Trump: Nationwide Adjunctification without Union Representation

Since Trump won in November, I knew we (adjunct/contingents) were screwed, but to get at the full degree of just where things would go, it took me to see the latest proposal being pushed out there regarding Trump and federal employees to get the full searing sense of what the outcome might look like.

Understand, that it was a given that Trump, whose own record with unions is deplorable at best, would not only seek to put an end to public employee union agency fees ala the Friedrichs case that was halted with the death of Antonin Scalia last year, but, in a nod to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, will seek out National “Right-to-Work” Legislation.

It is also clear, in his railing against “regulations,” that on-the-job worker protections will be seriously rolled back.

But what Trump is truly after is the very notion of worker’s rights, or anything that has to do remotely with the notion of collective bargaining.

Just introduced, the “Promote Accountability and Government Efficiency” Act (H.R. 6278), and sponsored by Todd Rokita (Republican, Indiana 4th District), seeks to do the following, and here I quote for the AFL-CIO Action Network:

  1. Completely change the federal pay system, and prohibits all pay raises — including annual pay raises — unless you get a 4 or 5 out of 5 performance rating.
  1. Make all new federal workers “at will,” meaning they can be fired without explanation.
  1. Allow immediate suspension for current workers for performance or conduct and only ten days for appeal.
  1. Eliminate official time, so that union representatives can no longer work to protect your pay, your benefits or your job during the work day.

Read the bill for yourself

In case you don’t get it, the passage of such a bill would have trickle down effects.  If you can make all federal workers “at will” employees, why not all public employees, and in particular teachers?

Consider that the first provision effectively ends the concept of a COLA, or cost-of-living allowance, so as things get more expensive, your salary may not rise, unless you toady well, or are like that shiny new penny to your evaluator or administrator.

With the second provision, say goodbye to not only tenure, but ultimately the push for priority re-hire rights for Adjunct-Contingent faculty. And understand, this is not just a job issue.  Tenure was created to serve as a protection which is at the heart of Higher Education:  Academic Freedom.

Imagine, while you’re on vacation over the Summer being told you’re terminated, only to find out you missed the appeal window, because you were unaware.  Further, consider that if, even at a single institution, there were just 10-20 cases in a given term, your grievance team would likely be overwhelmed, especially considering they couldn’t do any union work during the day.

And by the way adjuncts, over the past few years dealing with grievance, I’ve seen a number of these cases, as many administrators like to use the “Summer exit plan” to get rid of what they deem as “pesky adjuncts.”  They have and will be coming after you.

Number four on the list is effectively a union killer.  If you read the bill, it calls for the prohibition of any union activity using, and I quote “any Government property (including office space or computers.”  This means, if you have a complaint, you can’t even email me (a union rep) from the office, or use the school email to do so.  We also couldn’t meet with you on campus.

You say this is unconstitutional, and a violation of our first amendment rights.  Well, now that’s determined by the Supreme Court, whose immediately future justices will be chosen by none other than our Union-hating President Trump.

If there has never been a time for adjuncts, teachers, public employees, and workers in general to not stand up and resist and resist loudly, this is it.

Here’s a first step to take, but it’s not enough.

Adjuncts need to publicly rally on all Campuses to speak our cause and the cause of workers in general. For those of you on other campuses, mass Spring action  is not only called for, it’s essential.

Adjunct Action Day At Southwestern College and in the San Diego Community College District is Wednesday, February 22nd.  You can bet this will be part of the discussion.

Geoff Johnson

A Good Adjunct

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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

The National Adjunct Whatever

Hello Again Good Adjuncts:

Sorry I’ve been away from my post for a while, but I have been fighting the good fight in other venues.

There’s an old saying which goes to the effect of “What does a Leftist firing squad look like?”, with the answer being “A circle in which all shooters are facing to the right.”

