Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Are #adjuncts worth helping?

…by Jack Longmate as posted to Contingent Academics Mailing List& related trends. First, take a look at this from the "precarious faculty" archives, Sunday, February 20, 2011 Trend Watching: Jack vs WEA, #StateSOS, Taylorized!

Adjuncts vs. full-time faculty, a Community College Spotlight column, covers mostly Jack & WA HB1631 [an earlier version of 1348, below] kerfuffle (why Jack Longmate along with Wisconsin protesters and former AUC classmates occupying Tahrir Square are my personal heroes)... "Jack vs WEA" counts as a trend because we're going to see more of it, official rhetoric to the contrary not withstanding. Read your labor history. Nothing new under the sun. 

When you finish reading Jack's post below, please read the latest Contractually Bound column, 

Six myths about contract faculty in Canada. Pay particular attention to #3 (which could have been written by one of the WA adjuncts Jack describes in 6-9 below).

1. On Friday, Feb 28, I testified in a Washington state legislative hearing against HB 1348, a bill very strongly supported by tenured faculty and by some part-time faculty.  It has since died for this session. (Should anyone wish to view the hearing, it is viewable at http://www.tvw.org/index.php?option=com_tvwplayer&eventID=2014020206; the hearing on HB 1348 begins at the 39:40; my testimony at the 45:50 mark)

2.  Late Friday also, I read the Noam Chomsky text that Robin J Sowards assembled from a February conference in Pittsburgh, and aspects from two things have been swirling in my mind since.

3. As background for the legislation, in Washington state, the funding for pay step increments for community and technical college faculty (1) must necessarily come from the legislature and (2) are the result of a special appropriation, which means there’s no guarantee that increments will be funded each year; when the legislature doesn't fund increments, it leaves tenured faculty in a situation where they may have qualified for a pay raise but may not get it.  Everyone agrees that this is a problem. 
From 2003 through 2011 or so, the faculty unions in Washington state have supported legislation to make increments a regular part of the state operating budget.  Those efforts have failed.

The current bill, HB 1348, would instead compel the local colleges, as opposed to the legislature, to fund the salary steps established in their collective bargaining agreements (totaling roughly $10 million a year) through locally generated revenue, such as tuition, contracts or grants, international ESL programs, etc.

 4.  While increments are supposed to be for "faculty," they are, in effect, a full-time faculty benefit.  All full-time faculty have an increment salary schedule while two thirds of the colleges have none for their part-time faculty (and those that do have decidedly discounted steps). 

Keith Hoeller compiled data showing that between 1999 and 2004, 90% of the increment appropriations went to full-time faculty; only 10 to part-time faculty, which reflects the paucity of part-time faculty increment systems in the state's 30 college districts. As HB 1348 would fund increments established in the collective bargaining agreements but since most part-timers don’t have increments schedules, most part-timers would not benefit. Some understand that if HB 1348 were to pass, the unions would then strive to bargain part-time increments too.  But this is unlikely
First, with the transferring of the funding of increments from the state budget to the colleges (termed by some trustees to be an unfunded mandate), using local funds previously committed to other purposes, the colleges will likely be very, very reluctant to add any increments for employees that have never had them or add any other new encumbrances. 

It is understandable why full-time faculty who are paid on an increment schedule would favor the bill: it would ensure that they would receive their increments.  It is unclear why HB 1348 would be in the interests of part-time faculty without an incremental salary schedule.

5.  Against the backdrop of hearing fellow adjuncts support the bill was the Chomsky text where he cites Alan Greenspan as actually endorsing "greater worker insecurity."  

Chomsky explains Greenspan's position that "If workers are more insecure, that's very 'healthy' for the society, because if workers are insecure they won't ask for wages, they won't strike, they won't call for benefits; they'll serve the masters gladly and passively."

6.  It bothers me to hear fellow adjuncts feel that HB 1348 offers them hope for better wages.  While the bill promises assurances that full-time faculty increments would be paid and thus is supported, the bill releases the legislature from the responsibility to fund increments, transferring that task to colleges.  It will require colleges to use moneys for increments that has heretofore been used for other purposes, which would make introducing new increments more difficult.  

The sponsor of the bill itself,  Rep. Reykdal, predicted in a 2013 HB 1348 hearing that that local increment bargaining might be limited to turnover savings only; turnover savings is the marginal gain when an senior faculty member leaves and is replace by a junior faculty member.  Since most part-time faculty have no increments, they also have no turnover savings. 

7.   It is noteworthy that the part-timers supporting the bill would tend to emphasize their dismal employment conditions and then use polite if empty wording as in “I do think that if you continue to support it, it will be at least a step forward to helping solve some of these equity problems.” 

8.  I tried to describe the situation to my wife; her reaction was to say, using different words: “If adjuncts are as gullible to be swayed into believing such legislation will be beneficial them, why do you waste you time trying to help them?” 

9.  I'm reminded also of a statement of Barbara Ehrenreich: "If you are constantly reminded of your lowly position in the social hierarchy, whether by individual managers or by a plethora of impersonal rules, you begin to accept that unfortunate status."  

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