Broward College Adjunct Professors Make Maximum $16,000 a Year; They Are Now Unionizing, May Strike

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Broward College administration must be brought to account for paying starvation wages to its faculty.

I have taught American government and American history, primarily at Broward College, as an adjunct professor since 2004. Due to unannounced circumstances this semester, and as has been done many times to me in the past, my income was cut in half this term due to arbitrary scheduling of professors at the various campuses. Having been assigned a half load means I earn roughly $200 per week, as opposed to the normal $400 per week I make when I teach a full load. Either way, this is a travesty.

Even when teaching the maximum load of four classes per term, an adjunct can at most make $16,000 per year teaching both the fall and spring terms (the normal full year for full-time professors). This is half of the median income in Broward County.

But the few instructors deemed "full professor" make roughly three times that amount, and receive benefits, simply for teaching one more class and holding office hours. Like many colleges and universities throughout the country, Broward College continues to use adjuncts to provide most of the instruction for students. About 63 percent of the college's teaching staff is made up of adjuncts.

I have been living under poverty conditions for the past ten years. Poverty has been imposed on the adjunct faculty by college administration and, indirectly, by the board of trustees. It is a never-ending struggle to earn enough money to cover my basic living needs. God forbid my car break down, because I had to do everything I could simply to scrounge up the $1,500 to buy it used.

During down terms, when classes dry up, I have to take on the unbelievably frustrating task of simply attempting to navigate the welfare system, trying to get food stamps, and on and on. This is the life we live. Or rather, it is the life that has been imposed upon us by other people, namely, the college administration under President J. David Armstrong.

Armstrong's online bio states that "During the most challenging state budget reductions in the College's history, President Armstrong has managed to balance the budget through efficiencies..." These efficiencies include paying his staff poverty wages. Published reports indicate that as of last year, Armstrong's salary was $454,900. The discrepancy is obscene. But the blame is not limited simply to him but to all who stood by and allowed it to happen.

This gulf between managers and front-line staff is, by any ethical standard, a collective abusive relationship between one group of people against another. And like any type of bullying, it is facilitated not simply by the bullies but by those who stand idly by and have allowed it to happen -- and grow worse -- year after year. These people in positions of power and authority know who they are, and I do not need to name them.

The details of this process are a longer history than I have time for here, but suffice it to say that it dovetails with the political program carried out by both Republicans and Democrats over the past 40 years that has focused on ensuring a constant upward redistribution of wealth in both the private and public sector and uses state power to facilitate the process.

But you cannot win the Super Bowl until you can win games, and you cannot win games until you learn how to make plays and put points on the board. Faculty members cannot redress these extreme inequities unless they can begin the process of restoring faculty dominance over administration.

To that end, the adjunct faculty is beginning to unionize.

The Broward College Adjunct Faculty Union is in the formation process and is meeting to plan possible ways to redesign what was (in what now seems like ancient times) an old form of labor justice called "the strike." The strikes of the 1930s cannot be resurrected any more than the economy of the 1930s can. They must be redesigned, from scratch. Every generation faces its own battle against injustices imposed by unjust authority and the people who carry out those injustices.

I am fully aware that the "adjunct crisis," as some are calling it, is a national problem in higher education, not simply a "Broward College" labor crisis. The standard propaganda line from higher education administration is that faculty costs are what is driving up tuition costs (as opposed to unlimited student loan access, for-profit scam schools, and administration costs), but as this data shows it is college administration costs that are much of the problem, and this isn't even delving into a what-is-the-purpose-of-higher-education? discussion that we need to have.

The National Center for Education Statistics reported that in 2010-11, nonprofit colleges and universities spent $449 billion. Less than 29 percent of that -- $129 billion -- went for instruction, and part of that amount went for expenses other than professors' salaries. Yes, the $449 billion includes money spent on auxiliary enterprises (food and housing operations, for example), hospitals, and "independent operations" (whatever they are). Suppose we subtract the $85 billion that pays for all of that from the total. That leaves $364 billion. The $129 billion for instruction of students is still only 35 percent of that.

As of now, the BCAFU is in formation with a steering committee and is forming two tactical formations: One force is the strike force, which will be tasked with carrying out labor actions. The other, the support force, is doing media outreach and will be in charge of negotiations, recruitment, etc.

I will close with these basic opening demands: (1) a doubling of the adjunct rate, to a total of $16,000 per semester (from $8,000), which would put us at $32,000 per year (right about at the median income for Broward County, hardly that aggressive of an opening demand); (2) a seniority system for adjuncts in order to create greater predictability of job continuation and scheduling from term to term, to avoid the chronic uncertainty of how we will survive. I should note that these demands may increase or expand with time and as the conflict develops.

For adjuncts or strike team volunteers interested in joining the BCAFU, visit https://www.facebook.com/BCAFU .

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