By Andy Battle
Dear Adjuncts, Part-timers and other Exploited Faculty:
I write to you because we are in a special time. Your union has just presented you with a contract that has the power to shape how you live and you will be asked to give your approval. The union will present you with the details of the agreement they have negotiated, but beyond the bare numbers will give you little context and few tools with which to evaluate whether this is truly in your interest. What little analysis you will hear will come from the officials who negotiated the contract. The fact is they are tired and demoralized and sincerely believe that we have no hope of doing better. They are afraid to strike because they know we are weak—the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby we refuse to prepare for a confrontation in any sense beyond the purely rhetorical. They have released the contract in the dead of summer, when they know the fewest number of people will be paying attention and there will be as few opportunities as possible for you to discuss it with the other people who will be affected by what they have decided on your behalf. Both management and the union leadership are counting on your isolation.
We are part-time faculty. We make up the majority of the people for whom this contract was negotiated. We have to ask what it does for us. The answer, if you look, is not much. The raises we will receive barely keep pace with inflation—the true measure of what the money will get you—and don’t even come close to matching the increase in what it has cost to live in this city since 2009. In that sense, management and the union leadership are asking you to accept a pay cut, with the threat of extended punishment should you say no. The other provisions ratify our subordinate status, despite the fact that we constitute an always-growing majority. The “signing bonus,” which would be unnecessary in a contract that promised actual relief, will be pro-rated for all except those who already make the most money. The promised workload reduction is intended only for the shrinking full-time minority and there is no indication that it will not be used to increase the pool of adjuncts working at what will continue to be poverty-level wages. The leadership even appears to have acquiesced to an opening salvo in the drive to eliminate tenure, in the form of 250 appointments for “full-time faculty on one-year contracts, without access to tenure.” Anyone who is wondering what such appointments look like can take a peek across the Hudson, where they already exist. Does anyone believe management intends to stop there?
In short, the contract is a bruiser and contains little substantive resistance to the forty-year assault on working people the PSC rightly bemoans. It’s not that there is nothing worth having in the contract. For people living hand-to-mouth, as we do, some money is obviously better than no money. The possibility of a three-year appointment is better than freaking out every four months that you may be thrown to the curb by your ostensible colleagues. But in the grand scheme of things, this is nibbling around the edges and plugging your ears in the hope that next contract, the problem might go away. But if you consider this contract in the broader trajectory of our working conditions, the signs for the future are not promising. Think about it—union leadership had to take extraordinary measures this time, in the form of a threatened strike, simply to secure a marginally-less humiliating settlement from management, and one that not only preserves but ratifies and widens the two-tier system and the gross violation of basic principle it represents. It makes you wonder what new dances we will be asked to perform next time to be allotted the privilege of another dose.
We have to ask ourselves whether we are willing to continue living like this. This round of negotiations has shown that any change in our situation is not going to come from above. We have three options. We can remain resigned and helpless, submitting to both the macro and micro humiliations shoveled onto part-time faculty each and every day. We can continue to believe in illusions—that someone who is not us will fix it, that the union has a plan, that the next contract will be different. Or we can face the situation soberly, reject the immediate short-term perspective and realize that the interests not just of ourselves as individuals, but of our students, our colleagues, and all New Yorkers who work for a living demand that we figure out how to say “no—it stops here”—and then figure out how to organize ourselves to make that “no” count.
Many worry, and rightly, about what will happen to us if we dare to say “no.” There is no question that I am asking us to consider a road that in the short term promises no small amount of uncertainty and, yes, pain. And if there are clear, pre-defined steps for going about a project as daunting as this, I have never been made privy to them. What I do know is that the first step is to say “no.” The rest follows and can only follow from the consequences of that refusal. I do believe that we, the rank-and-file, are capable of much more than what is asked of us by the leadership and maybe even a little more than we ourselves presently understand. I know because we are human beings and because we are teachers. If you’re one of those people who still gets a little nervous every time they have to enter the classroom, but still can’t wait to do it, I suspect you know what I mean.
So yes, I am calling for something more radical than what the union leadership is offering. I reject the idea that it’s crazy or unrealistic. What to me is unrealistic is the idea that by accepting a brutally concessionary contract such as this one we are opposing austerity in any meaningful way, which is what the PSC leadership rightfully exhorts us to do but, for reasons I do not understand, will not summon the imagination to address.
