Hollowing Out the Middle — Precarity in a time of Cholera

a whole lot of writing going on, but no more shaking . . . rattling the cages

I’ll get to the school and the yard and the fights in a minute. But . . . .

Okay, a guest on the “alternative radio show” in Portland, KBOO-FM.

Hosts Celeste Carey and Cecil Prescod speak with Micah Uetricht, author of Strike for America: Chicago Teachers Against Austerity. Uetricht explains why the struggle of teachers in Chicago should matter to all of us. The Chicago Teachers Union strike was the most important domestic labor struggle so far this century—and perhaps for the last forty years—and the strongest challenge to the conservative agenda for restructuring education, which advocates for more charter schools and tying teacher salaries to standardized testing, among other changes.

The strike was years in the making. Chicago teachers spent a long time building a grassroots movement to educate and organize the entire union membership. They stood up against hostile mayors, billionaire -backed reformers out to destroy unions, and even their own intransigent union leadership, to take militant action. The Chicago protest has become a model for how reforms to the school system can be led by teachers and communities. It offers inspiration for workers looking to create democratic, fighting unions. Strike for America is the story of this movement and how it triumphed in the defining struggle for workers today.

Or a speaker in Seattle –

Steve Early, Author of Save Our Unions, will Speak Monday Night at 7 p.m. at Elliott Bay Books in Seattle. Steve has long chronicled the work of union dissidents to transform their unions. I have attached a flyer announcing his talk tomorrow night. It should be fun and interesting.

Sort of a cottage industry, these books and mini-book tours by insiders, or outsiders who speak to the big ideas around labor and social justice and education. Bottom line, though, is it’s talk, and it’s not very fluid at that, most of the time.

Talk-talk, and write those books, and get a slice of media attention, and, well, flop-flop. That’s where we are, really – a bunch of vaunted or quasi-vaunted folk thinking they are in the thick of things, but in reality, we are screwed unless we revolt.

The word mastered by Amazon dot con. Blogs penetrated by the do-nothings, the internet snake oil salesmen/women, selling-fining-levying-taxing-feeing us into HELL. Publishing and media and Press and Journalism and blah and blah. This is a day of mourning because the con is in, from everything to include May Day solidarity, minimum wage faux battle, climate change mumbo-jumbo, Part-Time/Intern/Prison/Spying/Droning/ IT USA. The people I once thought had some semblance of humanity, well, they are talking heads, writers at large, and expert after expert lecturing us on data, facts, research, and reports and white papers and all those think tank (sic) organizations’ pleas for money, pleas to save the panda.

We kill people daily thanks to unions – Police, et al – and the killing fields are spreading broadly. Cops and judges and DA’s, mostly reprehensible, bought out, distanced from repercussions of their daily rule of law for the corporations and bureaucracies. It’s a toxic society of sell-sell-sell everything – ideas, battles, issues, politics, our own self-agency, that great Faustian bargain of keeping chin tucked, head low and praying for personal capitalist salvation.

The words coming from the left, well, just words. Prettified, agitated, articulate, but again, WORDS not actions, WORDS separate from the victims of those upteen narratives about the poor, the abused, the corralled, handcuffed, enslaved.

The word mastered by the middle folk, the quasi-left. Words and unending words. Boy can we make hay over the Koch brothers . . . the entire shipwreck of Capitalism. But change? On the streets? In the entire mess’s faces?

Words, interviews, little actions, and pat-pat on the back-back. Greg Palast anyone? That’s it, Palast pontificating and exposing? That’s our plan, our strategy?

Har-har, Stephen C. and Bill M. and Jon S. the prognosticators and levelers of American facts, culture, politics, news. We have stepped into the big pile of manure BIG time. Har-har-har. One giant Saturday Night Live skit.

My email box is digitally busting.

Pleas for oceans, wolves, imprisoned youth, shot-up Albuquerque perps. Climate change, adjunct faculty on food stamps, education gutted, splayed and deep fried. Target-Peabody-Exxon-Walmart-Fortune 500 pigs of profits at ALL costs lambasted and manuevered against. “Come join us dozen folks and protest police brutality, protest coal coming on trains, the natural gas terminals, the tax loopholes, the loss of wetlands . . . the monarchs are dead. We serve fair trade tea and gluten free hemp cookies.”

Yah think things will change? Our container-ship slipstream?

It’s a parody, this country’s feeble attempt at framing and reporting. FEEBLE. Refusing glasses of water in California restaurants because of the DROUGHT? What the F? We are recyclers that have no idea where that plastic-StyroFoam-crap goes . . . . Thank you very much, third World Nations, oceans, medical dumps along Somali’s coast. Nuclear energy, you betcha Stewart Brand, and the mining, the exploitation, contamination, the stealing and the steeling! You betchya!

Peak Oil, Peak Soil, Peak Minerals, Peak Food, Peak Water, Peak Everything.

But never peak stupidty, peak greed, peek war, peek Zionism and militarism!

