Monday, March 3, 2014

Chomsky: How America's Great University System Is Getting Destroyed | Alternet

Chomsky: How America's Great University System Is Getting Destroyed | Alternet

 
The following is an edited transcript of remarks given by Noam Chomsky via Skype on 4 February 2014 to a gathering of members and allies of the Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers in Pittsburgh, PA. The transcript was prepared by Robin J. Sowards and edited by Prof. Chomsky.

On hiring faculty off the tenure track
That’s part of the business model. It’s the same as hiring temps in industry or what they call “associates” at Wal-Mart, employees that aren’t owed benefits. It’s a part of a  corporate business model designed to reduce labor costs and to increase labor servility. When universities become corporatized, as has been happening quite systematically over the last generation as part of the general neoliberal assault on the population, their business model means that what matters is the bottom line. The effective owners are the trustees (or the legislature, in the case of state universities), and they want to keep costs down and make sure that labor is docile and obedient. The way to do that is, essentially, temps. Just as the hiring of temps has gone way up in the neoliberal period, you’re getting the same phenomenon in the universities. The idea is to divide society into two groups. One group is sometimes called the “plutonomy” (a term used by Citibank when they were advising their investors on where to invest their funds), the top sector of wealth, globally but concentrated mostly in places like the United States. The other group, the rest of the population, is a “precariat,” living a precarious existence.
This idea is sometimes made quite overt. So when Alan Greenspan was testifying before Congress in 1997 on the marvels of the economy he was running, he said straight out that one of the bases for its economic success was imposing what he called “greater worker insecurity.” If workers are more insecure, that’s very “healthy” for the society, because if workers are insecure they won’t ask for wages, they won’t go on strike, they won’t call for benefits; they’ll serve the masters gladly and passively. And that’s optimal for corporations’ economic health. At the time, everyone regarded Greenspan’s comment as very reasonable, judging by the lack of reaction and the great acclaim he enjoyed. Well, transfer that to the universities: how do you ensure “greater worker insecurity”? Crucially, by not guaranteeing employment, by keeping people hanging on a limb than can be sawed off at any time, so that they’d better shut up, take tiny salaries, and do their work; and if they get the gift of being allowed to serve under miserable conditions for another year, they should welcome it and not ask for any more. That’s the way you keep societies efficient and healthy from the point of view of the corporations. And as universities move towards a corporate business model, precarity is exactly what is being imposed. And we’ll see more and more of it.
That’s one aspect, but there are other aspects which are also quite familiar from private industry, namely a large increase in layers of administration and bureaucracy. If you have to control people, you have to have an administrative force that does it. So in US industry even more than elsewhere, there’s layer after layer of management—a kind of economic waste, but useful for control and domination. And the same is true in universities. In the past 30 or 40 years, there’s been a very sharp increase in the proportion of administrators to faculty and students; faculty and students levels have stayed fairly level relative to one another, but the proportion of administrators have gone way up. There’s a very good book on it by a well-known sociologist, Benjamin Ginsberg, called The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters (Oxford University Press, 2011), which describes in detail the business style of massive administration and levels of administration—and of course, very highly-paid administrators. This includes professional administrators like deans, for example, who used to be faculty members who took off for a couple of years to serve in an administrative capacity and then go back to the faculty; now they’re mostly professionals, who then have to hire sub-deans, and secretaries, and so on and so forth, a whole proliferation of structure that goes along with administrators. All of that is another aspect of the business model.
But using cheap labor—and vulnerable labor—is a business practice that goes as far back as you can trace private enterprise, and unions emerged in response. In the universities, cheap, vulnerable labor means adjuncts and graduate students. Graduate students are even more vulnerable, for obvious reasons. The idea is to transfer instruction to precarious workers, which improves discipline and control but also enables the transfer of funds to other purposes apart from education. The costs, of course, are borne by the students and by the people who are being drawn into these vulnerable occupations. But it’s a standard feature of a business-run society to transfer costs to the people. In fact, economists tacitly cooperate in this. So, for example, suppose you find a mistake in your checking account and you call the bank to try to fix it. Well, you know what happens. You call them up, and you get a recorded message saying “We love you, here’s a menu.” Maybe the menu has what you’re looking for, maybe it doesn’t. If you happen to find the right option, you listen to some music, and every once and a while a voice comes in and says “Please stand by, we really appreciate your business,” and so on. Finally, after some period of time, you may get a human being, who you can ask a short question to. That’s what economists call “efficiency.” By economic measures, that system reduces labor costs to the bank; of course it imposes costs on you, and those costs are multiplied by the number of users, which can be enormous—but that’s not counted as a cost in economic calculation. And if you look over the way the society works, you find this everywhere. So the university imposes costs on students and on faculty who are not only untenured but are maintained on a path that guarantees that they will have no security. All of this is perfectly natural within corporate business models. It’s harmful to education, but education is not their goal.
