Spring-time in Amerika — Bump those Adjuncts Until They Hurt!

I’ll flip the classroom on this post, putting down my response to another middling post from that middling thing called, Inside Higher Education, this on-line blog advertising sheet, DC-based (first problem) and one that is just a hotbed of behind-the-times (second knock against it) and failing to really know  the on-the-ground (third, knock) reality of school, community, real faculty and, well, the non-dominant white male/female perspectives (4th knock), the ones bred and enabled on that east coast (another knock) where we have seen a galaxy of pain put upon us, the 80 percent, by elites and their not-so-elite little Eichmanns and economic-environmental-media hit-men and hit-women.

Here, my offing:

Ahh, it’s Spring time again, when those part-time classes get pretty thin, and then the full-time faculty, in their illustrious exceptionalist way as department heads, heads of adjuncts, division chairs, deans, what-have-you’s, begin sending out emails to precarious workers about getting ready to be bumped. About how life is a bitch, that we are loved and honored, but that there is a system in place that must carry on, must be honored. That system is a caste system, on where fear of losing tidbits of respect and wages is held over our heads, either intentionally or unintentionally (which is a misnomer, since intentionality is knowledge, and who in this world has not heard of PhDs on food-stamps and adjunct faculty committing suicide?).

Bumped by full-timers, and bumped by those few less-precarious faculty they call “renewable contractors,” almost full-timers, held up higher than just plain old Jane adjuncts who get a class here, several classes there. These are the times of divide and conquer, and pitting low wage worker against not-as-low low wage worker against each other. These one year contracts are scams — for sycophants, really, brown nosers who put in the extra unpaid hours to impress, to coddle up to the false bosses — fellow faculty. These one-year renewable contractors have reached some level of “in” ness to be above the majority of faculty teaching at each respective college or university.

Bumps, or another term, moonlighting (overloads  by full-time faculty who double dip, reaching their contracted tenured position and then overloading and teaching classes at the rate of the adjunct pay, taking  both the pay and a class away for every moonlighting course away from precarious workers, faculty, fellow faculty!) take food out of the mouths of fellow adjuncts. This is the state of the state of work, education, the mealy mouthed faculty and administrators who have not been watching over the hen-house while the foxes of finance and the educational terrorists have been at the door gobbling away at what might have been a breeding ground for elegant resistance to the Coders, the Social Media Monsters, the Zombie Culture, the Drones on Every Skyline, Genetically Modified Fracking Financiers. Might have been a place where resistance might happen. Instead, these wonks went at the data pools, went into dervishes around millions of fake studies on how to turn teaching into follow-the-numbers (err, follow-the-corporate-bottom-line) silliness;  went at the “if it’s not broken, then the fix is in to break it” . . . until every Tom, Dick and Harry and Harriet, Danielle and Tina would be hoping for just a job, just something to pay the mortgage, forget deep learning, forget it all. Bricks and mortar is so 1990’s!

I’ve been in the WA state community college system since 2001, doing other things (thanks goodness) and teaching at other places, too, and doing all number of jobs and writing and creative things in a very un-creative culture. But that system since 2001 has been a constant drumbeat of droll drool from the dumb-downers — “Hail to the overpaid president . . . .  Hail to the additional overpaid deans, VPs . . . . Thanks Jesus for  all these data devils to cut costs and curb thinking . . . . Hail to all these middle management folk who have been getting consistent raises while tuition rises and faculties turn inside out like rotting haggis, turned into temporary workers. Those leaders (sic)  while also listening to the voices of those wasted taxpayer dollar-paid-for administrative employees say that the college is sinking, or at least faculty are in the way, so don’t expect pay raises, classes, and, well, adjuncts, just hang on with those slim-pickings. Expect to be BUMPED.

