Though I saw it all around
Never thought I could be affected
Thought that we'd be the last to go
It is so strange the way things turn

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Union Issues

So, Lakeland Community College and their full-time faculty hadn't come to agreement over a new contract (news is they came to a tentative agreement on Friday night). The union had a pro forma vote and agreed to allow a strike as early as Monday. There's just a few problems here, classes actually started on Saturday (I know, my class started on Saturday).

So as the sides attempted to, well, for a lack of a better term, negotiate, they administration sent a letter to the adjuncts asking them to cross any potential picket line, and all for the whopping sum of substitute pay (about the same as adjunct pay, which isn't much).

There's also an Ohio Part-Time Faculty Association. Which, I don't know, pretends to act in the interest of adjunct faculty (which is definitely needed, wish they would actually effect some change). Anyway, they had a post on how the adjunct faculty of Lakeland should support the full-time faculty union's picket lines, if it came to it. Because, I don't know, all the faculty is in it together or something.

Now, at some colleges while the adjuncts aren't members of the union, the unions fight to make their lives a little easier. The offer some protections (through advocate offices), negotiate raises for adjuncts, and in general work to make sure adjuncts are neither to attractive to the administration (in case you don't know, even non-tenured positions are being eliminated in favor of adding adjuncts… also putting classes on lines) or considered by the full-time staff as "lesser". Not at Lakeland. Or if they are trying, it doesn't show in any meaningful way (adjunct faculty pay hasn't changed in over a decade, and while they depend on the adjuncts to make their staffing numbers, adjuncts are considered "as good" or driven as the full-time faculty).

So, I just had to respond. Since they haven't released it from moderation, I thought I'd post it here as an open letter.

I know a few adjuncts at Lakeland, and I have to ask just what the full-time staff and union have done to earn the trust and loyalty of the adjuncts? Adjuncts who don’t have the protections the full-timers have and can be dismissed at will, or (as more commonly happens) just not be invited back the next semester. Who now face a choice between putting food on the table, alienating administration who may be able to hire them full-time or block their adjunct contracts, or alienating the faculty who would sit on hiring committees.

While crossing a picket line is never to be taken lightly, unions are formed and function on respect. From my secondary experience, I haven’t seen much respect coming from the other side. It helps to build these relationship before you have to call upon them.

What can the full-time staff and union do to earn this? Support the adjuncts, help curb the trend of shifting full-time positions to adjuncts (creating more full-time opportunities), extend workplace protections and maybe negotiate raises for adjuncts along with their contracts. Maybe add provisions to support hiring from within instead of viewing the adjuncts as “people who only want to work part-time.” It’s a tall order and from what I can see from the outside is going to require a cultural change, for which there is currently no pressure on the full-timers to make that change.

Not that the administration did themselves any favors by offering only substitute pay (if they were smart and wanted to really threaten the union, they should have offered full-time equivalent pay).

So, yes, I know a few who are struggling with this matter this weekend. It would have been good if the full-time staff had built the relationship of trust and respect beforehand. It would have made some of my friends decisions easier.


Edit 08-28-2014 19:30 Just rechecked that Ohio Part-Time Faculty Association, comment is still listed as in moderation. Look, if you don't want comments, turn them off. I understand I'm not always the most intelligent or rational person, but really? Still in moderation.

2 comments:

Dr. Phil (Physics) said...

Here, here. I've been adjunct for 22 years. The part-time union got in maybe four years ago. The university helped make it happen. the full-time union supported us. It is not a hostile situation.

But we've not had a challenge that would require PT, FT or trades to cross anyone' picket lines. And I hope we never have to find out.

This Lakeland administration is begging for trouble. which makes them idiots.

Dr. Phil

Steve Buchheit said...

Hey Dr. Phil, oh yes. It's like both sides don't know just how deep a whole they've been digging. And you'd think one side or the other would be trying to build bridges to the adjuncts. Unfortunately it just shows exactly how the adjuncts are considered by both sides.