Since April our Union leadership has been in discussions with the administration of Union County College in New Jersey involving adjunct teaching loads in relation to the Affordable Care Act. At first these discussions were quite contentious, and our members were motivated to write letters to the editors of local newspapers and stage a threatened walk-out at a 'Adjunct Forum' where the administration was ready to take the hatchet and drastically reduce our teaching loads. The presence of local news reporters and health care experts from AFT National forced the administration to back off a little.
In the meantime our Union contract was expiring on August 31 and our negotiation team went into action to prepare proposals that would protect our income. You see, what was happening is that the College president stated explicitly at a faculty meeting that 'The College can not afford to give adjuncts healthcare...it would bankrupt the College'. So we knew that we would not get the benefits, but now they were attempting to cut our teaching loads as well, causing us to earn less money. So the results of the Affordable Care Act would be that we would not get health care and our income would be reduced, making it more difficult for us to acquire healthcare. Many adjuncts started calling this the 'Unaffordable Care Act'. Since we did not have a new contract, and the 'look back period' would not start until 2014, we convinced the College to honor our contractual teaching loads for the Fall, 2013 semester.
So we went into action and used Campus Equity Week as our forum.
We are still negotiating and trying to convince the administration that we can teach 12 credits per semester and still be under the 30 hour limit of ACA, but have not reached any conclusion.
However, the College has graciously agreed to honor our teaching loads for the Winter and Spring, 2014 semesters. Our members think this is very fair on the part of the College but we are reserving our judgment until we find out what they are deciding on for the future.
I believe this is a step forward in compromise and our members are able to enjoy a good holiday season knowing their income will be safe for at least the first half of the New Year. Maybe if the administration of the National Government would follow the lead of Union County College and agree to compromise for the benefit of adjuncts, we could find a solution for all.
Secretary-Treasurer United Adjunct Faculty of NJ
Co-President Union County College Chapter of UAFNJ
Chair, Adjunct Issues Committee AFTNJ
Treasurer, NFM and NFMF