As an adjunct activist, I’ve been focusing a goodly amount of attention to planning for events around the “National Adjunct Walkout Day” (NAWD) slated for February 25th, and I must say that to some extent, the above saying is applicable. First of all, here’s a little background. The idea for a National Adjunct walkout Day, or as it has been otherwise termed “A Day without Adjuncts”, was apparently first proposed by an anonymous California adjunct in February of 2014, with a Facebook post on October 1st. I know that in some circles we were talking about it during the summer, and I was certainly pondering it last September when I started planning events for Campus Equity Week. Other than a call for a walkout by anonymous adjunct, there was little else. Over time, as interest in the activity began to pick up steam, groups like the CPFA and others in California began to think more seriously about the event. For better or worse, the nameless adjunct who proposed the activity has not wanted to make the event structured around a particular agenda, but was simply encouraging other adjuncts to act up.

This I, and certainly other activists, plan to do, but this is where things get interesting.

As you may know from my earlier posts, I sit as the Adjunct Rep. for San Diego Mesa and Southwestern Community Colleges, which are affiliated with the CFT and CTA respectively. Contrary to the Hollywood movies you see, unions are not about engaging in work stoppages to hold management hostage at whim. Unions are essentially worker-based organizations whose main task is to collectively bargain with management for working conditions, salary, and benefits for their employees. In fact, work stoppages, otherwise known as strikes, happen only when the contract cannot be negotiated and only after a long process which may be for years after a contract expires. Even then, the union is required to put the matter of going to strike up for a vote, and then, only if the membership votes for a strike can a strike happen. At the California community college level, there have been extremely few such strikes (a number once quoted to me was “three”, though I suspect there are perhaps a few more). Some reasons for the limited number of strikes are that many workers, particularly adjuncts, already living hand-to-mouth, can ill-afford the loss of wages; the inevitable disenfranchisement of students is usually a public relations nightmare for teachers and management alike’ and, in nearly all cases, the aforementioned strikes didn’t get results that were hoped for.

What this brief explanation is leading to is this: Unions can’t call for a general walkout unless their contract negotiations have long been at impasse, and to do so would constitute in terms of labor law, an illegal act. This in turn can jeopardize the existing contract, or lead to a judgment against the union should the negotiations go to arbitration. Further, the union cannot legally protect its workers from being disciplined or fired. In other words, unions cannot call for adjuncts to walkout, or directly sanction a work stoppage.

I actually tried to communicate this with some adjuncts on a NAWD forum site, only to be informed that I should indicate where I’m eligible to practice labor law because it’s “different from state to state”. Well, I’m sorry to say that this more or less applies to national labor law as well, and if it means protecting the adjuncts and contract I’m supposed to support by informing them of this inconvenient truth, then so be it. So no, the unions aren’t going to push for a walk out, but I can say for my locals at least, no one is going to actively dissuade people from taking any kind of action insomuch as it is non-violent, and doesn’t directly block other people from accessing facilities or doing their own jobs.

There are however still many things that unions can, should, and will do.

Clearly, for a long and exhaustive list of reasons expressed in previous posts on this blog and elsewhere, the time for a strong message expressing disappointment, disgust and anger at the exploitive and fraudulent practices associated with adjunctification on a national level has come. Further, on nearly all community college campuses, the adjunct faculty make up the majority of instructors, and in many cases, teach the majority of classes at a particular campus. It is therefore incumbent upon the teacher’s unions that represent these adjuncts that not simply the issue of the NAWD but of adjunctification.

For my part, I’m more agenda-driven than the anonymous adjunct who called for NAWD, because, in California at least, CFT and the CPFA in particular have put forth aline-item budgetary proposal calling for specific funding for 1) adjunct office hours, 2) adjunct parity pay, 3) an increase in funding for more full-time positions. In addition, both CFT and CTA are in the process of crafting rehire rights legislation. Further, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin has tried putting forth student loan forgiveness legislation for adjuncts. I like the idea of using the NAWD for pushing these items because while the litany of adjunct complaints is very long, and the oft proposed solutions to these issues can be murky or simply not structured in a way that they play with the politicians, these are specific and pointed proposals that will provide some redress. Moreover, these proposals have not been simply put forward on a whim, but were thought out in terms of the budgetary and political opportunities that exist. With regard to California, the passage of Prop 30 and the improving economy have created a real opportunity.

It is the enactment of these proposals and legislation that would make a great plan of action for the NAWD.

