$5,000 Executive Committee Meetings, or Why It's Way Past Time
They’re at it again. Yes. Again. Our part-time faculty colleagues in Canada are on strike. The Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association (WLUFA), which represents 365 contract faculty, announced that part-timers are striking in response to the latest pay offer from the college. WLU officials offered a 3.5 percent pay increase. The raise would have bumped up salaries for part-time faculty at the school to $6,211 per course. No, that is not a typo. WLU’s 365 part-time faculty earn over $6,000 per course. Union leaders called the strike because at the nearby University of Waterloo, part-timers are paid $6,708 per course. Wilfrid Laurier University union leaders want the university to match that. Leaders are also miffed because WLU officials refused to negotiate a better system of seniority.
Who says people in Canada are more polite? Piss off the part-timers’ union by offering $6,200 per course instead of $6,700 and they’ll close you down, eh? (Read about the strike here.)
I recently traveled the Loyalist Highway. It runs through the Province of Ontario and into Quebec, near the border crossing with upstate New York. The Loyalist Highway: Think about that for a moment. The people who travelled that road were the colonists who wanted nothing to do with the American Revolution. They didn’t want to break with England. They were lovers, not fighters. They tramped loyally into British held Ontario/Quebec and started working on their Canadian accents.
Here we sit, 700,000 of us, south of the border, preternaturally proud of having revolted against and of having defeated Britain, the literal 800 pound gorilla of the 18th century. Forward-thinking colonists, freedom-loving Americans. Don’t tread on me. Blah. Blah. Blah.
While the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and American Association of University Professors officials are currently singing their “More Full-time Faculty, Baby” blues to anyone who’ll listen (in the case of the AFT, to state legislators–accompanied by hefty campaign contributions for those legislators who introduce FACE bills for consideration), the OPSEU and its leaders are currently campaigning to organize every single one of the contract faculty in Ontario, Canada so that they get better pay, benefits and job security. AFT/NEA have FACE; OPSEU has “It’s Time.”
At Pace University, after four years, it’s still not time for NYSUT leaders and local union officials. I wrote about NYSUT and Pace in an earlier post. The 1,000 part-timers at the college have zilch to show after four years of NYSUT representation. The part-timers aren’t paying dues to NYSUT, but some models show that unions recoup organizing costs after just one or two years of collecting dues. Meanwhile, NYSUT reps. wring their hands, and whisper that NYSUT leaders might shy away from spending money to organize part-timers in future if Pace officials succeed in stonewalling the part-timers out of a first contract.
Kiss my bullhorn.
On December 13, 2007, Pace part-time faculty union leaders let themselves be talked into allowing NYSUT officials to send a guy in a Santa suit to Pace University to help part-timers “push” the university officials into bargaining a first contract. On December 14, 2007, NYSUT officials spent $307,517 on lobbying expenses, $57,798 on stipends, $5,381 on a single meeting of their Executive Committee, $2,020 on meeting minutes, and $3,882 on food for a meeting of their Political Action Committee members.
Part-timers at Pace earn, on average $2,000 per course and have no health care benefits.
Here in the U.S., part-time faculty are now the 800 pound gorilla of 21st century higher education. What’s say we look north and get some inspiration from our unionist colleagues along the Loyalist Highway? We may have to drag our union leaders away from their $5,000 meetings and $3,882 buffet tables, but I know we can do it.
It’s way past time.