully Participate in the Campus’s Shared Governance Structure, and be Compensated for It. These workers, who clearly represent the campus majority are vital to a campus’s operations and its students’ success. A more engaged and secure faculty means a more successful campus and surrounding community.

That So-Called “Gig” Workers be Truly Classified as Employees, thus Obligating Companies to Properly Compensate and Support Them. Security for many workers requires they be properly supported, and not forced to bear excessive costs for equipment and training, particularly when they are poorly compensated and given no or few benefits.

When possible, and in a timely and consistent manner, Contingent Faculty, Staff, and Workers at Large should Be Informed of Future Work Assignments or Schedules. Because many if not most contingent workers need to juggle multiple gigs, stable and timely scheduling will ensure their ability to both do their jobs and manage their lives as well as possible.

 

How Do We speak of Equity?

Rallies/Panel Discussions: Mass Actions which include not just AC teacher/ workers, but as much of the institution’s community as possible:

Curriculum: Lesson plans and assignments which focus on worker equity and encourage students to make true intellectual inquiry on the issues and grow academically. In many cases, teachers can be more effective in conveying awareness through classroom-based education than through rallies or panel discussions.

Street/Guerrilla Theater, Artistic Expression: This can involve everything from props and costumes, to game play activities, to spoken word and musical performance.
Petition/ Signature Gathering: Everything from petitions to local governments or board of trustees calling for policy changes to support for resolutions calling for the implementation should be considered. This can be done at a number of venues, or in conjunction with other Campus Equity Events.

I would like to humbly suggest that the embrace of such a theme and approach at your local would do well to further the cause of Campus Equity. It is my hope that you can take up it and make it your own.

In solidarity,

Geoff Johnson
AFT-ACC President, and
A Good Adjunct

Getting Adjunct Progress: Going Beyond the Local Part I: Local Limitations

This is the first in a series of entries looking at the needs and challenges of addressing the adjunct crisis beyond the immediacy of the local bargaining unit.

Adjunct activists, (and by the way, if you 1) have happened to read this, 2) are an adjunct/contingent teacher, and 3) want to be paid or simply treated like the academic that you are, guess what: you’re an activist, which means you’re responsible for sticking up for yourself. Welcome to the club.  I’m not sending you a card, but like your department chair, I will let you know that you’re “appreciated.” If it has not become already apparent, your local union is generally limited in the gains they can make for you. The main reasons for this are as follows:

It’s Not Their Main Concern. Yes, some “wall-to-wall” locals (units which include full-time tenure track faculty and adjunct/contingent faculty) act more on behalf of the full-time tenure track faculty, and sometimes at the expense of the adjunct/contingent faculty, by being, among other things, loathe to even small, incremental percentage increases for adjunct/contingent faculty as a path to pay equity, or pushing for adjunct/contingent health benefits, as well as paid office hours, professional development, departmental inclusion, shared governance, etc. At the same time, many wall-to-wall units are not necessarily this callous, but might perceive that if the full-time unit suffers it could impact the overall effectiveness of their local, if not it’s viability.  The often limited involvement to outright apathy of adjunct/contingent faculty in contrast to full-time faculty is the driver for this thinking. (In other words adjuncts, don’t be apathetic or uninvolved.)

They Lack Local Political Capital. Too many union faculty simply think that if a local concentrates singularly on internal solidarity that somehow they might prevail, falsely assuming that what happens regarding their working conditions only does so at the bargaining table. These people assume that somehow administrators are more moved by a committed faculty who 1) never hired them, 2) can’t fire them, 3) have forgotten that administrators are hired more to control than to empower them. Administrators, while often given varying degrees of free reign to manage their faculty, operate at the pleasure of Boards of Trustees or Governing Boards which are either locally elected, or appointed by politicians, usually at the state level.  In some cases, these administrators may be taking a hard line with faculty not of their own accord so much as at the behest of their Board.  To better control the local situation, the local needs to either have the ear of, or simply control, the board by getting faculty-friendly members on it.  Too few locals have PACs (Political Action Committees) which vet prospective board candidates, financially support the faculty-friendly ones, or better yet, search for, recruit, and groom them. And in those cases when board members are not elected or appointed, many locals lack governmental-relations committees that can meet with and influence the politicians who make the appointments.

They are Unable to Create Solidarity with Other Groups. On any campus, faculty play a crucial, if not the crucial role in what happens regarding student learning, but faculty are not alone. Besides administrators, there are para-professional office/support staff from IT, admissions officers, tutors, custodial and food service workers. Too often (and if it’s happening at all, it’s too often), faculty units will ignore the needs and concerns of these workers, whether these workers have unions of their own or not.  Imagine that the custodial or office/clerical units might just have an issue with faculty clamoring for cuts to these units in exchange for salary increases.  Add in that faculty often (though not always and especially not in the case of adjunct/contingent faculty) are paid better, enjoy greater benefits, and job security, and you can imagine that when local faculty members are engaging in a contract campaign, that their calls for fair faculty working conditions will fall on deaf ears.  Add further that there are often great disparities between faculty and staff in terms of class, race, and gender, and the problem become worse.  While it’s a problem that can be remedied, it’s one that takes time, and considerable empathy.

Working Conditions and Pay are more Controlled by Legislative Bodies and Statutes than by Local Institutional Bodies. While many public institutions rely on a variety of sources for funding, the funding which faculty unions can most directly impact is the funding institutions receive from state or local government bodies. What this means is that unless there is a mandate at the state or local level for significant change in terms of educational funding, with an eye to improving faculty working conditions as a path to improving student learning, any local institution’s budget will have little room for change. As for standards regarding faculty working conditions, decisions made at the board or administrative level are often guided by statute. In the California Community College system, for example, a 67% load limit/district for adjunct/contingent faculty is set by State Ed Code. The only way to have this cap lifted is by getting the state legislature to do so.

They Lack Knowledge and Expertise. In addition to not being aware of any of the four afore-mentioned points, many locals and their officers 1) have limited knowledge of labor law, 2) fail to understand the negotiating process and what qualifies as a fair or unfair labor practice, and 3) have frequent leadership turnover or limited commitment by local faculty. Sometimes even change in local working conditions can be better achieved by local officers and bargaining units being exposed to what has been achieved elsewhere by other locals’ faculty bargaining units.

One way to addressing each of these problems involves working with other similarly-affiliated locals, or state and national umbrella organizations, but this is not without challenge as well, which I will address in my next post.

Geoff Johnson

A “Good” Adjunct