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New AFL-CIO Report Focuses On The Struggles Of Latino Americans After The Great Recession

A new report released in honor of Labor Day by the AFL-CIO shows that four years after the Great Recession officially ended, Latino working families continue to be disproportionally affected by the weak economic recovery. Across the country, Latino workers are struggling with higher rates of unemployment and underemployment, lower wages, and a dire financial outlook for retirement.

The report titled “The elusive American Dream: Lower wages, high unemployment and an uncertain retirement for Latinos,” compiles economic data  relevant to Latinos from several recent Economic Policy Institute (EPI) studies to show that unemployment and underemployment rates were higher, wages were lower and financial security for seniors was lower among Latino and African American workers. These reports offer both macro- and micro-level solutions to these inequalities.

According to data compiled in this report, the nationwide unemployment rate for Latinos continues to be higher than for whites and is projected to remain “essentially” the same at the end of this year. Furthermore, an August economic snapshot found that among employed Latinos and African-Americans, roughly one in five are underemployed.

Lower wages continue to hold back Latino working families. Between 2007 and 2012, both Latino and Latina full-time workers – defined as those working 35 or more hours per week – earned less in wages than their white and African American counterparts.

Additionally, Latinos and African Americans are more likely than whites to spend retirement mired in poverty, a June EPI report found. 70.1 percent of Latinos, age 65 and older, have incomes less than two times the supplemental poverty threshold. In comparison, only 43.8 percent of whites are economically vulnerable.

“Latino workers have been especially hard hit by the economic crisis.  It doesn’t have to be this way,” said Kelly Ross, Deputy Director for Policy at the AFL-CIO. “Low wages and economic inequality are the result of deliberate policy decisions that can and must be changed.  Increasing wages and reducing inequality is not only a matter of fairness and justice, it is also urgently necessarily if we want to fix what is wrong with our economy.”

The report concludes with several solutions for policy makers to increase jobs and address these problems such as creating large public infrastructure projects, adopting expansionary fiscal policies, passing legislation to increase the federal minimum wage and minimum wage of tipped workers, raising labor standards, reestablishing the right to collective bargaining, and providing a roadmap to citizenship for undocumented workers.

“This report confirms the unfortunate reality that many Latino workers are struggling to provide even the most basic needs to their families,” said Ana Avendaño, AFL-CIO Assistant to the President and Director of Immigration and Community Action. “This is wrong. Latinos work hard every day to build this nation. Let’s honor Labor Day by advocating for policies that will allow them to reach the American Dream.”

View the entire report here.

Workers At Orlando Health Hospitals Are Not Backing Down, Nor Should They

The struggle between Orlando Health and its employees has really started to make waves.

There has been mainstream media coverage, here and here.

Read the NH Labor News articles on the situation, here and here.

Just so we are all on the same page, let’s recap.  The CEO of Orlando Health, Sherrie Satirik, says the hospitals are loosing money and they need to save over $18 million a year.  To make these saving a reality, the CEO and Executive board have decided to cut all night and weekend differentials from their workers.  This is going to cost workers between $7,000 and $15,000 a year.

Let’s not forget that the that Orlando Region Medical Center (a part of Orlando Health) is home to John Hillenmeyer, ranked as one of the top 25 highest paid non-profit hospital CEOs in the country.  Add into the fact that executives at Orlando Health pocketed $10.3 million in compensation last year.

It sure seems like they could make a few revisions to their executive compensation package, and that would help to balance their budget a little.

As of now over 4,000 people have signed a petition started by a RN at Winnie Parker Hospital asking Orlando Health to reconsider cutting the workers’ differentials.

It appears they are getting noticed.  The CEO of Orlando Health, Sherrie Sitarik, announced that Orlando Health would be delaying the forced pay cuts for one month.   Despite the delay, a spokesperson for Orlando Health said the decision to make the cuts is final: “that cannot be changed.”

