Hell YES We're Competing With Full-Timers
By nature I am somewhat competitive. Let’s just say that if your token lands on Boardwalk and I have a hotel there, you’re not getting a break in the rent, Sweetie. So don’t even ask. I think we can all agree that there are just times when competition is healthy. Salary negotiations is one of those times.
At the University of Rhode Island, where the part-timers are affiliated with the AAUP, in November 2008 administrators broke off contract negotiations with the new Part-Time Faculty Union (PTFU). Evidently, the entire Rhode Island Board of Governors had to rush home and wash their hair or something. No word from the top bananas when their curly locks might be dry enough to resume negotiations, either.
Dorothy Donnelly is a full-time URI English faculty member and president of the AAUP chapter that represents the full-time tenured, tenure-line and full-time temporary faculty. According to this February 3, 2009 article about the stalled contract negotiations, she is quoted as saying, “many full-time faculty members have expressed their support for the PTFU’s bid for a contract. She said the URI Faculty Senate passed a resolution in support of the PTFU’s efforts in November.” That’s touching. You know how Faculty Senate resolutions in support of part-time faculty warm the cockles of my heart. As an aside, I gotta wonder how many part-time faculty actually sit in the URI Faculty Senate. But I digress.
Along with the group hugs for part-timers from full-timers and their Faculty Senate, Dorothy Donnelly pointed out the reason why URI full-timers are so supportive of the part-timers. “We’re not in competition…in terms of salary,” Donnelly said.
We’re not? Oh, really? Dorothy Donnelly heads an AAUP affiliate that negotiated a contract that treats the tenure-line and tenured faculty to higher pay, better benefits and stronger job protections than it extends to full-time temporary lecturers. For instance, the contract pays tenure-track faculty who teach a summer session course $5,774 dollars, and pays a full-time temporary lecturer member of the bargaining unit who teaches the same course $3,214.
According to the article, “Donnelly, who has been a URI professor for 25 years, said part-time faculty members approached her three years ago asking her to assist them in forming a union. I readily agreed,” Donnelly said. “I’ve been active in the faculty union and they knew I had the experience they needed and a commitment to make things right for the part-time faculty.”
There are 500 part-timers at the URI, and they earn $3,214 per course and may teach no more than two courses per semester. Donnelly is absolutely right: There’s a lot to make right for the college’s part-time faculty. The one thing she’s not right about is that the part-time faculty and full-time faculty are not competing against each other in terms of salary negotiations.
Of course they are. They have to. In fact, it’s time for non-tenure track faculty to think big and fight relentlessly for every single penny they can squeeze out of administration during contract negotiations. The part-timers at URI should ask for total dollar compensation in excess of that awarded to the full-time faculty during their most recent contract negotiation. For instance, under the terms of the new contract, the Rhode Island Board of Governors is forking over yearly $7,000 raises to every full-timer. So, the part-timers need to negotiate $9,000 in raises per year plus benefits, or $12,000 per year without benefits.
The fact is that URI (and every other college in this country) has a single line item pile of money for instruction, and part-timers have to start making sure that they get as much of it as possible. Of course, if I headed the part-timer’s union, I wouldn’t stop until my part-time faculty members earned more than the full-timers, until they had excellent benefits and enjoyed professional development opportunities galore—in short, until the part-time faculty enjoyed the same pay and perks as the full-time faculty and then some.
To hell with calls for part-time pay equity. For the past 35 years, we’ve been told that equity is the sine qua non in our battle for better pay and working conditions. However, has the AFT, AAUP, NEA, UAW or SEIU achieved pay equity for a single one of its affiliates that represents part-timers in the past 35 years? Nope. The “calls” for pay equity from unions where affiliates negotiate contracts that short-change part-timers in order to pay full-timers more are like Faculty Senate resolutions.
I say, let’s dream bigger and compete ruthlessly. After all, you never get what you deserve; you get what you negotiate. Today, 70 percent of college faculty are employed off the tenure track. The time has come to start negotiating contracts for ourselves like we own the Monopoly board. Because you know what?