Adjuncts start up new union

Perry Continente,

Five adjunct professors have formed the Part Time Faculty Union with the intention of splitting from the current union, United Faculty, over accusations that UF was not properly representing part-time workers.

DVC adjunct political science professor Jeremy Cloward and the other founding members of the union released a statement announcing the separation and stating their goals and issues.

Cloward and the other PTFU members take issue with the lack of benefits, low pay and restrictions placed on part-time faculty.

“No founding member wants the exact salary, just a living wage,” said Cloward. Cloward holds a Ph.D with 12 years of teaching experience, but is categorized as being in the “very low income” bracket, just above the poverty line.

“Just pay us a living wage so we can teach,” he said. “No one is trying to get rich.”

The PTFU is demanding a $50K salary and better benefits for every adjunct professor; currently these employees make just over $30K teaching the maximum number of allowable classes in the district per year.

UF Vice President Jeffery Michaels weighed in on the union split and the demands.

“They are demanding $50K plus benefits or they go on strike,” said Michaels, before sarcastically saying that were that to happen it would be “the most popular” part-time job in the state. Michaels did agree with Cloward, however, that the adjunct professors are underpaid.

“Our system, by and large, rests on the unfair use of part-time labor,” he said. “We grossly underpay part-time faculty.”

When talking about the wage discrepancies and misuse of part-time labor, Michaels was proud of the work that the UF had done.

“I think the United Faculty is at the forefront of the fight [for part-time workers],” he said before pointing out the raises received by the group in the last two years.

Cloward was less impressed with the efforts, noting the small yearly raises are barely keeping above inflation.

One of the obstacles standing in the way of the PTFU is the exclusive contract the Contra Costa Community College District has with the UF, making them the only group legally allowed to negotiate salary or benefits for the next two years.

Michaels was concerned with legality, pointing out the law cannot be circumvented in this situation and calling the exclusive contract a “legal term” he doubted the PTFU could circumnavigate.

Executive Vice Chacellor of Administrative Services Gene Huff commented on the legality of the issue.

“There is no new union,” he said. “There is only one union recognized by the district.”

Huff elaborated there is a series of legal processes necessary for the formation of a new union and, so far, none of the required paperwork from the PTFU has come across his desk.

“From the district’s perspective there is only one bargaining agent,” he said.

Cloward is confident in his union despite this. “It’s a question of priorities,” he said about the PTFU dealing with the district, “Are there legal issues? Of course there are, so what?”

Michaels commented on the degree of the impact PTFU presents.

“The UF represents 1500 professors — five went on the Internet and declared that they are a union,” he said.

Cloward was more confident in the impact his union would have. “We make up more than 50% of the faculty,” he said, “If [we] strike they will be forced to deal with us.”

Brentwood adjunct professor John Crosthwaite was interested in, but hesitant to join the PTFU.

“I work 5 jobs,” said Crosthwaite. “I am interested and I see where they are coming from, but I can’t.”