Here, directly from the mouth of one of the flimflam artists, names and IDs redacted:

Hi Everyone,

I hope the quarter is wrapping up early enough that you can enjoy this fine sunny day.  I wanted to contact you all about the possibility of some additional class cancellations this week.  A half dozen or so classes, all taught by FT faculty, have low enrollment and might be canceled.  This means some of those faculty will have to “bump” an adjunct out of an already assigned class in order to get a full-time load.  DGW will be looking at enrollments today and on Friday and making the final decisions about which classes need to be canceled.

Most of you have not been at this WA Community College long enough to remember the days when this was fairly common.   I haven’t seen it happen for over 6 years.  Because they can’t bump other FT faculty without creating a domino effect, and because they have other classes that conflict with many classes, FT faculty often have few options regarding whom to bump.  Let’s hope it doesn’t come to this, but if it does, please don’t take it personally if you have a class that is “appropriated” by a FT faculty member this week.  While I know it’s no consolation to hear that it is “not personal,” just a matter of the time slot, I wanted to let you know how and why this might happen.

Let’s all hope that there is a surprising surge of new students this week.

Sincerely, Another  Cog in the Wheels of Human Destruction

Continuing my screed:

All this bad news because, well, read the mass suicide media daily your community colleges and four-year schools are not being funded because state legislatures have failed their public duty to work for the public’s health, safety and welfare. Lots of lip service, and lots of hundreds of millions made from colleges by the privateers, the contractors, the private industries that feed off public welfare in the form of selling, building, and servicing. These bosses, and their political cousins, have failed students, America, themselves (though they are fat in their Lexus sedans) and faculty.

They’ve been the plague drivers —  privatization, a move (20 years, at least) toward dumb-downing education, strangulating faculty, turning education into the purview of knee-jerk administrators who are like headless chickens. This education system is more than just on the ropes with these rope-a-dopers (no aspersions cast at Ali). The system is made to prop up white male power, white female power, military power, the power of the rule (sic) of law (sic). It’s about stripping away truths and alternative views and narratives, on the heels of a nation (this USA) turning into one that is no longer dominated by Euro-White-Jewish-Christian perps.  Administrators, provosts, VPs and the like have padded their fiefdoms while FT tenured faculty and superstars have played their serfdom game with graduate students, precarious faculty and their own communities. They laugh, scoff, and just read the comments here at Inside Higher Education or over at the Chronicle of Higher Education or your local yokel rag.

That’s not the bump and grind dance we are talking about, this Springtime Bumping during this new awakening of flowers, frogs and ferns. The life-sapping slugs, i.e. administrators, are sucking out our lifeblood.  These nematodes are putting people out of work, giving them the emails from the top about “$2.6 million in shortfalls, lack of funding, lack of state compensation . . . or fill in the blank at your local state school that is going to hell in a hand basket, thank you very much, from your illustrious underachieving VP and Prez line.” This is it, no, tell me it’s not so:  young and old,  traditional and non-traditional, unique and determined being taught by folk on food stamps, living in vans, some in homeless centers, and the rest just working five jobs, maybe? This is the First World’s leader, no? Devaluing education, as these presidents and their cabinets and admin cadre collect data, charge students for things – get this, a classroom fee of $25 per student taking a face-to-face class, non-computerized – that should be part of the public contract.

That’s an underfunded, under-sold, under-utilized education system run by PhD’s with educational management and institutional management degrees (what in hell are these, really, but diploma mills to learn how to talk their ADMIN talk, to gather together like crocodiles, and come together to cut-cut education, while keeping their retirement plans golden). Some colleges hire on ex-military colonels (or light colonels or even generals) to take up the helm of over-paid and neutralized presidential positions (we do not need presidents or vice presidents at colleges anymore – I’ll send you the memo on that one) . . . Presidents (sic) who do not know much about teaching . . . who are buying the software packages and distance education rhetoric of the millionaires and their lawyers. You know, getting fewer people to run face-to-face classes, and getting more faculty – many FT tenure trackers, too – to buy into on-in education. These mentally and ethically challenged administrators throw money at HR, at institutional research departments; throw money and power at these mid-level deanlets and administrators, while creating a precarious workforce, that, as you see in this article (see below), look for pennies in heaven from SEIU and other unionizing elites to help us poor brethren come together on-line to rally around the “lack of pay, lack of benefits, lack of respect, lack of office space, lack of college shared governance” chants.

