Screwing the New Faculty Majority in the Same Old Ways

Did you participate in the New Faculty Majority Day? Did you read about it? The idea for a day when faculty off the tenure-track across the United States come out of the professorial closet, so to speak, originated in California at the University of California AFT. Not so surprisingly, a lecturer at UC-Irvine published an op-ed about the use of lecturers in the UC system. Why not publish an op-ed about UC lecturers? It’s great to let people know who’s teaching UC students. However, somewhere in the middle of the piece, the author headed right off a cliff into a pool of deceit, pandering and obfuscation about 20 feet deep.

The author, Andrew Tonkovich, president of University Council – American Federation of Teachers Local 2226 writes, “We’re concerned that many higher education administrators will use the economic downturn to justify letting go of many non-tenured faculty….Sure, some cost cutting has to be implemented, but we wonder why the loss of funds will be taken out on the most vulnerable faculty members….?”

We’re concerned? We wonder? Is that so?  

I’m concerned, but I’m not at all confused. I’ve read the UC-AFT contract Article 17 titled “Layoff.” In the UC-AFT local, the union contract gives administrators permission to give UC lecturers the bum’s rush before everyone else. The administrators don’t need to justify dumping part-time faculty; they’re merely adhering to the union contract negotiated on behalf of the lecturers by their California Federation of Teachers union representatives. 

One imagines Andy T., president of Local 2226, knows very well what that contract requires UC administrators to do when there are layoffs. Tonkovich then suggests that administrators should lay themselves off and  freeze their own salaries rather than poke UC lecturers in the eye with the sharp stick that is their own union contract. Does it come as a great shock that the UC administrators won’t lay themselves off or freeze their own salaries? Greedy SOBs? Of course. Stupid? Nope. 

UC lecturers allowed their union leaders to negotiate a labor deal that puts their necks on the chopping block first when there are layoffs. Of course, the AFT President, Randi Weingarten, recently suggested a strategy of which old Ebenezer Scrooge would be proud. Weingarten suggested that we need to deplete the surplus population of faculty off the tenure-track in order to regain the lost faculty “balance” in higher education.

Bah! Humbug! Are there no workhouses? Are there no debtor’s prisons? Perhaps sometime soon the Spirit of Unions Future will visit old Ebenezer Weingarten.

The president of UC Local 2226 may be scratching his head about why UC administrators are laying off lecturers. So far as I can determine, though, it’s because AFT’s leaders in Washington and California have charted a course that, ideally, results in the layoff of part-time faculty. 

While the AFT’s right hand celebrates the “new faculty majority,” the AFT’s left hand works to slit the throats of the new faculty majority by negotiating contracts that call for the dismissal of the most vulnerable non-tenured faculty first. 

It’s diabolically duplicitous.

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