Sometimes I ask students what to them is the definition of “radical.” And I give them mine. I tell them that “radical” comes from the Latin word radix, meaning “root.” In other words, radical acts are ones that question and reshape fundamental principles. In order to confront the scale and nature of the attacks on our principles—the ones we live every day through our commitment to students—we need to contemplate radical acts. In our position, the radical becomes rational. The first act is to recognize that we cannot and say that we will not live like this any longer. The second is to organize ourselves to take advantage of the only power we have, which consists in numbers, commitment, and a higher vision. This contract asks us for none of that and as such is unworthy of the work we do. We have to insist on something better, and the first step is to say no.
23 thoughts on “A Message to Adjuncts, Part-timers and other Exploited Faculty on the Occasion of the Proposed Contract”
We’re with you. The adjuncts at the Ventura County Community College District just urged a NO vote on our contract, which was negotiated by full-time faculty, and which, like yours, made no progress toward pay parity. We didn’t win that battle, but the fight continues. It’s hard to be a committed unionist when the union only works for the interests of its elite members, but we have the numbers. Don’t let them forget it.
This whole thread is so depressing it’s hard to even think straight. I can’t survive anymore on what I make from CUNY (full adjunct load plus summer and winter immersion) and my three other jobs. I literally go without eating just to be able to pay my bills. And yet I am supposed to sell the value of an education to my students every day. It is a situation worthy of Kafka, and I feel like a giant bug on the wall, just waiting to be smashed.
An adjunct survey will be sent out in the fall. It was formulated by adjuncts to find out who we are, what we do and what we want. All adjunct should participate in it.
It is clear from reading this message board and from conversations I’ve had with full-time and part-time workers that there are many different kinds of adjuncts, they all NEED the job (if they teach 3, 6 or whatever hours), and they all need to be paid more.
What concerns me most are the bizarre opinions, from both part-timers and full-timers, that clearly indicate there is no consensus or clear understanding as to what adjuncts do, why they do it and how they live.
I’m an adjunct at CUNY, I believe ALL adjuncts should take the survey in the fall, and join the union NOW!
Thank you Felipe and others for all your hard work and sacrifice. As one of those adjuncts who also recently received a PhD from CUNY and who would have liked to obtain a full-time secure faculty position, I am very discouraged by this contract. I agree that allowing CUNY to hire adjuncts to teach more classes at a campus at this low salary ( I.e., relaxing the 9/6 rule) would be further exploitation. But 3 year contracts for those who have worked part-time for 5 years does virtually the same; if all you want to teach is 2 classes per semester, you probably don’t need a contract because you don’t NEED the job (although I’m sure you’d think it was nice of them to offer). Alternately, if you have already been teaching for 5 years and you are striving for a FT position, a 3 year contract at adjunct pay is further demoralizing.
With recond rates of enrollment, it is insidious that the number of FT faculty has, according to your stats, decreased nearly in half. The law of supply and demand says this number should have risen, not decreased. However, there are now so many of us willing to work for pennies–people only do to you what you allow them to. And if I am hearing you correctly, aside from the raises and signing bonus which don’t keep up with the cost of living so in essence I’m living a more empoverish life than ever before, the only thing of benefit the union has gotten me is a paid office hour….in a windowless room in a basement where I share 5 antiquated computers with 30 other adjuncts.
I sincerely appreciate what you and the others have worked for. I will be voting NO and reconsidering how dedicated to teaching at CUNY I really am. Perhaps if more of us refuse to take classes here, they will have no choice but to increase their rate for FT faculty.
Yesterday I was listening to a radio show. The person being interviewed observed how it is now common for many groups who have historically been marginalized in society continue to express their anger, despite having gained many rights in the recent years. I am sorry that people who have worked so hard and long for adjuncts have to continue to listen to our dissatisfaction. But these complaints will only increase to a more audible roar as we approach 2017, the end of this new contract, and the beginning of a new negotiation cycle.