JAMASitarik also warned that if the workers really wanted to keep these differentials, that Orlando Health would be “forced” to make another round of layoffs – of more than 300 employees.   Fewer nurses means higher nurse-to-patient ratios, lower quality-of-care, and higher mortality rates.  (Read the JAMA article “Hospital Nurse Staffing and Patient Mortality, Nurse Burnout, and Job Dissatisfaction” here.)

Some are wondering if the corporation had planned to lay off more workers even before they announced the pay cuts.  On August 2nd. the Orlando Health spokesperson told WFTV:

“Efficiency enhancements, expense reduction, restructuring processes, and reorganization of staff, are expected as part of this ongoing process.”

 This was days before Orlando Health announced they would be cutting workers’ pay.

National Nurses United has offered assistance to the workers – and it looks like they may need the outside help.

Eilynn Mcgowan, a RN from an Orlando Health hospital, told me “there are many people behind the scenes offering support but are afraid to step forward.” They are afraid they will lose their jobs if they speak out.  While Mcgowan is also worried about losing her job, she said “At some point people need to stop being afraid because that is what they (Orlando Health) want.  I refuse to back down to them.”

Mcgowan – like other Orlando Health nurses and staff – is angry that these cuts are coming after employees worked so hard to get MAGNET Hospital status.  Mcgowan said a lot of the MAGNET status accreditation comes from nurse’s satisfaction.

“A Magnet hospital is stated to be one where nursing delivers excellent patient outcomes, where nurses have a high level of job satisfaction, and where there is a low staff nurse turnover rate and appropriate grievance resolution. Magnet status is also said to indicate nursing involvement in data collection and decision-making in patient care delivery. The idea is that Magnet nursing leaders value staff nurses, involve them in shaping research-based nursing practice, and encourage and reward them for advancing in nursing practice. Magnet hospitals are supposed to have open communication between nurses and other members of the health care team, and an appropriate personnel mix to attain the best patient outcomes and staff work environment.” (1)

Arnold Palmer Hospital was recognized as a MAGNET hospital in 2013.  It’s not that many months later.  How can these hospitals say they are “listening to their staff” while they arbitrarily cut pay and lay off workers?

Being a MAGNET hospital means a lot to workers and to patients.

An October 2011 study by Linda Aiken and colleagues found that Magnet hospitals “have better work environments, a more highly educated nursing workforce, superior nurse-to-patient staffing ratios, and higher nurse satisfaction than non- Magnet hospitals.” (2)

Click here for more information on why hospitals and staff push for magnet status.

There is another reason that Orlando Health and Arnold Palmer Hospital pushed for MAGNET status. Like everything else in the corporate world it all boils down to money.  MAGNET Hospitals become a part of the pay for performance system.

“Medicare will launch the hospital VBP program, in which pay-for-performance programs will receive incentives for demonstrated excellence and improvements in patient safety and effective care.” (3)

This means that MAGNET hospitals get more money in reimbursement and extra incentives.

Eilynn Mcgowan told me the she firmly believed that “Orlando Health must have been planning these cuts before they received their MAGNET status”.   Hindsight is always 20/20.  Corporate executives don’t make decisions like this overnight.  She is obviously correct.

In November of 2012 the Orlando Sentinel reported:

“In the largest staff reduction in its nearly 100-year history, Orlando Health is cutting up to 400 jobs starting immediately, hospital system officials announced Monday.  The move is part of a broader effort to position the hospital system for the health-care overhaul, CEO Sherrie Sitarik said.

The elimination of jobs will occur in two phases and represents a 2 percent to 3 percent reduction in the system’s 16,000-person work force, said Orlando Health spokeswoman Kena Lewis. The cuts affect all departments and all eight of the system’s hospitals, including Orlando Regional Medical Center and Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, two of the system’s better-known facilities.”  (Emphasis added)

The second phase of those cuts were announced on August 2nd of this year.

This whole thing sounds fishy.  They laid off hundreds of workers, while pushing the staff to tell the accreditation team that they were happy and respected in their jobs, all to get MAGNET status.  Then after they get MAGNET status, they stick it to the workers with more layoffs and pay cuts.

