THURS NOVEMBER 15th
16 Beaver Street, Downtown Manhattan directions (note: we are having the meeting off campus for confidentiality)
**We know a lot of people are still recovering from Sandy. During this time, many of us are feeling the brunt of our low wages, lack of job security, no health insurance, and isolation. Many of us were affected by the hurricane, and are also doing relief work, and we see organizing at our work as an important part of this long term recovery.**
WHY ARE WE MEETING?
Adjuncts all over Hunter have been meeting in our departments, and are feeling closer and less alienated. By meeting together, we figured out we have at least the following in common:
- even if we work a full course load, our wages will barely equal half the rate of full-time faculty. We risk being fired every semester, and that it will be called “non-reappointment” so we won’t be able to get unemployment.
- Every semester that we are “lucky” enough to teach two courses (what we used need to do for three consecutive semesters to get subpar health insurance—which we may lose at any time), our classes will bigger, and with Pathways, our credit hours may be cut since we are paid “hourly” less credit hours means lower wages, even though we see an increase class sizes, a speed-up in the amount of material we need to teach, and ultimately more work).
- We have very little access to printing and office materials despite teaching between 100-500 students a semester.
- any of us are doing this without health insurance, and while working at least one other job.
- We know we need to take collective action, which means getting together as adjuncts.
WE ARE INSPIRED
All over the world, precarious workers (those of us without long-term contracts, with no or limited health insurance, and with low pay) are withholding their labor, to show that they are not superfluous, but in fact necessary. They are working outside the structure of formal trade unions, and creating their own organizations! Adjuncts at the University of Agean in Greece just won back the adjunct jobs the school system threatened to chop after a several week strike (http://lastingfuture.
THOUGHTS ON A GRADE STRIKE
Hunter Teaches has been brainstorming tactics to win higher wages, multi-semester contracts, and real workload limits, and have thought about the grade strike; or the withholding of grades, which has been used by educators to win demands from workload requirements to union recognition.
In the recent past at CUNY adjuncts have been active.
- We have gone to our “union” (which is more like a professional organization for full time faculty than an organization made up of fighting workers) and asked nicely, and also protested loudly for adjunct demands in our contract with management.
- We have staged “days of action” where we disrupted the normal operations of the University, and shown our presence in the streets of New York City and the halls of our workplaces
- We have “taught-in” when we teach our students about our exploitation and theirs;
- We have even had “one-day strikes” where we refused to enter the school for one day.
If even half the adjuncts at a given school refused to submit grades, the university would be at a standstill. No scabs can be brought in to submit grades for us by the end of the semester, during which we have worked above and beyond our capacity. Adjuncts might say “I'll get fired” or “I need this job” and that's absolutely true if we do not organize ourselves to fight back. The reality is that attempting to go forward as an individual is a near guarantee of losing either your whole job, or getting your hours and health care cut, while acting together is a guarentee of improving our stability and working conditions. While it’s true that CUNY has no problem firing handfuls of adjuncts, they do not have the resources to fire all of us or even half of us. Stopping the production of the commodity we produce forces management onto our terms.And while actions like one-day strikes and walk-outs are very effective in other workplaces with hourly waged workers, our hourly pay is an illusion. It is a way to make our wages appear high, and also to cut them drastically if we teach a class with fewer credits (even though the hours we put in is nearly the same). What we are actually paid in exchange for is the entire course. What the University gets in exchange is a grade.
In order to prove the power we have, and force management onto our terrain, we need to show that we can work together with each other, and with students, to withhold these grades until our demands are met