Last night, we had a long and (in my opinion) productive discussion at PSC Delegate Assembly. Many adjuncts expressed their frustration and dissatisfaction with certain parts of the proposed new contract. At the end, the majority voted in favor of ratification (111 yes, 11 no) and now union members will have the chance of casting their votes for or against it. I am pretty sure that more than 80% of the members will ratify this contract and we will have a new employment framework for long serving adjuncts (part-time faculty who did teach 10 semesters with a teaching load of at least 6 credits per semester) and in my view this is a significant advancement in the process of professionalization and integration of adjuncts into academic departments. I am a member of the P&B committee of my department (we have more than 50 adjuncts per semester) and we are working a rubric to review long-term serving adjuncts that qualify for the 3-year appointments. I did my Ph.D. at CUNY and I was part of the adjunct movement in the late 1980s (at the Graduate Center) and we fought hard against the old PSC leadership for who adjuncts were not seen as part of the university. I was a PSC member at that time and I was fired from my adjunct job for “political reasons.” When I tried to fill a grievance with the union, the adjunct grievance counselor (there were only two at that time) told me that I had been fired because I was too active and that “a good adjunct is the one who is invisible in the department….” At that point, I left the union and we tried to form an adjunct organization independent of PSC but we failed. Many years after that, after meeting Marcia Newfield at Hunter (where I was a substitute) I rejoined PSC in 2002. Since I have been at CUNY since the 1980s and I have seen the changes in the union, I can say without hesitation that in comparison to the situation of adjuncts before Barbara Bowen became president, today the union is more concerned and more committed to adjunct issues than in the 1980s and 1990s. I don’t need to mention all the positive things that PSC has been able to do for adjuncts (paid office hour, health insurance and now a 3-year contract that will provide more job security). I know that the big (and more difficult question) is the pathetic low rates adjuncts get for a course and that should be the focus of the ongoing fight for equity and some form of workable wage parity with the rest of the full-time faculty. The last point I will make is a sociological one. Adjuncts are not a homogenous group. We can identify at least three different segments among the 11,000 teaching adjuncts that we have at CUNY. We have a large group (about 40%) who teach one or two classes per semester (mostly at night or weekends) who have full-time jobs. In my department (Social Sciences) about 40% of the adjuncts are in that category; they are social workers, public school teachers, full-time psychologists, lawyers and so on). In addition we have a large group of graduate students from all NYC universities (public and private) not just CUNY. These are students working in doctoral degrees who may become full-time faculty members at some point (even if according to data from AAUP, only 1 in every 7 new PhD’s are getting fulltime jobs in academia). And we have about 35% of the adjuncts at CUNY who belong to that group of “professional adjuncts.” These are people who have completed graduate degrees (masters or doctoral degrees) who never got fulltime jobs (a very few did not get tenure as full-time faculty) and who have been reaching as part-time faculty for a long time and don’t have another source of income. This is the group that the union is more concerned and that needs to be mobilized in a strong social movement to change the so-called two-third system. The union can provide resources and support to adjuncts in their struggle for equity but it cannot dedicate all its resources only to adjunct issues. We represent many different constituencies with diverse interests and the articulation of interests is an “art” since each group expects that their specific needs would be address first. Last night at the DA, I said to my comrades that we must strengthen the culture of solidarity within the union. Some members who spoke last night only talked about the specific needs and interests of their constituencies. I said that ALL members should be happy for what certain groups are going to get in this new contract. For instance, Librarians (who are full-time faculty) are getting more annual leave than what they had before (they should be entitled to the same annual leave as the rest of the fulltime faculty). CLIP and CUNY-Start teachers are becoming full-time instructors with salaries equivalent to lecturers and 90% of the benefits other full-time employees have. HEO’s will have a new reclassification system that would facilitate their professional advancement and long-serving adjuncts will gain more job security. One question that is pending (and was raised last night) is a reconsideration of previsions of Article 15.2 regarding teaching load for part-time faculty and that is a question that can be addressed at the DA and the EC. My own personal views (and I am NOT talking in the name of the union) are that some changes in that article can be made to increase the number of classes adjuncts can teach per semester. A reasonable option would be to add the option of two courses (3 or 4 credits) per college with a maximum to 4 classes (at two CUNY colleges). That would allow part-time faculty to get one paid office hour in each campus.
Some adjuncts in their desperation and frustration want to teach the same load that we (full-time faculty) teach with the same pathetic low pay that they get now. That is unacceptable and that would create a lot of irreparable institutional damage at CUNY. I am pretty serious since many of the participants in the forum are doctoral students who aspire to become academics at some point in their lives. If we allow CUNY to hire more part-time faculty to teach (let’s say) 12 credits per semester, I can assure that you will never get a fulltime at CUNY. If we do something like that, CUNY would replace full-time faculty with more and more adjuncts without any job security or better salaries. Since I am leaving tonight for a week to Maine (Baxter state park) I will not be able to read or check any responses to my comments until I come back.