Stanford University divesting in coal investments? Fossil Free Stanford? Are we kidding? Stanford Free California should be the campaign. Here we have it, University Students at a Rotten University with Rotten Capitalism as its driver and anti-labor-anti-human policies as its missioin;  elite pigs, kids and adults campaigning against COAL? Just keep up that smile, those nice Gap clothes, those REI hiking boots and Specialized biking gear, all those trips around the state and country and world, all those Love Miles in the Air, all those fun times in the chat rooms, with iPhone, etc. Right, divesting in coal companies, that’s going to be the ticket. The largest coal companies Stanford will look into, you know, those terrible mining companies digging up, moving and selling the coal. Socially Responsible Investing, a la South Africa. Sure, but what about Stanford’s endowment, the rest of the companies and fascist corporations? Question why they are in THAT school to begin with, or question our American fuck-the-world mentality, our what about those Burning Man lifestyles? Our capitalism, the classes in drones technology? What does Stanford and California give to the armies of the world? What is it at Stanford’s core, the marketing of junk-junk-junk for a society with, say again, a minimum wage equaling what, Stanford Cardinals? Right, coal divestments. But not the energy produced to make the junk and lifestyles oh so complete! Follow the junk, follow the money. Offshoring pollutions, A-Number-One Job at Stanford, et al.

They have $18 billion in investments in coal ? . . . . What else, how much else in worse companies? Are we now in the days of purity by committee and greenie weenie screening capitalism’s investment? Microsoft, Gates, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, come on . . . the entire mess of Starbucks and junk-junk-junk and all the tentacles of big bad business propping up their profits and keeping us in that conveyor belt of one generation’s junk or this generation’s lack of depth.

Revolting Language — Word Cops, Idea Branders

Really, revolt. Daily, minute-by-minute. Revolt against our language, our narrative, our economic models. Revolt against this revolting behavior of corporations and media and bosses. Revolt against the regulators on both left and right, against the union pure, against the academic pure. The consensus thinkers. Against the Identity politicians, both left and right. Against the giant wheezing superstitious, the Jews for Jesus, the final frontiersmen and frontierswomen who see eyeballs as time spent on miniature screens — Marketing more junk on the Smart Phone — then transhuman dabblers, the synchronicity and singularity as the new “self,”and the sycophants of the technological last frontier who see pleasure-purpose-population determined by big data, big ziga tons of bytes and the harmony in the internet of things.

A yearning for something whirling in the wasteland of sameness, the same sound, the whine of boys and girls wanting fame in the rocket and roll it. These are the times of jingos and jingles and, well, a dozen blogs each, line up the crowd funding, we shall conquer selling more of the same worth-less-ness. Five billion on Facebook. Now that’s religion.

Sports babes-sports buds-sports babies-sports as investment-sports a la international relations.

Booze-sports-littleBigmanScreenUnHolyPlasticUniverse of Ideas. Handheld shots of the third coming of climate’s Four Horsemen, with a little variety show and reality TV thrown in.

Make it hip, make it consumable, make it worthy of Lord of the Rings digitalization. Make the Apocalypse marketable, fungible, BillBoard and SpreadSheet Ready. Maybe Ford and Coke and the Gap and Southwest Air and Revlon and Supercuts and All State can team up and bring us another reality unreal show with stars and putzes showing us the error of our energy-resource-land/air/water/sea consuming ways. Never ever criticize CAPITALISM. Or Black Presidents Run By White Jews and Goyim with Guns and Economic Guillotines.

Just another five million photo ops, Photo-shopped, Selfie Kinda Day in the Empire!

Models, dramas, take it to the third season, with a renewable contract when the ice sheets fetter away.

All the World’s a Staging Ground for PR Spin

Did you see that action shot, the blues captured in Red Camera, all those patinas mixed up in PhotoShop Chromium? Polar bears and indigenous peoples. Tears. Storms. Droughts. Famine. Thanks Robert Redford. Whew, glad you weighed in . . . what would the world be without stars and bars weighing in? How many in the North Carolina race, no matter the Republican-libertarian Mitt or Rand endorsed party, “believe in” climate change? Whew, a whopping Zero!

CNN-SWATUSA-Discover Channel Drone TV, thanks very much MossadNSADoDDarpaGE.

This is it, really – if we have one college doing the massively open on-line course, then, well, how will we compete – why not just adopt, adapt, adios people. This is the kingdom of illogical conclusions, as long as Coders and Masters of Hard Drives and Servers see the way, paved in bytes.

It’s difficult, since conversations are limited. You go to a major store like Target, and well if you have a conversation, that goes nowhere. Corporate PR and HR and CR (customer relations) will take that complaint, and, well, SHOVE it.

Try talking to anyone, young or old. You might get lucky, though, like yesterday, in Portland, shopping for our foster care licensing. Toys r Us, not my favorite killer corporation, but there are not choices to get the stuff to have kids in the house. There are no mom and pop stores, no alternatives.

So, in line, with my aching sciatica (Since diagnosed as L4 pinched nerve, and the Obama-HMO-For Profit shit of a medical racket is forcing me to suffer torture and more of it before even approving an MRI and shot to the source of the intractable pain), and, one person taking our money, i.e. cash register, three ahead of me, in this whale of a store, stacked high with plastic-plastic-plastic. Can you imagine, lined up to spend hundreds of dollars, and WE HAVE to wait to pay them? No sorry’s, no acknowledgment until I make a fuss. You know, the old guy, white, making the fuss. This is CORPORATE America, CORPORATE K12, CORPORATE Laws, CORPORATE THINKING.

