How To Guarantee Your Adjunct Faculty Unionize


Lesko_headshot_outsideby P.D. Lesko

Sometimes, I think that college administrators are some of the most chuckle-headed women and men with Ph.D.s in the entire United States. This is never made so plain as by those whose part-time faculty are in the midst of pursuing unionization. Often, administrators at colleges and universities where adjuncts are preparing to organize make decisions that are sure to infuriate the adjuncts. Jack Hutchinson, who teaches for the Community College System of New Hampshire, writes in an op-ed published on December 7, 2010 in the Concord Monitor, about one such administrative decision. Hutchinson says:

Over the past few days New Hampshire community college adjunct faculty have learned that the senior leadership team of the Community College System of New Hampshire has decided to limit them to nine credit hours per semester. This means an adjunct – generally a person with a master’s degree and often with a family – may earn no more than $8,154 to $12,168 per year with no health insurance and no retirement plan.

Hutchinson goes on to drive home the absolute stupidity of the move quite eloquently:

More than 500 adjuncts teach at the seven community college campuses, more than 60 percent of the teaching faculty. For some this cuts their income by more than half. For many this is their only income. This abrupt policy change is being imposed without consultation with those whose livelihood is threatened. In many courses, experienced, respected instructors will be replaced by newly recruited adjuncts.

To be sure, the administrators within the system would never have tried such a move with the full-time faculty, because the full-timers are organized into a local which is an affiliate of the SEIU. Can you imagine the blow-back associated with a similar move made by the senior leadership team to limit full-time faculty course loads in such a way so as to half the salaries of some of those faculty? The hew and cry would be heard on the moon. Not surprisingly, Jack Hutchinson writes this:

I support a union of adjunct faculty because if there were a union today, the administration would not be allowed to change this or any labor practice except through negotiation and ratification by the adjunct faculty members.

Well, no, of course the senior leadership team would not be allowed to make such high-handed unilateral decisions. They would be forced to consult with the adjunct faculty. By engaging in such behavior, the presidents of the Community College System of New Hampshire will, I’m sure, eventually end up with an adjunct faculty union. This will make their collectives lives more difficult. It will take time, effort and money away from the educational mission of the system because, I presume, these women and men will fight to keep from having to recognize the union the adjuncts organize.

This is a sad story for everyone involved. At the moment, adjuncts feel angry and disrespected. I’m sure the leadership team will feel increasingly desperate and under siege as their exploitative employment practices get splashed across the pages of the local papers by pro-union adjuncts looking to educate students and parents about why a union for them is so very important. Imagine if the presidents of the community colleges had gotten together and figured out a way to increase pay for adjuncts, to give them access to the system’s healthcare benefits, and to fund a professional development pot of money?

To treat employees badly, to arbitrarily slash pay, to treat one class of faculty to higher pay, better benefits and professional development funding while withholding those same perks from the majority of your faculty (who are adjuncts) is short-sighted and very poor planning. It’s going to cost the presidents of the System dearly.

Their stupidity should cost them dearly.

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