Follow UAP over the finish line to their election at Temple U.

After months of hearings, countless ill-considered statements from administrators, and thousands of conversations among contingent faculty and union activists, members of United Academics of Philadelphia are in the final days of their union recognition campaign to join the Temple Association of University Professionals and gain collective bargaining for contingent faculty at Temple University. Ballots are set to be counted by the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board in Harrisburg next Wednesday, November 25.

Activists have been documenting the campaign on social media this entire time, so why not take a few moments to follow them through the last days of this phase of the campaign and send them a message of solidarity?

UAP on Instagram
UAP on Twitter
TAUP on Twitter
UAP on Facebook
TAUP on Facebook

In the meantime, if you are a contingent faculty union supporter at Temple and you haven’t done so already – SEND IN YOUR BALLOT TODAY! We’ll look forward to toasting your success next Wednesday!

Friday book review: “Reclaiming the Ivory Tower: Organizing Adjuncts to Change Higher Education,” by Joe Berry

[Editor’s note: Joe Berry’s essential text is reviewed here by AFT Higher Ed intern Nora Callahan, who is leaving us today to start her second year at Northeastern University. Thanks, Nora, for this review and for all your good work this summer! -AP]

Joe Berry brings an exciting and unique addition to the stack of books on the changing role of the adjunct professor–a step-by-step plan of action to save the profession and by extension the integrity of American college education. When my boss handed me a copy of Reclaiming the Ivory Tower: Organizing Adjuncts to Change Higher Education she said, “This is pretty much the foundational text for contingent faculty organizing.”

Though it seems to be written to an adjunct readership, understandably the target audience, the book is an important read for anyone interested in the modern trends in American higher education, the state of academic labor, or even the wider labor movement. I found it to be particularly valuable as a college student involved in supporting my school’s adjuncts in their contract fight.

The union had won the election before I even attended my orientation, so this book really helped me understand what had gone on in the organizing effort while I was hundreds of miles away still applying to colleges and studying for the SATs. Not only does it offer strategies at every stage of the campaign, it also shares comments from interviews with veteran adjunct unionists who have rowed through the previously unchartered waters, braved the storm, and offer their wisdom. Personally this book gave me some knowledge of what went on before I arrived, gave me some ideas about the future, and taught me about the history of the contingent faculty movement and overall trends in the degradation and corporatization of America’s institutes for higher learning.

The book is a modification of the author’s thesis and is laid out in five chapters. The first explains the current reality of colleges’ mass dependence on flexible, low-cost, casualized academic labor in the form of adjunct professors. The second discusses different strategies for contingent organizing inclusive of different types of colleges and in enough detail that the vast majority of readers will find it useful. The third chapter is essentially a history of contingent organizing in the Chicago area conveyed through 15 interviews Berry conducted with Chicago area adjunct organizers. In this chapter, readers are almost able to experience, through comments in the “organizers’ voices,” the real life examples of strategies laid out in the previous chapter.

Chapter four discusses the benefits of “A Metro Organizing Strategy” in which adjuncts at institutions across a whole city are organized together. This is particularly useful in regards to adjuncts because they often work at multiple institutions and it unites the community. Currently adjuncts are organizing with AFT via a metro campaign in Philadelphia, one of America’s most collegiate cities, where there are three existing individual AFT locals. Chapter 5 offers the reader, now full of insights, opinions, questions, and plans, “An Organizers Toolbox.” In this chapter the author offers readers practical, concrete advice and guidance for organizing as well as sections on how to reach potential leaders, becoming familiar with the laws, when to go public, and generally maintaining a strong united membership.

