• Art Jahnke

    Senior Contributing Editor

    Art Janke

    Art Jahnke began his career at the Real Paper, a Boston area alternative weekly. He has worked as a writer and editor at Boston Magazine, web editorial director at CXO Media, and executive editor in Marketing & Communications at Boston University, where his work was honored with many awards. Profile

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There are 18 comments on Part-Time Faculty Vote for Union 2 to 1

  1. Sad. I don’t want union “representation,” but because a simple majority of my colleagues do, we all get lumped together. If some people want to join together to negotiate for themselves, more power to you. Forcing the rest of us to go along with you while using coercive power to extract dues from me to pay for something I do not want is tyranny, pure and simple.

    1. How do you distinguish this from the government’s power to force you pay taxes and declare a legal status so long as you live on US soil?

      Is that automatically tyranny?

      1. Yes. Anything but a voluntary transaction is shameful. I feel I am fairly compensated by the University for my services and treated well. I neither want nor need a union to “advocate” for me.

    2. Dear Joe, with respect, you are misinformed. You will not have to join a union if you don’t want to. You may have to pay what’s known as an agency fee to help cover costs of securing the many benefits, including raises, that you’ll have access to as adjunct faculty at BU. Agency fees exist in part to prevent the kind of freeloading that some people will inevitably exploit when there’s a chance to get something for nothing. You will almost certainly benefit from this union victory & the upcoming negotiations. Please show some gratitude for those who sacrificed time & effort to advance your interests along with theirs. They also did this at some risk to their own jobs. Despite retaliation being illegal, it happens a lot, & it’s hard to punish because it’s hard to prove conclusively. Union activists make tremendous efforts on other peoples’ behalf. Please respect them & their endeavors.

  2. Wonderful news. Despite the University’s attempts to avoid a just enfranchisement of a huge number of workers educating the students who pay outrageous tuition, the just cause has prevailed.

    Hopefully in the future we will see BU reduce administrative bloat and continue to invest in the actual purpose of higher education.

  3. Well… congrats to them, and to the students and parents that will pay for their newly inflated salaries and benefits.

    Just don’t complain in the following years when tuition sky-rockets ‘inexplicably’.

    1. Dear BU sur-realist, if tuition & fees go up, it will be quite explicable. It’ll be because the BU admin chooses to pass on the minimal costs of a fair contract to students. As another commenter notes, reducing administrative bloat would help in many ways, including living wages for faculty without shafting the students.

  4. Unions typically result when there are abuses of labor. The classic corporate model of the perfect employee is slavery. Since that isn’t doable, management does the next best thing. It squeezes its employees as hard as it can. A great example is the style of hiring ‘temps’ to avoid paying benefits. Now the ‘temps’ are organizing. No surprise. Of course as the union becomes stronger, they begin to be the abuser. And the battle goes on. Do we call that scenario an example of good management???

    What I found interesting in the ‘BU vs Adjunct’ instance is that while all the talk of Adjuncts organizing was going on, the school decided to change the ratio of employee to school contribution for the cost of medical and dental insurance. From God knows when, till Dec. 31, 2013 all employees contributed approx. 1/3 and the school paid 2/3 of the cost. Starting Jan. 1, 2014 part timers had to pay 1/2 and the school paid the other half. That’s 17% increase in the cost of health insurance levied on Adjuncts. What was remarkable about that is that it went on while the school was suggesting that there was no merit in organizing. Meanwhile Pres. Brown made the announcement of the change in that ratio as a necessary economy measure to offset the seriously escalating cost of the insurance. The reality is that the total premium charges for one of the very popular, very comprehensive BCBS plans only went up 2% from 2013 to 2014. Can anyone identify a single gesture on the part of the school to really discourage part timers from organizing. Citing an old canard, the school was busy shooting itself in the foot.

    I think it would be very fitting for an agenda item in any new labor contract negotiation to be restoring the ratio for paying for health insurance.

    As for those who vigorously assert their desire to be a “one man (or woman) union” I ask – how much are you now paying for health insurance? In some cases he/she doesn’t care about this because the spouse works for an organization that is more liberal. BTW – I understand that the Harvard University medical system pays 90% and the employee pays 10%. I don’t know if that is true, nor do I know if it applies to part timers.
    But certainly the Adjunct’s ‘negotiating team’ should look into it…

    1. So if Harvard has better benefits, why don’t you go work there? Unlike the slavery you cited, you’re free to go work at any university in the world if you don’t like BU.

  5. Congratulations to my colleagues for this important victory! Taking into account the conditions typically faced by adjunct faculty, both at BU and elsewhere, voting for unionization was the only rational vote possible. BU has taken very significant steps in bettering the situation of non-tenure-track faculty in recent years, particularly with respect to those who work here full-time. In the face of the unionization effort, steps had begun to be taken to ameliorate the conditions of part-time faculty. But even had the BU administration had more time to improve the lot of the part-timers, there was ultimately fairly little that it could do. We’re talking here about the huge process of re-engineering that higher education as a whole is undergoing in the U.S. The “industry” (as higher education is referred to by some high ranking university administrators) is going in the direction of the other industries in the current economy: maximum flexibility for the employers in terms of hiring and firing employees according to the dictates of the moment (largely in the interest, of course, of maximizing profits) and minimal job security (and generally anemic salary compensation and benefits) for the employees. As the percentage of adjunct faculty continues to grow at an ever-increasing rate here in the U.S., there will come a time when young women and men thinking of pursuing a career teaching in higher education will wonder whether it makes any sense to pursue an advanced degree (which take years of hard work and personal sacrifice) if what waits for them at the end of the road is a badly paid job with zero security and no benefits to speak of. As more and more make the rational choice to pursue a future elsewhere in the economy, the “industry” of higher education will find itself hard-pressed to find qualified people to teach students. The unionization of adjunct faculty across the country serves as a much-needed wake-up call for colleges and universities. While it might make good “business sense” to keep hiring adjunct faculty within the current parameters, how will things look when they’re all unionized (as will inevitably happen)? At that point there will be much Monday-night quarterbacking, calling into question the plays called by “industry” leadership (both administrators and boards of trustees) starting roughly 30 years ago. Vigorous unions representing adjunct faculty will very probably end up costing colleges and universities much more money than they would have had to pay out had they opted for other paths available to them. Bad choices always come with a cost…

    1. Jim Iffland’s comment reflects the kind of long-term thinking & strategizing that is sorely needed to build a decent future for US higher ed. Too bad the majority of college administrators can’t really see beyond their own next paycheck. Applying the business model to higher ed is now exposed as the failure it is.

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