Felipe, I appreciate your quote from Marx because it highlights the fact that in the past the union made little effort to sign up adjuncts. Unfortunately it still does today. All adjuncts when they are hired should have to attend a meeting that explains the full resources of CUNY and the appropriate colleges. AND A UNION REP SHOULD BE AT THAT MEETING TO EXPLAIN THE UNION AND SIGN ADJUNCTS UP!
Good luck with that full professorship thing.
Dear Dr. Pimentel,
I truly appreciate the time you take and effort you make to patiently explain these arcane questions to those of us who do not know enough about it. I think I grasp more clearly our union’s position on 15.2, the Workload requirement.
If I understand correctly, the concern of the negotiators during the discussions was that Adjuncts not be exploited by having to teach 15 credits at the old rate of $3000 per session. While the intention is commendable—and I sincerely appreciate the mindfulness of the negotiating team—I would suggest, with all deference to the negotiators’ skill and experience, and with all humility in accepting that I know little about such matters, that this reasoning has unintended consequences which may not have been considered.
Without naming names, a personal anecdote: a recent PhD in French (7 years of Graduate school!) teaches at one the CUNY Colleges. But because (s)he is limited to 9 credits by CUNY, (s)he also teaches at a college in Long Island and a college in the Bronx and a college in Brooklyn. Gas, tolls, parking (or parking tickets), depreciation on the car, time wasted in shuttling between campuses….Frankly, that is much more abuse and exploitation than being made (or asked?) to teach 15 credits at one school.
If it were mandatory 15, I would understand the negotiating team’s reticence; but what if I imagine a system by which the Chairs of departments offer Adjuncts the opportunity to request–subject to class offerings, of course–5 sessions of 3 credits or 4 sessions of 3 credits or 2 sessions of 4 credits…or any combination not totaling more than 15…How is that exploitation? (Who gets chosen for which classes remains, as it does now, at the discretion of the Chair and/or those to whom the Chair delegates the logistical tasks of assigning classes to Adjuncts.
To earn a living wage, Adjuncts and Part-Timers are currently accepting far worse working conditions than those to which they might be subjected if they could opt for 15 credits in one or two CUNY schools.
Even at $3000, 15 credits brings the Adjunct out the “Minimum Wage” bracket: It is not a munificent salary, granted, but certainly a far better cry than (the best-case scenario) $24,000 if the 9-6 rule is observed; and still better than darting around between one CUNY and three private colleges.
Public education budgets are not going to increase for the foreseeable future. $5,000 per session is simply not a realistic demand (and aside from two schools I know of, most private NYC Area universities pay between $2,500 and $3,250 per session). Having to peddle one’s services to 2, 3 or 4 schools is—honestly—far more of an exploitation than teaching 15 CUNY credits would ever be.
In a perfect world, Adjuncts would be protected from all exploitation. In the world in which we live, Adjuncts need the freedom to decide the manner in which they will feel the least exploited: Having a side agreement or amendment to the contract that offers such a choice would go a long way to quelling some of the disgruntled rumblings that have arisen (once again) from among the ranks of an ever-growing pool of imprisoned contingent faculty.
Regarding the question of Article 15.2 (Workload for part‑time members of the Instructional Staff) I agree that it should be revisited since with Pathways the situation has changed the structure of classes being offered at the university. CUNY wanted to increase the maximum of courses taught by adjuncts to 15 credits per semester but without changing the low adjunct rate per class of about $3000. We said NOT to that and we said that if they wanted that they should increase the rate to at least $5000 per class. At that point, CUNY was not interested anymore. After this contract is ratified, some changes may be “workable” allowing adjuncts to teach two classes at two different colleges and getting paid office hours in both colleges and that can be done as a “side agreement.” I am not a member of the EC any longer but I am still a member of the DA and I would be favorable to some changes in Article 15.2 without increasing the super-explotation of adjuncts. regarding the economic demands of adjuncts ($5000 or $7000 per class) that would need a big social and political movement of both CUNY and SUNY part-time faculty to change the salary structure for adjuncts with legislation. I was an adjunct when I was a doctoral student at the Graduate Center-CUNY and I know how difficult is to survive in NYC with the low wages adjuncts are paid.
Dear Dr. Pimentel,
Thank you for your comments and thank you especially for the time and hard work you put in towards the contract negotiations. I am certain you are entirely right when you say that the agreement that was reached in general and the economic concessions in particular are as good as could possibly have been obtained.
The point I have been making is that a modification of the 9-6 rule would not have cost anyone—not CUNY and not Full-time faculty—any money. The fact is, our union clings to an antiquated rule that may once have been believed to serve a purpose (force CUNY to create more full-time budget lines) but has historically been proven to only increase a pool of “disposable” workers whose employment and revenue is
a) Never guaranteed and
b) Insufficient to sustain a living wage
My question to the Union is why does it appear it never tried to propose discussing a 9-6 change (of which, as I understand it, CUNY Management is in favor). It would have been a great bargaining chip:give management something it wanted and “get” something in return.
Think of 9 credits at $64 for 2 semesters: it averages out over a year to 90 cents above New York City’s old minimum hourly wage of 9 dollars. When the $15 MW is implemented, our PhD-s are averaging less than Minimum Wage! This explains why I have many PhD Adjunct colleagues who have to apply for unemployment every summer. Granted, they work fewer hours for that money; but, the point is: they cannot earn a decent living after having invested considerable time and resources becoming fully-educated teachers of our country’s next generation, and they would love to work more hours if only they were allowed to.
Even assuming an Adjunct is able to find the one permitted additional course to teach on another campus (one which fits into the patchwork that is his schedule on the first campus—something I have been unable to achieve in the 8 semesters I have tried to) the best an Adjunct can hope for is around $24,000 for the year…assuming none of his courses get cancelled for lack of enrollment. (I’ll mention only in passing the student loans that must be paid back.)
We could banter back and forth about numbers, and who is more active in the Union. I am ready to concede I do not know the level of commitment or apathy of Adjuncts. What I do know as fact is that in 1975, CUNY employed 11,300 full-time faculty, and today only around 6,800. Adjuncts have filled that growing gap, probably at the rate of 2 or 3 adjuncts for each full-time position attritionned. (Does anyone know where I can find the official numbers?)
In any case, the negotiated contract does little to address any of these issues.
Dr. Pimentel, I am sure we are grateful for your efforts and I affirm that what was obtained is indeed far better than what we had. I merely question why a tool which might have (at least partially) alleviated some Adjunct/Part-Timer poverty was not, at the very least, discussed; or, if it was discussed, why we part-timers were never apprised of it. Do you know, or do you someone who can tell us, why our union clings to the 9-6 rule? From where I stand, I cannot see any downside to its elimination. I think I speak for many of us when I say: I would just like to know.
Again, thank you for your contribution and the work you have done. Now, however, Adjuncts have to join together, agree on a course of action, make themselves heard, and build upon the work you and your colleagues have done.
In 2010 and 2011 there is 0% (no wage increases).
I’m now very confused about this contract. If it supposedly covers 2010 to 2017, why is there an across-the-board 1% effective 2012? What happened to 2010 and 2011? There’s a lot of stuff fishy about this agreement.
The complex and extremely difficult negotiation of this contract took more than 4 years. I have been in the PSC bargaining team since the beginning of the process and it has been strenuous and sometimes, depressing. As a fulltime faculty member teaching at a CUNY community college, my investment of time and energy in union work did mean that I had to “postpone” my own professional interests (working on publications and research) to be able to spend the demanding time in the continuous work to which I had committed myself. After more than 7 years of intense union activities (as a member of the EC and now as “former” member of the bargaining team) I am now going back to my academic and professional priorities since I may be teaching at CUNY for 8-9 more years before retiring and I would like to end my academic career at CUNY as a full professor (maybe some day).
Anyway, I don’t regret the time and energy spent in advancing the interests of ALL our union members, not only adjuncts, a question that I will revisit later. First, let me stress the significant advancements that we have gained in this contract. We got BIG changes in the HEO’s classification system and we redefined criteria for reclassification. HEO’s at CUNY (differently than fulltime faculty) don’t have a promotion system. With this change, many HEOs will be able to be reclassified and this is a BIG advancement for more than 4000 PSC members. In addition, we were able to made BIG changes in CLIP and CUNY-Start and they will be annualized “fulltime employees” with most of the benefits and rights of other CUNY fulltime employees. For Librarians, we were able to get 8 full weeks of annual leave (they are fulltime faculty with ONLY 4 weeks of annual leave for 10 years and 6 weeks after 10 years). We desperately wanted a reduction of the teaching load for fulltime faculty in this contract and we did not get that, especially for community college faculty. Are we going to vote against the contract because we did not get it? NOT!!! We, the fulltime faculty (7,500 members) are the “majority” in the union. Our unionization rate is 85% while part-time faculty are just 50% (and that is because the work that we have done to increase the number of part-time faculty. When I was a graduate student in the 1980s and early 1990s, the unionization rate of part-time faculty was less than 20%. Since 2000, PSC has fought hard and systematically to advance the specific needs and interests of part-time faculty. We got limited paid office hours for adjuncts teaching at least 6 credits, we got Health Insurance for adjuncts teaching the same amount (after paying for that benefit with the Welfare Fund resources for many years) and in this contract we have been able to move in the right direction regarding “job security.” We will have a three years contract with enhanced benefits for adjuncts who have taught at least 6 credits for the last 10 academic semesters. Regarding the “economic demand” of increasing the minimum rate of what CUNY pays for a course to $5000, that would cost at least $40 million per semester and the limited economic offer that we got from CUNY did not allow to even consider that possibility. And I am not saying that it is not a fair and needed increase (especially in comparison to what Columbia and NYC do pay per class to the part-time faculty). What I am stressing is that the money was NOT in this economic package and that in order to move in that direction we will need a LOT of more money from the state and the city. My recommendation to the adjuncts groups is to organize a campaign like the one minimum wage workers did to move the minimum wage up to $15 per hour. Furthermore, the wage increases for all CUNY employees are very limited. Fulltime faculty are also getting a relative “pay cut” especially for the years 2010-11 (when other public unions got some wage increases).
I don’t have any hesitation or doubt in my mind when I say that this was the BEST deal that we were able to reach given the structural constraints that we faced. As Marx said: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.” Finally, CUNY’s strategy was to reach an agreement first with DE 37 to frame the economic offer that we got. We did consider the possibility of a strike (at some point late in Fall 2016) but opening a Pandora box never is a trouble-free decision. I think that we did the right decision given the structural constraints and tonight in the DA I will defend this contract. And I am pretty sure that more than 80% of our members will vote yes in the contract ratification process.
First, may I say, that unfortunately, the pattern of delaying a settlement in a contract goes back to Ed Koch’s administration in 1984, when he said, ” I don’t want to talk to you”. It was as simple as that. Since that time, every NYC Mayor has used the Taylor Law as a weapon against public employees. Next, Michael Mulgrew has unfortunately set the pattern for every NYC employee when the terrible UFT contract was settled in 2014. Pattern bargaining has been locked in for everyone. To add insult to injury, the money is being doled out in dribs and drabs. The last of the retroactive money will be paid in 2020. Salary wise, as much as I complain about the UFT, there is not a two-tier system.
Some more thoughts on the recent PSC-CUNY contract: What Is Still Wrong with this Picture?
Certainly, I would not claim to know any more than anyone else in such matters; this is all new to me. I became an Adjunct only 4 years ago while pursuing an MFA in Translation at Queens College. After more than 30 years in non-academic positions, the arcane rules, procedures and even “customs” of Academia were (and to a great extent still are) quite foreign to the way I was accustomed to navigating the world.
Yet, simple common sense tells me there is something amiss in the picture I think I am seeing:
1) There are many more Adjuncts and Part-Timers than there are full-timers
2) There are, broadly speaking, two kinds of Adjuncts/Part-timers
a. Those who Adjunct/PT because it represents a part-time supplemental income to other sources of income they already have (themselves and/or life-partner)
b. Those who Adjunct/PT because they wanted to make teaching their profession, but unfortunately have been and continue to be unable to find full-time employment anywhere (through no fault of their own)
and it is difficult to see how a single union can truly represent the interests of three such divergent constituencies: the full-timers, the “contented” part-timers, the “begrudging” part-timers.