The big issue now is how to get it out there, and what NAWD should look like. Many people are in a fuss just about the name NAWD, and in particular the “walkout” part of it. It should come to no surprise to anyone reading this blog that faculty unions have been regarded cynically as being largely for and about the preservation of salary and working conditions for contract, or full-time employees, at the expense of adjuncts/part-timers/associates/contingents (choose which you like best—the state of California officially calls us “temporary employees”). Sometimes, though not always, this has been true with some locals.

Therefore, when several locals began to express interest in doing something regarding NAWD, they (we) were accused of trying to “co-opt” the event. People like myself were then alternately told by other adjuncts that we should not call what we’re proposing to do a “walkout”, because the unions can’t and won’t “walkout”, or that the “walkout” name should be preserved for the event for to call it anything else would somehow lessen its impact and point.

First of all, for the reasons I gave above, unions do need to speak to both the NAWD, and to the issues of adjunctification. They have resources and political muscle (largely built off of adjunct union dues) and can assist adjuncts in expressing their message.

Second, some adjuncts, for any number of reasons, may not feel comfortable about walking out yet would like to speak to the same concerns. In this case, the unions can help facilitate this.

Third, my involvement with the NAWD, and I feel I can speak comfortably for the other adjunct union activists I’m working with, is no so much about making the union or its local look good, but about making the union do what it should. To my local unions’ credit, they have allowed and encouraged the adjunct reps to put together their own planning. The only specific demand I’ve been given is that I give them an estimate of what I want to spend on the event.

Fourth, adjuncts are not the only stakeholders here. Adjunctifcation hurts students, contract instructors, communities, and yes, even administrators who are now having to stand before legislators and explain why they have crappy student retention and completion rates. In fact, if this message is not sold and pushed in CAPITAL LETTERS, then one had better pray for hell to freeze over because that’s about the time change will come otherwise.

Here’s a not so little surprise for you my good adjuncts—most of our students HAVE NO IDEA WHAT AN ADJUNCT IS. It’s generally pretty hard to convince an outside group to support you when they really have no idea what you are. Before February 25th, the date of the NAWD, adjuncts need to be explaining to their students what an adjunct is, the conditions they work under, and how this circumstance hurts everyone.

In my next entry, I’ll be writing specifically what an adjunct is. Take what I write, and give it to your students. Alter it to reflect your reality if you want, but do it.

Second, groups need to contact local labor organizations and social justice groups. Why are fast food workers the only people engaging in the “FIGHT FOR FIFTEEN” when so many of our adjuncts make the equivalent or less? There are starving adjuncts, homeless adjuncts, sick and dying adjuncts, and dead adjuncts. Is not adjunctification a social issue?

Third, adjuncts need to start speaking up at local board of trustees meetings, and talking to/calling/emailing/texting local state and national politicians. Further, these speakers need to be more than local adjunct reps. When rank and file adjuncts show up in numbers to regularly push for a focus on these issues, they will get more attention.

For me, I will be involved with rallies in which NAWD will be termed a “day of action”, or a “walkout”.

Personally, I don’t give f**k what it’s called. I want to be heard and I want something done.

Call it whatever you wish. Just get up and do something.

Geoff Johnson

A “Good” adjunct

Irrationality and Ignorance on Both Sides (As if There are Sides)

 

Hello Good Adjuncts and to the Good Contracts as well who might happen to read this.

Rather than simply just being a disgruntled adjunct speaking out against the tenuous, exploitive,  inequitable, and hypocritical nature of my employment, I sit on the executive councils of two different faculty unions, and spend not a small amount of time dealing with any number of adjunct/full-timer issues. 

On the one hand, this means dealing with full-time or contract employees who, as some of you who may imagine, are ignorant, callous or misinformed as to the adjunct condition.  On the other hand, it also means dealing with a number of understandably frustrated and angry adjuncts who are impatient, suspicious, unaware of process, and who often work against their own best interests.

Dealing with one side or the other is hard enough, but to deal with both is a real challenge.  It’s not too much fun being called “whiner”, “complainer”, or “negative” by contracts—it’s also no fun being called a “kool-aid drinker,” “sycophant”, or simply “distant” by those who don’t understand why you’re not effectively tearing into your fellow contract union members.

