Saturday, April 17, 2010

First Year Highlights

One from Column A (see previous post) ... Board member Peter Brown's recap of NFM's first year. We get frustrated because there is so much to address. Sometime it feels as though we are dancing as fast as we can just to stay in place. Seeing the year neatly laid out for examination is reassuring. Still no rest though: we intend to keep on dancing.  

The following has been condensed from "Highlights of NFM's first year." The complete version will appear, along with other articles, in the first issue of the NFM Newsletter.

The Idea
In 1996, the Coalition for Contingent Academic Labor (COCAL) was formed in Washington, DC….began organizing conferences every other year at different sites and also established an adjunct listserv. By 2008, some activists felt strongly that the time had come for even more than just these two initiatives.
We envisioned a national organization that could advocate on a continuous basis for the more than one million contingent instructors who now constitute the majority of teachers in American higher education. Early in January 2009, I met with Joe Berry in Chicago to discuss a national organization. A pioneer in organizing adjuncts, Joe is a leader in the movement for adjunct and contingent equity and, as a non-tenured activist, more appropriate to initiate action. When he declined to convene 
a preliminary organizing committee
, the next step was to take the discussion national.
Invitation, first steps
On February 2, 2009, I sent an invitation to the adj-l list to form an organizing committee. The message included:
This new coalition is not designed to supplant or be in competition with unions or any other currently existing organization. I would like to see a fully independent national organization advocating exclusively for contingent faculty equity 52 weeks of the year. It should be led by adjunct and contingent faculty working together with tenured professors, both inside and outside union structures to foster a national grass-roots movement of contingent academic labor across the country.
Within minutes, the first enthusiastic responses poured in, forming an organizing committee of about a dozen activists, who formed an online group and held their first “meeting” via a telephone conference call three weeks later.
Taking a Name
At this initial meeting, the principle of majority rule was adopted as the group decision-making procedure. Deborah Louis and Maria Maisto were unanimously elected to co-chair the NCAE coordinating committee, and I gladly relinquished my role of convener.
Initial efforts focused on drafting a mission statement and by-laws and developing procedures for communication and fundraising. A press release followed the next day.
Since last February, most of the original organizing committee has stayed on in some capacity. New members have joined. We soon learned that building a national organization is more challenging than talking about forming one. The organizing committee formally adopted our official name in March 2009: New Faculty Majority: The National Coalition for Adjunct and Contingent Equity.
When Deborah Louis stepped down co-chair in May 2009, Matt Williams (U Akron, OH) assumed the newly-created position of vice chair. Since then, Matt has worked on developing and maintaining our website, filing for NFM’s incorporation in the state of Ohio, establishing office space in Akron and working closely with Maria Maisto to lead NFM onto the national stage. Deb has remained with NFM, helping develop our by-laws and preparing our application for 501(c)3 tax-exempt status with the IRS.
A major development in 2009 was the creation of NFM’s Advisory Board. In addition to several members from the original Organizing Committee, the advisory board constitutes a distinguished panel of experts from different backgrounds and with different perspectives to provide ongoing feedback to the Board of Directors. The NFM website Leadership page lists Directors and Advisory Board members.
During the summer of 2009, NFM formulated the seven key organization goals listed in our brochure and prominently displayed on our website’s main page. These goals are listed in order of importance and our first major national campaign will focus on the last one listed, coordinating an unemployment initiative for contingent instructors.
September 2009, marked our organizational coming-out. The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a cover story on NFM, An Activist Adjunct Shoulders the Weight of a New Advocacy Groupon the same day that Maria Maisto’s editorial, The Adjunct’s Moment of Truth,” appeared in Inside Higher Ed. Next, we completed by-laws and our IRS application.
All Roads Lead to Akron
The Executive Committee and several Board members finally met face to face over the weekend of March 12-14, 2010 in our new Akron office. Physically present were Anne Wiegard, Ross Borden and myself from New York, NFM President, Maria Maiesto, and VP Matt Williams. We teleconferenced with Board members Bill Lipkin (Treasurer), Alan Trevithick, and Jack Longmate, and Advisory Board member Frank Cosco. We reviewed our first year, began developing concrete future plans, sketched out the Unemployment Insurance Campaign (UIC), discussed fundraising, brainstormed long-range plans and met with local activists who want to form an Ohio chapter of NFM.
We formally adopted a policy of asking our members for a suggested minimum fee of $15 and hope that many will contribute more. However, membership contributions from cash-strapped adjuncts won’t suffice to run an effective national advocacy group. Once our federal tax-exempt status is approved, we can begin sustained fundraising efforts. Fortunately, Pablo Eisenberg, currently a Senior Fellow at the Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute contacted us earlier this year and has offered to advise us on fundraising initiatives.
On the Road Again
Throughout 2010, NFM representatives have been and will be attending and presenting at regional, national and international conferences that include TESOL, AACU, AFT/NEA, the annual conference of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining and the Professions, the Center for Working Class Studies’ How Class Works conference, AAUP, and COCAL. These conferences introduce NFM to a wider audience and expand our networking opportunities
We are preparing to launch Unemployment Insurance Campaign (UIC), a major national campaign to educate adjuncts and contingent faculty and provide them with access to unemployment insurance. We will coordinate our effort with leading national labor federations, regional contingent faculty groups, other nonprofit organizations, and government agencies. Although enormously challenging, the campaign is an matched opportunity to serve our constituency, over one million strong, during a time of severe economic stress.

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