If You Can’t Take the Heat, Get Outta the Leadership Position

Sandra Schroeder is feeling misunderstood.

I wrote about her in an earlier post. More specifically, I wrote about her testimony in front of legislators in Washington State in support of the AFT’s FACE initiative. Yesterday, adjunct activist Keith Holler got the treatment from AFT’s Craig Smith in his blog, FACE Talk. Hoeller wrote an editorial critical of FACE for a newspaper in Washington State. Mr. Smith replied that Keith’s op-ed piece contains “inaccurate assertions.” Translated, Craig Smith accused adjunct activist Keith Hoeller of, well, making stuff up.

However, I didn’t intend to focus on Craig Smith’s blog entry. He refutes Hoeller’s accusations and “serious charges” without ever uttering Hoeller’s name. It is a chillingly familiar act to part-timers to have someone refer to them as “irresponsible” and the author of “inaccurate assertions” and pointedly never once refer to them by name. Invisibility is a sharp-edged sword.

Sandra Schroeder left a love letter for Craig Smith praising his “careful analysis and spirited defense” of AFT Washington’s work on behalf of FACE. Below Schroeder’s remarks, P.D. Lesko left a comment about Smith’s blog entry and Schroeder. The entry contained the quote from my blog entry in which I dug up and shared Ms. S’s testimony before the Washington State legislature about part-time faculty. She refers to “cheap labor forces that have come close to undermining our system.”

After being called on the carpet for this crack, she backed waaaaaaaaaaaaay up and wrote that we’d all misunderstood her. She writes: “Ms. Lesko uses a quote from me to imply that I think of adjunct faculty themselves as undermining our system, therefore implying that I think little of them. Anyone who knows me well could refute that assertion, but I am unsure why Ms. Lesko wants to think that badly of me in the first place. By ‘cheap labor forces’ I clearly meant those forces that drive businesses to push down the wages and benefits of all workers, both in this country and throughout the world.”

So, she clearly meant those forces that drive businesses to push down the wages and benefits of all worker, both in this country and throughout the world. Those forces? Like in Star Wars? Are we talking Darth Vader here…the Force in Sandra Schroeder’s universe that drives businesses to push down wages? Well, no. We’re talking higher education funding. She was testifying before the “forces” to get more money to hire more full-time faculty. She just forgot to ask for an equal amount of money for the part-timers whom she also represents. She says it’s because “since we started our work, part-time salaries in our two-year colleges have gone from an average of 40% of what a full-timer earns for teaching the same class to 60%.”

According to data from the NEA, in 2005-2006 Washington State full-time faculty at two-year colleges averaged $53,312 per year, plus$15,963 in benefits. A decade earlier in 1995-1996, those same faculty averaged $44,712 per year, plus $10,462 in benefits. So, while per course pay for part-time faculty rose 20 percent in 15 years, in a significantly shorter period, benefits and salary for full-time faculty rose 25.5 percent. Part-time faculty at two-year colleges in Washington State do have access to year round health care coverage, but only after two consecutive years of employment, and this was negotiated as a benefit in 2006. So, between 1996 and 2006, the average full-timer at a two-year college in Washington State was compensated to the tune of around $125K for benefits, and, of course, an average of 40-60 percent more pay for teaching the same class, as Ms. Schroeder points out.

At the rate WFT is going, part-time faculty in the state will reach 100 percent per course pay equity with full-timers in the year 2038. Part-time faculty in Washington will never, unfortunately, reach equal pay status, because full-time faculty pay and benefits are not calculated on a per course basis. The union negotiates pay and benefit contribution level minimums.

Please don’t misunderstand me: Yes, part-time faculty earn a few hundred dollars more per course now thanks to Ms. Schroeder and the WFT (They pay dues out of that money, of course). More importantly, please don ‘t misunderstand Ms. Schroeder: After many years of her leadership, part-time faculty still earn 40 percent less per course than their full-time colleagues.

And never forget the bottom line: If representation continues on in this way, part-time faculty represented by the WFT will wait 30 years to reach per course parity, and will never have a glimmer of hope of reaching negotiated pro-rata equity.

There’s no misunderstanding that.

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