Anyway screw me. I signed up for the criticism.  The issue here isn’t me.  It’s about trying to get things done, and the fact of the matter is when you have two groups like this, the only groups that win are the groups that benefit from adjunctification.

Since I’m writing mostly to adjuncts first, I’ll address my issues with the more negative aspects of the contract crowd.

First of all, there are a few of you out there, who, when you let your guard down, have told me things like “well, it’s easy to see why a lot of these people are adjuncts” with the insinuation that these people are adjuncts because they 1) aren’t good enough teachers 2) don’t truly contribute enough to the department 3) don’t do enough professional development 4) haven’t figured out that winning strategy to get a full-time job 5) complain too much and make waves. The implication is also that you, dear contract are 1) a great teacher 2) are a real player for the department 3) are constantly working on your professional development 4) are simply more savvy and plucky than those other long-time lowly adjuncts 5) are positive and go with the flow, or simply that most adjuncts, should, more or less “shut the f**K up!”

Well, 1) Many of us adjuncts may have better student and peer evals than you 2) have sat on committees, academic senates, done unpaid tutoring, etc.  3)  spend as much time as we are able, or can afford to participate in professional development despite the loss of several hours a week going to and from our respective campuses, and making often half as much as you 4) weren’t lucky enough to say the right thing against the other 100+ applicants for the job, and 5) Some of you contracts are the biggest whiners in your respective departments, and if you don’t believe so, ask your other contract colleagues.

Sometimes other rather ignorant or irrational things come out of contract mouths, like, “if you don’t like your situation, you should just quit.”  Yeah, thanks for letting me know after I already dedicated 7-10 years of higher ed., racked up student debts, and spent years working for a full-time job that never came.  I’m sure that with my low salary, lack of time, family to support, and poor financial resources that I can simply retool within months and get one of those entry-level STEM jobs they’re giving to recent college grads (who are 20 years my junior). There are yet others of you that complain, “Why should we give rehire rights to adjuncts? …it’s like giving them tenure.” Well, now why do YOU want tenure? Is job security a priority for you?  Tell me, doesn’t the person who generally makes ½ as much and often lives paycheck to paycheck have the right to at least desire, if not deserve some job security? 

Oh and please, for the umteenth time my contract colleagues, don’t tell me (drumroll please) that you were once an adjunct!!!  Would you try to console someone with a broken leg by saying, “I had a broken leg once?”

I could go on, but for now, I’ll stop “whining”.  It’s time to talk about part-timers/adjuncts/contingents (please choose whichever name salves the pain you feel from being exploited, then realize you still are being exploited, then move on).

First of all, fellow adjuncts, contract employees, however some of them piss us off sometimes, are our colleagues.  Like you many of them work very hard, care about their students, community, and will often have extra work such as doing program review, accreditation, student learning outcomes, transfer articulation, and shared governance, to name a few.  Some of this you may never have to deal with. 

While it’s right for adjuncts to complain about pay disparities, there needs to be recognition and a degree of compensation for these additional tasks.  (And I might add that if adjuncts do these tasks, they should be paid for them too.)  Further, getting tenure in many places is no walk in the park.  I had one full-timer telling me that he felt his tenure process was like “trying to take first place in a poop-eating contest.” 

Tenure is one issue I often read adjuncts claiming as the main source of evil and inequity in the education system.  Really?  I don’t think tenure is the problem, anymore than adjuncts getting rehire rights is a problem.  The problem is that more people are not getting full-time positions that pay benefits because the powers that be (usually politicians who have no experience with education beyond being a student) want to provide education on the cheap off of our backs. 

Taking out tenure might be satisfactory for some adjuncts in that it would supposedly level the playing field in terms of job security, and lead to a firing of older teachers who either lack or haven’t developed their teaching skills, but pulling your colleagues into the toilet with you isn’t going to make your situation any better. 

More importantly, you’re going to alienate a person or persons you would want to be your ally, and many of them want to be, dare I say it, because they appreciate you, have lived on your salary, identify with your condition, and want it to end.

I’ve run into other adjuncts who say, in light of the pay inequity between adjuncts and full-timers that what needs to happen is that full-timer should give up part of their salaries so that my salary is more equal to his or hers.  I admit that sometimes I’ve felt this sentiment, but honestly, this is just so problematic on a number of levels. 

