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Momentum Building For AFT’s Campus Equity Week

Campus Equity WeekAttention Grows as Event List Expands for Week That Focuses on Connections Between Adjunct Faculty’s Working Conditions and Student Learning

WASHINGTON, Oct. 23, 2013—Momentum and attention are building for Campus Equity Week, Oct. 28-Nov. 2, with events being added daily to the more than 130 already planned around the country to raise awareness about the nation’s increasingly stratified higher education system.

Leaders from a broad coalition of organizations working on student and faculty issues on U.S. college campuses said more than 100 campuses in at least 20 states will participate in the week of education and activism. National actions will also take place on social media.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has declared Oct. 30, the Wednesday of Campus Equity Week, “Adjunct and Part-Time Faculty Recognition Day.” In addition, a film version of the solo play “FOR PROFIT,” which highlights the student debt crisis, will be shown on campuses around the country, followed by panel discussions on the connections between disinvestment in higher education, student debt, equity issues for disadvantaged students, and poor working conditions for adjunct faculty.

Other events planned nationwide range from a statewide higher education summit to a LGBT wedding reception to preview screenings of the documentary “Con Job: Stories of Adjunct and Contingent Labor.” An updated list of all events is available on the Campus Equity Week website.

So far, events are planned for campuses in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, with additional events being added daily. More than 50 California campuses will participate, including 23 community colleges and all 23 California State University campuses.

Campus Equity Week events will focus on various issues raised by the increased reliance on contingent faculty employment by U.S. colleges and universities. Adjunct or contingent faculty, the majority of whom are paid poverty-level wages and receive no benefits, make up more than 70 percent of faculty at colleges and universities nationwide—a situation that has pushed inequities to a crisis level at many institutions.

A central principle of the week is that high-quality education depends practically and ethically on professional and just working conditions for all faculty.

Members of this adjunct instructional workforce face many labor and equity issues, including changes in work schedules and the denial of healthcare benefits in response to the Affordable Care Act; student loan debt; issues for students, staff and faculty of color; misguided curriculum “reform”; institutions’ blind faith in massive open online courses (MOOCs) and other online education; and the disinvestment in public higher education.

Campus Equity Week, also known as Fair Employment Week in Canada, where it is held Oct. 21-25, began in 2001 under the auspices of the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor to highlight the appalling working conditions of the majority of the faculty—who have adjunct or contingent status—and the impact of those conditions on the quality of education.

Campus Equity Week Sponsoring and Supporting Organizations

AFT_Logo-2New Faculty Majority is the central coordinator of Campus Equity Week 2013, with support from the NFM Foundation, the Service Employees International Union, the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the American Association of University Professors, the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly and United University Professions. The Campaign for the Future of Higher Education is also a sponsor, with support from the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculty, the California Faculty Association, the Peralta (Calif.) Federation of Teachers and the Professional Staff Congress of the City University of New York.

 

With This Decision I Thee Wed: Labor Celebrates The Death Of DOMA

Discrimination comes in many forms. Some are discriminated based on their skin color, others are discriminated on the basis of their sex.  We all agree that discrimination is wrong.  Today our nation took a giant leap forward against the discrimination of the LBGT community.

“As the Supreme Court has clearly decided, DOMA was an unconstitutional law that discriminated against a group of Americans for no other reason than their sexual orientation, denying them basic rights and protections that so many of us take for granted,” AFGE General Counsel David Borer said.

AFT President Randi Wiengarten highlighted the role that labor played her statement.

“We are a nation built on the belief of equality for all—that all Americans are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The court affirmed these basic values and recognized that laws such as DOMA deny gay and lesbian Americans these fundamental rights and betray our values as a nation.

“The AFT and the rest of the labor movement have a proud history of standing up for equality and justice and fighting discrimination in every part of our society—from the workplace to the ballot box to the individual rights and freedoms we cherish as a nation. We were proud to be a part of the amicus briefs filed challenging the constitutionality of both DOMA and Prop 8.”

Mary Kay Henry, President of the SEIU highlighted the benefits of defeating DOMA in her statement.

“The Supreme Court’s historic 5-4 decision finding DOMA unconstitutional is a huge cause for celebration for gay and lesbian couples and for all Americans who care about equal justice under the law. This ruling means that gay and lesbian couples will have access to federal benefits and protections that they have been denied for too long, such as the right to access healthcare, pension and Social Security survivor benefits.”

Todays Supreme Court decision struck down the Defense of Marriage Act that prohibited the federal Government from recognizing the legal marriages of millions of gay couples.  This means that while some states are still trying to fight against the equal rights movement, the federal government will now except them with open arms.

