February 20, 2011
If you have been hiding under a rock lately, you might not know that teachers are among the public sector workers raging against the governor in Wisconsin. I am watching the protests against stripping unions of their ability to bargain collectively, because I live in a Right To Work state, and work as an adjunct. I know what it means not to be able to bargain collectively, to be lost in a sea of isolation with no way of fighting against unfairness, yet not being able to afford to stop working, and not being able to move on despite efforts to do so.
What is that life like?
I don’t get to chose my own schedule. I either accept the classes offered or I turn them down. At the same time, I am limited to how many classes I am permitted to accept. This only serves to limit my income.
I teach more classes per semester than the full-time professor/instructor in my department. Only I don’t get benefits, and make about 2/3 what they are making, and that only because I have a higher degree than they do.
I have no way to appeal for a raise in pay. Fortunately, I am working for a college that worked very hard to not cut pay to adjuncts. Not every adjunct in the system as been as fortunate. I have worked for twelve years, and only had my pay cut once.
If the college decides it doesn’t have enough money, it simply does not offer me any classes. There will be no warning of this, nor any recourse. They can decide to offer my classes to another person at their whim, and I have no warning or recourse.
In a Right-to-work state, you can be fired for no reason at all. No reason is needed. It makes it incredibly difficult to prove cases of discrimination, because they do not need to state any reason for firing you.
Collective bargaining is an important tool for workers to get fair treatment and recompense for their labor and efforts. It allows economies to be stable because everyone knows what is expected and how much preparation is needed if something goes awry. It gives workers channels for appeal against unfair policies, practices, and situations.
A school is only as good as the teacher in front of you. Taking away pay and benefits is not a good way to keep excellent teachers in the classroom. And is your nation’s future something you want going to the lowest bidder?