How would UMUC adjunct faculty benefit from Collective Bargaining?
UMUC adjunct faculty would benefit from collective bargaining because administration would be required to bargain about appointment to teaching, pay, pay for cancellation of classes, faculty input in classroom structure and materials, transparency in criteria for appointment and reappointment, health benefits, tuition remission for faculty, and any other matter that is part of the terms and conditions of our employment as adjunct faculty. For examples of what SEIU Local 500 has negotiated for adjunct faculty it represents, see http://www.seiu500.org/category/worksites-and-contracts/
What is Collective Bargaining?
Collective bargaining is a process governed by law, which requires employers to bargain in good faith with their employees’ representative, about wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment. The law also protects employees against intimidation, retaliation, discrimination should they support or participate in the process. Legal penalties may be sought by that representative—usually a labor organization—or by individual employees, when an employer violates its legal obligations.
How do we get collective bargaining at UMUC?
Collective bargaining rights and protections are bestowed by law. Most private (non-government) employers and employees in the U.S. are governed by the federal National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Public employees of state or federal governments, however, are expressly excluded from protection under the NLRA. For the employees of a state—here Maryland—to have collective bargaining rights and protections, the state legislature must pass a law conferring these. In Maryland, all public school teachers and some community college teachers have collective bargaining rights and protections. Staff in the University System of Maryland (USM) have these protections, but as of today, Faculty in the USM—of which UMUC faculty are a part– do not.
This is one of our central goals, and we are working hard to get this legislative change. It requires lobbying in the state legislature, and at the same time, it requires organizing adjunct faculty throughout USM and especially at UMUC, to support lobbying and to send a message to administration at UMUC and at other System institutions that faculty want this.
Who is SEIU Local 500, and why have we chosen to join forces with this union?
The Service Employees International Union/Local 500 is a labor organization that is in the vanguard of organizing adjunct faculty in the Washington D.C. Metro area and elsewhere around the country. Those of us on the UMUC Adjunct Professors United/SEIU Local 500 Steering Committee chose to work with SEIU/Local 500, as opposed to other labor organizations because of its successes in organizing and in collective bargaining for adjunct faculty, because of its long term commitment to leave no faculty behind, and its history of successful organizing in other industries.
What is the difference between our union, UMUC Adjunct Professors United/SEIU Local 500 and the UMUC Adjunct Faculty Association?
Our union is an organization created by concerned adjunct faculty who believe that collective bargaining through an independent labor organization is the only way UMUC faculty can have a voice in their working conditions and the quality of education we offer our students. A number of our steering committee members have, for years, attempted to serve faculty through “shared governance”, through appeal to oversight by the USM Chancellor, and to the USM Board of Regents. These have been unsuccessful, and we now find ourselves with a Business Model that corporatizes us, that removes any oversight over finances or personnel, that substitutes a board of administrators and and-chosen full-time faculty, for an elected Faculty Advisory Council (50% adjunct faculty) which was elected by all faculty, that banned textbooks, dumbed down courses in favor of growth of enrollment dollars, and that allows surveillance and micromanaging of faculty within UMUC online classes—all to the detriment of our students.
We believe that UMUC administration is not about to reverse course simply by being politely asked to do so.
The Adjunct Faculty Association is an organization mandated by the USM. Adjuncts at UMUC organized it, back in 2013, with the hope that it could reach out to adjuncts, inform, organize and mobilize them, to put pressure on administration. We were frustrated in this effort, as we were in using existing shared governance mechanisms. The powers and processes of the AFA were defined by the System mandate—by what UMUC and USM administration wanted to give AFA. This is the “Meet and Confer” process, wherein every six months, the AFA asks administration to improve the lot of faculty (and students) and administration declines to do so.
What is the difference between the “Meet and Confer” Process, developed and defined by University of Maryland System and UMUC administration, and collective bargaining undertaken by a union selected by our faculty?