Since the equal rights movement began members of the LBGT community have been fight at the state level to win the right to be married.  They have made great advances in these fights. Now nearly one-quarter our great country gives LBGT couple the freedom to marry.  Until today, the federal government rejected their marriage.  They could not file joint taxes, costing them thousands in extra taxes.  More importantly they could not receive the same benefits from their employers, as heterosexual couples.

Federal employees who are married to a spouse of the same sex have been directly harmed by DOMA, said Leisha Self, AFGE Legal Rights Attorney for the 14th District. In addition to disparate treatment with regard to federal taxes, federal employees have been barred from adding their same-sex spouses to their benefits, often forcing them to pay higher costs or receive less coverage for health insurance, vision and dental insurance and flexible spending accounts.

“Now that the Supreme Court has declared DOMA unconstitutional, we expect the federal government to move swiftly in changing its rules and regulations to ensure that all federal employees are afforded the same rights and benefits, regardless of whom they choose to marry,” Self said.

Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) showed his strong support for the LGBT community in this statement after the verdict was announced.

“The UFCW strongly supports full equality for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. That means equal rights in employment, immigration, and yes—marriage. The momentum for marriage equality is growing every day. The Supreme Court today restored it in California, Minnesota recently became the 12th state to recognize same-sex unions, and more are on the way. It is not a matter of if but when all Americans will have the freedom to marry. The UFCW looks forward to that day.”

Today’s verdict was also an enormous win for the state of California.   Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO recognized how important this decision is for workers in California and throughout the country.

“The Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 were radical and divisive laws that never should have been. Now, we can begin to fully clear the dark legal cloud that has hung over our nation. While justices ruled on the right side of history today, there is far more work to be done in the pursuit of equality. As a nation, we must continue to stand for what is right not only in freedom to marry for all loving and committed couples, but address other major issues for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers such as employment discrimination, health care access and more. We rejoice in today’s victory and are ready and willing to take on the challenges that still exist.”

Mary Kay Henry, President of the SEIU comments on the impact of the SCOTUS rejecting Prop 8 in California.

“The Court’s decision to dismiss California’s Proposition 8 for lack of standing is another major victory for gay and lesbian couples and for equal rights. By affirming the lower court’s ruling that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, now all Californians will have the right to marry whomever they choose.

“Despite this historic day for LGBT rights, we must remember that there is more work to do to ensure equality for all Americans. In 29 states a person can still be fired simply because of who he or she loves. Passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is the next fight we must take on if we are truly going to ensure equality on the job for all Americans and we look forward to joining with our allies to end discrimination in the workplace.”

President Henry is correct, the fight is not over.  With only twelves states legally recognizing the freedom to marry, we have much work to do.  As usual, labor will be there to help push for equality for all workers, regardless of their sexual orientation.

King’s Legacy: Workers Rights, Leader Fought Anti-Union Efforts, From Arnie Alpert

This is an Op/Ed from Arnie Alpert. The Op/Ed first ran in the Concord Monitor on January  16, 2012

 

Dr Martin Luther KingKing’s legacy: workers’ rights

Leader fought anti-union efforts

By Arnie Alpert

At a time when workers are struggling to find decent jobs and local legislators are debating whether to strip public sector workers of their rights to form unions, we would do well to consider that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life standing up for better jobs and workers’ rights. As was entirely consistent with his stand for peace and justice, he roundly condemned “right-to-work” laws like those now being pushed in New Hampshire.

Now branded a “civil rights leader,” King always tied the black freedom agenda to economics. At the 1963 March on Washington, formally known as the “March for Jobs and Freedom,” King explained that 100 years after slavery had been abolished, “the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”

Throughout his 13-year public career, from the Montgomery bus boycott to the Poor Peoples Campaign and the Memphis sanitation workers strike, King “consistently aligned himself with ordinary working people, supporting their demands for workplace rights and economic justice,” writes historian Michael Honey in the introduction to a new collection of King speeches.

For a timely example, King spoke out consistently against “right-to-work” laws like the one adopted in last year’s legislative session and vetoed by Gov. John Lynch. “Right-to-work “provides no ‘rights’ and no ‘works,’ King said. “Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining.”

Last week, the New Hampshire House approved HB 383, a version of “right to work” limited to state employees, by a vote of 212-128. A similar bill is up for a hearing this week.

King said of such proposals in 1961, “It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. It is supported by Southern segregationists who are trying to keep us from achieving our civil rights and our right of equal job opportunity. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone. Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights.”

