“What’s the Difference?” UCSD Students Research and Explore Adjunctification

UCSD students made this video for a sociology course. This is the kind of work students can do to resist the adjunctification and corporatization of higher education. Students and faculty must unite in resistance.

I am one of the adjuncts interviewed.

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What Students Can Do to Help Adjuncts

On last February 25, National Adjunct Walkout Day (NAWD) or whatever you want to call it, adjuncts took various actions across the country to resist the adjunctification of higher education. There were protests, rallies, and even marches. In San Diego, AFT local 1931 staged several rolling rallies with speakers, including the celebrated Joe Berry, and a number of local members as well as students. At the Mesa College rally, I emceed, and Jim Mahler, our local as well as AFTCCC president, spoke, as did the school president, Pam Luster. Several students and professors took the open mic to speak.

Students were shocked, and in general had no idea. The one question, however, they repeated was “What can we do?”
Students, here’s a few things you can do:
1. Be informed. The root is the ideology of neoliberalism, which includes the belief that public austerity is the way the public good should be funded. In other words, not funded. This could be the end of public higher education in America, which, in the modern world of mass information and the potential for mass manipulation of public opnion, would be the end of the American experiment in democracy. Imagine if there were no institution of which thousands of sties exist across the nation offereing the opportunity for knowledge and critical thought. There is no other institutional source of critical thought in America. Adjunctificaton is the first step in ending higher education as a public good.
2. Inform others. Tell your parents, your peers, your neighbors, warn your communities. The neoliberal assault on higher education has a darker side. Take the Koch brothers for example. They are trying to buy higher education outright and then prohibit the free exchange of ideas. Even if we attribute blind faith in ideology to most neoliberal policymakers, there are many more, like the Koch brothers, who want not just to make colleges and universities profit centers, but want to make them neoliberal and right wing propaganda centers. Think about what that means.
3. Take action. Adjuncts and our allies are fighting back. Take various actions, directed towards legislative solutions, as well as spreading the word. Be part of the resistance. When asked to write letters, do it. When rallies happen, show up. Speak. Organize, formally and informally. Join and make change happen.

Truly, we professors and students are in this together. In the most basic sense, we are education. Without either of us, there would not be education. Yet, we are the ones who are being exploited, 75% of faculty, grossly underpaid, many without benefits, who work out of a sense of commitment to the common good, students, whose educational opportunities are being reduced to job preparation and who must assume a life-diminishing, perhaps soul-crushing debt in order to work as an indentured employee.

I don’t know what will be happening across the nation this NAWD. Whatever does (and AFT local 1931 will be holding rally at San Diego Mesa College), it will be a small step only in the struggle. But, unless we can mount a resistance of adjuncts, students, and full-time faculty unified, working together, we will be hard pressed to resist the corporatization of higher education, and the loss by degree of meaningful life that will follow.

 

Adjuncts Will Be Hurt By Friedrichs

Good Adjuncts:

One of the things that so plagues the adjunct nation is that all too often we either collectively sign on to, assent to, or simply ignore “opportunities,” or changes in policy that in the long run hurt us deeply.

What I’m about to talk about here is how you choose to negotiate the conditions of your employment, and what can either keep you from getting exploited, to what can guarantee that you have no control about the conditions of your work.

Presently, the US Supreme Court is hearing arguments regarding the case of Friedrichs versus the California Teaching Association, regarding the issue of agency fees. Though not all do, many teachers’ unions impose an agency fee on the people who are in a particular bargaining unit. In other words, whether you have officially signed on as a member of that union or not, you are required to pay union dues insomuch as they pay for the cost of collective bargaining, but not the union’s political activities. In fact, you can presently request that any portion of your dues directed towards political funds be refunded.

Friedrich’s position is that the union’s activities constitute what is called “impelled speech,” and that the union’s activities, even or especially when talking with admin about things like class caps, curriculum, equity, etc. are necessarily political, so that therefore, they should not have to pay. The unions’ argument is that, as collective bargaining and contract enforcement are often expensive activities, all workers who benefit from the union’s collective-bargaining agreement should pay for its costs.