Good luck, where, in WA state, the techies, the Boeings, the super-rich have messed up the entire funding of state colleges and community colleges with tax loophole after loophole, all that gentrification welfare millions going to the One Percent and their projects; and they work with their CPAs and lawyers and lobbyists to create a zero dollar or obscenely low personal or corporate tax system. The entire state college system in WA state is hemorrhaging, and those private non-profits with hundreds of millions in endowments, well, let’s see, 10 years giving trained faculty $1500 or $3500 a class, hmm. Ya think SEIU’s metro organizing will work to bring them together through a web site and a few conferences? Think hard, folks.

Okay, so a little steam letting off. Hell, I have other things to discuss with my most recent foray into teaching locally. Get this, you shall get some insider view of a vapid system of customer service scaredy-cats, giving one whining child the power to remove a teacher from his classroom without an fair investigation. We are in the End Times of Education, Scholarship, Democracy.

Oh, I have a lot to say, believe you me. In my other life, I am looking at another story on the state of diversity and cultural awareness in Spokane, a white city, a bastion of bastard thinking when it comes to Native tribes, African Americans, youth of color, and anyone not DNA charged with Euro blood.

For now, though —

‘Critical’ Organizing /    March 25, 2014 / by  Colleen  Flaherty

WASHINGTON – Hoping to reach an estimated 1 million adjunct professors  nationwide, Service Employees International Union on Monday officially launched  its new Adjunct Action Network  website. The union marked the occasion with a “national town hall” event for adjuncts at Georgetown University here.

If a million adjuncts sounds like a lofty goal, it is. But adjuncts and  organizers in attendance said they’d been encouraged by the fact that SEIU’s  Adjunct Action organizing campaign is on the ground in nine cities, and  that more than half the adjuncts in Washington, the campaign’s  original city, have now either formed or filed for elections for  unions affiliated with SEIU.

That includes Georgetown adjuncts, who won their union bid last year and are  now negotiating their first contract. And after working to establish unions at  individual campuses, Washington-area adjuncts are now in talks with SEIU about a  city-wide union. It’s a model the union and its affiliated adjuncts would like  to replicate elsewhere, including Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle and Los  Angeles.

Mary Kay Henry, president of SEIU, called the website a “new way to organize  in a changing world,” and to eschew some of the traditional problems adjuncts  have had with organizing, such as lack of office space and a kind of commuter  status. By connecting with adjuncts on their campuses and in other states  through the new online forum, she said, there’s potential for adjuncts to “light  up the entire country.”

Of the Adjunct Action organizing campaign itself, Henry said it reflects at  once the brokenness of “America’s promise” – that is, that education is one’s  path to a better life – and the “inability” of adjuncts to accept that  brokenness.

Speakers at the town hall, including U.S. Rep. George Miller, a California  Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce who has been  adjuncts’ biggest ally in Congress, said adjuncts can’t passively wait for the  changes they want to see in their pay and working conditions and instead must  lead the charge.

And because organizations have more sway than individuals, unionization is “the only way this can be done,” Miller said. He noted that there already was  growing interest among his Democratic colleagues in the plight of adjuncts,  thanks to an “accidental moment in history” with Maria Maisto in November.  Maisto, president of the New Faculty Majority, a national adjunct advocacy  group, had been invited to testify before the education committee about the  impact of the Affordable Care Act on higher education.

But Maisto soon redirected the conversation to more general concerns about  adjuncts – their relatively low pay and overall poor working conditions, and  their impact on student success.

Miller said he and other legislators were “stunned” by the revelations,  especially because universities seem to be “forward-thinking” employers who  presumably would have sounder employment standards. “It sent us the signal that  there was something very, very wrong here.”

The testimony sparked a report from Miller’s office on adjuncts, called the “Just-in-Time  Professor,” based on existing research and adjuncts’ responses to an online  forum about their working conditions.