While certainly not an easy proposition, our colleague EM’s suggestion that it might be time to consider a separate association of Adjuncts and PTs is by no means unreasonable. I had this exact conversation last night with a colleague as he drove me home after class (I try to teach Summer Session because I cannot pay the bills if I only work regular sessions).
Just as the union postured with the “Strike Authorization Vote,” I do not see why Adjuncts—at least at this initial stage—can’t flex a little a muscle and
1) Suggest we will withhold our ratification of a less-than acceptable contract and/or, failing that,
2) Suggest we could eventually
a. Present and vote for a different slate of candidates at the next Union elections and failing that
b. Splinter from the PSC, creating a separate union or association and use our numbers to negotiate a separate agreement with CUNY which, as we all know, relies more and more on Adjunct/Part-Timers and less and less on Full-Time faculty, as they simply let full-time slots die by attrition.
Realistically, part-timers cannot expect to receive large pay increases: as long as higher education is seen as an expensive privilege rather than an absolute and universal right, American taxpayers will be reluctant to pay higher taxes, and thus politicians will be reluctant to increase the budgets of Public Education. However, also realistically, 10.5% over the life of the contract is not a raise: it is a de-facto pay-cut when the cost of living is taken into account.
Moreover, 10.5% added to less than bare subsistence wages is still not a decent living wage. I find it shameful that, in one of the richest countries in the world, someone with a Master’s or a Doctoral degree may have to go begging for unemployment benefits three months out of the year.
Because everyone in Federal, State and City institutions is being asked to “do more with less,” $5,000 per course may not be achievable (it doesn’t mean we should not ask for it, to see what is achievable). The solution has to be a combination of a realistic increase in wages with a lifting of the cap on allowable teaching hours. Such an approach would give those of us who love teaching and want to make it a career, or at least a long-term commitment, a chance to earn something resembling a living wage. Personally, I did not change careers late in life thinking this would make me rich; but I never expected how close to the poverty line it would bring me.
Please do not misunderstand me: I do not like the idea of dismantling the PSC, and I have no ill-will towards Full-Time faculty; I merely recognize that their interests may not be the same as ours, and the simple arithmetic of this new contract may work slightly better for them than it does for us (although I do not think I go out on a limb when I posit that a majority of them are probably not entirely satisfied with this contract, either).
The 9/6 rule is budgetarily neutral for CUNY (actually, they might save money on health insurance premiums). I do not understand why OUR union did not take OUR wishes to heart and offer them a lifting or modification of the cap as a bargaining chip to obtain something else or something more in the negotiations.
If anyone fathoms the logic of this, please let me know: I want to understand.
The exploitation of part-time faculty is absurd and insulting, especially considering the level of education we all have AND that we are highly responsible for furthering the pool of educated employees for the city. Everyone knew the strike was a bluff; political wizardry used to manipulate us in to thinking we’d gotten more than minimum. A real strike would further weaken the union. This is the plight of all unionized across the nation. Radical change never comes without sacrificing the little that you have. I will vote NO and I hope a lot of FT faculty also vote NO. From what I can tell, the contract is not that great for them either.
Would it be unrealistic to consider the possibility of splitting off and forming our own union somewhere down the line? Our interests don’seem to mesh with those of the tenured faculty and there are so many more of us -and as you note, our numbers rise while theirs decline. I suspect this is probably impractical for a host of reasons of which I am ignorant and certainly nothing of the kind could be done in time to respond to this negotiated contract. But is there any thought that this might be where we’re headed ultimately? Just curious what those of you more knowledgeable than I am think.
I too am opposed to this contract. This union “leadership” is no different than all the rest. They are all afraid of tangling with management because that will mean galvanizing the membership to wage a real fight. The strike authorization vote was just a way to allow the membership to blow off steam. What the union secured was far less than what it originally asked for and that was pretty bad. Adjuncts must beg for the three year guarantee because it is not guaranteed to everyone. We are basically living from hand to mouth. I think we should vote no but we should organize to fight for a better contract. Just voting no puts us pretty much in the same place that we have been in for the past 7 years and it is unlikely that the union will do much else.. If anyone wants to organize a real fightback they can email me at email@example.com
I will vote NO. Why did they reinforce the 2-tier system by cutting most adjuncts out of a reasonable ‘signing bonus’?
