I am feeling much better. Fever’s gone; I actually went out to dinner last night. This morning, I read that the adjuncts at George Washington University had finally nailed down a new contract. It has been a long, long, long, long process for those adjuncts at GW who set out to organize a union at their university. Many years ago, I got an email from a GW adjunct (I honestly can’t remember who at this point) asking for advice concerning which of the labor unions the group should affiliate with. I actually get this question a lot. Which is the best education union for part-timers? My answer is always the same: it depends. In all honestly, after years of reporting on part-timers who’ve gotten the short end of the stick from their union leaders, I have become slightly cynical.
Before anyone freaks out and forwards this post to some listserv where part-time faculty unionists will flay me alive for my lack of enthusiasm and unquestioning support of education labor unions and their work…yes, Virginia, I support unionization. I have had, however, way too many convos with both adjunct activists and temporary faculty who were in unified locals controlled by full-time faculty intent on bargaining for the biggest piece of the pie for themselves. So, I support unions, but have some serious concerns about how local, regional and national union groups represent part-timers. Sue me.
I suggested the part-timers at GW check out all of the education unions, sent them information on unaffiliated part-time faculty unions, and suggested they seriously check out the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) then a new kid on the education union block. Today, it’s the fastest growing union in North America. I am not surprised. When I read that SEIU President Andy Stern (a great short interview with Andy Stern appears here) had broken away from the AFL-CIO, and his mentor, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, I had high hopes for the organization. When I saw SEIU organize part-timers, I was elated.
The part-timers at George Washington University formed SEIU Local 500. This morning, I asked GW adjunct and organizer Professor Kip Lornell to write an essay about his eight year involvement with the organization effort. He sent me back a very nice reply. Even though he has a book due to Prentice-Hall soon, and other writing assignments, he is going to tell Adjunct Advocate readers all about the process of winning recognition for the SEIU-affiliated local of 1,200 part-timers.
I went to the GW Local 500 website, downloaded and read their new contract. For those less inclined to know the exact details, you can download the contract summary here. It makes for excellent reading.
In the meantime, I hope those of you with questions and answers about unionizing will visit our new “Shoptalk” message board. There, visitors can ask questions, share stories, and connect with other interested part-timers.
The song accompanying this entry comes from a Vancouver group called Sweatshop Union. The title of the song is “Union Dues.” Enjoy.
Listen to my blog entry here.