The conversation ties to the stuff they do not have on the floor, and lo and behold, a human, young man, talks to me about Toys r Us cutting back on hours, on people on the floor. And, the stuff they carry, fewer amounts of the stuff in stock. Really – major corporation, the only game in town, other than Target and Walmart. You think those economists look at the ground truth at the one inch altitude?

Sure, the economy is booming. Jobs jobs jobs. What a bunch of rot.

No way. The words and images and documentary-junk coming out like purging projectile vomit, well, there is plenty of it, all sorts of insipid film festivals from Tribeca to Toronto, and as I have said before, we just consume this junk, all these stories, all those spins and contexts. BUT NOTHING changes. Meet, greet, eat, yammer on and on about the great projects, all those great poor subjects, all the sacrifice the 80 percenters have to put up with. Slow Food, Slow Money, Slow Education, SLOW SLOW SLOW, thanks to the trippy mentality of Americans, under siege, Karl Rove, ALEC, Google, Facebook, NSA, Microsoft, Boeing, Monsanto, Koch X or Koch Y, Hilary for Next Felon in Chief, Citizens United my ass.

We have no great thinkers, leaders, no great organizations, no one to pull the entire mess together. One fire among a million fires. And America the Capitalist Center, just pisses on them, one stream at a time.

That’s what it feels like, in this slipstream of inundation of mountains of white papers, think tank Power Points, books.

Problem, again, is that One Percent and 19 Percent are making money off the poor, off debt, off no work and no products, no goods or good to society.

Fuller Brush Salesman one day, Junk Software Snake Oil Salesman the next day. Capitalism as colonizer. Cult of Technology.

One More Documentary from Hell

Look, I had a difficult time looking at Robert Reich’s little documentary, Inequality for All. Of course, not for all, including Reich himself, a mini-celebrity, undeserving like most of them are. He includes himself in the “all” as do the multimillionaires, the actors, journalists, college presidents, CEOs, so, forget about the Inequality for All jingo. All does not include Reich or his ilk; not Reich in his weird PT Cruiser opening scene . . . that odd little lecture-talk lingo he exposes early on, using Jon “I am In the One Percent and Laughing All the Way to the Stock Market with Profits Laughing it Up Against Some of the One Percent I Find Revolting or Hilarious” Leibowtiz Stewart as a har-har-har opener? When will the shit finally hit the fan. Leibowitz? Multi-millionaire brother of head of the NY Stock Exchange? This is what we get in a film about inequality. The problem is same old, same old, and, shoot, the film makers, writers, producers, hmm, same old club Reich uses. Look at their credits, their backgrounds, their culture, their shared culture. I won’t get too deep into that, but these people (wouldn’t call Reich radical, but in an age of Clinton-Obama-Biden-Corporate Randian USA, anything looks liberal) are not doing anything worthy of attention. Capitalism is the problem, but none of them would say that. Education is the problem, the lack of it and the way the current models work, but they won’t say that. There is a nod and approval and accepted “norm” when we see these films. Really blasé.

It’s a matter of time, a matter of creativity, and, Reich and this flick are old hat, and the same documentary style that is, well, old before it rolls. We need revolution, we need heads to roll, truly, but in America, the game is this falsified respect, this “non-violence-even-in-the-face-of-homocidal-policies” way of thinking, and it is the way toward destruction. I can’t waste my time on this film, certainly not critiquing it or loving it or despising it.

Think hard, really. How screwed up Capitalism is, and how it’s created some rotten people. Take for example my bout with, well, I have to say, sciatica (maybe, since I made that diagnosis and all I’ve seen are nurse practitioners and physical assistants – took me four visits to see a sports medicine guy, who said it’s L4, nerve, from hip to knee-cap, something about a disc, maybe, but still, I went my merry and tortured way yesterday, to have ZERO sleep last night, even on all the DEA-controlled meds they sent me home with . . . .THIS is a minute-by-minute example of a BROKEN medical system, and how much does my spouse’s work pay for this, and then our contribution each month? In light of all the bullshit coming out about ACA, what crock . . .. doctors I talk to are embarrassed that they HAVE to say “no MRI or shot until insurance approval,” while I am buckled over in pain on the floor and have to take days off from work and turn down work . . . .F*&% these asshole Stanford or Harvard or MIT or what-have-you folk, little liberals, little messaging mavens, white and steeled in their little silos . . . . exploiters! They have no idea of the day to day, infinite struggle, and how broken things are because of a paid-by-corporations government and corporate fascism), though I have never had anything like this. I waited 10 days to go into urgent care because, a, I hate medicine, and, b, the HMO-insurance shit that we have for health care is unworthy of common decency. The bedside manner is pretty rotten these days. Not very personable, and these people, male-female, doctors or nurse practitioners and PA’s, it doesn’t matter. We are cooked as a society. We are finding more and more people who can’t care, don’t care, won’t care and are never forced to care. This for 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 daily. This for a society that predicts 36 percent growth in medical care-medical records-medical aftercare employment fields by 2020? Uncaring people waiting for 4:55 p.m. to tick off the clock before TGIF?

