Can P/T Faculty at Wayne State University Win Job Security?

Listen to my blog entry here.

In the most recent issue of Adjunct Advocate (which will be posted today), we have a wonderful interview with Susan Titus, president of the new part-time faculty union at Wayne State University. The part-timers’ union recently began bargaining its first contract with the administration, and the group has hit a major snag. The union wants courses assigned by seniority (to establish some form of seniority and job security), and the administration has said it won’t agree to that. On AFT’s FaceTalk blog, there was a blog entry titled, “Wayne State University Doesn’t Get It,” posted by Barbara McKenna, who edits AFT’s member publications.

At the University of Michigan, LEO leadership recently negotiated a form of job security, including seniority. In truth both gains are muted and leave the University wiggle room to use technicalities to get around the job security system. For instance, in the 2007 agreement, “Except as provided in B.5. below, the order of layoff for Employees within each specific title in the academic unit shall be on the basis of expertise, ability and performance relevant to the assignment in question.” B.5 says, in essence, all things being equal, employees shall be laid off in inverse order of seniority. LEO’s leadership also won multi-year contracts for some of the 1,200 members.

In California, the lecturers in the California State University system are covered by a contract negotiated in their behalf by the California Faculty Association (CFA). The contract includes opportunities for multi-year contracts. However, a clause in the contract allows university officials to break the multi-year contract of any lecturer at any point in order to hire a tenure-line faculty member or give work to the tenure-track faculty member.

As we can see from the schools where there are large numbers of full-time temporary lecturers employed, negotiating seniority and job security is difficult. At Wayne State University, the majority of the temporary faculty are per course part-time lecturers, not full-time temporary lecturers. As we know, per course faculty are viewed as significantly more expendable than full-time temporary faculty. The two unions mentioned above have both codified such assumptions in their contracts by setting forth procedures for the layoff of part-time temporary faculty before the layoff of full-time temporary faculty.

So, at Wayne State, it’s no surprise that the negotiations for the union’s first contract are already at an impasse. I suspect administrators there would rather double the per course pay than give the 1,000 part-time faculty seniority. Quite frankly, I believe administrators do understand the connection between job security and student retention and progress. However, the part-timers’ own national union, AFT, has launched a national campaign (FACE) to fund the hiring of more TT faculty. AFT officials argue more TT faculty are needed in higher education, because reliance on part-time faculty has, AFT state leaders have testified to legislators from coast-to-coast, seriously damaged the quality of higher education in America.

Why Wayne State’s leaders would give job security to faculty who have been branded by the union to which they belong as responsible for “damaging” higher education is beyond me. Why any part-time faculty group would ever affiliate with a national union that branded them as “damaging” higher education is truly a puzzle to me. The truth is that research shows any “damage” done in courses staffed by temporary faculty is the direct result of the simply horrid job college and university administrators do in supporting and compensating the temporary faculty whom they employ. Unfortunately, no education union in the United States has ever launched a national campaign to combat that. Let’s hope that changes sometime soon.

 

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