It makes you wonder: what would these workers say now, if they were asked those same questions today?

The workers at Orlando Health hospitals are not taking this laying down.  They started a petition and are quickly organizing to form a solid negotiating team to fight back against these cuts.  Even if you do not work for Orlando Health – if you support these hard working people, start by signing their petition.

Orlando Health, Balancing Bad Financing On The Backs Of Workers

Emergancy Room

Stop and think for a moment: who do you consider to be the hardest working people in any industry? I bet nurses are somewhere in your top five.  Nurses have a long and distinguished history of being hard working and caring individuals, who help people who cannot help themselves.

This is why I am disgusted at the actions being taken by the Orlando Health system.  Orlando Health is a non-profit hospital system in central Florida.  They are about to impose drastic pay cuts on these hard-working men and women.  I should say women and a few men.  Women make up over 90% of all registered nurses in the United States.  Another staggering fact is that the average age of a registered nurse is 46.  How many of them are mothers or grandmothers?

I know all about the work that these women do.  My mother was a registered nurse for nearly 40 years before she was forced into an early retirement due to chronic back problems.

Here is my problem with Orlando Health.  They are imposing drastic changes to the pay by cutting night and weekend differentials.  According to Sarah Collins a registered nurse at Winnie Parker Hospital for Women and Babies this means a loss of $600 per month, or $7000-$15,000 annually.

Why?  Why the drastic cuts to workers’ pay?  It’s not to increase their profit margins – this is supposedly a non-profit organization.  So where is all the money going? 

First: To the corporate executives.

The Orlando Business Journal reported:

“Becker’s Hospital Review’s list of top paid executives for non-profit health systems has two Central Florida names on the list. … John Hillenmeyer, former CEO of Orlando Regional Medical Center, made $1.25 million in 2010.”

According to Orlando Health’s latest Form 990,

  • Hillenmayer received more than $2.2 million in compensation in 2011; and
  • Orlando Health has 19 different Vice Presidents – including six who each received more than a half-million in compensation in 2011;
  • Orlando Health spent more than $10.3 million on compensation for “key” executives.

Second:  Into building projects.

Orlando Health is spending $297 million on renovation and expansion projects at the very same time they can’t seem to find the money to pay the nurses who actually take care of their patients.

To add insult to injury, these drastic cuts come after Orlando Health chopped hundreds of jobs last November.  Other workers had their hours reduced, during that round of cutbacks.

And now people are waiting over two hours in the emergency room.

If you are as outraged at these cuts as I am, then take one minute and sign Sarah’s petition.

On the petition site, Sarah says that Orlando Health refuses to negotiate with the staff.

Being a son of a union nurse, I know that at times efforts to negotiate can be very one-sided.  In my mother’s case, it wasn’t until the entire nursing staff and support staff walked out that the hospital really started to listen.  But when the hospital was nearly forced to close their doors due to a lack of staff, suddenly they wanted to talk.

Unfortunately, these workers at Orlando Health do not have any union representation – but even without a union, a collective voice will not be ignored.  Please take a minute and sign Sarah’s petition.

I think some union elections will be in their near future!

UPDATED 8-16-13

Read the response to this petition from CEO and President Sherrie Sitarik that was posted for all employees on the Orlando Health website.

UPDATED 8-17-13

National Nurses United a union that represents thousands of hospital staff workers throughout the country has sent a letter to inform everyone of their rights to organize a union.  Since the letter was not given to the NHLN you must read it on the Orlando Business Journal.

The union wants to help, and they can help.  Know your rights!

The letter begins…..

Dear Orlando Health RNs and other Health Care Providers:

Here are answers to your requests for information about your efforts to protect yourselves from pay cuts and other reductions in your working conditions. If you find this helpful, feel free to forward this message to others. You may contact NNOC-Florida at florida@nnoc.net.

Workers Unite As NH House Kills Two Anti-Worker Bills

Yesterday was a big day in the NH House for NH workers. Since the session began I have been watching a number of bills and their progress through the Legislature.