It’s a TV-screen-armchair viewing society. You can be a kindergarten teacher and enjoy Breaking Bad, or some retired doctor and enjoy Orange is the New Black. What does that SAY about us as a consuming society? WHAT?

There is so much lack of caring, so much time spent on a fucking laptop, so much lack of deep thinking, and, well, the excuses that an MRI can’t be gotten because the insurance company frowns on that. So, intractable pain, oh, 14 on a scale of 1 to 10, and, fuck, 57, healthy except for the constant stress of precarity, taking jobs at 5 a.m. to substitute teach, oh, shit, let the computer keyboard rip. These people are emblematic of a culture of consumerism, TV, screen time and all that exhausting of energy to type-type/surf-surf/word process-word process.

People in America are becoming alternative species, and they are in that process quicker and quicker each day. What sort of society would not call for the heads of all Bush-Obama folk, on this anniversary of Abu Ghraib? What? What is it with our bloodless and plasticized society? Botched murder panels in Oklahoma? Gun carrying freaks in Georgia? Lies on CNN 24/7. The cult marketing, 24/7? Pop culture and goofy Americanisms and the drone world of a society that is wiping out all semblance of community engagement, value and participation.

So, think hard, those little bouts in America’s urgent care centers, where mean, surly and just penitentiary thinking people are there for the tidal wave of Baby Boomers – all 10,000 of us daily turning 65. This is the growing profession in the USA, as I wrote a while back after attending a Futurist’s insipid talk in downtown Portland.

These are the products of K12 school, public colleges and universities? These are the products of Toys ‘r Us and Lives Seran-wrapped. Lives cultured to find the best and quickest drive-through anything in order to move on, to push kids and granny and old dogs and neighbors onto that conveyor belt to spiritual and cultural Auschwitz. Know thy self and screw thy neighbor. Disconnection blues – you know, Boys and Girls club volunteer, church on Sunday, canned food drive, but, 9 to 5, five days a week, screwing they neighbor, screwing thy society with that Capitalist greed. Used care salemen and saleswomen with sawdust in transmissions and brain cavities.

What the f*&% do we say when so many liberals, so many Reich-lovers, have ZERO idea how tough it is and how to f*&%ing give voice to them, to us, not their own little East Coast/West Coast-influenced Cabal of like-thinkers and cultural snobs and hipsters and churners of psycho-babble/psycho-drama/psychotic self-effacement?

Insured or Uninsured, That is Not the Question!

I am writing this blog in bad-ass pain, one of the insured, thanks to my spouse, a teacher in WA state. Here I am at the 14 on the scale of 1 through 10, but at least I have a roof over my head, a car and lights on and running water, both hot and cold (in WA, you can have a kid in a trailer in the woods as long as it has cold running water – you know, billionaires paradise, WA state, Amazon, Boeing, Intel, Micro-Soft, and the like, with oh 30 percent of children in the state on federally supported breakfast and lunch programs.

This is the state, where people of color are advancing in population, yet community colleges are being cut big time. I just want to smash the face of the governor (literary, speaking), which I was forced to campaign for when I worked for SEIU as an adjunct faculty organizer. Inslee, whew, just more of the rotten Boeing stiff arm salute that this state of 5.8 million produces.

He has not idea how WE live, no idea how that urgent care gaggle of surly nurses and receptionists and coders treat people like me. Listen, think dengue fever, malaria, dysentery, centipede, spider and scorpion bites; Portuguese Man of War stings; setting my own broken finger bones. And I have to leave urgent care with a song and a prayer. They didn’t even diagnose me. I did, and well, no MRI, and, no shots, no way, until, well, unless I do go to the ER and cry out about intractable pain.

I’ve been around medical people, doctors specifically, for decades. In my family. Some of the worst people on earth are doctors and economists, lawyers-doctors-bankers. Why? Where did they come from, where did they crawl out from? Nothing like Gandhi saying we need to tape into our female self daily, to find it, though with Condie Rice and Albright and the Okie female governor and so many women in business and banking, well, I am not sure what he would say today with these Zionists-Corporatists running around as the other sex, the second sex, what have you?

We are overrun with trivialities, shopping, deals, Disneyland-ification of our schools, colleges, workplaces, lives. We are shaped by this Oprah moment, with all the thugs of sports, male and female, as our national past-time, as well as celebrity cultism. We hear National Jewish Radio tell us that this or that new flick will be box office gold or flop. We have an endless diarrhea trail of story after story on this or that putz on Broadway, in Rolling Stone, in Hollywood or TV land.

Imagine, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, thousands of them in that revolving door of triple and quadruple dipping. The rotting McCain and his strafing of orphanages in Hanoi with his made in the USA F-4 Phantom. All of them, those rotting politicians, who end each day with retirement funds, health care at the Cadillac level, and with a sigh saying they have to compromise, but they are the good ones, the good compromizers, people we train our liberal kids to go into backrooms with. Compromise, consensus, death to us all, thanks to the the highest bidder.

