Tag: unions

Unionizing Adjuncts at Georgetown (Updated, and Again)

UPDATE: the author of the Chronicle article, Peter Schmidt, discussed the issue on the Kojo Namdi show yesterday.

The SEIU wants to unionize adjunct professors at Georgetown University. As their card makes clear, this is part of a broader effort to unionize contingent labor at colleges and universities. George Washington’s adjuncts unionized in 2006, and won a significant pay raise this August. American University’s and Montgomery County’s adjuncts are also unionized.

From today’s Chronicle of Higher Education article:

SEIU Local 500 began a campaign to organize an adjunct union at Georgetown University in August, having previously unionized adjuncts at two other local private institutions, American University and George Washington University, and at Montgomery College, a public institution with campuses in three of Washington’s Maryland suburbs. 

By organizing new adjunct unions at Georgetown and other colleges in and around the nation’s capital, the union hopes to gain enough of a presence in the area that all colleges in the region will feel a need to improve the pay, benefits, and job security of adjunct instructors to remain competitive for such workers, Kip Lornell, SEIU Local 500’s vice president for higher education, said on Monday. 

If adjunct faculty members at Georgetown vote to form a collective-bargaining unit affiliated with it, Local 500 will represent a total of roughly two-thirds of adjuncts in the nation’s capital, Mr. Lornell estimated. That share, he said, should be enough to give Local 500 significant influence over pay and benefits of adjunct faculty members throughout the area, even if it falters in its planned efforts to also bring on board adjunct faculty members at Howard University and the Catholic University of America. 

“It won’t be particularly easy, and will probably take us a year or two at each place to do this, but we clearly have a record of success,” said Mr. Lornell, who is an adjunct professor of Africana studies and music at George Washington University. Negotiations with colleges over adjunct pay and benefits “will be a very different conversation when all of the part-time faculty in Washington, D.C., are unionized,” he predicted.

The Georgetown administration’s response is, for lack of a better term, carefully stated:

Last week Georgetown’s provost, Robert M. Groves, sent the university’s faculty members an e-mail in which he acknowledged the presence of an adjunct-unionization drive on the campus and said that Georgetown “has a long history of working productively” with labor unions that represent other employees. “Because this is a process that is governed by the principle of majority rule, we encourage all adjunct faculty members to educate themselves about the process and their rights under federal labor law,” his e-mail said. 

It seems to me that the debate over unionization of contingent labor provides, among other things, a clarifying moment for everyone who bemoans the decline of reliance on tenure-track and tenured faculty at colleges and universities.

Is the goal simply to improve the working conditions and pay for adjuncts? To drive up the price of adjuncts so that colleges and universities revisit the economics of relying so heavily on them? Or are there ways in which better conditions might render all faculty contingent? Is that good or bad?

I’m curious of Duck readers have opinions on the matter.


Who Needs Social Scientists When We Have the Onion?

 Many scholars consider “prediction” to be the goal of social science. They deploy fancy statistical techniques to create complex models that, if they’re really good, reach the Olympian heights of 47% accuracy rates.

Then there’s the Onion, who makes all of those technowizards with their “R” and their “LaTeX” look like a bunch of coin flippers.

Consider the its scarily accurate 17 January 2001 headline, “Bush: ‘Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over'”.

So when I read its 2004 article, “National Museum Of The Middle Class Opens In Schaumburg, IL”, I laugh and I cry, but mostly I just want to drink until I pass out.

“The splendid and intriguing middle class may be gone, but it will never be forgotten,” said Harold Greeley, curator of the exhibit titled “Where The Streets Had Trees’ Names.” “From their weekend barbecues at homes with backyards to their outdated belief in social mobility, the middle class will forever be remembered as an important part of American history.” […]
 “No one predicted the disappearance of the middle class,” said Dr. Bradford Elsby, a history professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “The danger of eliminating workers’ unions, which had protected the middle class from its natural predators for years, was severely underestimated. We believe that removal of the social safety net, combined with rapid political-climate changes, made life very difficult for the middle class, and eventually eradicated it altogether.” 

One of the 15 permanent exhibits, titled “Working For ‘The Weekend,'” examines the routines of middle-class wage-earners, who labored for roughly eight hours a day, five days a week. In return, they were afforded leisure time on Saturdays and Sundays. According to many anthropologists, these “weekends” were often spent taking “day trips,”eating at chain family restaurants, or watching “baseball” with the nuclear family. 

“Unlike members of the lower class, middle-class people earned enough money in five days to take two days off to ‘hang out,'” said Benson Watercross, who took a private jet from his home in Aspen to visit the museum. “Their adequate wages provided a level of comfort and stability, and allowed them to enjoy diversions or purchase goods, thereby briefly escaping the mundanity.”



Corporate realpolitik

What should we call this?

FedEx in January announced it had renegotiated a deal to buy 777 Freighters from Boeing over the next decade. The company increased its order to 30 planes from 15 and agreed on an option for another 15 planes.

The labor-related cancellation provision came to light in FedEx’s filing on third quarter earnings. “Our obligation to purchase these additional aircraft is conditioned upon there being no event that causes FedEx or its employees not to be covered by the Railway Labor Act.”

The overwhelming number of commentators on the article see FedEx’s move as a blow on behalf of economic freedom; a kind of first-shot in the revolution against the liberals.

So what is the connection between this battle and ditching Boeing for Airbus? None, really. Airbus is pretty unionized, and few would argue that European labor laws are more pro-corporation than US labor laws

In truth, this is simply corporate extortion. A All FedEx cares about is continuing an unfair advantage over UPS. Because FedEx was founded as an airline, its truck drivers are covered by the Railway Labor Act. UPS is subject to no such quirk. So how to maintain this exemption? Threaten American jobs at another corporation–and unionized ones at that.

It all amounts to a pretty stark demonstration of the stakes of the current battle over the economic policies of the country, and of the correctness of underlying rationale for a new progressive agenda.

(H/t Josh Marshall)


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