“Anti-Union” (Translation: “Bitch”)

In a piece recently written for Inside Higher Ed, the writer calls Washington State part-timer and long-time national adjunct activist Keith Hoeller’s writing “anti-union.” I read and read and re-read the IHE posting. The writer calls Hoeller’s writing “anti-union rhetoric”again in the comment section. Something bugged me about the comment. Then it hit me. The guy was calling Keith Holler a bitch for daring to ask the hard questions he did in the Seattle Post Intelligencer. Alright, before the language police come to my house and bitch-slap me, let me explain. Bitch is one of those words. You know, code words. Women I know feel perfectly comfortable referring to other women as bitches. That’s not code; that’s straight-talking. Women get to use the word bitch same as men get to call each other pricks. It’s understood. It’s when men call women bitches, and women call men pricks that the gloves come right off.

I know you are sitting there, shaking your head, and muttering: “Shut up!”

So, what does the “anti-union” swipe have to do with all of this? Let me explain: Keith Hoeller has been going toe-to-toe with WFT on behalf of Washington State’s 10,000 part-timers since before the IHE writer was getting the business from his dissertation committee. Hoeller has been a pain in the AFT’s collective butter dish for over a decade. He has stood up and howled about what he perceives as his state union’s oversights in its representation of the part-timers, of the union’s representation of, well, him. He has spoken at conferences, written editorials for mainstream newspapers and The Chronicle of Higher Education since 1997.

In 2002, Hoeller scored the AAUP’s Georgina Smith Award, that “recognizes a person who has provided exceptional leadership in the past year in improving the status of academic women or in advancing academic collective bargaining and who, through that work, has improved the profession in general.” Maybe the author of the IHE piece, who is running for re-election to the AAUP Membership committee, forgot to read AAUP’s description of long-time member Keith Hoeller:

“He [Hoeller] has been a tireless advocate for part-time faculty in the Washington State legislature. Senators Jeanne Kohl-Welles, chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee; Ken Jacobsen, who was for many years the chair of the House Higher Education Committee; and Phyllis Kenney, current chair of the House Higher Education Committee have been important allies in the struggle to increase appropriations by more than $25 million in the past six years to increase part-time faculty salaries. The legislature also approved retirement benefits and sick leave for many part-time instructors.”

In February 2008, Hoeller published an editorial in the Seattle Post Intelligencer that was a big old rap right across the knuckles of his own union, the Washington Federation of Teachers. He comes right out and writes that, “…[A]djuncts have been represented by the Washington Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers for decades. Although the unions have bargained strong contracts for their full-time members, they have failed to provide ‘fair representation’ to their part-time professors.” A Prince of the AFT called Hoeller’s assertions “untruths” in the union’s FACE Talk Blog. Untruths. That’s code for “Liar. Liar. Pants on fire.”

The IHE author writes in his piece that Hoeller’s Seattle Post Intelligencer editorial, “….veered into anti-union propaganda.” To use a popular bit of IM shorthand, ?!? (If you are rusty with the Instant Messenging shorthand, check here for a translation.) Writing in a higher ed. pub. that Keith Hoeller is capable of anti-unionism is akin to writing in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, the Pope is anti-religion. It’s heretical in some circles. In other circles, it’s like calling someone, well, a bitch. Anti-union is code.

There are all kinds of code words for people who ask hard questions that make other people uncomfortable. We got the women: why should they settle for 70 cents for every dollar men earn? Why can’t they run the company? Bitches. We got the Part-timers: why is there still a huge pay gap between faculty represented by the same union, who hold the same credentials, and teach the same courses? Anti-union propagandists.

Joseph Goebbels was a propagandist. Henry Ford was anti-union. Keith Hoeller is a guy who pays his union dues to belong to two unions, WFT and AAUP. He’s a guy who’s asking some really hard questions, and putting some of the Royalty of the Education Labor Movement on the spot on behalf of part-timers everywhere. Keith Hoeller is a royal pain in the ass, if you will, in the same way that Moses was a royal pain in the ass to Pharoah with the questions, demands and plagues.

In the comment section beneath his piece, the author of the IHE piece writes, “Keith, I still support you, your struggle, and your views….I support contingent faculty leadership, and respect yours. I wish you would be more temperate and reflective: I’m not your enemy in this piece, or elsewhere.” I suggest this to our IHE author: Take 1000 shreds of paper to the top of your house on a really windy day. Throw the shreds up into the air. Don’t write another word for publication until you have collected every single shred of paper. Impossible, you say? Well, it will be just as impossible for Keith Hoeller to escape your IHE-published and Google-indexed accusations of writing anti-union propaganda.

Those who seek to label our respected, devoted and successful adjunct activists anti-union propagandists when they question union leadership on our behalf, threaten all of us who seek answers to our questions, and to lead our own movement toward equality within the workplace. Such labeling has been used to denigrate, shame, chastise and silence those who question the status quo. Ask Galileo; his church labeled him a heretic for refusing to support geocentrism. Pope John Paul II reversed the sentence in 1997. Me? Label me whatever you like, but I am not waiting 500 years for my union leaders to realize the membership doesn’t revolve around our union leaders’ six figure salaries, excellent benefit and pension plans.

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