Equality for Adjuncts Benefits Full-time Faculty
Our adjunct members and our part- time professional staff are paid substantially less than our full time members, they have less job security, limited or no benefits, and are often treated as second class citizens who are not, for example, equal participants in college governance, eligible for certain awards, or given recognition for their service or achievements. With DCE (adjunct) contract negotiations currently underway, we have the opportunity to move toward equality for adjuncts. With future Day contract bargaining, we can move towards equality for part-time professional staff.
It’s easy to make the argument for equality as a matter of social justice: We should have equal pay for equal work. Women shouldn’t be paid less than men, African Americans and Latinos shouldn’t be paid less than Whites, and part-time faculty shouldn’t be paid less than full- time faculty for doing the same work. (Sometimes there is an argument about how much of the job is teaching versus non-instructional work, but that is a matter of implementation, not of principle.) Adjuncts deserve a substantial pay raise, and it’s easy to see how they benefit from that.
But in this column, I want to make a not-so-obvious argument: It is in the self- interest of full-time faculty to fight for equality for adjuncts . Take a hypothetical case, with round numbers to be easy to understand. Suppose an administrator knows that next year she or he will need to cover 20 courses in, let’s say, the English department. One way to do so would be Equality for Adjuncts Benefits Full-time Faculty to hire two full-time faculty at $60,000 a year each, with benefits that cost an additional $20,000 a year for each of them. That is, it costs $160,000 to cover 20 courses, an average of $8,000 per course. Alternatively, the administrator could hire 20 adjunct instructors at $3,000 per course, for a total cost of $60,000.
Faced with that choice, and facing a budget squeeze, most administrators hire adjuncts, regardless of their personal preferences. When a full-time faculty member retires, the only “cost-efficient” strategy is to replace the full-time retiree with more adjuncts. Adjuncts are not required to advise students, hold office hours, attend meetings, or serve on committees. Administrators load the extra non-instructional work onto existing full-time faculty. It’s a hassle to hire that many adjuncts; but in a financial crunch, it’s easier to lay them off. Administrators may even start looking for ways to push out existing full-time faculty in order that they can be replaced by more cost-effective adjuncts.
On the other hand, if adjuncts were paid $8,000 per course and had increased job security, the administrator would have a lot less incentive to push for more adjuncts. Hiring and keeping track of many people is a hassle; having a full-time person who does the necessary non-instructional work required outside the classroom is an asset. Administrators would still have the choice to hire full-time or adjunct faculty, but the choice would no longer involve a big cost savings.
Winning equality for adjuncts won’t be easy. In the coming months, I and the DCE bargaining team will be listening to you and talking with you about ways we can change the game: arguments we can use, ways we can spread the word, pressure we can bring to bear. A DCE bargaining support team is currently working with Chapter Presidents to organize and engage our members in strategic action throughout the negotiation process.
This sort of change can’t be won by a handful of people engaged in smart bar-gaining. Unions gain our power through our solidarity. We need to help all members understand this issue and why it is vital to all of us, adjunct and full-time; and we will need to undertake creative actions to make equality a reality. What that means and how we can do so will be the focus of many future communications from me, from the bargaining team, from the DCE bargaining support team working with the support of Chapter presidents, and I hope from member to member.
Diana Yohe, MCCC President