Throwing Money Here, There & Everywhere (Just Not At PTers)

I am thinking about sending a letter to President Obama. In it, I will apply to run any bank of his choosing for $400,000 per year. Since adjuncts are used to having more than one job, I thought I might even apply to head two—maybe even three— banks. If I worked at three banks, that would mean a salary of $1.2 million per year. I’ll tell Mr. Obama to skip the driver and car for me, and that I can fly steerage class to just about anywhere on earth. As I see it, taxpayers will save hundreds of thousands of dollars every year by having me run a few banks. After all, it’s all about getting the right people into the right offices, right? 
On February 6th, American Federation of Teachers FACE Man Craig Smith wrote in his FACE Talk blog that, “AFT Oregon has worked with legislators in the Oregon House to file a wide-ranging piece of legislation pursuing the goals set forth in our FACE Campaign. House Bill 2557 directs institutions to establish plans for improving their ratios of full-time to part-time faculty at the institutional level ….” Smith goes on to mention that, “Leading the charge is former AFT member, Representative Michael Dembrow, who is now Vice Chair of the Oregon House Education Committee.” Dembrow is able to lead the charge, because last year, he ran for an open seat on the Oregon State Legislature. Before that, he was the president of the Portland Community College faculty union.
Was Michael Dembrow a friend to Oregon’s part-timers, I wondered? A quick trip over to the Portland Community College faculty union web site and contract answered my questions. After almost four decades of representation (the past 16 of them under Dembrow’s leadership), in 2008, the Portland Community College union negotiated health insurance coverage for the 1,200 part-time faculty (there are 600 full-timers). Well, for those part-timers who average a half-time load over three years. There’s a part-time salary “scale,” as well; ascending the scale resembles a game of Donkey Kong (for those who remember this diabolically difficult video game). To get from level 1 to level 7 entails working 2,000 contact hours (500 classes, or 125 years, at 4 courses per year), and earns that faculty member an eventual raise of about $170 per credit hour taught.
To move up a step on the full-time faculty schedule, a member must work three years. The full-timer who tops out on the salary schedule can expect to earn an additional $30,000 per year. Is there job security for part-timers, maybe, after three decades of representation? Dream on, Teen Queen. From PCC’s contract: “A temporary appointment may be terminated at the discretion of Management without review under the terms of this Agreement.” There’s not even equality in death: full-time faculty get five days of bereavement leave and part-timers get three days.
The PCC contract is Michael Dembrow’s legacy and it’s a legacy that oozes inequitable representation. Michael Dembrow, in short, did nothing extraordinary for the 1,200 part-time faculty whom he served all those years. I wish I could tell you how much he paid himself as President of the PCC local, but he never saw to it that his union filed the requisite financial disclosure forms with the U.S. Department of Labor.
Prior to running for office, in March 2007, Michael Dembrow testified in front of the Oregon Legislature in support of FACE and told the legislators this:
“Part-timers are generally not paid to be on campus other than to teach their courses, and in many cases they are off running to another job at another college or university (their combined annual teaching load often exceeds those of full-timers)….This practice has consequences. There is a growing body of literature that points to the harmful effects of over-using part-timers in your FACE packet you can find an annotated bibliography of some of them.”
Then we have the money trail. Michael Dembrow raised $167,748 to run for the open seat he was elected to. The average open seat candidate in Oregon raises $61,876 for a candidacy. So was Michael Dembrow, first-time political candidate, a fundraising savant? Not really. About 75 percent of Dembrow’s money came from just three donors: 
In 2008, Oregon Federation of Teachers donated $77,941 total to political candiates. ($38,441 to Dembrow, was the single largest contribution the union group made in 2008.) They contributed 22.92 percent of his money.
In 2008, the Oregon Education Association donated $227,605 total to political candiates. The Oregon Education Associaiton was the 3rd largest overall political contributor in the state. ($27,707 to Dembrow was the third largest contribution the union group made in 2008.) They contributed 16.22 percent of his money.
In 2008, SEIU Employees Local 503 donated $493,228  total to political candiates, making the organization the single largest political contributor in the entire state of Oregon. (SEIU donated $15,902 to Dembrow. It was the fourth largest contribution the union group made in 2008.)
Dembrow even scored a donation from his own union. In 2008, Portland Community College Faculty Federation gave $11,000 to political candidates. (The $10,000 to Dembrow was the single largest contribution union group made in 2008). They contributed 5.96 percent of his money.
It’s no small wonder Michael Dembrow decided to “lead the charge” for FACE in Oregon. The Oregon House Education Committee which Dembrow co-chairs, and which sponsored the current FACE legislation, is populated by six members of the House who received over $151,000 in campaign donations from faculty union groups in Oregon during 2008. 
Call me crazy, but wouldn’t it be a more effective use of $1,000,000 to just, well, spend it on professional development for part-time faculty in Oregon? Then again, once you get used to throwing around large sums of money here, there and everywhere, it’s probably pretty tough to stop.

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