Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Strike authorization vote coming up: What are we fighting for? One adjunct's letter to the PSC Bargaining Team

April 27, 2016

Dear Bargaining Team,

As a union activist who has conducted a survey of over 450 adjuncts on one campus and also done a bit of organizing among adjuncts, I think I can assure you that, overall, adjunct union members enthusiastically support the bargaining agenda. Adjuncts can vote yes on strike authorization and will walk the picket line with everyone else. Some of us are ready to organize adjuncts to do just that. What adjunct members want union negotiators to remember is to be fair to all!

Across-the-board solutions such as a 3-credit workload reduction or a certain per­centage salary increase aren’t always fair. They may exacerbate or perpetuate existing inequities. “Fair” would reduce workload for full-time faculty at community colleges more than at senior colleges when the research and service obligations are the same. “Fair” would increase income for adjunct faculty more than for full-time faculty when teaching standards are the same. And “fair” would match the effective increase in pay per course due to workload reductions for full-timers with a corres­ponding increase in pay per course for adjuncts.

OK, you might say, we’ll do all that if there’s enough money on the table. Not OK! Even $1 can be broken up into different sized stacks of pennies. How is it fair to ask the lowest paid to sacrifice (again) for the sake of the highest paid? Would you ask adjuncts to subsidize (from their pensions, savings, other jobs, spouses’ incomes, etc.) not only the university but even their union brothers and sisters? And, ethical considerations aside, who benefits when the minimum wage for teaching is set so low?

Adjunct groups have suggested steps to fulfill the union’s promise of pay equity: a paid office hour for every course or a $30/hour increase at every step. We have asked that the 9/6 rule be relaxed so adjuncts can make a living without impossible complications. We have asked for either the CCE (a form of tenure) or the tried and true labor movement principle of seniority. And there are other possibilities.

As far back as 2004 the PSC espoused the goal of “parity for adjuncts in income and professional working conditions” and understood that “injury to one group is injury to all in a fully committed union of workers” (Sept 2004, DA Resolution for Dialog on Adjunct Workload). In 2007, our leadership pledged to achieve pay parity for adjuncts in Phase III of the 3-contract strategy (Nov-Dec 2007 Clarion). That’s this contract. And of course you all remember that the DA adopted “significant movement toward job security and parity for adjuncts” as a goal for this contract (Clarion, Dec. 2010).

Please, remember the union’s principles. Remember the union’s promises.

In solidarity,
Ruth Wangerin
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Sociology, CSI and Lehman College