As someone who has been in a BNstate union for eight years, I have some thoughts on unions…
I should begin by saying that most of my closest friends are in unions — my union. We have a statewide contract for two-year schools — and it’s a pretty decent contract, for now. Thank goodness MN had the sense to elect a Democrat as Governor… Our budget crisis will suck-ass, but I don’t think he’s about to go busting our unions.
I also think that my own union leadership is off track, mostly because they don’t seem to be at all concerned with the inequities they negotiated me and my cohort into. You see, if you were hired at BNCC this year, with exactly my level of experience elsewhere, you’d make more money than me. You’d also get your FIRST sabbatical at 90% pay. The union leadership has all of that themselves, because they’ve been around forever… but those of us in the middle aren’t their concern.. We’re just stuck in the salary inequity do-nut hole and they don’t want to look down there… because my cohort is pissed.
Even considering all of that, I’m glad for my union. A union contract is (usually) a clear agreement between faculty and administration. It outlines what’s expected of us, how much we should be paid for most extra duties and how to formally resolve problems. It covers my pregnant faculty friends so they can have children even if they don’t have tenure.
The thing I like the most about my union is that the contract requires colleges to have no more than 25% of courses / faculty (that’s ambiguous) in non-permanent positions. While the rest of the country has students being taught by adjuncts, our students are being taught by full-time employees.
The other thing I really appreciate (more a few years ago than now… but still), an adjunct teaching at least 6 credits is on the same salary and benefit scale as I am, as a tenured faculty member. So, it costs the college the same to have me or an adjunct teach a section. If the adjunct teaches the same 5 classes as I do, they get the same (or more… sigh) pay than I do.
Due to my breast cancer diagnosis, I really appreciate the good health care benefits. I’ve paid only $1,100 out of pocket every year since my GP first felt the lump. Since then I’ve had four surgeries, many (expensive) PET scans, chemo that cost $2,000 to $4,000 PER SESSION.
I’m not so sure I’m for unions in every workplace. It’s kind of silly in many industries, where there are (or were) plenty of alternatives for workers. If McD’s isn’t treating you well, you can go work for Burger King – it just isn’t the case for community college faculty, police, firefighters or many other state workers. Without the threat that other companies will steal your most productive workers, companies (or the state) will pay the minimum amount necessary to keep people from moving out of the area to do their jobs.
Also, I’d like to cry BS on the claims that state workers are so highly paid — the thing is, during the boom times folks in many industries were making a shit-ton of money. An uneducated auto worker was making 2-3 times what I make as a Ph.D. Computer technicians, investment bakers and lawyers with less education (yea, yea a JD is a terminal degree, but a JD doesn’t write a frickin book to graduate) made a lot more money than I do.
State workers traded financial gain for security. We were told that state jobs were stable, had decent benefits and retirement so working for the state meant that you’d always have a job — even if that job was lower paid than in private sector. This same argument was made to federal employees and the military. Now, when the economy crashes and the high-rollers are broke, our jobs look pretty good and states like Wisconsin want to go back on their side of the deal.
I’ll tell you what, give me a time machine — I’ll go back to 1991, take one of their jobs and sock the money away — and they can teach a 5/5 load (about 500 students a year), do extra crap, read papers by students who can’t read or write and sit through administration’s sillyness
— but, don’t look for me here, I’ll be at the People’s Coffee Shop
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