Gleaning the court’s intent from the commentary of some of the Supreme Court Justices today, it is likely that the agency fee will be done away with.

To many full-timers, and perhaps moreso to adjuncts, this will seem like a blessing. “What, I don’t have to pay union fees? Why that’s great, I don’t make that much money. The union hasn’t done that much for me (or so they think). I can use that several hundred dollars a year.” For yet others, and I’m sure this really appeals to many adjuncts, the assumption is that the union only respects the specific interests of a very small group, and mostly those are full-timers if I’m in a “wall-to-wall” unit which includes both part and full-time employees. Not having to pay an agency fee will give me the power to force the union to meet my needs if they want my money.

Well let’s just take a look at those assumptions, and why buying will be seriously injurious to your working conditions.

First of all, collective bargaining is not a particularly simple process, especially when dealing with bargaining unit contracts that are over 100+ pages longs, loaded with legalese, and which must be negotiated with administrators who are not always forthcoming, correct, honest, or competent in discussing the finances. Most contracts will involve 100’s to 1000’s of employees working under a myriad of working conditions, with ever so slight changes to curriculum, labor laws, legislative initiatives handed down from on high, etc. The people who negotiate these contracts, are first and foremost, teachers themselves. This is time-consuming work that requires expertise, training, and experience. Be aware that admin., who often have considerable budgets to work with, will at times hire professional labor lawyers to negotiate on their behalf. Most teachers working a full-time equivalent load, whether adjunct or full-time, cannot do this work effectively unless they receive some amount of release time from work to take on these tasks. Less money coming in means the union can’t pay these people to do the extra work needed to negotiate a better contract.

There is another problem here that comes up when negotiating teams are not given release time—fewer people volunteer to do the work, meaning the talent pool for the negotiating team shrinks. What you will then get, at times, is the negotiating team member who, in the face of a tough negotiation (and who is perhaps thinking of becoming a future administrator), will settle a contract early, leaving on the table potential salary gains, benefits, or vital changes to work conditions. If your union, facing an administration which claims to be running a deficits, allows for your unit to take a several-percentage page decrease, an increase in class sizes, or increases unpaid non-instructional work demands, that several hundred dollars you just “saved” has been picked from your pocket and then some.

As for the claim that teachers unions often represent the specific interests of a few, there is some truth to this. Unions by and large represent its most active members, and particularly those who vote on the leadership, fill out negotiating surveys, come to meetings, participate in larger union activities, and vote on whether to ratify a contract or not. For the most part, because full-time employees usually work at one campus and are therefore more engaged with their on-site union than an adjunct teaching at multiple campuses and represented by multiple unions, they are more likely to have their interests and concerns heard by the one union they’re involved with. Ironically, on most, if not nearly all campuses where “wall-to-wall” unions exist, adjuncts represent the majority of members, but vote and participate in such small numbers that they do not effectively lead policy.

To address this problem, adjuncts simply need to vote and participate more, which takes needed time and energy, and will at times lead to frustration when others don’t see your way of thinking at first (welcome to being in a union). You can’t do this if you’re not a member, and it’s a lot easier to rationalize to oneself to become a member when you’re already paying fees for it.

The thing is, it’s always been pretty easy for an adjunct to talk himself /herself out of getting involved, but at what expense? Do you really want more of the same treatment?

As for those of you adjuncts who think this will force the unions to come to you begging for you to join, to some extent this will happen, but… Taking time to get people to sign up to become members takes time, and the time people like me spend seeking you out means time away from negotiations, handling grievances (which I’ll talk about a bit more later), planning events, talking to school board members and local politicians on our workers concerns, etc. By the way, in many cases, the loss of funding will also mean that union members will not be able to pay people to actually do membership drives, which when you’re trying to reach members who teach at offsite locations or at non-traditional times, like evenings or weekends, is often essential. This is turn means fewer dollars which means unions will accomplish less work.

