by P.D. Lesko
At Green River Community College, located in a suburb of Seattle, Washington, adjuncts (303) make up the majority of the 443 faculty who teach at the two-year college. Between 2004-2010, an adjunct faculty member headed the Green River Community College United Faculty, a joint AFT-NEA local—the only joint AFT-NEA local in the state. Phil Ray Jack was elected, for all intents and purposes, by the full-time faculty to lead the local. Washington State union leaders have referred to Jack’s election and long-time stint as leader of the unified local, a “resounding success.” A part-time faculty member who was represented by Jack and UF for the years during which he led the union summed up his leadership quite differently.
“Phil Ray Jack (right) was an Uncle Tom,” says the adjunct who asked not to be identified out of fear of retaliation on the part of current UF leaders, many of whom are department chairs charged with hiring adjuncts and assigning classes. “Phil Jack did as he was told, and then was rewarded with a tenure-track job. He made sure equity money that should have gone to part-timers, went to full-timers teaching overload. He torpedoed legislation that would have helped all adjuncts in the state earn more money and have access to benefits. He stole money from the union and union leaders let him skip town. Phil Jack should be behind bars.”
Allegations of union corruption and allegations that union leaders run their organizations like personal fiefdoms are nothing new. Education unions and their political clout are frequently the topic of GOP and right-wing ire. In October 2011, the American Spectator published a piece that targeted the AFT and NEA using the non-profits’ own financial disclosure statements that outline executive pay and lobbying expenditures, among other information:
As with the celebrities, there’s something rather hilarious about the appearance of the nation’s two largest teachers’ unions at a protest against allegedly pampered fat cats. Few organizations have managed to become so influential — and build such vast coffers — at the expense of taxpayers and their children.
The AFT alone collected $211 million a year in dues during its 2010-2011 fiscal year (most of it by force from the very teachers whose interests they proclaim to represent), while the far-larger NEA pulled in $397 million during its 2009-2010 fiscal year period. Each union, on their own, collects more dues than the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, Service Employees International Union, or the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. When one adds in the revenues collected by their affiliates, the two unions are billion-dollar organizations with budgets that match their corporate peers.
The leaders of both unions are as well paid as most midsized corporate chief executives and leaders in the nonprofit arena. AFT President Weingarten, for example, collected $493,895 in 2010-2011, a 15 percent increase over the same period last year; Weingarten’s NEA counterpart, Dennis Van Roekel, collected $397,221 in the previous year. Their staffs are also well-compensated. Four hundred thirty-three of the NEA’s staffers earned at least $100,000 in annual compensation; the 193 AFT staffers collecting six-figure checks include David Dorn, the union’s director of international affairs (who was paid $223,965 last year), and Hartina Flournoy, a longtime Democratic Party operative who earns $231,337 a year as Weingarten’s assistant.
It’s easy for those who support collective bargaining rights to look at pieces such as this one as attacks on unions and unionism. Union leaders, who are criticized as having created a system in which it pays more to work for the union that to be represented by the union, if RiShawn Biddle’s facts in the American Spectator are to be believed, deflect criticism by labeling critics “anti-union.” Such tactics become more difficult to employ, however, when the criticisms are leveled by long-time union activists and union members.
Washington State part-timer Keith Hoeller (left) has spent the better part of two decades pushing the AFT and NEA to pay adjuncts better, protect their job security (where they have it) and provide them with benefits. He has attacked his own state affiliate (AFT Washington) and its leaders for refusing to recognize what Hoeller believes are clear conflicts of interest associated with putting part-time faculty in unions with the people who supervise them (full-time faculty). In 2011 Hoeller launched an independent adjunct faculty association at Green River Community College.
“The union people went bananas,” says Hoeller. “Three of the adjuncts who founded the organization with me were let go. Now, they’re after me. They want me gone.”
Hoeller has worked at Green River Community College for 22 years and in June 2012 Green River officials awarded him a Distinguished Teaching Award. He is the only adjunct to whom that award has ever been given.
Over the past two decades, Keith Hoeller has written numerous essays for both the higher education and mainstream media on the plight of non-tenured faculty—essays that have been highly critical of the education unions and his own state’s union leaders, including Sandra Schroeder. According to her AFT Washington bio., Schroeder was elected president of AFT Washington in May 2001 after serving since 1991 on the state’s executive board in several seats, including treasurer, secretary and vice president. From 1991 to 1995, Schroeder served as president of AFT Seattle Community Colleges, the state’s largest local. Schroeder was elected to the AFT executive council in 2004. Appointed to the AFT Higher Education program and policy council in 2001, she was selected as its chair in 2008. As PPC chair, she heads a group of nearly 30 higher education union leaders from around the country. In 2006, Sandra was appointed as a vice president of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and is active in many labor council arenas. She serves on the boards of nonprofit community groups and serves on state level higher education advisory groups.