These people do not know or care about 80 percent of their worlds, their communities. Until they live, work, breathe and pay for what we pay for, how can any of these putzes have anything to do with the solutions to poverty​? Solutions to anything?

The “p” Word — Precarity

Think hard at the precarity of educators, a common theme in this column, School Yard Fights. What does it mean that 75 percent of faculty are part-time, that is, partially paid and partially conceived? I just finished a keen interview with a tenure track teacher, a photographer, and, yes, he counts his lucky stars, and, yes, he can’t be too political at the state school he teachers at, now, the last year before coming up for tenure review.

There is discordance in the message of those union folk listed above, and the full-time faculty and the people that seem to be in solidarity with us, the precarious, but until they STRIP down, until they GIVE up the mortgage, the picket fence, GIVE it all up, they are not us, not even near us. Part of the problem, really.

I get messages from the old union, SEIU, I worked for – oh, the two schools I helped organize – Seattle University (Jesuit) and Pacific Lutheran University (yes, religious) they have been okayed by the National Labor Relations Board to accept adjunct unionizing voting. But truly, what is gained? What does the union really know about the state of education, the state of privatization, the state of digital and on-line bastardizing of the entire education system? What do they know of the life as freeway flyer and such?

In the end, the state school where I worked briefly, in Auburn, WA, well, the full-time faculty again are royally screwing the majority, the adjuncts. And this is it, the state of America, the shitty bedside manner of all manner of people. Really.

Check it out –

It is our understanding that union negotiations for a new contract are about to enter a crucial phase. We have heard that the union has agreed that no new topics can be introduced after May 1. In “Faculty Divided,” our Op-Ed of October 28, 2013, we wrote, “We believe the chair of the bargaining team should at long last be an adjunct faculty member, and the majority of the team should be adjuncts. Furthermore, these adjunct representatives should be chosen by the adjuncts themselves. We believe this is a reasonable request on a campus with 400 adjunct faculty. The full-time faculty should not be the only representatives negotiating our contract. We should be equal participants in negotiating the contract that governs the work of all faculty.

Yet the two co-chairs of the bargaining team are tenured faculty, you and W.F., and the other two members of the team are division chairs. There are no adjuncts at all on the bargaining team; there are no adjuncts actually sitting at the bargaining table.

While you have handpicked a handful of adjuncts to receive selected information, nearly all of the adjuncts are in the dark about what you are trying to negotiate. Are you trying to maintain the status quo and the current contract? Are you trying for a few small changes? Are you trying to make large improvements in a contract that may be in force for another ten years, as this one has been? What are you willing to do if the administration does not agree to changes that benefit adjuncts?

We don’t know the answer to these questions, and neither do most adjuncts. The union continues to hold meetings at Noon on Fridays when many adjuncts cannot attend. The union blogspot, nufsaid, has not been updated since it was put in place and meeting minutes have yet to be published. There doesn’t seem to be a UF newsletter to keep the members informed. There is no transparency about union negotiations. Did the negotiators agree to completely closed negotiations?

In “Faculty Divided,” we pointed out that the union has bargained a separate but unequal contract: “Unions claim to provide higher salaries, great benefits, and job security for their workers. While the United Faculty Coalition has bargained these things for the 140 full-time faculty, it has not done so for the 300 part-timers….In short, the United Faculty Coalition has shown a clear preference for GRCC’s full-time faculty while bemoaning the adjuncts’ lack of solidarity.

While we are glad that you are supporting funding of adjunct increments, the college has already funded increments for full-timers through “turnover savings.”

And while we appreciate the decision to take the increment grievance to arbitration, you have refused to take twelve adjunct grievances to arbitration, repeatedly siding with the administration and the division chairs against adjuncts seeking to have the contract enforced.

If you succeed in getting the college to fund adjunct increments, the full-timers will still continue to receive more increment money, and those at the top of the adjunct increment scale (more than 30% of currently employed adjunct faculty) will receive nothing. In other words, to our knowledge you have not proposed doing anything to make the increments fairer to adjuncts or to reduce the huge disparity between part-time and full-time faculty

Earlier you had proposed obtaining some money for equal percentage raises for adjuncts and full-timers. This too is unfair to adjuncts, since the full-timers have much higher salaries and will receive much more money, thereby pushing the dollar disparity even higher. In exchange for being granted the exclusive right to represent all faculty, federal law requires the union to provide “fair representation” for faculty. This would mean communicating with the 90% of adjunct faculty who are not union members

Given the May 1 deadline for submitting topics for bargaining, we request that you submit the list of topics below to the college immediately. To provide fair representation to adjuncts, all of these topics should be on the bargaining table. We have waited for years, and the next contract could be in force for another ten years. We should not have to wait forever to have our union address these inequities.

We also request that three adjuncts be placed on the union’s bargaining team. Green River has a number of adjuncts with extensive knowledge of adjunct issues, and many with negotiating experience. Contract language for adjuncts also needs contributions written by adjuncts.