There’s also a certain contingent of full-time membership that sadly, see promoting adjunct issues as a detriment to their achieving their own specific interests. They tend to see the union less as a union and more as a professional organization, and they think long and hard about the “I” in union, but not the “U”. While in the long run, weak unions may result in the loss of bargaining power, they might not be too worried about the problem in that they’re closer to the end of their career rather than the beginning. They’ll be all too happy to have you not participate.

So does no agency fee still sound like a good idea?

Well now let’s talk about grievance. So many people think unions are simply about negotiating salaries and benefits that they fail to realize that they are also engaged in protecting worker’s rights. Without a union or a contract to represent you, you can be asked to work under ANY working conditions insomuch as they don’t violate your civil rights or OSHA law, and you can be FIRED AT ANY TIME WITHOUT CAUSE. Now some people might say, “Hey, but if I’m not an official member and just an agency fee payer. I’m not protected directly by the union.”

It’s true that if you’re not a member that a union can choose not to represent you, but often the employee rights that you have are the result of past grievance actions taken up by the union whether you were a member or not. It’s one thing for the union to have a contract with management, but making sure that it’s properly enforced is the job of a grievance team. While negotiations groups will get a lot of recognition by union members, it’s often the grievance team that does the hardest, most unpleasant, and in many ways, the most important work. This is also where the work a union does can become most expensive.

Consider that is a grievance needs to go to arbitration, this means having to pay for an arbiter and union lawyers. Even a simple case over an adjunct getting rehire rights can run over 10,000 dollars in expenses. Without the money of agency fees, it becomes increasingly difficult for unions to fight these cases.

The thing that’s interesting about almost all grievance cases is that almost no employee knows, going into a job, that they’ll ever have to grieve their work conditions, and although a union may anticipate future grievances, it has no way to “plan” how much its grievances will cost. Here is where the funds of agency fees are perhaps most vital in supporting the cause of workers.

Chances are likely that the agency fee will fall, but that doesn’t mean you can’t join the union. What it does mean is that now, more than ever, you need to join the teacher’s union at your place of work. If you don’t have one, then you should contact a local teacher’s union about starting one.

You know the old cliché, “united we stand, divided we fall.” The fact of the matter is, it’s true. It’s time to unify and unionize good adjuncts.

Sincerely,

Geoff Johnson
A “Good” Adjunct

Me and my Doppelganger

Attached is a PowerPoint presentation that I created for a panel on adjunct issues at the San Diego Social Justice Conference held at San Diego City College in March. I got the idea for the presentation by trying to think of a way to illustrate an important difference between full and part-timers. I really wanted to focus on salary issues, but with the complexities of the salary schedules, it is difficult to figure out how to articulate such a comparison. The real breakthrough came when I decided to personalize things, and instead of trying to figure out how disadvantaged adjunct as a whole are compared to full-timers as a whole, I thought I would just focus on my particular circumstances. As I note in the presentation, I interviewed for a full-time position at Miramar in 2008. I didn’t get the position (I don’t think I would be blogging here if I had), but it set up a very interesting “What if?” scenario that served as the basis for my presentation. Since I have distributed this presentation to various groups, a number of issues have been raised, and I would like to address some of them. First, despite what some of my full-time colleagues seem to think, this presentation is not intended as an attack on full-timers. My goal is not to drag full-timers to the level of part-timers, but instead to raise part-timers to the level of full-timers, and then try to raise everyone higher. However, without a clear understanding of the issues ( which my presentation attempts to achieve) this would not be possible. Second, I don’t feel any resentment towards the person who did get that job. I work with that individual, and I have the highest respect for him as a professor. Furthermore, I think that one could argue that had I been given the job over this person, an injustice would have occurred. At the time I interviewed in 2008, I basically had no teaching experience at the Community College level. By contrast, the person who did get the job had been a long-time adjunct in the philosophy department at Miramar. I think this is what we ideally would like to see: full-time positions going to the adjuncts who have “put in their time” in the department in question, instead of bringing in outsiders simply because they have a fancy degree or something. Here is the presentation: SD SJC Presentation I hope you enjoy it, and if you have any questions or concerns please leave them in the comments or email me directly.

