Permanent Austerity

The adjuncts tend to teach core classes at Duquesne, and Cech noted the adjuncts’ lack job security because if their classes do not fill up, they are not guaranteed employment. Adjunct faculty members make up 40 percent of the liberal arts instructors and can earn up to no more than $10,224 in yearly salaries while full-time assistant professors within the liberal arts make a yearly salary of $65,300.

Part-Timers At Duquesne Unionize With the United Steelworkers

I’m always thinking that I sound crabby if not permanently angry so I go in search of good news. This piece, from Adjunct Nation, is in fact very good news insofar as it reports on six schools in the Pittsburgh area that are unionizing in affiliation with the United Steel Workers. It’s good news for a lot of reasons. I don’t think we’ll make any real progress until we have  a national labor movement,  and for that we need Card Check, but six schools in a city can at least begin to make a difference. Labor markets are very regional.

I like the idea of primary and secondary industry labor– the people who brought  us the weekend, ended child labor, created the minimum wage– working directly with tertiary industry people, especially education.   Solidarity is important, of course, and the traditional unions have a lot of expertise that we can all use. Even more importantly, we need a broadly representative labor movement that recognizes the necessity of a diverse economy.  Any economy overly focused on the so-called service industry is by definition a weak economy.

I also believe that these sorts of coalitions will eventually get us to the next important stage in the labor movement, which is a push to a shorter work week.  (Occupy Wall Street, are you listening?) It’s great that technology makes us more and more productive but if we don’t cut the labor week down to size this sort of progress will only lead to more unemployment. In the long run, the only real way to ensure some degree of equity will be to cut down the work week. If 20 hours were considered full-time, we’d really be on to something…

On the other hand it’s not all rainbows and unicorns…  The contrast between full-time and adjunct work at Duquesne and elsewhere illustrates a permanent state of austerity endemic in U.S. universities and growing worse each year.  These employment and salary disparities need to be widely known and ought to alarm everyone; if the austerity folks have their way our future is  an economy in which fewer and fewer workers have full-time positions while  more and more are under-employed and, of course, under-paid and over-worked.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

One Thought on “Permanent Austerity

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