Of Course There's A Fissure. Actually, a Fjord.

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leskoBy P.D. Lesko
I had the pleasure of publishing Jack Longmate’s writing many years ago. He has been writing and speaking out on behalf of Washington State’s non-tenured faculty for many years. Along with Washington State adjunct activist Keith Hoeller, I would venture to say that Jack Longmate is one of the most hard-working faculty activists in the Pacific Northwest. He, like Hoeller, is also a very dedicated unionist. I suspect, again like Hoeller, Jack Longmate just become a very disillusioned, dedicated unionist.
This is from a piece recently posted to InsideHigherEd.com:

A part-time instructor and faculty union officer at Olympic College in Washington may be stripped of his leadership post for breaking with the union to speak out against the interests of full-time faculty — and in favor of adjuncts. Jack Longmate, an instructor of English at Olympic, also serves as secretary of the campus chapter of the Association for Higher Education, which is affiliated with the National Education Association. The dispute centers on Longmate’s public stand against state legislation, backed by the union, regarding faculty pay raises. But, more deeply, it touches on a widening fissure between adjunct and tenured faculty, leading some to question whether both categories of the professoriate can truly co-exist in unions because their interests collide more than they cohere.

You see, the higher education unionists habitually rankle at any criticism of the “movement” to organize college faculty, particularly the organization of faculty off the tenure-track. Many a union leader has said that adjunct faculty who feel mistreated by their union local need only get involved, for pity’s sake. Run for the executive board, volunteer, and become an active member of the local. This was particularly true of unified locals, where both part-time and full-time faculty are represented by the same bargaining unit.
AdjunctNation.com has advocated, literally for years, that unified locals are actually the worst of all possible worlds for the adjunct faculty who belong to them. Often, the leadership in unified locals is made up of full-time faculty who negotiate contracts that give bigger salary bumps to the full-timers, better benefits, perks, etc…It’s blatant unequal representation, and it has been going on since the 1980s, when the first unified locals were established. When adjunct faculty can get themselves elected to the governing boards that oversee such unified locals, they are frequently just a single voice (and vote) among the many full-time faculty local leaders.
Jack Longmate got involved in his union local, then exercised his right to freedom of speech and his ability to articulate his own opinions. In December 2010, Jack wrote an op-ed that questioned why Washington State’s part-time faculty are bearing the brunt of higher ed cuts in the state. Good question. Longmates writes:

According to the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, in 2009-10, the state’s 3,644 full-time instructors taught course overloads equal to 452 additional full-time loads. This means that roughly 11 percent of all classes delivered by tenured faculty statewide were overloads.
The ability to voluntarily work overtime by teaching course overloads runs counter to shared sacrifices that many in the public sector are undergoing and comes at the direct expense of the impoverished part-time instructor, whose working conditions once moved retired state senator Ken Jacobsen to characterize our state’s community colleges as “a chain of academic sweatshops.”
The State Board for Community and Technical Colleges declared a financial emergency in 2009. The Washington Legislature should call on the board and the two faculty unions (AFT and NEA) to immediately prevent full-time tenured faculty from teaching course overloads (overtime) during this economic crisis.

I’m snorting right now at Jack’s sheer audacity to suggest that full-time faculty quit hogging all the classes. Longmate is right, of course. A union that represented both full-time and part-time faculty equitably would insist that no full-time faculty be allowed to teach overloads courses if doing do endangered the job of a part-time faculty member of the same union.
You should be snorting now. Though the logic makes perfect sense, the practice has been to allow just the opposite to happen. Again, from a February 10, 2011 piece posted to InsideHigherEd.com:

The conflict between Longmate and his fellow union officers started last week, after he testified in front of the House Education Committee of the Washington State House of Representatives. He appeared as one of several speakers weighing in against House Bill 1631, which would establish a way for the state to pay for salary increases for faculty members in the state’s 34 community and technical colleges. For tenured and tenure-track faculty, much of the money for salary increases is determined by what are known as increments. Like step increases, increments are automatic annual pay raises that are based on a faculty member’s years of service and, in some cases, his or her level of education. For adjuncts, while raises may come, they are not determined according to increments.
Longmate said he opposes the bill because the unequal application of increments remains in place — and raises are not awarded to adjuncts in as systematic a way as is provided through increments.

Jack Longmate was quickly asked to resign by a member of his union’s executive committee, a man named Charles Barker, psychology professor and head negotiator for the chapter. Barker also suggested via email that the union’s executive council hold a no confidence vote in Longmate.
Keith Hoeller told the reporter from InsideHigherEd.com  that the dispute involving Longmate is “the latest example of a deepening rift between full-time and adjunct faculty, both in Washington and nationwide.”
In 2003, Doug Collins, an adjunct in Seattle, was voted out of his union post for favoring an increments bill that benefited full- and part-time faculty equally, said Hoeller. Five years ago, Teresa Knudsen, an adjunct at Spokane Community College for 17 years, says she was dismissed after writing an op-ed with Hoeller in which they argued that “part-time faculty in the two-year colleges may very well be the state’s most mistreated and exploited employees.” At Wisconsin’s Madison Area Technical College, for instance, unionized adjuncts filed suit to stop overloads.
So what’s the answer? It’s obvious. Full-time faculty and national union leaders have demonstrated time and again that for whatever reason that simply can’t and won’t represent the interests of all faculty equitably when it comes to issues of compensation, course loads, benefits and other perks. The foxes have been guarding the hen houses of Academe for far too long.
Jack Longmate not only deserves to retain his leadership post within his union, his concerns should be discussed openly and frankly by the leadership of the local, state and national offices of the National Education Association. To do anything else is to lend more credibility to the belief that the country’s largest education union is, in fact, anti-union itself. Persecution of a union leader because he expresses an opinion concerning union policy different from that of his fellow union leaders is an abomination and should be exposed for what it is: a witch hunt.

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4 Comments

  1. @Trota from your mouth to the NLRB’s ears. The truth, though, is that the two groups are in direct competition and simply can’t be in the same bargaining units IMO.

  2. @poetessnyc: Full-timers rarely see that adjuncts have a slice of bread, and if they do it had better be a lot SMALLER than the slice alloted to full-timers. As for the course loads, well, when administrators see adjuncts teaching 30 credits at 4-5 institutions, the notion that faculty should teach 30+ credits start looking more and more attractive. It’s a huge mistake.
    I have always believed that adjuncts can no more teach 30+ credits well than can a full-time faculty member.

  3. As as current adjunct looking at postings for full-time openings, what’s really interesting is the increasing full-time load for new faculty hires across the country, even among tenure-track positions in union shops. 30 and even 36 credits is common in public teaching universities —even in 4 year colleges. Full-timers ought to see that all our bread is buttered on the same side.

  4. Given the movement afoot to strip away collective bargaining rights, it’s long past time for ten fac to recognize adjuncts as equals defending Fort Apache the Academy

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