AB 1010: A Good Bill, If You Can Actually Get It Properly Passed

Good Adjuncts:

In addition to the battle for paid adjunct office hours, part-time equity pay, and more full-time positions, perhaps the greatest concern has been over the issue of job security.

Understand that being an adjunct doesn’t simply mean being part-time, it means being considered an instructor being used, or rather hired, only as needed, with that notion of “needed” being not simply defined by the ups and downs of state budgets, but the whims and personalities of schedulers and administrators, from college presidents to department heads.

This of course is primarily an economic concern for adjuncts, who as a result must live their lives on a three-to-six month basis, even after teaching twenty or more years.  An entire career can collapse in either a quarter or a semester.

Now, to the rare non-teacher who might read this blog, you might be saying to yourself:  “So what? If I have a bad job performance review, or show up to work drunk, or insult my boss, I can get fired, so do I really have job security?”

Well, to be fair, no one does, or should have the kind of job security that allows them to be a crappy worker, and no, unions aren’t about protecting crappy workers. In fact, I get really pissed off when I perceive of an instructor failing to do their job, either because they ignore the needs of students, demean them, or are simply lazy.  They make my job harder.

What unions are about is making sure that you don’t get fired when you are in fact doing your job, or that you don’t get fired off the mere accusation, without substantial proof, that you are doing your job badly.

Even if you’re a non-union worker, I assume that if you were doing your job, and your boss came up to one day, and said, “your fired”, and when you asked why, he/she simply said, “my prerogative,” you would feel it unjust, even if it is legal for him/her to do so.

The thing is, many adjuncts at colleges where there are no-hire rights face the above scenario.  I have heard of adjuncts being told that they would not be rehired because they simply disagreed with or challenged a senior colleagues’ opinion and not necessarily in a confrontational manner or even public forum, but in a private conversation.  Other times, no reason at all will be given.

What maybe adds a little icing on the cake to such injustice is when the adjunct in question may have good evaluations, and seniority over another adjunct who is retained.  Some of these fired (or should I simply say, “left off the schedule”) adjuncts get the pleasure of later learning that their class will be taught be a shiny new adjunct with no previous teaching experience.

In fact, older adjuncts (those north of 50 years of age and 20 years experience) can be a popular target.

Now to be fair, while it may happen on occasion at my own institutions, I must say it is relatively rare (and I know saying this, I’m probably going to hear from people who got screwed, and I should, because when it happens to you, it sure as hell doesn’t feel “rare”) in comparison with some of the horror stories I’ve heard from other colleges.  Part of the reason it is less frequent is because my institutions do have collective bargaining agreements (union contracts) which contain language regarding rehire rights.

That said, there are certain “holes” in the language regarding either the classes you can be re-hired for, the number of classes you can be guaranteed, seniority, etc…

Usually when adjuncts hear this, they are immediately frustrated and angry, and with good reason, but more often than not, rather than blaming the administrators who exploit these holes, or create them through adversarial bargaining, the blame goes on the unions who “don’t care about adjunct issues”.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are many times when unions could and should do more for adjuncts, or at least do a better job of facilitating the expression of their concerns, and I’ve written on this, but often the most contentious discussion that takes place in negotiations, and the place where admin is most intransigent is over adjunct rehire rights.  I’ve seen entire contract negotiations held up over the issue.  Know that wanting something and even expressing it is never a guarantee you’re going to get it, no matter how hard you yell.

This is what brings me to AB 1010. This is a California Assembly Bill that has recently been introduced by Jose Medina, an Assemblyman out of Riverside which calls for the implementation of a union adjunct rehire rights policy for all community colleges.  Read it here:

http://leginfo.ca.gov/pub/15-16/bill/asm/ab_1001-1050/ab_1010_bill_20150226_introduced.html

When I first heard about the bill, I was a bit apprehensive, mainly because I know, from having looked at rehire rights policies in other contracts, that you need to be very careful with the language you have for such policies, because any vague language which is subject to interpretation can be exploited by management, and either overturned or reinterpreted by an arbitrator if the matter reaches the level of a stage three grievance.