We will not truly be one faculty until we can sit down and work together to improve the situation for all faculty.

Sincerely, Kathryn Re, Co-Founder, Green River Adjunct Faculty Association

List of basic rights of the Precarity, Faculty that is . . . 

Have Toyota Celica Trunk? It’s your office, the freeways and byways, your freedom from benefits, pay, salaries, respect, tenure, emotional support, campus connectivity! Rise Up, Workers, and Be your Own Woman/Man!

Salaries – one salary scale for all faculty
Increments
Job Seniority
Class Assignment Procedures
Grievance Procedures
Complaints
Anti-Bullying/Harassment
Promotion to Tenure
Lifting of Workload Limitations
Evaluations
Observations
Full-Time Overloads
Role of Division Chairs
Conflicts of Interest

The bottom line, well, I just went to the sixth visit to the doctor, this time Physical Therapy. Nice guy, really, the PT. Again, though, private school, Pacific University, and his one ethics class, well, he just does not know how to cut it. You know, cut health care. What can I do? Yes, we have to play the game of insurance companies, new rules under Obama-Care-For-All-Profiteers Health System (sic). Even doctors feel like technicians. He said that. Again, fine little 401-K, decent salary, a booming buisness, and, well, there’s not much we can do but play the game, work with the giant insurance companies.

This is not what I teach to students in my composition or writing classes, to give in, to see foregone conclusions as it, final word, to throw away caution as in precautionary principles, and to look at the land of unintended consequences, Oz. I teach writing AND social-economic-cultural-enviro-egalitarian justice, and do I PAY the price with fellow faculty, tenured or not, and the administrators, the new nice on the outside Nazis. I don’t have the stamina in this blog to really demonstrate to you or Reich or the rest of the unionizing sees its better days writers what price I have really paid. We are all at fault, failing to have the conversations, failing to teach ourselves, our children, our communities, our youth, HOW TO REVOLT, rebel, REBUFF, rescind, REINVENT, REALIGN, REJIGGER, REEDUCATE, REAPPLY, REALIZE that WE are the problem.

Smug and Teary-Eyed Eichmann Syndrome

All those smug or teary eyed tenured faculty, the K12 teachers, all the consumers and the people who have only their skin and mortgage and little 1.9 children and wives and husbands in the game. Shame on us all for allowing Media-Military-Zionism-Exceptionalism-Partiarchy-Slavery-Fundamentalism-Economies-Banks-Celebs-Muscles/Might/Magic colonize us like some Scientology-loving, Mel Gibson-playing, Mormon-seeking Alien Race from Bethlehem ready to self-implode like the ebola virus we are!

What can measly me do? Insurance Companies Dictate Care, NOT Doctors-nurses-PT. Just sign my check, give me two weeks off, and if you can, a little cost of living adjustment when ya’ll get your $23 million takes as CEOs. This is the narrative, the voice, the history, the thinking WE give in K12 and higher education? This is it? Don’t rock boats, don’t slap the corporate hand that feeds you, don’t question that .001 percent writing the laws, the stories, the paradigms of this enslaving economy?

It’s gotten so big, this co-opting and greenwashing and eco-social-economic porn that the bad guys buy foundations, ads, the media, the schools, and, well, EVERYONE else looks bad, like insects, or economy-sucking slackers.

I just heard the bike hour show on KBOO. One person was talking about how important Critical Mass was in Portland, you know, the bike engagement, bread not bombs, taking it to the streets and slowing internal combustion engine traffic for a measly two hours on a Friday, to show that bikes can and should be king and queen of the road.

The interviewer – again, greenie but weenie – tried to play devil’s advocate, but the woman said Critical Mass was crucial, should still be happening even in a much larger sense, but after she was arrested, intimidated, harassed, and that went on every Friday when Critical Mass took to the streets, “you just get worn down by the cops and the laws and the city fathers and mothers who just continue to divide and conquer, treating critical mass as something violent or anti-American.”

This Month’s show will focus on some of the actions and strategies employed over the last 40 years that helped earn Portland a bicycle “Platinum City” designation. Offering a historical perspective will be our guests Joe Biel, publisher and creator of the film. Aftermass: Bicycling in a Post-Critical Mass Portland , and inimitable long-time bike mechanic and activist Sara Stout.

So Sara and Joe both are exasperated, and Joe really went after the business community, the lack of critical mass now in Portland, that the real city is sprawled – you have to count ALL those counties and communities as PORTLAND, do not let the wonky folk in planning say otherwise, say things “like GIS maps show densification of urban growth boundaries . . . .” Don’t let them fix, chop, Bondo the studies and the facts to fit their New Urbanism/Smart Growth mentality. We are a polluting, driving, sprawling city. End of dreadlocks!

