Broward College Professor: School's Response to Threat of Strike Is "Comical"

On Tuesday, Broward College adjunct professor Evan Rowe came out swinging against school administration by accusing it of paying poverty wages. Adjuncts can earn a max of $16,000 a year teaching a full load, he said. He threatened to organize a strike. Yesterday, the college responded, saying that it's illegal...
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On Tuesday, Broward College adjunct professor Evan Rowe came out swinging against school administration by accusing it of paying poverty wages. Adjuncts can earn a max of $16,000 a year teaching a full load, he said. He threatened to organize a strike.

Yesterday, the college responded, saying that it's illegal for public employees to strike but that the college hopes it doesn't come to that because it values its employees and will consider giving adjuncts a raise. Also, it said, adjunct positions are designed for people who have other jobs, and BC's adjuncts are paid third-best among similar colleges in the state.

To this, Rowe laughs.

Here's the college's statement:

Broward College strives to create a fulfilling work environment for all of its faculty and staff. Adjunct professors are valued colleagues of the Broward College community, and they play an imperative role in enriching the lives of our students through their real world and current experiences outside of the classroom. In fact, the adjunct position is not designed to be a full-time position. Many adjunct professors are actively employed full-time in their specialized field, which enables them to provide our students with up-to-date and relevant subject knowledge. To provide additional support and training adjuncts need, the College has introduced the Adjunct Faculty Institute, which provides a variety of professional development opportunities and engaging workshops to enrich the professional experience at the College for adjunct professors. Notably, Broward College ranks among the top three colleges (out of 28 total colleges) in the state for adjunct pay rates. Notwithstanding being ranked among the top 3, there have been recent conversations and proposals within the College to review and possibly upwardly adjust adjunct pay rates. This potential upward adjustment will be revisited this summer. Of course, the College would hope that there is no attempt to strike by our adjunct faculty, as strikes by public employees are prohibited by law, and a strike would undoubtedly compromise our students' ability to succeed.

And here's Rowe's response:

Yes, if by "valued" they mean poverty wages valued? It is always comical when an employer has to verbally ascribe value that they will not deliver in actual value (monetary) terms. Any employer can rationalize the low pay schemes that they create through their political leverage, as indeed, all wages, in all sectors, are determined in this fashion. But this is a decision, a political set of decisions. Not the hand of god or the divine right of kings. The notion that we all or should all have second jobs is comical. First off, what kind of legitimate employment in the public sector is built around the idea that the employees should have two jobs? I know the administration has private sector power envy and wants to build a 3rd world economy of a bunch of comfortable rich people living on state money, subordinating a class of desperate adjunct professors, but let's take it at face value. If we seriously are supposed to see this model as something that is ideal, then there is a simple solution: adjunct administrators. Just take a full-time job elsewhere, then come in and do the administering, and then go and work at, whatever, their "area of expertise" or whatever it is.

So if precarious adjunct labor is acceptable for the majority, then precarious administrative positions are going to have to be acceptable too. After all, I would gladly take over as president of the College for a 50 percent pay cut. This would be, as one administrator declared to a room full of adjuncts last summer, "efficient" as it would be efficient if we did this across the board. So the bottom line is that the values of these positions are politically determined values.

As for the rest of this Public Relations blurb, being "ranked" third is also, a joke. Would it matter to be the third best slave plantation in antebellum Alabama? If you create a social system built on heavy subordination of large groups of people, you aren't really in much position to issue that as a statement when the numbers are the numbers. And there is national coverage all over the issue at this point, pretty much just relaying everything I'm saying, but at a national level.

The bottom line in all of this is that you can just as easily have 100 percent adjuncts as you can have 100 percent full-time faculty. The only determining factor is the politics that determines who should have power within institutions of higher education. If you reduce the power of the administration, you can expand the power of the faculty.

As for the illegality of striking, there are many narrow versions of what a strike is. I tend to take a broader, more comprehensive view that a strike is an action, carried out by labor, that is designed to incapacitate an employer. This by no means needs to include the now archaic strategy of attempting to use work stoppages in order to complete the objectives of a strike. Labor will not be revitalized without a redevelopment and consistent potential redeployment of strikes, and there is no way to actually improve the lives of the students (at least the majority of our students, who are working class), and the general workforce in the United States, without massively enhancing the power of the working class. The entirety of the so called "middle class" was completely determined politically by this process. The physical similarities of standing on an assembly line in 1938 and standing at the checkout line or doing data entry or assisted living are roughly the same. The values of those jobs (in the case of the 1938 factory worker, MADE to be quite high through struggle and agitation) are determined by politics, not the divine right of kings, or fairy tales about markets, or whatever propaganda line they are pushing these days in order to justify the power of certain sectors in society over others.

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