Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. If the discussion yesterday is any indication—and usually it’s a pretty good one—the Supreme Court seems poised to make a serious blow against public employee unions. And it’s part of a pattern: this Supreme Court’s credence of arguments that support privilege. This time, it’s public employees who will suffer.
As reported by Ry Rivard in Inside Higher Ed today, the president of the University of Southern Maine announced last Friday that she will be consulting the faculty so as to avoid the laying off faculty. The news is not totally good, as USM will still be laying off 34 staff people, cutting several programs, and still some faculty members may lose their jobs.
But still, it’s a stunning about-face, and while there are many theories, one of the main factors appears to have been a union grievance brought last Thursday by the Associated Faculties of the Universities of Maine–that’s right, the faculty union.
It may be increasingly circumscribed, but this is further evidence that even now in academia, there is power in a union.
Adjuncts at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) are voting now on unionization. Here are three of them speaking about the benefits of unionization, as well as, from their perspectives, the difference between being part-time, contingent faculty and tenure-track faculty. For a more detailed discussion of some of the particulars, see the interview (scroll down that page for a transcript) between MICA adjunct Hnnah Brancato and Maria Maisto, an organizer for the New Faculty Majority.
Sadly, as the Chronicle relates, many full-time faculty members at a variety institutions are ambivalent at best or hostile at worst to the efforts of adjuncts to unionize and to have a voice in shared governance. Why? Probably to retain the illusion of control over their jobs, or a sense of superiority to adjuncts. Of course, this is short term thinking, because our corporate overlords many upper administrators would like to make us all into interchangeable, cheap labor units. Folks, if you are among those who do think that way, or know someone who does, please tell yourself or have that person say out loud: but for the grace of god (or God, or the gods, or the fickle choice of a hiring committee, or whatever fate you may believe in), I too could be an adjunct. That may breed just a little bit of sympathy, and deflate perhaps some unnecessary ego.
Show your support for these teachers by signing the MICA student-initiated petition.
Yes, it’s true, I’m running for
Party Secretary secretary of the Faculty Politburo BGSU-FA, BGSU my fine university’s AAUP-affiliated chapter. And, with the Supreme Court continuing to strike down limits on campaign funding, I’m assembling my team. Below is a clip from the documentary of my campaign; the important part begins at :30: