Why Susan Titus is Totally Phat

Surf the net to the web pages of part-time faculty unions affiliated with any of the Big Three labor unions and look at the posted budgets. Hell, surf on over to the AFT, NEA and AAUP national office web pages for a look at the budgets of the national offices. I’ll stop smirking now and tell you that finding the budget of most part-time faculty education unions in this great country of ours will take, at minimum, a phone call to the union’s office. Posting such materials online, where anyone could, well, see them just isn’t the way things are done.

Until now. Right there, bold as brass and twice as easy to download and read in PDF format, is the budget of Wayne State University’s Union of Part-Time Faculty. The 1,000 member AFT affiliate, led by part-timer Susan Titus, defines fiscal transparency for every other education union affiliate in the country that doesn’t post its budget online. Adjunct Advocate profiled Titus here

Soooooooooo…..why the overall reticence on the part of affiliates to share budget information readily? After all, it was NEA President Reg Weaver in a Press Release who said, “NEA and its affiliates are among the most open and democratically run organizations in the country. We keep our members fully informed about our programs, budgets, and policies.”

That’s nice. However, there are different levels of “keeping people informed,” and Reg Weaver’s NEA sued the United States Department of Labor on behalf of 33 state affiliates to keep from having to show the Full Financial Monty to members (and anyone else who could find the group’s LM-2 financial disclosures on the DOL web site). The NEA affiliate leaders and NEA officials objected to a finding by the Department of Labor that the 33 NEA affiliates were governed by the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959. The Act requires labor organizations to file detailed financial reports on income and expenses. NEA officials claimed that  the Labor Department’s ruling was “unfair” and was “motivated by an ill-will toward unions in general, and NEA and its affiliates in particular.” 

As I have written before, the LM-2 reports of the AFT, NEA and AAUP national offices make for some riveting reading. So does the budget of the fledgling Wayne State University Part-Time Faculty Union. A look at the “Budget Summary,” and one sees the largest line item expense is for “Dues.” Out of a total $167,000 2008-2009 budget, the part-timers are paying over $78,000 per year in per capita “dues,” to AFT-Michigan, the AFT national office, the Michigan AFL-CIO and Detroit AFL-CIO. WSU union leaders point out in the “Budget Narrative,” that the AFT paid for the union’s certification campaign and has paid the union’s “bills,” for the past 18 months.

A look at the AFT’s LM-2 disclosures over the period during which Wayne State University’s part-timers were organized reveals the yearly salary of the AFT organizer who worked part-time on the Wayne State campaign, as well as the other expenses AFT incurred while organizing the 1,000 part-timers. The part-timers at Wayne State University will repay AFT for those expenses in less than three years. After that, the $78,000 per year in “dues” that will go to AFT and the AFL-CIO on the state and national levels will be gravy for the AFT to do with what it pleases.

It is no small wonder, then, that national union leaders have been quoted as saying part-time faculty are simply incapable of creating a new national union to represent themselves. Using the Wayne State budget as a model, a national Adjunct Faculty Union United, with 20,000 members would generate, perhaps, close to $2 million in “dues” each year. There are, currently, 700,000 faculty off the tenure track. AFT represents 60,000 of them, AAUP 3,500 and the NEA 15,000 part-time faculty members. And what if a national part-timers’ union grabbed for their members a significantly larger piece of the faculty compensation pie nation-wide? The revenue potential for such a union increases exponentially. 

In the meantime, a tip o’ the cap goes out to Susan Titus and her union colleagues at Wayne State University for doing voluntarily what it took a ruling by a U.S. District Court to get the president of the NEA to do (grumbling to the Press all the way). In Titus’s budget, there is $45,000 for staff, $165 for bank fees and $250 for bookkeeping.

Most will read that financial information, shrug and say, “Who gives a rat’s bahookie?” Think about this: Over the past 8 years, the NEA and AFT national offices have taken in and spent close to $1 billion dollars on overhead and staff salaries. They’ve spent nowhere near that much organizing new affiliates, such as the one at Wayne State. Reading the budgets allows us all to see right past the protestations and glad-handing of national union leaders who profess their love for the part-timers, and their desire to “help.” Exploited adjuncts need neither adoration nor promises of support. They need to be organized and bargain aggressively for salary increases.

As for Susan Titus, all it takes it a quick look at her organization’s finances to see that she’s walking the walk and talking the talk.

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