Sunday, May 1, 2016

Our Different Worlds: An Open Letter from an Adjunct (BMCC) to the Union Contract Bargaining Team

To the Bargaining team
There are many different worlds and cultures represented by the PSC. Each of these units has sought to achieve, and mostly succeeded in establishing a basic foundation of rights and benefits. This includes but is not limited to: true job security, wrap-around health benefits, including free or affordable family plans, Workman’s Compensation, pensions that will provide enough into retirement, medical coverage that can be taken into retirement, FMLA, yearly step increases, adequate sick days, cumulative sick leave, and paid vacation days.  These cornerstones, which others are building upon, have not yet been achieved by adjunct instructors, the largest group, of these factions.
Now, in the time of contract negotiations, we are told everyone has needs, so we can but have one wish, and, as we have achieved so little, it is not left to our discretion to make that choice, but has been determined by all those who are fortunate enough to have already surpassed us in every category.
Adjuncts understand when we are hired that we will make far less than FT instructors.  That is obvious and a bargain we strike with full cognizance.  In my case, when was I hired in 1982, I  was  just happy that I could teach in a college environment, and the money was adequate at that time. What was not apparent and did not become apparent for decades were the unnecessary and negotiated discrepancies in every other aspect of our lives. One must have a family to discover the family plan is unaffordable.  One must slash and burn through TRS, before one fully realizes how impossible the gap between our pensions and the cost of our lives will be when we retire. One must get very sick, before one realizes that there is no help if he/she exceeds that first week and that- not just paychecks- but medical care will be terminated. 
We understand that for those who have already attained these thresholds it is easy to view every other group as simply competing for the next step upward.  However, our world does not offer those basic protections.
Therefore, we would ask that SOME of these inequities, not just one, be eliminated in this contract. At the moment, the only provision crafted for us is a malapropism called job security which involuntarily chains senior adjuncts to three year contracts, triggering perpetual review and the continual risk of being excised from our departments.  Certainly no Full time faculty member would ever tolerate such a provision, yet our leadership has spent months negotiating it, despite our objections at every First Friday meeting.
Our world does not incorporate the gains made by our comrades, despite promises from the leadership, spanning 15 years. No adjunct can vote Yes in this contract if there is not some significant movement to reduce some of the inequities of our lives.
Jane Clark

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