First of all, while there are extreme examples of high full-time salaries for instructors, most full-timers receive salaries that are comparatively modest compared to people with equivalent or even lesser educational backgrounds working in private industry.  There is also the issue of ballooning administrator salaries, along with the additional hires of administrators or monies spent on facilities or programs of questionable need. 

Moreover, it is rare indeed to find an often overworked individual, as many full-time teachers are, who is willing to endure financial duress in his/her life to lower his/her salary.  On the other hand, there are certainly administrators who wouldn’t mind slashing full-timer salaries and either giving adjuncts a pittance of a salary increase, or more likely, none at all. Building success and equity for part timers should be about lifting up part-timers, not tearing full-timers down. 

However, let’s say that maybe that forcing full-timers to give up some of their salary was the right way to go.  Well, most faculty unions are lead by full-timers who are also the most active members of the union. 

How likely do you suppose the chances of doing the above are?  I’m thinking of a snowball in hell…

Some adjuncts then argue, let’s have a separate union for adjuncts.  You know who loves this idea even more than adjuncts?  Administrators, who can play the old “divide and conquer game.” I see this happen in one of my districts where the classified staff and faculty are in separate unions.  You hand a real crappy contract to one group, scare the hell out of them with potential layoffs if they don’t sign, and then tell them that cuts are still going to go through because the other unit won’t see reason and take the same cuts.

In California, where I’m at, the adjunct unions that were formed happened because there were greedy full-timers didn’t want to collectively bargain with them in the unit.  Were the units together, ultimately the full-timers would have to see adjunct interests as part of their own, not a world away.

Another bit of adjunct irrationality is the old “let’s secretly hate the adjunct who now got the contract job I applied for but didn’t get.  I’ll admit to sometimes feeling this kind of resentment, but I’ll also say it’s wrong, stupid, and petty.  The adjunct who got that job you wanted worked hard too, most often suffered like you, and sometimes even more.  What do you possibly gain by being resentful?  When an adjunct like ourselves gets a job, we possibly have a bridge to the more hard-headed full-timers who don’t see us.  One of my department’s recent hires, when she first told me about getting the fulltime position, swore she’d do what she could to fight the plight of adjuncts, and as much as I can, I’m going to hold her to it.  By the way, I’m happy she got the job (Of course, I want to be full-time too, but it isn’t on her I that didn’t get one yet).

Finally, there are some things adjuncts accuse full-timers and faculty unions of that are just not happening.  One of these is the assertion that (and this happens on the community college level) “so and so scheduler will not give me extra classes because I have a Ph.D. and if they did, they’d have to pay me more.”  First of all, when I lived in Japan I was in fact an administrator or scheduler for small university-articulated program which hired people with advanced degrees. The outfit I worked for was one of the most money-grubbing outfits imaginable, and yet never, when it came to hiring personnel, was I ever pressured to hire people with cheaper qualifications. I was to hire people who could teach to the schedule, accomplish objectives, and if it cost a little more (which it did in the big picture) I was to hire them. 

As for public institutions, the separation between salaries and scheduling is far greater.  Most schedulers have to fill tens or hundreds of sections in a limited time frame.   They don’t have the time to look over everyone’s salaries and see what they make, and in most cases will have no idea because they can barely read the scattergram to understand their own salary.  The Dean, if he or she is not the scheduler, is more concerned about the numbers of students in your class.  Above the Dean, the Vice President of Instruction is concerned about class numbers and in particular, if too many or too few sections are being offered.  Why would, or how could he/she focus on the individual salary of a teacher among teaching faculty which will often exceed 1000 teachers?

What does all of this mean good adjuncts?  Well, it’s this.  If you want to be more successful in making things better for yourself and fellow adjuncts, recognize your full-time colleagues as colleagues who need to be educated and enlightened, not defeated.  Two, come up with ways in which adjuncts and full-timers can grow together.  And lastly, as much of the funding and policy imposed on adjuncts is driven by state governments and politicians, direct your energies there rather than targeting your local unions who, if you actually try to dialogue with them in a positive manner, may you show that they are on “your side”.

Geoff Johnson

An Adjunct Working for Change