The “meet and confer” process originated as the brainchild of USM, specifically its Deputy Chancellor for Finance (!), in response to efforts by unions and USM faculty to get a collective bargaining bill through the state legislature, several years ago. The bill was considered in the Maryland Assembly subcommittee. Several members of our Steering Committee testified at those hearings, in fact. The bill was to be discussed several days later in the Maryland Senate subcommittee.
Instead, Governor Martin O’Malley met with System representatives, and another union that had been involved in lobbying for the legislation. The result was agreement to withdraw the bill, in exchange for the University System of Maryland setting up a process for adjunct faculty to “Meet and Confer” with institutional presidents.
The process of “Meet and Confer” was defined, delimited, and mandated by the Chancellor’s office, as a means to divert efforts to achieve collective bargaining protections and rights.
It has, over the years in which it has been in place, been ineffective in diverting UMUC administration from the deterioration of institutional integrity, faculty conditions, and educational quality. It was not designed to do this.
In contrast, collective bargaining undertaken by an independent labor organization committed and responsible to the faculty who (by law) it represents is not restricted by USM-defined processes, objectives, and methods selected by USM to maintain its hegemony over all decisions about educational quality and faculty conditions. Collective bargaining is good faith bargaining, and that good faith requires give and take, and real negotiation, not merely meeting and discussing.
Why is faculty confusion of the two beneficial to administration and harmful to faculty?
Faculty confusion about AFA and its difference from UMUC Adjunct Professors United/SEIU Local 500, is harmful to faculty and beneficial to administration efforts to maintain control. UMUC administration points to the AFA as a body which represents adjunct faculty and speaks for us, but in fact, it represents us because administration says it does. And it speaks for us in a whisper, in words that lack power or any need for acquiescence.
UMUC administration, at this time, opposes collective bargaining. Just as it rejects oversight by the state, as evidenced by the realization of its new “Business Model” , administration finds any independent input into academic or institutional decisions by professional educators unacceptable and undesirable. Thus the disbanding of the Faculty Advisory Council, elected by all faculty, from a field of all faculty.
What options are available in exposing, combatting and changing the reliance of UMUC administration on low quality education resources, and its banning of peer-reviewed, well organized, and foundational textbooks?
What has happened to educational offerings at UMUC over the past 6 years, culminating now in the banning of textbooks, the frequent use of subpar materials, and the dumbing down of classes, is shameful.
This has occurred without oversight or interference by the Chancellor’s office or by the Board of Regents.
But we have other options, and UMUC Adjunct Professors United/SEIU will be exploring and implementing these. Posing possibilities in the form of questions:
- Have these changes—opposed in their current form by so many UMUC educators—reached the educational press, e.g., the Chronicle of higher Education?
- Are the citizens of Maryland aware of the deterioration in education quality provided by its one Open Admissions University?
- Is the State legislature aware that UMUC’s singular pursuit of enrollment dollars has so diminished UMUC’s educational integrity?
- Have we spoken, as faculty, with one voice, in large numbers, rather than being unhappy, by ourselves in isolation with what current UMUC administration has wrought?
What options are available to faculty who want to get involved in organizing, and in publicizing conditions at UMUC, as a place of employment and an educational institution?
Faculty have a number of options for involvement, foremost of which is joining with our fledging union to share ideas, experiences, and suggestions for action with all of us.
We need to work on ending the isolation and atomization of UMUC adjunct faculty: To this end, we need faculty to be involved in building communication networks, by reaching out to colleagues in their departments. Contacting colleagues, canvassing them, and participating in arranged digital (or physical) meet-ups, off UMUC servers.
We need to build toward a critical mass of participants and members, so that even without express collective bargaining protections (yet!) we can make demands of administration without fear.
We need to work on legislative strategies, on publicizing conditions at UMUC (for faculty AND students), working with SEIU Local 500 in lobbying Maryland legislators, with regard to these conditions, and in support of winning collective bargaining rights and protections.
We need—your ideas and strategies, which we have not yet thought of. This is about building an organization that belongs to UMUC adjunct faculty. We on the steering committee have started the seeds,
But your engagement is essential to growth.