The first bill is SB 100 (NHLN post). This bill would remove the option to have a paper check printed and in turn give you a debit card that would automatically refill with your paycheck every two weeks.

Kevin Langridgan reported from the State House yesterday:

“Rep. Timothy Smith, D-Manchester, said these payroll cards are a hidden scam for low-wage workers, who can face hidden fees of up to $40 per transaction.

“This bill is pretty offensive,” Smith said. “This is one of the newer scams that have been pushed on our hard-working citizens, and it has taken the form of a payroll card.”

This bill was immediately shot down yesterday by the NH House (235-93), and rightfully so. Forcing employees to get a debit card that comes with automatic fees for withdrawal is absolutely wrong.

After the vote, Zandra Rice-Hawkins from Granite State Progress had this to say:

“SB 100 would have been purposefully harmful to employees, creating additional fees and expenses for them to collect and use their paycheck, and specifically avoiding sharing that information upfront,” Rice Hawkins said. “Granite State Progress is proud of the House members who stood strong to protect workers and small businesses in our state.”

The second bill I have been watching is SB 153. This is a sneaky bill that would allow the budget oversight committee to either approve or deny any union contract with state employees. This was an attempt by the Senate President to insert the legislature into the collective bargaining process.

State Rep. Linda DiSilvestro (D-Manchester) said, “the proposed committee will politicize the negotiation process.”

Many of the anti-union republicans tried to push for this bill. They want to have more control over the process.

The Senate passed the bill along party lines, the House outright rejected it 191-135.

Once again the NH House has taken a stance that collective bargaining has it place in New Hampshire. Workers rights and pay were protected. I am very proud of my State today.

 

D.C. Circuit Court Of Appeals Puts Employers Speech Above Workers Rights

NLRB Employee Rights Poster

How many times have you seen this poster? This is the ‘Employee Rights’ poster that was mandated by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to be prominently displayed in over 6 million worksites.   That was until a Circuit Court of Appeals Judge decided the ‘freedom of speech’ of the employer is more important than rights of workers.

The poster was created to inform the workers of their right to organize, and collectively bargain.  A right that is guaranteed to millions of workers, however they do not know it.   This poster was specifically designed to inform workers of all of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

Employers have balked at this mandate since it was instituted because they do not want workers to know they have the right to collectively bargain with them.  While some think that unions are bad, polling shows overwhelming support for collective bargaining.  Employers do not want employees to organize and form unions because it is well known that union workers make more money than non-union workers.  When employees make more money, business owners see a reduction in profits.

The other part of this poster that is extremely important is the fact that it is illegal for an employer to question you or take adverse actions against you for union activities.  Companies violate this part of the NLRA over and over because many of the workers do not know their rights.    I remember when I was 19, I got a summer job with the evil empire (Wal-Mart, before I knew how evil they were).  In their basic orientation they forced me to watch a video that basically told me that unions were terrible, money grubbing, organizations that force you to pay due and then do nothing for you.  You know, the complete opposite of what unions are all about.  At the time, I was also taking a college class on Labor/Management relations.  I asked, actually begged, for them to let me borrow the video to use for my class project.  They immediately shut me down, and would never let me view the movie again.  I think they knew they were skirting the NLRA anti-union regulations with their video and did not want anyone outside of Wal-Mart to see it.

The video I remember was very similar to the one that Gawker obtained from the Target.   I am serious, check it out.  See if you think it follows the law.

Once again the corporations right to free speech beats out the workers rights to organize.    Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO responded to this ruling in a written statement.

“In today’s workplace, employers are required to display posters explaining wage and hour rights, health and safety and discrimination laws, even emergency escape routes. The D.C. Circuit ruling suggests that courts should strike down hundreds of notice requirements, not only those that inform workers about their rights and warn them of hazards, but also those on cigarette packages, in home mortgages and many other areas. The Court’s twisted logic finds that “freedom of speech” precludes the government from requiring employers to provide certain information to employees. This is absurd: when workers know their rights, the laws work as intended.

