Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The IEA may lose 600 adjunct members at Columbia College. They want out. Why? by Fred Klonsky

“Adjunct faculty would seem to be fertile soil for the Illinois Education Association to expand its membership and influence and an area to expand collective bargaining rights. The question then is what is going on at Columbia College in Chicago where 600 members of the IEA local Part-time Faculty at Colombia (P-fac) are poised to disaffiliate from the IEA and NEA?

“To disaffiliate will not mean losing their collective bargaining rights or their union representation. It will mean leaving the IEA. There are two IEA locals at Columbia College. One represents the full-time staff (not the full-time faculty) and an older local represents the part-time adjuncts.

“This is not a situation that sends a message to yet-to-be-organized adjunct faculty in higher education that the IEA is a union home for them. How did we allow it to reach this point?” (Klonsky).

“The P-fac Vote to Disaffiliate:

“On December 22, 2014, after giving Illinois Education Association (IEA) every opportunity to represent our union, P-fac Department Representatives voted overwhelmingly (98%) to initiate steps to disaffiliate from IEA-NEA.  Ballots have been mailed asking you to amend our Constitution formally disaffiliating from IEA-NEA. 

“Only full members can vote and will receive ballots. Please look for your P-fac ballot in the mail, vote, and return your cast ballot immediately.  Please be sure to print and sign your name on the return envelope; unsigned ballots cannot be counted.  All ballots will be collected from the Post Office Box on January 21, 2015. 


“IEA has a conflict of interest.  First, when we get legal assistance from an IEA lawyer, that lawyer is beholden to IEA — not us.  ‘Our’ lawyer takes direction from someone else — IEA.  Second, IEA represents the full time staff union and is currently supporting them in trying to take courses from P-fac members.  This includes encouraging the College to hold courses for staff who have full time salaries and benefits instead of assigning that course to a qualified P-fac member who does not have a single course.  IEA’s position is in opposition to the P-fac contract that took us 4 years to negotiate. P-fac stands firm that it will not bargain away its members work to get IEA out of their conflict.

“IEA does not ‘get’ the needs of part-time and adjunct faculty.  As shown by its cavalier attitude to the College giving our courses to full-time staff, IEA just does not understand the needs of our members.  IEA is unwilling to stand up for the unique needs of our members.  We believe that a union run by part-time and adjunct faculty will be more responsive to the needs of members.

“IEA has collected our dues but has given us very, very little in return.  P-fac has effectively been running our own union with a very lean and limited staff for years, but we have not been afforded the resources to staff and operate the union as is desperately needed.  Despite these obstacles we negotiated one of the best contracts in the country and won at the NLRB.  Now in order to enforce this contract and ensure the protection of part time faculty interests, we need you to vote ‘yes’ to disaffiliation.

“Those reasons are enough, but there are more. We can do more with our dues.  IEA takes more than 70% percent of our dues. P-fac thinks it can use those dues better.  For example, building a reserve fund or hiring professionals who will answer only to us — not someone else who might be working against our interests.

“For many years, our requests for services from IEA have been delayed and denied. We had to fight very hard to get the basic legal services we did receive.  Since 1998, IEA has collected over 3.2 million dollars in dues.  We paid for our own training, grievance handling, negotiation expenses, accounting, many legal expenses, and even our own postage.

“We will keep our contract.  Disaffiliating does not change our contract or our collective bargaining relationship.  All it will do is give us a ‘divorce’ from IEA.  In fact, it will give us more control over our relationship with the College.

“We think that the future of P-fac is rooted in staying true to fighting for the core needs of our membership, needs rooted in the principals of a dignified work environment and economic justice.   We think that the best people to stand up for this are other part-time and adjunct faculty.  Ultimately this disaffiliation is driven by the fact that IEA will not commit to doing what it takes to fight for the workplace issues that matter most to our members like securing course assignments.

“We urge you to vote ‘yes’ to amend the P-fac Constitution and disaffiliate from IEA-NEA today.”

In Solidarity,

P-fac Steering Committee, Part-time Faculty Association at Columbia College

December 22, 2014

For more information, click here for Fred Klonsky’s blog

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