What happened to the request to pay adjuncts at least $5000 per course? I think that was an essential demand. Adjuncts can’t survive on $3000 per course – not in New York City! Can’t believe that wasn’t addressed in the contract.
Listening to membership data during the strike pledge campaign, I have been wondering if adjunct membership rates have gone down in the past 6+ years? Having worked on a previous anti-ratification campaign, there’s no doubt that the high rate of adjunct fee payers has always hurt these efforts and is a piece of the puzzle in not being able to assert more muscle within the union, formally and informally. Disengagement and disenchantment is perfectly understandable; in this context, I’m thinking about the realities of mobilizing a no vote.
From the numbers I heard, among the things I was curious about was: as the percentage of folks with GTFs has climbed dramatically, how has this impacted union membership rates?
I would like to thank both Andrew Battle and Yves Clorac for their comments. Andrew’s assessment is precise and much needed. Yves’ comment is also important. I would like to thank you Yves for your other comments on the petitions I initiated. I also recall your comment on the Adjunct Message Center, a site I created to give adjuncts a venue for expressing their concerns.
Regarding the contract, I agree with everything both of you have said. I will be sending out a message to the signers of the Flexible Workload Petition asking them to come to the DA this Thursday and voice their concerns. A message drafted by others will be sent to the signers of the Fair Contract Petition. It is my hope that we can induce many to show up and send a message, loud and clear, that we are not satisfied with the terms of the contract and that we will vote NO. We need to be very clear in our message and spell out in precise detail the shortcomings of the contract. You and others have done this in your message, both on this site and in the many emails we, who have been conferring on these matters, have exchanged.
On Thursday we need to work as a team, hopefully with as many of the signers of both the 9/6 Petition, the Flexible Workload Petition, and the Fair Contract Petition to let our Delegate Assembly members know that we are a force to be reckoned with, that we are not as weak as they think we are. Though we do not have any real power yet, we have the means of generating power, power in numbers. We are the majority and as such have the means to take power, maybe not today, but some time in the future. Our union needs to believe this and we need to make them believe it.
To accomplish this we must stand together, work together, fight together. We must support one another in our struggle for equity and justice. We can do this by listening to each other and adding rather than diminishing each other’s incentives. It is our shared energy that has the potential to bring about positive change. Thus far we have not succeeded, but that is all the more reason why we must try even harder.
It is likely that we will walk away from the DA this Thursday discouraged and disheartened, and we need to be prepared for that. We need to continue this struggle even when we are faced with defeat. That is when we must rise above our doubts and fears and show the world and ourselves just how strong we are. So let us look at Thursday as a test of our courage, or faith, and our determination.
Thank you for posting your thoughts and so quickly interpreting what this contract would mean for us. I know that “the Perfect is often the enemy of the Good;” but, to my view, this contract is nowhere near “good.” It is marginally better (for a marginal contingent of Adjuncts) than what existed till now; but that is no reason to meekly accept it as if there is no possibility of anything better.
We need to say “NO” if only so that the Union leadership finally take notice of us and, at the very least, give us rational explanations for their apparent lack of interest in what we have to say.
Your blog quite correctly points out all the areas in which the proposed contract is disappointing for “Adjuncts, Part-timers and other Exploited” Staff: increased pay disparity between full-time and part-time, the failure to even keep up with the rate of inflation, the signing bonus disparity, and the teaching workload reduction for full-timers which will only serves to grow the pool of underemployed Adjuncts–to name only those. Important as these issues are, they take a back seat to the central problem facing part-timers: the cap on the number of hours they are permitted to teach guarantees that they will be unable to earn a living wage if all they do is teach at CUNY.
I have several times asked the Union leadership to explain why it clings to a moribund rule that no longer serves its original function. My requests have gone unanswered. Make no mistake: the 9-6 rule is not supported by a majority of CUNY management, and it is despised by most Department Chairs; it is our own PSC that keeps it in place, under the mistaken belief that this will somehow force CUNY to create more full-time budget lines. It has not happened in the recent past, and it will not happen in the foreseeable future. All this rule does is create ever larger pools of Adjuncts.
While I am frightened by the uncertainty that accompanies saying NO to this contract, I do not see any other way to make our Union take notice of the fact that we part-timers represent the majority of their membership and that they must start taking our best interest and our concerns to heart.
With this contract, they have basically ignored us: let’s make them notice us.