by P.D. Lesko
Last week, adjunct faculty activist Keith Hoeller, co-founder of the Washington Part-Time Faculty Association and the Editor of Equality for Contingent Faculty: Overcoming the Two-Tier System (Vanderbilk Press, 2014), filed an unfair labor complaint with the Washington State Public Employee Relations Commission against his college employer, as well as United Faculty Coalition, the NEA faculty union affiliate which has represented Hoeller over the many years he has taught part-time at Green River Community College. In his complaints, Hoeller cites “anti-union animus” and “interference” in the union. Green River Community College is located in Auburn, Washington, just outside of Seattle
Keith Hoeller explained: “The anti-union animus complaint documents the retaliation I have faced as a result of engaging in union-protected activities such as organizing adjuncts, publicizing working conditions, filing grievances, and seeking information from my union. The interference claim may well be the first of its kind in the nation. I claim that the college and the union have interfered with union rights by putting tenure-track faculty, who function as supervisors, into the same union.”
The two complaints document how adjuncts are treated at colleges where unions are run by and for the tenured faculty, and what happens when adjuncts protest their mistreatment and try to change it.
In 2013, Kathryn Re and Keith Hoeller filed multiple grievances and asked the state affiliate led by former AFT VP of Higher Education Sandra Schroeder to intervene after the former United Faculty Coalition president Phil Jack was discovered to have embezzled thousands of dollars of union funds. Jack was never charged with a crime, and police reports released to AdjunctNation.com in response to Freedom of Information Act requests showed that United Faculty Coalition officials did not cooperate with police investigators.
In January of 2015, Greenriver Community College President Eileen Ely, in response to falling enrollment and a looming $5.7 million budget deficit, recommended closing three programs at the college. Mark Millbauer, president of the faculty union, runs the auto-body-repair program; Glen Martin, the college’s carpentry instructor, is one of the union’s contract negotiators. Both would lose their jobs if the programs were to close. Both Millbauer and Martin served on the Board of the United Faculty Coalition when the embezzlement by Phil Jack was discovered.
On January 28, 2013 Kathryn Re, a member of the Green River Community College United Faculty Coalition sent a 10-page letter to the President of the National Education Association, Dennis Van Roekel. In her letter, Re—a mathematician— lays out a meticulously detailed and documented indictment of her union’s Executive Committee’s failure to adhere to the group’s bylaws, and asks Van Roekel to assume “immediate trusteeship” of her Washington State local. Re writes, “We are writing this formal complaint to request your urgent assistance because the union rights of NEA members are being systematically violated by the United Faculty Coalition (UF) of Green River Community College (GRCC) and the Washington Education Association (WEA), both NEA affiliates. We believe that immediate harm will befall NEA members should you fail to act quickly to correct the systematic corruption that is now taking place at Green River Community College.”
Re’s letter included accusations of financial corruption and cover up, improper elections, conflicts of interest, denial of representation, failure to represent, discrimination, harassment and retaliation. Many of the explosive allegations, unbeknownst to Re, were corroborated by hundreds of emails sent between and among the GRCC union’s Executive Committee members between March and July 2012. The emails were turned over to AdjunctNation in response to a July 2012 Freedom of Information Act request.
The embezzlement scandal, its cover-up and alleged retaliation against Re and Hoeller for demanding accountability, is just one of many precursors to last week’s unfair labor complaint, according to Keith Hoeller.
“While I have long been active on the state and national level, I had long avoided involvement with local college and union matters because of the grave risk to adjuncts without any job security,” explained Hoeller. “But in November, 2011 our union president insulted adjunct faculty in a speech to the Green River Board of Trustees. The Green River Adjunct Faculty Association was promptly formed and faced immediate retaliation when we criticized the union. Three of our more vocal members lost their jobs after only one quarter of teaching, though the union contract makes clear they are entitled to two quarters of review. The two Division Chairs who let them go were members of the unions executive board, one was the Chair of the union’s grievance committee. As the perceived ringleader, I have been under constant retaliation for over three years. The two complaints document these reprisals.”
Keith Hoeller has filed nearly twenty grievances, perhaps a record for any college professor. Nearly all have been denied by the college and gone unsupported by the union, which has refused to take any of them to arbitration. For standing up for adjuncts at Green River, the union has treated me like a pariah despite the many things I have done to benefit adjuncts and [show] how adjuncts are actually treated in our nation’s two-track system.”
AdjunctNation contacted United Faculty Coalition officials at Greenriver Community College for a comment concerning the unfair labor practices complaint filed against the union by one of its own members.