This is often why unions and admin will revisit their rehire policies to “clean up” the previous language.

When you pass something as a bill and put it into law, it’s not so easy to do that.  Look no further than the Obamacare case before the Supreme Court being fought over four words in a 600-page document (“established by the state”).

I was also nervous about the potential loss of seniority and rehire rights in the event an adjunct would have to turn down a particular assignment due to extenuating circumstances, like a schedule conflict with another district.  If you read the bill however, you will find that a adjunct will only lose seniority if they turn down ALL classes offered, and to be fair, you’re never going to get a bill passed that would give protections to turn down classes to one’s liking.

Personally, I like the bill as it is written, and I think if it got passed, as it is presently written, that it would be a great windfall for adjuncts in California.

The key here is, as presently written.  I will tell you now, when various administrators see this bill around the state, they will be none too happy with it.

First of all, the bill allows for adjuncts who have received seniority rights (after six semesters), and have received a less than satisfactory evaluation, to be given a written plan for remediation and then re-evaluated in the next semester.  In effect, adjuncts would be given a second chance if they botch an evaluation.  This, in my opinion is a great idea, but I can tell you from having pushed for this in negotiations is something administrators generally hate, and you can be sure they will speak to it.

Another provision in the bill that administrators will be unhappy with is this:

In cases where a reduction in assignment needs to occur due to
program needs, budget constraints, or more contract faculty hires,
the reduction shall occur first from among those part-time, temporary
faculty members who have not yet qualified to be placed on the
seniority list, and thereafter in reverse seniority order, with the
least senior part-time, temporary faculty member reduced first. Any
rights to a certain workload equivalent shall be maintained for a
period of 18 months. In cases of class cancellation due to low
enrollment, faculty members shall displace faculty members who are
lower than they are on the seniority list.

A similar idea was floated by one of the negotiation teams at one of my colleges and it was a complete non-starter.

Now maybe we’ll all get lucky and every administrator and scheduler in the California Community College System will have either had a sudden change of heart, or simply be drunk, asleep, or stoned as the bill winds its way up to the governor, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Assuming then that we can get this bill past the Assembly and Senate, the next, and biggest hurdle, is…you guessed it, Jerry Brown.  Now Jerry may be down with adjuncts or not, but again, this bill, like the categoricals I mentioned earlier, goes at the heart of the local control issue.  This bill is about effectively taking a part of adjunct hiring policies out of the hands of local districts and putting it in the hands of the state.

Great, I say, and so should you, but again, this gets to what I discussed in my previous entry–there’s going to need to be a change in the philosophy regarding how education is managed in the state.

Do not believe for a minute good adjuncts that I don’t think we should fight this fight-we not only should, we have to.  But we need to know what we’re up against, and we need to be strategizing to achieve this goal.

Part of this should be to wake up our local elected officials to the realities to local control.  Maybe we need to remind them of the city of Bell, and let them know that on a smaller, yet more widespread scale, a similiar misdirection of educational resources and capriciousness of administrators is alive and well.

Anyway, get out there and fight for AB 1010 to be passed, and with real language that works for adjuncts.

Geoff Johnson

A Good Adjunct

NAWD Impressions: A Report From the Rally at San Diego Mesa College

NAWD at Mesa College was a consciousness raising event. 150 or so (maybe 200) students and professors showed up on a sunny San Diego day, at possibly the warmest location on campus, at noon, in direct sunlight, to hear and speak about the adjunct crisis in higher education. I emceed. Keynote speaker Jim Mahler, president of AFT local 1931 and of CFT CCC, outlined the general parameters of the adjunct crisis and made an appeal to support the AFT’s current campaign to fund unfunded budget items in the governor’s budget proposal that would increase adjunct pay (not that much, but might as well get it if we can) and create more full-time positions. Even the college president, Pam Luster, spoke. Most  importantly, students and adjuncts spoke.