Miller said the status of adjuncts raises “very serious ethics and  transparency issues.”

Parents – especially those who go into debt to send their children to college – would do well to know more about the exact conditions under which the majority  of professors work, he said. And as a policy maker, he’d like to know the “tradeoffs” institutions have made – that is, where tuition and public money is  going if not into front-line instruction.

But Congress can do only so much, Miller said, calling organizing “critical.”

At one adjunct’s suggestion that Congress ask college and university  accreditors to consider adjunct working conditions, for example, Miller said “titanic fights” ensue when legislators try to intervene in that realm.

Henry said adjuncts themselves can better demand that kind of “accountability” from accreditors. Maisto, who attended the town  hall, said the New Faculty Majority and other adjunct advocates  already have begun  to address the issue with the Council for Higher Education  Accreditation.

Adjuncts on the panel agreed. Tiffany Kraft, an adjunct professor of English  at Washington State’s Clark College, whose faculty union is affiliated with the  National Education Association, said adjuncts were “implicit accomplices” in  their own struggle if they failed to take a stand, especially given their  potential for organizing power — estimated at about 75 percent of  instructors across higher education. (Note: This paragraph has been updated  to reflect that Clark College full-time faculty and adjuncts currently are  represented by the NEA.)

Kerry Danner-McDonald, an adjunct professor of theology at Georgetown,  acknowledged additional barriers to organizing beyond logistics.

She said that colleagues at scholarly conferences expressed that tell-tale “oh” sound upon hearing she was an adjunct, and that she “wasn’t ready to go  through that yet with my students,” or “out” herself as an adjunct to them,  during the union drive there.

But she eventually realized she needed to fight for her professional future,  a sense heightened by the realization that she has “no college savings” for her  daughter, who has expressed an interest in attending Georgetown.

Audience members shared similar accounts of disconnect between their work and  their economic realities. One adjunct working at a community college said she’d  had to visit a food pantry to feed her children after a divorce.

And Jane Harty, a self-proclaimed “career adjunct” professor of music at  Pacific Lutheran University, said she was still making $11,000 a year, at  half-time, after decades at the institution. Harty and her fellow Pacific  Lutheran adjuncts have held their union vote but have had their ballots  impounded pending the university’s legal  argument that it is outside National Labor Relations Board jurisdiction due  to its religious status.

Jaimie Hoffman, an adjunct professor of communications at California State  University-Channel Islands, said she risked losing eligibility for a federal  loan-forgiveness program related to public service should her course load dip  below the 30-hour-per-week mark at any time in the next 10 years. Given the lack  of control over her schedule, that’s entirely possible, she said, noting the  irony that in her former job as an administrator at the college, that wasn’t a  fear.

Miller attributed part of that problem to the way individual colleges count  adjuncts’ hours. That’s been a recent point of contention in relation to the  Affordable Care Act. College associations pushed for months for federal  guidance, which recently  was issued.

Donya Coldwell, adjunct professor of world literature at Saint Joseph’s  College, in Philadelphia, said the at-times difficult-to-swallow message that  adjuncts must fight for the changes they want to see was “true.” At the same  time, she said, “it’s really difficult to act.”

Given that they lack job security, it’s hard to persuade adjuncts to go out  on a limb and organize, she said, and sometimes only small numbers of adjuncts  being willing to do so can weaken the cause.

But she said she hoped the new Adjunct Action website would make it a bit  easier to drum up support.

“You can’t picket with three people,” she  said

Read more:  Inside Higher Ed

Here, Keith Hoeller’s response:

SEIU’s adjunct organizing raises several questions:

Has SEIU limited organizing to adjuncts only?

Has SEIU limited organizing only to the private sector colleges?

Has SEIU made an agreement with the three teachers’ unions not to raid their existing unions and/or compete with them in any way?

Has SEIU set up a separate adjunct unit to represent adjuncts on the national scene?  Is the campaign being run by adjuncts or SEIU staff?