“Segregationist” may be a label that no longer applies to anti-union lawmakers, but the connection between race and the impact of unions is not just a matter of history.
“The lingering effects of discrimination, the educational attainment gap, and economic segregation are among the causes of the stubborn racial divide in employment,” reports United for a Fair Economy in its annual “State of the Dream” report, released Friday.
“The erosion of manufacturing jobs in recent decades, coupled with the anti-government attack on public sector workers and labor unions, have exacerbated racial inequalities in employment,” the report says.

With blacks 30 percent more likely than the overall work force to work for the government, the attack on public sector workers reinforces dynamics that keep black poverty rates twice that of whites and keep the net worth of black families one-fifth that of white ones.

It was arithmetic like that that brought King to Memphis in 1968.

Working in dismal conditions at poverty level wages, more than 1,000 sanitation and sewage system workers had walked off the job on Feb. 12 that year. As they held daily meetings and marches over the next eight weeks, the fundamental issues in their struggle were the right to negotiate a union contract and the right to have union dues deducted from paychecks. The very same issues are at stake here.

This week the New Hampshire House Labor Committee is considering HB 1163, which “prohibits employers from withholding union dues from employees’ wages” and HB 1206, which does the same thing, but limits the restriction to public state workers.
More serious, perhaps, is HB 1645, “prohibiting all public employees from participating in collective bargaining.” Teachers, firefighters, police officers, the people who plow our roads and make sure our drinking water is safe, and the entire state workforce would lose the protection of their union contracts should this radical proposal become law.

After King’s assassination, the Memphis workers finally won an agreement with the city.
“In its wake,” writes Michael Honey, “public employees became the leading force for union expansion in America.”

New Hampshire’s public employees did not secure the right to unionize until 1975, which means they owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. King and the Memphis workers.

King was acutely aware of history, and often quoted Theodore Parker’s statement that “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

But as a scholar who understood the role played by organized labor in ending sweatshops and creating the American middle class, he knew someone had to do some active bending for justice to result.

“Social progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals,” he said in a 1961 speech to the United Auto Workers union.

If we want to be on the side of King’s dream of economic justice, we’ve got some work to do.

Dr King Continues To Inspire Us To Reach For The American Dream With Equality For All

What can I say about one of the greatest teachers of our time?  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not only our country’s greatest civil rights activist, he taught us in the labor movement that we are all connected, that workers’ rights are human rights.

No matter our race, or religion – all the millions of working families in our country are looking for the same thing.  It used to be called “The American Dream”.  We all want to have enough money to live in a decent home, enough that we don’t have to worry about paying for food or paying the heat bill.  We want to raise our children in safe neighborhoods with decent schools.  We want to have time outside of work, to spend with our children and get involved in our communities.  We want to live a full life and then be able to retire with dignity.

MLK Marching But in recent decades, the workers of this country have not been able to rise up and reach for that Dream.  Instead, we have been pushed down: through stagnant wages, and increased productivity. Through outsourcing and layoffs.  Under-employment and unemployment.  Through the mantra that “you’re lucky to even have a job.”  Steelworker, waitress, adjunct professor, custodian: we all share that same American Dream.  We are more alike than different.  This is the one thing that unions and union members have understood for hundreds of years.

Back in the 1960s, when unions represented more than 50% of the workforce, things were much different.  Wages were not excessive, but they were fair.  Families could have one parent at home and still afford that nice new GM car, and the house with the white picket fence.

But since then, unions have been under constant attack.  They push legislation like Right To Work (for less).  They pit private-sector worker against public-sector employee.  They tell us they can’t “afford” pay raises, they can’t “afford” to maintain our benefits, even when their profits are breaking records.  They hack away at our collective bargaining rights until they can make those rights meaningless.

Dr King was way ahead of his time when he said:

“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.” —Martin Luther King, speaking about right-to-work laws in 1961

Now, more than fifty years later, we are still fighting against Right To Work laws. Community activists are still working with the labor movement to protect collective bargaining rights.

Martin luther king quote

And we in the labor community are still fighting for equal rights for all.  Our unions are standing up for the rights of all workers: gay, lesbian, straight, black, white, or brown.  None of those things should ever hold us back.  None of those things should ever keep any one of us from reaching our own version of the American Dream.

It is an eternal truth: we are all connected.  “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me (Matthew 25:40).”

We must stand together, if we are to stand at all.

 

(This post was co-written by Matt Murray and Liz Iacobucci)

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