At the open mic, adjuncts shared stories of exploitation and made statements of love for the profession. We made confessions. We had a 33 year veteran and a rookie, with one year professing under her belt, both speak out. Several adjuncts spoke of poverty conditions, of years of commitment, of the meaningful life of teaching. And one or two tenured professors spoke, one quite powerfully pointing out that getting on the tenure-track is sheer luck and that his wife, an adjunct, makes 1/3 what he does for the same work. But Students were amazing. Really, more than anything else, this event raised the consciousness of the dozen or more students who spoke about their favorite adjunct professors, about their shock at the conditions of exploitation their favorites lived in, about their support for equal pay for adjuncts and for reversing adjunctification. From the mic and from the crowd, students called out “how can we help?”

This moment of national consciousness raising, of media coverage from NPR and Democracy Now!, reflected at Mesa today in the engagement with students, is a moment in which we should act. We can inform students and marshall a force that has effected long-reaching change. Adjunct working conditions are student learning conditions: the adjunct crisis is a student crisis.

NAWD in San Diego was a success. Now the task will be to keep this energy alive and use it to make radical change.  The question is: how do we organize students?

The revolution has  begun. Long live the revolution!

“What is a an Adjunct?” has been Edited

Good Adjuncts,

Thank you for coming to the blog. I know many of have read or downloaded the “What is an Adjunct?” piece.  When I initially posted the piece, I thought I had saved some changes to obvious errors in the text, so what many of you may have seen is a text with more than a few glaring grammatical and missing word errors.  In effect, I was a “bad” adjunct.  I have since edited to the document.  If you haven’t read it yet, check it out and give it to your students.

Anyway, I’ll be back tomorrow with another action item.

By the way, I’d love to get some of your ideas good adjuncts.  Post them in the comments, or if you want, you can email me at mixinminao@gmail.com, and we’ll post it as a main article.  We want contributors!

Keep strong and let’s make people pay attention on February 25th.

 

Geoff Johnson

A “good” adjunct

An Adjunct Poem

Good Adjuncts,

This is by my colleague at Southwestern College Erin Vrugic:

 

          A 7 Letter Word

                       A

                       Dirty seven letter word

                    unJustly describing

                      oUr Walmartification

    of AmericaN higher education, Faculty

                     ACross the United States.

                      Together we stand,

                    together we rise

                    to support equal labor rights

                    for all.

You’re so right Erin.

Geoff Johnson

A Good Adjunct

http://erinbrownvrugic.weebly.com/

The benefits of equality – San Diego Campus Equity Week seeks equality in pay for part-time and full-time instructors

Here is excellent student journalism from the San Diego City College City Times, by Phoenix Webb:

http://www.sdcitytimes.com/news/2014/11/18/the-benefits-of-equality-san-diego-campus-equity-week-seeks-equality-in-pay-for-part-time-and-full-time-instructors/

San Diego Campus Equity Week 2014

To bring attention to the sad condition of the professoriate in higher education, that is, the human cost of adjunctification, and to launch a letter writing campaign to the governor of California to demand the funding of categorical line items in the upcoming budget for increased adjunct pay and more full-time positions, a small group of AFT adjuncts (myself included) have organized Campus Equity Week at several San Diego campuses. Even though this is an off-year for Campus Equity Week, we’re still doing it. The pay inequity between part-time and full-time faculty is an affront to justice, and the failure to speak out is hypocrisy and complacency. Equity Week is not the only way to protest, of course, but it seems like a waste to not use it.

Today and tomorrow, at Mesa College, we’ll have literature and lectures. And pizza. Several other campuses will be holding similar events. See the San Diego Campus Equity Week site for details.

If you’re in San Diego, stop by. I’ll be ranting on Tuesday at 1:00 at Mesa in H117. Geoff Johnson the indefatigable miximinao will be raving in LRC435 at 1:00 Monday.

Equal pay for equal work!