Here, here President Trumka, you nailed it.  The goal of these posters, to inform the workers of their rights.  The fact that they cannot be disciplined, fired, admonished, or any other adverse actions by their employer for activities in forming/joining a union.   This is just another absurd ruling in favor of ‘corporate people’  over the actual people who work for these corporations.   The good news is that President Obama plans to take this case to the Supreme Court if he needs to.

Poor Pay And Poor Conditions For NH Community College Faculty

By Rep. RICK WATROUS

(Published in print: Sunday, April 7, 2013)

Imagine a community college system where most of the professors earn less in a year than the maintenance staff. Imagine a community college system that responded to a state cut in funding by giving its administrators huge pay increases.

Welcome to the Community College System of New Hampshire.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the teachers at New Hampshire’s community colleges are the lowest-paid faculty in New England, and among the lowest in the whole country. According to CCSNH records, 77 percent – well over 1,000 people – of the system’s faculty are adjunct professors. Most of these adjuncts barely earn a living wage.

I am an adjunct English professor at NHTI in Concord. Adjuncts are hired one semester at a time to teach specific courses. We receive no pension, no health care, no benefits and have zero job security. We often receive our teaching contracts only a few days before the semester begins. We don’t have offices, so our students have a hard time connecting with us outside of class.

Although we have advanced degrees, we can teach a full load of college courses and make less than $20,000 a year. We teach the lion’s share of the courses; without us the state’s community college system could not function.

In its recent “Information for Elected Officials” handout, the Community College System of New Hampshire states: “Our focus is on teaching, learning, and providing the support students need to achieve.” The most important people in any school – other than the students themselves – are the teachers. Yet the actions of the community college leadership show a distinct lack of focus on the people who teach their students.

Both the adjunct and the full-time faculties have become painfully aware that the system office appears to view itself as the top priority. When I started working for NHTI in the mid-1980s, the system office consisted of the commissioner and three other people. Now there are 60 people in the system office in purely administrative roles – people who never set foot in a classroom. And each college still has its own administrative staff.

In the last state budget, the Legislature reduced community college system funding. However, while outwardly proclaiming financial hardship, the system’s board of trustees quietly awarded huge raises to its “executive officers, administrative officers, and confidential personnel” – according to minutes from a non-public October 2012 meeting.

The new chancellor, Ross Gittell, received a $36,136 raise, increasing his yearly salary to $244,504. The vice chancellor received a $27,663 raise. The president of NHTI received a $24,000 raise. And so forth.

Three-quarters of the faculty at the community college system don’t even make $24,000 in a year. The people who do the actual teaching haven’t seen a raise in years.

To improve working conditions, two years ago the adjunct faculty formed their union with the State Employees’ Association. After two years of negotiations with CCSNH officials, there is still no contract.

In fact, conditions for adjunct professors are going from bad to worse. Beginning this fall, we can teach no more than nine credits a semester, which means three three-credit classes or two four-credit classes.

What does that mean in dollars? A Level 1 adjunct instructor makes $1,359 for a 3-credit, 15-week course, while a top Level 4 adjunct professor (like myself) makes $2,028 for a three-credit course. So an adjunct who is limited to a nine-credit schedule in the spring and fall can only make – depending on their level – about $8,000 to $12,000 per year.

While the system is driving its existing adjuncts into poverty, the colleges will have to hire more adjuncts to take up the slack. At the NHTI English Department, there are now seven full-time professors and about 45 adjuncts. This fall they’ll probably have 60-plus adjuncts just in the English Department because of the course load restriction.

Increasingly, there will be a revolving door of teachers who spend less and less time interacting with students before going off to other jobs. How is this beneficial to students? They are less likely to receive a quality education from professors who are demoralized, impoverished and rarely on campus.

Community college system leaders have created a top-heavy system that drains resources better spent actually educating students. Our students deserve better.

(State Rep. Rick Watrous lives in Concord.)

Is A Woman Only Worth 80% Of A Man? Then Why Are Women Still Fighting For Equal Pay?