“Reclaiming the Ivory Tower” is a combined how-to and oral history. The author, Joe Berry, is a contingent faculty member himself, a union activist who taught Labor Education and History in the Chicago area (and is doing so in Vietnam this year). Published in 2005, the book is a modification of his 2002 dissertation, written for his PhD in Labor Studies from the Union Institute and University. I can tell you as a college student, soon-to-be member of the workforce, and concerned citizen, that this extremely relevant book is well worth the read 10 years later and is undoubtedly a foundational text for contingent faculty organizing

Member profile: From Ypsilanti to the Global Stage


Kay McGowan
Adjunct professor, cultural anthropology, Eastern Michigan University
Eastern Michigan University Federation of Teachers

When classes at Eastern Michigan University end each spring, Kay McGowan wraps things up with her anthropology students and turns her attention to her duties at the United Nations. One of the authors of the landmark Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People in 2007, McGowan, a woman of Mississippi Choctaw and Cherokee heritage, still represents indigenous people from around the world at UN meetings, regularly addressing the Committee to Eliminate Racial Discrimination and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on pressing issues. Among them: domestic violence, abusive “Indian” boarding schools, water as the next human rights issue and oil pipelines that threaten environment and well-being the world over.

While a college classroom at EMU and the halls of the United Nations may seem worlds apart, for McGowan they are closely linked. Because the most important lesson she has to offer her students is the inspiration that comes from making a difference in the world. It’s an inspiration with roots in her union family: Her father took her to the machinists’ union hall when she was a small girl, her twin sister organized retail clerks at age 19 and she herself worked for years picketing with the United Farm Workers in California. She is a staunch believer in the power of a having a collective voice in the workplace. “If people really think that what they have is a result of their hard work and effort I would beg to differ,” she says. “In Michigan especially it has a direct relationship to union organizing and union activity.”

McGowan is a member of the Eastern Michigan University Federation of Teachers and has been teaching for nearly 30 years. “One of the things that has kept me in academia is that I feel like I can make a difference there,” she says. “I can educate young people and give them hope and give them the sense of the power that they have to make a difference and to change things.”

Why My Fellow Adjuncts and I Decided to Form a Union

“On July 14, 86% of my colleagues voted to form a union with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), effectively unionizing over 800 instructors across CCAC’s four campuses. And while this is only the first step before we head to the bargaining table, it represents a huge victory for academic labor and contingent faculty.”

Read more by AFT member Luke Niebler at In These Times…

Adjuncts at Pennsylvania college vote to unionize

Adjunct faculty at the Community College of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania just turned up the volume on the conversation about job security, fair pay and other resources they need to effectively reach their students. In an overwhelming 294-64 vote finalized on July 14, they chose to join the AFT.

AFT President Randi Weingarten with new AFT members at the Community College of Allegheny County

That’s a strong 86 percent casting their votes in favor of establishing a collective voice through the union. Nearly 60 percent of CCAC’s 800 adjunct faculty members voted. Their full-time faculty colleagues have been affiliated with the AFT for more than 40 years.

The new local, Community College of Allegheny County Adjuncts United, will begin with a survey about adjunct priorities, but some are already clear in the testimonials circulated by CCAC faculty during the voting process. (Members of the local organizing committee are pictured with AFT President Randi Weingarten.)

Reflecting on why she wants to join the union, math adjunct Natalie Ahwesh says, “As an adjunct, I teach the same classes as full-time professors, but receive far less pay. I keep this job because I love my students, but they are the ones who suffer because I must teach at four different schools just to make ends meet,” she continues. “I would love to have more time to plan better lessons and spend with my students.”

Jennie Snyder, a professor in the art department, says she wants to offer her students a better opportunity than she’s had as an academic. “I have several students who hope to teach at a college level, and they truly believe they’re going to be homeless if they pursue a career in academics.”

“If we teach by example,” she adds, “what are we saying about their value when we, ourselves, are willing to work for ramen noodle wages?”

After the election Snyder added, “Because adjuncts make up the majority of educators at CCAC, speaking with one voice, as our full-time colleagues have done, will allow us to negotiate better working conditions such as sustainable pay, access to benefits, and job stability that would be impossible to achieve on an individual basis. Shared voice in governance will foster a sense of community within not only the adjunct unit, but the teaching population as a whole.”

The campaign to unionize CCAC adjuncts began two years ago and enjoyed support not only from the full-time faculty there but from union adjuncts across the nation. AFT members from Temple University, Eastern Michigan, Henry Ford, several universities in the Council of New Jersey State College Locals and others, sent video messages of support.

“As a young academic, I believe that we need to fight for more voice in governance and greater respect as workers,” says Luke Niebler, in CCAC’s English department. “We owe it to ourselves, our students and the future of the college to create a learning environment where all people are treated fairly.”