What has SEIU done for adjuncts it has already organized?

Is the union aiming for equality, or simply incremental improvements?

What has SEIU done for other low-wage workers?

Keith Hoeller Washington Part-Time Faculty Association

What are SEIU’s goals for adjuncts and do these goals differ from the three teachers’ unions?

Keith Hoeller/ Washington Part-Time Faculty Association

And my response:

Is this a set of rhetorical questions, Keith?

I work and live in the Portland-Vancouver area, and the job market is abysmal, for precarious workers of all kinds in both states. Record employment numbers are full of the bunk of the elite, many of whom are educated by FTT and NTT at the elite Washington DC universities SEIU so lovingly works around — George Washington, Georgetown, American University. These neo-con and neo-liberal hotbeds are the elite’s breeding grounds, part of that east-coast and Ivy League perpetrators of war, economic theft, USA Murder Inc. They end up on the West Coast, as administrators, lawyers, think tank impresarios, educational and institutional leaders (sic), and so on.

Look, SEIU in Seattle lambasted Kshama Sawant, who was an adjunct at Seattle U and Seattle Community College, put on the hotbed for picking her own economics textbook. She ran for a legislative seat, lost, but got a lot of votes against the whimpering democratic opponent. My boss laughed at her, said she was not worthy of union leadership or even organizing within material.

Sawant is now a Seattle City Council member working hard on the $15 an hour minimum wage campaign, among other issues. SEIU is made up of overpaid elitist thinkers, in middle management and in higher positions. That is the seeding ground for their own organizers and staff. They have derided adjuncts in my work with them in so many ways. You think a $50 or $100 a month fee for an adjunct living in overpriced and seedy Seattle working at three campuses, guzzling gasoline, trying to find some hovel to kip in, you think, SEIU would be worker centered? Now, the same usual suspects weighing in on Adjuncts, they now have a web site. Yep, the revolution with be on social media . . . . NOT.

So, SEIU in this neck of the woods is making noise on other fronts. Troubling how their national strategy is about attempting to kill locals. Here, read —


Here is a short piece by an activist — shows the mettle in SEIU’s elitist international office camp. The above url is the original source over at Labor Notes.

“Merger Mania”

The Service Employees have long pushed to create statewide and multi-state “mega-locals.”

In the last 20 years SEIU has reduced its number of locals by nearly two-thirds, from close to 400 in 1995 to fewer than 150 today. Over the same period, the union reported adding 1 million members.

The result is that more than half the union’s members are in locals of 50,000 or more—a troubling trend for rank-and-file activists who care about union democracy. Critics argue the consolidation drive has concentrated more and more power in the hands of national leaders, while eliminating channels for member participation and debate.

Officers of the newly-merged structures are often appointed by the International from its deep bench of career union staffers, rather than from the local’s membership. Merged locals tend to be more staff-driven, where an organizer’s job is to get members on board with plans cooked up in union headquarters.

Large-scale mergers have also been at the heart of some of the most intense controversies inside SEIU in recent years. In 2007, the union orchestrated a sweeping reorganization of 24 public sector locals across California, merging them into four mega-locals against the wishes of many local officers.

Lingering resentment over the merger fueled the ouster of the International’s handpicked leaders in the merged Bay Area Local 1021 in 2008. (The new locals were all given numbers reflecting their mergers, like 1021—“10 to 1”—and 721.)

Then in 2009, SEIU’s national leaders trusteed the union’s third-largest local, United Healthcare Workers West, after the UHW executive board bucked the International’s plan to shift UHW’s 50,000 homecare workers into a different local. More than 10,000 members left UHW to form a rival union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers.

—Mark Brenner



Paul Haeder's been a teacher, social worker, newspaperman, environmental activist, and marginalized muckraker, union organizer. Paul's book, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (2016), looks at 10 years (now going on 17 years) of his writing at Dissident Voice. Read his musings at LA Progressive. Read (purchase) his short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam now out, published by Cirque Journal. Here's his Amazon page with more published work Amazon. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.