Fifty years ago, President Kennedy signed into law the Equal Pay Act that was intended to end the wage gap that exist between men and women.  In 1963, the wage gap was 59 cents on the dollar for women in the workplace.  That is just over half what a man made for the same job (assuming they would have even hired her for the same job).  With fifty years of growth and progress, surely we have ended this silly gap and no longer need laws like this, right?  Sadly, no.

From BLS

From BLS

Today, a woman makes on average 80 cents on the dollar to a man.  That’s is truly sad, that we are still fighting the same fight over and over again.  Why?  That I cannot answer. What I can say is that there have been people who have always worked to reduce the wage gap: labor unions.

Labor unions have always been fighting back against discrimination of any kind. They fight back against racism and sexism the same way.  They treat everyone equal in every way.  Every member gets the same one vote.  Every member gets their voice heard.  Every one is paid the same for the same work.

Unions negotiate starting pay for workers as part of their contract.  That starting pay does not change if you are a white man, an African-American women, or vice-versa.  The base pay is just that: the base pay.  Everyone starts at the same place.

Some people, like Nashua State Rep Jan Schmidt understand this.  Here’s what she told me:

“People ask me why there are unions today… people who have no memory or sense of history, people who blindly believe that a person alone has complete power to shape their own fate, people who have listened to too much talk radio with their constant pounding of union-hate paid for by corporations that know if unions gain a foothold, they may have a few pennies less in their Cayman bank account.

“This is one reason we need to remember Equal Pay Day, corporations willingly pay the people they expect to buy their goods with wages so low that they leave the state picking up the food stamp cost for that family. To them (the corporation CEOs)… the pennies in their accounts are worth more than the lives they sacrifice.”

So when you ask me, hey Matt, how do we solve the gender wage gap? I will give you the same answer I have given time and time before: JOIN A UNION!

 

There Are No Free-Rides, The Fight Against Right To Work (For Less)

The ‘Right To Work’ for less argument has been going on all across the country for many, many years.  The proponents say it will create jobs and give workers a choice.  These are great message points for them because they mean nothing and there is no basis in reality.

The fact is that, unions fought, worked, and died for the rights and privileges that many workers take for granted now.  The fact that we have weekends or vacations are just two of thedozens of examples (image here) of how unions fought for better working conditions for all.

Now unions are fighting back against anti-worker legislation and policies that are destroying the American (and Canadian) labor markets.  They are shipping good paying manufacturing jobs overseas and then blaming the workers for not having jobs.  They are creating policies that have one thing in mind, smash the unions!

This is the case with ‘right to work’ laws. This idea of a ‘right to work’ is inappropriately named.   It should be called the right to freeload.

Unions have always maintained that if you are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, and that you benefit from that agreement, that you should have to pay for the representation provided to you by the union.  In non-‘right to work’ states, unions are allowed to negotiated a clause in the contract to include an ‘agency fee’ or non-member fee for representation.  This fee is not used to better the union, it is only to cover the costs of drafting and maintaining the collective bargaining agreement.   In ‘right to work’ states unions are forbidden from incorporating this clause into an agreement, allowing non-members to benefit from the union without have to pay for it, aka freeload.

Right to work for less has been a national fight in the United States for many years, now the unions in Canada are starting to see it popping up in legislation in their country.  Many of the unions in Canada are part of U.S. Internationals like the UAW, IAFF or USW.    One of these unions took a moment to create a short video to explain that there are no ‘free rides’ when it comes to union representation.

The video is created by award winning Canadian director Bruce MacDonald and the Ontario Public Service Employee Union to send a message to the “Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak about that party’s plans for the province’s unions“.

Right to work is more that just a free ride for non-members.  It weakens the entire union process.  It weakens the unions collective bargaining rights, and that eventually hurts all workers.  Do you not see the correlation between the decline in union membership and the decline of workers wages?

If you want to see wages on the rise again, join a union.  If you want to see companies offering good healthcare options again, join a union.  If there is no union for your job, help to organize one, because there is always a union to fit your job.

Do You Still Believe That ALEC Is Not Influencing Our State Legislatures To Break Our Unions?

