Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sunday Matinee: Chs 4 & 5: Organizing Boston & California

Barbara Wolf, Workplace 4.2
#adjunct organizing is A Simple Matter of Justice (Barbara Wolf, 2001). This Sunday's videos examine two noted cases and still relevant organizing models for regional and state, respectively.

Each Chapter focuses on the barriers, opportunities and organizing approaches being undertaken in a different situation. For example, Boston part-timers, through COCAL-Boston, are organizing on a regional basis because of the vast number of schools there, which may be the first US example of "metro strategy" later described by Joe Berry in Reclaiming the Ivory Tower

California community college part-time faculty, CPFA (California Part Time Faculty Association), are shown organizing statewide to change state laws. Sadly, the Boston page is gone, leaving no more than a a description in a Kairos article and dead link to a no longer existing website. The last Wayback Machine snapshot was May 1, 2003.  CPFA is still going strong: website, discussion list, quarterly journal, blog, Twitter, etc

About Boston Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor 

(via Contingent Faculty Websites, Kairos 8.1, 2001, by James A McDonald (fyi now head of the UL-Lafayette English Department)
"We are a group of activists dedicated to improving the status of so-called 'part-time' and other adjunct faculty in the Boston area," begins the text on the first page of the Web site for the Boston Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor. Of the four Web sites run by contingent faculty associations, the Boston COCAL site contains the most useful information for contingent outside Massachusetts and is the easiest to navigate. 
The first page of the Web site has impossible-to-miss links to a description of the program of the Boston COCAL, an eloquent statement of purpose that can be mined for arguments on other campuses, news, articles, links to relevant sites and the national COCAL listserv, and a reassuring essay by Larry Kaye entitled "How to Become a Successful Activist."  Boston COCAL's ten-point program to guide contingent faculty working conditions has been an important guide for part-time faculty trying to establish policies of ethical working conditions on their campuses.  
Most of the articles include news about contingent faculty activities in Boston taken from various sources or written by faculty, but the articles section also includes editorials and essays such as a My Turn piece from Newsweek entitled "The Full-Time Stress of Part-Time Professors" by a former adjunct teacher of first-year composition.
In Chapter 5, part-time faculty in the California Community Colleges are organizing statewide to change state laws: ecce CPFA (California Part Time Faculty Association)

About California Part-time Faculty Association (from their website)
In August, 1998, part-timers from as far south as San Diego and as far north as Rocklin met at El Chorro County Park in San Luis Obispo. After talking to one another via the Internet for about eighteen months, they felt it was time for a face-to-face discussion about possible resolutions to the problems facing part-timers in California's Community College system. 
Instead of coming together for yet one more gripe session, approximately 25 individuals representing 30 colleges came armed with specific ideas, including the formation of a new association to advocate part-time equity and serve as a resource center. Via the Internet, they would connect and communicate with the then 29,000 part-timers in the state, thus pooling knowledge and giving part-timers a stronger voice. 
These CPFA charter members also discussed proposing legislation and creating a newspaper that would go out not only to part-timers but also to the Chancellor's office, administrators, legislators, and lobbyists. They envisioned a group which would not compete with the various unions and professional/educational organizations such as FACCC or the State Academic Senate. Instead, it would focus on the areas not addressed by these groups and serve as another resource for improving the status of part-time faculty and providing quality education for California's students. 
Armed with confidence and enthusiasm and convinced that this proposed association could make a difference, one of this group returned to a local union chapter at Sierra College (SCFA--Adjunct Section) and gave a report of what had taken place at El Chorro. Having already funded participation in San Luis Obispo, the Executive Committee decided that the money had been well spent and then donated $500.00 seed money to CPFA, this fledgling association. 
Likewise, after another brief report to the Los Rios California Federation of Teachers board, they too generously contributed $500.00 seed money and offered to split expenses with Sierra so that these two associations could be represented in CPFA. The generosity and farsightedness of these two union locals was most gratifying. In October, 1998, the California Part-time Faculty Association (CPFA) formally came into being at Kern River Park near Bakersfield. We approved a constitution and by-laws and elected a slate of officers representing part-time faculty from all over the state.Today CPFA has members in over 40 districts and in over 50 colleges. Our Executive Council members are busy attending meetings and networking with FACCC, the Board of Governors, the Chancellor's office, and working within their various unions. 
With the landmark passing of AB 591, the bill which raised the ceiling on the part time teaching load from 60 to 67%, it is clear that CPFA is making the part-timers' voice heard. But we need to turn up the volume. Individuals at each campus should form local chapters of CPFA and participate in regional assemblies. Farsighted union locals, such as LRCFT and SCFA--Adjunct Section, have given their support by donating seed money and sponsoring representatives who in turn have given these part-timer activists greater voice. 
We urge all part-time faculty to join CPFA so that their voices have twice the volume. We challenge other locals to demonstrate the farsightedness of LRCFT by matching their donation of seed money and sponsoring at least one local member at CPFA state-wide meetings. We can't effect change if no one hears us

About Barbara Wolf and A Simple Matter of Justice, Workplace 4.2

Winning those struggles requires trust and solidarity among tenured and contingent educators, teachers and students, academic labor and other sectors of the workforce.  Independent filmmaker Barbara Wolf documents the upsurge of academic labor consciousness among contingent educators and the larger public in Degrees of Shame and A Simple Matter of Justice: Contingent Faculty Organize.  In her recent Workplace interview, she explains how the first video helps illuminate the institutional abuse of contingent academics, while the second highlights the various collective attempts to curb that abuse.  
In Degrees of Shame she demonstrates a deep concern for contingent teachers, showing her willingness to listen, and to focus attention on stories that our corporate administrators would prefer to see suppressed. A Simple Matter of Justice traces the deepening of Wolf’s concern as it celebrates the emergence of various forms of organized action.  The introduction to the video has already been screened at CEW events across the country, and has sparked interest in the upcoming episodes, which concern the importance of national organizations, regional coalitions, and local unions for adjunct equity.  
These episodes will dramatize how collectives flow out of particular circumstances and local contexts, and how organizational dynamics depend on the experiences of different educators bound by the same desires.  The video will show how specific organizations suit specific environments, while exploring their often untapped potential to energize each other.  In significant contrast to the NYU turf struggles described by Eric Marshall, Wolf considers how different collectives can move beyond competition to mutual reinforcement.  Such reinforcement is necessary not only for organizations, but for the various people within each institution.  
Only when diverse workers assert common interests will unionization lead to systemic change.

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