So, while I have not seen the film, I guarantee these people, like so many other good people, Sara and Joe, that is, are wondering if the policing and the economics of greenie-weenies and greenwashers and the sort of grander-than-reality of the biking history and facts of Portland have not created a critical mass of people – coupled with mass media, Homeland Security, IT, Consumerism-gone-wild-on-Spring-Break-24/7-365, distracted youth – just not engaged or worthy of protest, against wars. All the wars – against environment, education, work, community, health, fair economy, climate change, racism, poverty, ignorance – should be out there daily. The mayor should go to an island with the others on Dante’s twelve stages into hell. This is a violent, mean, police-dominated, business weird community. It is in a state that is bipolar. We are in deep trouble, and yet, the gentrifying is rampant, ghettoization of the suburbs virulent and the conversation and language, well, Yuppified and Millennialized.

Back to school

Last year, I moderated a panel on black academic women’s health in the academy. The administrators were overwhelmed by the intensity of response. Hundreds of essays poured in about the racism and sexism that stymied their academic careers. Many felt silenced by faculty groups that were supposed to protect them, ignored by comrades in the adjunct struggle who did not address how racism compounded its effects, and exhausted from straddling so many worlds. Problems like these have been so systemic that some disciplines, such as the American Anthropological Association, have produced white papers (no pun intended) on racism, tenure, and hiring.

So writes Tressie McMillan Cottom of Slate and Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Emory University.

The New York Times reported recently on an adjunct instructor, James Hoff, who walks like a professor, talks like a professor, and teaches like a professor, but has none of the benefits of being a professor, because he is an adjunct. Adjunct labor in higher education has revealed the structural flaw in our post-recession reality: The prescription for poverty—educational attainment—has become a condition for poverty. The high price, in dollars and opportunity costs, of getting All the Education™ has to be reconfigured, because tenured jobs with their tenured wages are declining. And that has made lots of people angry.

I’m actually quite glad people are getting angry about adjunct-ification. On Friday, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce issued a 36-page report chronicling the low salaries, long hours, and lack of benefits and job security that “contingent faculty” face. (The report puts an adjunct’s average annual pay at just under $25,000.)

But to be clear, there’s been a labor crisis in higher ed for a long time. It just hasn’t always been a crisis for everyone in higher ed.

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has pretty much confirmed what the stories about adjuncts on food stamps and dying without health coverage illustrate: A “long-term fiscal crisis” has crushed Ph.D.s into adjunct spackle, to be applied liberally to cracks in university foundations. The report also shows something else: “The proportion of African-Americans in non-tenure-track positions (15.2 percent) is more than 50 percent greater than that of whites (9.6 percent).” In 2009, the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education analyzed data from the Department of Education and projected that if current rates of hiring and promotion of black Ph.D.s remained steady, it would “take nearly a century and a half for the percentage of African-American college faculty to reach parity with the percentage of blacks in the nation’s population.” African-Americans make up just 5 percent of full-time faculty. If you leave out the high proportion of black Ph.D.s working in historically black colleges and universities, black full-time faculty in the U.S. barely clears 4 percent.

Making Bargains with those little devil angels

Oh, the Faustian bargains we make. Well, I have been adjuncting since 1983, probably before she was borne. Think then of maginalization of whites who dance to the beat of a very different drummer, Latinos and Latinas and blacks, of course. But we are in this boat together, and unfortunately, we are a racist society, one that Glen Ford of BAR articulately discusses ALL the time.

Remember, the bankers are white, many are Zionists, others: Jews-with-no-defined-religious-conviction. Not blacks, not Hispanics, and not women. Whites. And, well, Holder and Obama, BLACK.

Eric Holder uses his offices to immunize the big fish, and allow the corporations to escape with a fine.”

The Obama administration is in a makeover frenzy, cosmetically cleaning up its corporatist act for the sake of the lame duck president’s legacy and endangered Democrats in Congress. Evils must be reapportioned in the public mind, so that the balance between lesser and greater abominations is perceived to tilt in the Democrats’ favor – a tough trick, given the beating the party’s base constituencies have taken since 2008 at the hands of the duopoly Dem-Rep tag-team. Historical revisionism is, thus, the order of the day.

Eric Holder, the U.S. Attorney General who successfully intervened in federal court to prevent the retroactive release of thousands of mostly Black prisoners convicted under the old 100-to-1 crack cocaine laws, now acts as point man for his boss’s program of charitable sentencing commutations. Obama’s compassionate mood-swing occurred at whiplash speed; in his first six years in office, he had granted fewer clemencies than any president since Dwight Eisenhower. Obama’s brazenly hypocritical and slap-dash new program “will not represent any significant or permanent change to the nation’s universal policy of mass incarceration, mainly of poor black and brown youth,” as Bruce Dixon has written, but is designed purely to rehabilitate the president’s image among Black voters. With one empty gesture, the president’s record on criminal justice is revised.

Obama then takes his political theater troupe on a comedy tour. Attorney General Holder pretends to threaten Wall Street bankers with jail time – a notion so hilarious it should have had them rolling on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange. Jail the bankers? Obama has been their staunchest defender, the man who saved George Bush’s original bank bailout from defeat (weeks before the 2008 election), and has since configured the entire financial structure of the American State to the service of his most important constituents: Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Goldman Sachs. “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks,” Obama reminded the banksters in his Oval Office, back in 2009. He has never failed them, presiding over the infusion of roughly $30 trillion (2011 figures) directly into their accounts or as guarantees of their business transactions – roughly twice the Gross Domestic Product of the United States. Ain’t that love?