For at least two years the Center for Media and Democracy and hundreds of other progressive media outlets (like the NHLN and Granite State Progress) have been working to show the connection between legislation in our local state houses and ALEC (The American Legislative Exchange Council).

After nearly two years of intense scrutiny ALEC has finally decided to come clean.  ALEC release all of their model legislation, which can be viewed here.  The list of legislative topics is to long to show here but I want highlight some very significant labor related model legislation.

All of these model legislations, ironically labeled ‘worker freedom’, are designed to reduce workers rights, reduce safety, and bust unions.  Some of these have made national headlines lately, including the ‘Right To Work’ for less bill and the ‘Paycheck Protection’ bill.

We must continue to pressure our legislators until ALEC is completely debunked. Organizations are leaving ALEC as fast as they can, which is good.  Until the entire organization is gone, I will continue to expose this corporate funded lobbying group for their union busting actions.

(More information can be found on PR Watch.ORG)

After Two Years NH Community College Adjunct Professors Still Have No Contract!

SEIU Adjunct 2

Two Years and Still No Contract – Aren’t the Community College Students Worth It?

Earlier today a group of Adjunct (part-time) Faculty members in the NH Community College System demonstrated with signs and chants at the Manchester Community College Campus.  They were there to call attention to the fact that since the Adjunct Faculty overwhelmingly decided to form a union over two years ago; they are still without a first contract.  The administration has stalled the contract process repeatedly and is apparently not interested in negotiating.  Since the two sides have not been able to agree upon a contract, the matter 063 copy_low resis currently in mediation.  The group welcomed members of the administration’s mediation representatives as they entered the building prior to the beginning of today’s meeting.  They also delivered over 500 petitions to the administration that have been signed in support of the adjunct’s cause.

About three quarters of the teaching staff in the CCSNH system are adjunct faculty members.  Their part-time status means they earn lower wages, have no access to health benefits, do not earn vacation time and are ineligible for retirement benefits.  “This is an academic sweat shop,” said adjunct member Mary Lee Sargeant.  Sargeant taught full-time for 34 years in the Illinois community college system before teaching as an adjunct in NH. “I’ve been an adjunct here for the last ten years and it is infuriating – the treatment and lack of empathy the adjunct faculty have here.” “In Illinois, part-time faculty members are respected, they earn decent wages, benefits and support from the administration,” she said. “They are valued.”

Sargeant spoke of a colleague who had been teaching eight to ten courses per year at several of the CCSNH campuses and was earning only $20,000/year.  It is no longer possible for adjunct faculty to teach that number of courses. Immediately after the group decided to unionize, the administration issued a policy change that adjunct faculty could not teach more than nine credit hours each semester. Faculty members believe this was a retaliatory act and a function of them speaking up about the working conditions.

“I want to tell the administration, don’t squash me,” said Dave Fink, another adjunct faculty member. “I’m teaching all the students. What would you do without me?”

Ironically, at the same time NH teachers are fighting for respect and to earn a decent living, one of Governor Maggie Hassan’s priorities is education.  She is 068 copy_low resattempting to restore funding to the state’s higher education system. “How come the administration leaves its largest teaching force living in poverty and at risk? There’s an inherent hypocrisy telling students a good education is key to your future while you also treat your own employees like disposable human beings,” said Diana Lacey, President of the State Employees’ Association (SEA SEIU Local 1984).  The Adjunct Faculty is affiliated with SEA SEIU Local 1984.

To add to the irony, the CCSNH Board of Trustees approved significant salary increases for all the non-union administrators effective in January 2013. One college president received a $24,000 salary increase. (Source: CCSNH Board of Trustees October 4, 2012 minutes). That increase is more than an adjunct faculty member’s annual income from teaching.  There seems to be something terribly wrong with this picture.  Not only is this bad for the adjunct faculty, it is also bad for the consumers – the students.

Watch video from the event here.

 

Thanks to SEA/SEIU 1984 for sharing this post with us. (Original Link) We look forward to follow up stories on this.

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