If Sandra Schroeder is a state and national AFT Big Wig, Hoeller occupies the same position off the tenure-track. According to a June 2012 New Faculty Majority blog entry celebrating a Distinguished Faculty Award given to Hoeller by Green River Community College:
…Keith led the charge in advancing adjunct faculty salaries across the state “from an average of 40% of tenured salary rates in 1996 to the current level of 60%” (which I believe has meant roughly $60 million budget increase for adjunct salaries); passed a budget amendment to expand incremental step raises to all adjuncts statewide; drafted and passed a bill to give all adjuncts pro-rated sick leave; and drafted bills for equal pay, annual contracts, and equal increments. Dana also mention Keith’s role in initiating the two Mader class action lawsuits that were settled out of court for $12 million each, and led to thousands of adjuncts qualifying for health care and retirement benefits.
Since April 2012, Hoeller and fellow Green River Community College part-timer Kathryn Re, have been pressing their union leaders to release financial information directly to members, to cooperate with police and prosecute Phil Ray Jack, former president of the union, who stole thousands of dollars in union funds, and to stop what Hoeller alleges is retaliation by full-time faculty union leaders against the school’s part-time faculty. Current UF president Mark Millbauer has repeatedly denied allegations that the joint AFT-NEA local is hiding information about the theft of union money, and told AdjunctNation in an email message that allegations that the union has refused to cooperate with police in investigating the theft were false.
However, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by AdjunctNation for all police reports filed in response to the theft, which Millbauer (right) says was discovered sometime in March 2012, Millbauer’s claims that UF leaders cooperated with police are bogus. In fact, documents dated June 18, 2012 from the Auburn Police Department reveal Millbauer was “not cooperative” when initially contacted by the investigator. The only police report filed about the theft of the union funds was dated May 19, 2012 and signed by Keith Holler and Kathryn Re.
A July 10, 2012 police narrative written by Detective J. Doll reveals that the Auburn Police Department made contact with UF President Mark Millbauer on June 4, 2012, in response to Hoeller and Re’s complaint about the theft of union money by Phil Jack. The police report not only documents Millbauer’s refusal to provide audits or other financial information that would assist in the investigation of Jack’s crime, but also makes it clear that Millbauer was extremely upset that Hoeller and Re filed the report and asked Auburn Police to investigate the theft of union money:
“Det. Doll attempted to investigate the allegation that Phil Jack had improperly used UF funds for his personal use. However, upon speaking with current UF president Millbauer, Det. Doll was initially told that no audit or accounting records would be released to the police before the attorney for the UF was contacted. Millbauer also told Det. Doll several times during their initial conversation that he did not contact the police regarding this incident and that initial complainants Hoeller and Re do not have the authority to speak on behalf of the other members of UF. Det. Doll spoke with the UF attorney on 6/5/12. During this conversation, the attorney representing UF advised Det. Doll that UF would not turn over any documentation regarding the alleged theft of funds by Phil Jack. Additionally, the attorney told Det. Doll that UF did not wish to pursue any criminal charges against Jack…”
In a July 2012 email to AdjunctNation, Mark Millbauer claimed that, “We have not refused to cooperate with police. All police inquiries have been turned over to the UF’s attorney for handling.”
This, perhaps, is why there are simmering allegations of a cover-up at Green River Community College by United Faculty officials. Police records, along with emails released in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, raise some serious questions about why the theft of union money by Phil Jack went unreported to Auburn police by Mark Millbauer—why Millbauer and the union’s attorney refused to cooperate with police, and why UF did not wish to pursue any criminal charges against Phil Jack—even after Hoeller and Re (members of UF) filed a May 19, 2012 complaint.
The police report also makes it clear that Hoeller’s claims of retaliation on the part of the union in its refusal to protect him from what he says are trumped up charges of refusing to adhere to the union contract, may have merit. Millbauer repeatedly told the detective that Hoeller and Re had “no authority” to speak to the police about the theft of the union money.
When AdjunctNation filed a Freedom of Information Act request for copies of all emails sent to and from Mark Millbauer that mention Keith Hoeller or Phil Jack, Millbauer attempted to block the request, and went so far as to tell college officials the union was prepared to go to court to keep the emails secret. College officials claimed UF had asked its attorney to look into the “legality” of the FOIA request for the union president’s email messages sent using his college computer and his college email address. That single FOIA generated 232 pages of email messages between college officials and union officials.
Another GRCC part-timer thinks the union’s bizarre response has to do with the fact that Phil Ray Jack was a VP in AFT Washington, headed by Sandra Schroeder. “Phil Jack and Sandy Schroeder had a symbiotic relationship. When she needed a part-timer to speak in front of the state legislature in support of AFT Washington legislation that short-changed part-timers all over the state, Phil Jack stepped up and obliged. This is a huge embarrassment to Schroeder. I wouldn’t be surprised if she has kept the AFT people in DC in the dark about this.”
AdjunctNation posed that question to AFT officials in Washington, DC and is awaiting their reply.