This is the economy of adjunct workers, with PhDs, some with books, some just there, falling off the banksters’ hand-crafted cliff.

Below (here) is a list of some of the settlements that have been reached between large banks and various law enforcement agencies and/or classes of plaintiffs since the start of the 2008 financial crisis. Banks and other financial institutions have agreed to several multi-million dollar settlements for numerous offenses, but no employee of a major Wall Street bank has gone to jail for their role in these crimes as of 2013.[1] This has helped coin the phrase “Too Big To Jail“, derived from the phrase “Too Big To Fail” which referred to the government bailout of big banks as well as the bank mergers, acquisitions, and buyouts beginning in the 1990s that lead to consolidation of many banks into only a handful of large financial institutions as illustrated by the info-graphic (right).[2]

Finally, the motorcycle adjunct, yet another odd and bastardized thing coming from hundreds of sources around union organizing adjuncts, the plight of adjuncts, the state of the state of adjuncts. Again, TALK TALK Talk.

Harley Driving Former Teacher Rails Against College System (shit, the headline is a joke).

Lee Johnson says he learned that while employed as a “freeway flier” at Grossmont College. That’s an arrangement in which an institution of higher learning treats highly educated, part-time “adjunct” instructors as day laborers — no security, paltry wages and few, if any, benefits. The name comes from part-timers “flying” from school to school. That sort of servitude means the school teaches fair employment practices for “thee, not me.” To be a flier, a teacher either dearly loves teaching or needs to pay the rent. Whichever way you’re desperate, they’ll exploit, Johnson says.

“After 21 years teaching there, I earned half the pay per class of what full-time faculty earned, with no medical coverage, no retirement benefits and no Social Security credits.”

“(Faculty) do not understand the neighborhoods or the hard-nosed backgrounds of a lot of these kids. They didn’t bare-knuckle their way up; they came from the middle class or above. They would walk into a class of minority students, and they were afraid of them. They were afraid to be frank, they were afraid to talk to them like they would talk to their other students.”

And the minority students would sense that?

“Of course. They know when you’re blowing smoke up their skirt. That’s how they survive on the street, by having a sense of that. They know when they’re being pandered to.

“Often times, when a minority student was not making the grade, the (faculty) answer would be to dial back the standards. They used to drive me nuts. That is patronizing, it is insulting.”

He has no affection for teachers’ unions. He believes in the time he was a member, they used adjunct teachers as bargaining chips in negotiations — i.e., they would threaten to get a better deal for adjuncts, and then trade that threat for increased benefits for tenured faculty.

Johnson says adjunct teachers have always been a transitory group and usually are not long-term members of the union, and even though they pay dues, they have no influence with the power structure. Also, if they were given substantially better pay and benefits, it would diminish the benefits package split among tenured faculty.

Our Silos Are Our Castles

Okay, so, connect the dots. Connect those dots of the dissatisfied, the others who are buying in and out or selling out and just looking away from back to the future, hoping for some backward leap to the past — save, stay below the radar (NSA, Drones, Carnivor DARPA stuff), don’t make waves, or just throw all the babies out  with the bathwater. Corporations are daddy, brother, uncle, godfather, suckled security blanket. God Save Google and MegaCorporation. God give us monopolies.

We’ve got some major work to do, and it’s too late in many ways. What have we done to little Juan and Sally and LaTeesha? What have we done to their siblings, their parents, their grandparents? How is it there are SO many rotten apples in churches, in the Zionist movement, in banks, in police departments, bureacracies? Why is it that anywhere in the USA, you can find  millions of haters, people who think the roll of the dice is it, and those who are rooting for the capitalists, the billionaires, and rooting against everyone else working tails off or stuck in that disenfranchised USA?

Why have average Americans become such pigs, so lazy, so borish, so afraid to engage in real face-to-face conversations, face-to-face anything?

What has happened to family, hearth, humanity? When did we become such rule makers, law creators, rotten zoning and coding creeps? What sort of DNA jumble happened during the decades of twisted and sliced genetic modification of foods or just chemicalization of the mind?

I could get a thousand people in a park — random, from sea to shining sea — and, well, forget Pew or Gallop. These people would probably mostly have strong ties to money, wanting, greed, respect of economic authority and some pretty scary ideas about worth, value, humanity, success v. failure.

Is it the culture of Black Friday? Is it the shopping and the cataloguing and the mouse trips to Amazon and e-Bay that have warped our sense of humanity? What?

Note — Comments about using the word “fuck” or “f*&%” in my posts, well, I am no longer allowed on F*&%-Book? Google me and attack my potty mouth? Ahh, my liberal “friends” lecturing me for my 8 words banned on radio!

Paul Kirk has been a journalist since 1977. He's covered police, environment, planning and zoning, county and city politics, as well as working in true small town/community journalism situations in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mexico and beyond. He's been a part-time faculty since 1983, and as such has worked in prisons, gang-influenced programs, universities, colleges, alternative high schools, language schools, as a private contractor-writing instructor for US military in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Washington. Read other articles by Paul.