Steering Committee, National Mobilization for Equity
Peter D.G. Brown, United University Professions (UUP), Coordinator
- Gregory A. Cendana. Asian Pacific Labor Alliance (APALA)
- Jacob Crawford, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT)
- Malini Cadambi Daniel / Sean Collins, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
- Larry Eson, AAUP Colorado, Front Range CC Chapter (AAUP-FRCC)
- Joseph J. Fahey, Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice (CSWJ)
- Ari Kamen / Phillip Leber, Working Families Party (WFP)
- William Lipkin, United Adjunct Faculty of New Jersey (UAFNJ)
- Marcia Newfield / Susan DiRaimo, Professional Staff Congress (PSC-CUNY)
- Alyssa Picard, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
- Mark F. Smith, National Education Association (NEA)
- Vanessa Vaile, Precarious Faculty Information Network, NME Web and Social Media Administrator
- Marnie Weigle, California Part-time Faculty Association (CPFA)
The National Mobilization for Equity, a growing coalition of organizations representing some seven million members, is committed to alleviating the present staffing crisis in higher education: three-quarters of the teaching jobs in American colleges are held by underpaid, precarious and poorly-supported contingent faculty. Our long-term goal is to end contingency as the norm. The current untenable situation not only adversely affects all faculty members, both contingent and tenure-track, it also negatively impacts our profession, our students and the quality of their education.
In the near-term, the National Mobilization for Equity will work toward these goals:
- Increase the starting salary for a three-credit semester course to a minimum of $5,000* for all instructors in higher education.
- Ensure academic freedom by providing progressively longer contracts for all contingent instructors who have proven themselves during an initial probationary period.
- Provide health insurance for all instructors, either through their college’s health insurance system or through the Affordable Care Act.
- Support the quality education of our students by providing their instructors with necessary office space, individual development support, telephones, email accounts and mail boxes.
- Guarantee fair and equitable access to unemployment benefits when college instructors are not working, including between academic terms.
- Guarantee eligibility for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program to all college instructors who have taught for ten years, during which they were repaying their student loans.
- With or without a time in-service requirement, allow all college teachers to vote and hold office in institutional governance, including faculty senates and academic departments.
*This figure is not absolute. Equitable pro-rata compensation varies widely from one academic environment and geographic region to another. While it is generally an appropriate amount in the Northeast, it may need to be adjusted up or down depending on the specific locale.
Significant progress has been made by unions, disciplinary societies, the media and lately the U.S. Congressional staff to draw attention to the plight of contingent academic labor. What is needed now is a visible project to activate the more than one million contingent teachers themselves. Individuals and organizational leaders around the country are coming together to form a National Mobilization for Equity, whose initial effort was to organize rallies and other public events, beginning on May Day 2014.
Recently, there have been a number of positive developments. Fueled by the outrage following the death of Margaret Mary Vojtko in September 2013, there have been a spate of articles exposing the “dirty little secret” of the two-tiered staffing system in higher education. The plight of adjuncts has now been covered on major network and cable television, CNN, PBS, NPR, the New York Times and other mainstream newspapers and magazines around the country. A number of excellent books on contingency have been published, along with some novels and even a Hollywood movie or two.
The move to create COCAL began almost two decades ago at the fringes of an MLA gathering in Washington, DC. Since then, there have been ten biennial COCAL conferences around the country, in Canada and Mexico. An adj-l listserv was established by COCAL members, and it has enabled contingents from around the country to communicate effectively.
Many dedicated individuals and organizations around the country have spent decades educating and organizing for equity. Enormous strides have been made by a few unions, especially the California Faculty Association. California is also the state where great efforts produced the Cervisi decision, enabling adjuncts to more readily collect unemployment benefits when they are not working. Joe Berry has written about this as have others who continue to be active well into their retirement years. Keith Hoeller, a long-time activist, has just published a new book: Equality for Contingent Faculty: Overcoming the Two-Tier System (Vanderbilt).
In 2009, we used the adj-l listserv to organize a steering committee that resulted in the founding of New Faculty Majority. NFM became the only national organization advocating exclusively for contingent concerns 52 weeks a year.
Maria Maisto, NFM’s President, emerged as a highly articulate and effective spokesperson for contingents. She, together with many other union and organizational leaders far too numerous to mention here, have helped raise awareness of the staffing crisis throughout the media and with disciplinary organizations, unions, governmental and other organizations.
In January 2014, a new report from the Democratic Staff of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, The Just-In-Time Professor, marks the first time Congress has formally acknowledged the growing problem of contingency. Congressman George Miller (D-California) became acutely aware of these issues as a result of NFM’s fall testimony regarding the effects of the Affordable Care Act on adjuncts. He created an e-Forum that collected stories from 845 adjunct faculty in 41 states.
These are just a few of the positive developments that have emerged in recent months.
During the last week of October 2013, Campus Equity Week (CEW) was celebrated at a couple of hundred of colleges around the country. Unfortunately, at the other 98% of the campuses, there was no trace of CEW, and it was business as usual. The exploitation of contingent academic labor continues unabated. Most adjuncts do not receive benefits such as health insurance from their employers, nor do they have any job security as the basis of any meaningful academic freedom. The national average compensation per three-credit course is still below $3K, as Josh Boldt‘s Adjunct Project database has shown.
In the spring of 2013, UUP activists at SUNY New Paltz launched a Mayday $5K Campaign. This calls for a minimum starting salary of $5,000 for a three-credit course, halfway between the current average compensation and the $7K recommended by the Modern Language Association as a minimum starting salary.
On February 3, 2014, UUP’s full Delegate Assembly unanimously passed the following resolution:
❝Resolved, that the Contingent Employment Committee supports efforts by UUP members to form a National Mobilization for Equity that will, collectively with other unions and organizations, organize rallies and other events annually, beginning on May 1, 2014. These activities are intended to focus attention on the urgent plight of contingent academic labor and to publicly advocate for change. The Contingent Employment Committee asks the full Delegate Assembly for its endorsement of the National Mobilization for Equity and additionally requests UUP President Fred Kowal to reach out to NYSUT and AFT to secure their material support for this effort.❞
During the past decade, we have collectively spent thousands of hours and considerable financial resources working for equity. Our movement lacks any single MLK-like charismatic leader. Instead, there are many dedicated unionists and activists willing to work together to build an equity movement, one step at a time. Individuals or organizational leaders who want to work on this are invited to contact us.