In fact, if you look back farther, it goes even deeper than that. If you go back to the early 1970s when a lot of this began, there was a lot of concern pretty much across the political spectrum over the activism of the 1960s; it’s commonly called “the time of troubles.” It was a “time of troubles” because the country was getting civilized, and that’s dangerous. People were becoming politically engaged and were trying to gain rights for groups that are called “special interests,” like women, working people, farmers, the young, the old, and so on. That led to a serious backlash, which was pretty overt. At the liberal end of the spectrum, there’s a book called The Crisis of Democracy: Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission, Michel Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington, Joji Watanuki (New York University Press, 1975), produced by the Trilateral Commission, an organization of liberal internationalists. The Carter administration was drawn almost entirely from their ranks. They were concerned with what they called “the crisis of democracy,” namely that there’s too much democracy. In the 1960s there were pressures from the population, these “special interests,” to try to gain rights within the political arena, and that put too much pressure on the state—you can’t do that. There was one special interest that they left out, namely the corporate sector, because its interests are the “national interest”; the corporate sector is supposed to control the state, so we don’t talk about them. But the “special interests” were causing problems and they said “we have to have more moderation in democracy,” the public has to go back to being passive and apathetic. And they were particularly concerned with schools and universities, which they said were not properly doing their job of “indoctrinating the young.” You can see from student activism (the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, the feminist movement, the environmental movements) that the young are just not being indoctrinated properly.
Well how do you indoctrinate the young? There are a number of ways. One way is to burden them with hopelessly heavy tuition debt. Debt is a trap, especially student debt, which is enormous, far larger than credit card debt. It’s a trap for the rest of your life because the laws are designed so that you can’t get out of it. If a business, say, gets in too much debt it can declare bankruptcy, but individuals can almost never be relieved of student debt through bankruptcy. They can even garnish social security if you default. That’s a disciplinary technique. I don’t say that it was consciously introduced for the purpose, but it certainly has that effect. And it’s hard to argue that there’s any economic basis for it. Just take a look around the world: higher education is mostly free. In the countries with the highest education standards, let’s say Finland, which is at the top all the time, higher education is free. And in a rich, successful capitalist country like Germany, it’s free. In Mexico, a poor country, which has pretty decent education standards, considering the economic difficulties they face, it’s free. In fact, look at the United States: if you go back to the 1940s and 50s, higher education was pretty close to free. The GI Bill gave free education to vast numbers of people who would never have been able to go to college. It was very good for them and it was very good for the economy and the society; it was part of the reason for the high economic growth rate. Even in private colleges, education was pretty close to free. Take me: I went to college in 1945 at an Ivy League university, University of Pennsylvania, and tuition was $100. That would be maybe $800 in today’s dollars. And it was very easy to get a scholarship, so you could live at home, work, and go to school and it didn’t cost you anything. Now it’s outrageous. I have grandchildren in college, who have to pay for their tuition and work and it’s almost impossible. For the students that is a disciplinary technique.
And another technique of indoctrination is to cut back faculty-student contact: large classes, temporary teachers who are overburdened, who can barely survive on an adjunct salary. And since you don’t have any job security you can’t build up a career, you can’t move on and get more. These are all techniques of discipline, indoctrination, and control. And it’s very similar to what you’d expect in a factory, where factory workers have to be disciplined, to be obedient; they’re not supposed to play a role in, say, organizing production or determining how the workplace functions—that’s the job of management. This is now carried over to the universities. And I think it shouldn’t surprise anyone who has any experience in private enterprise, in industry; that’s the way they work.
On how higher education ought to be
First of all, we should put aside any idea that there was once a “golden age.” Things were different and in some ways better in the past, but far from perfect. The traditional universities were, for example, extremely hierarchical, with very little democratic participation in decision-making. One part of the activism of the 1960s was to try to democratize the universities, to bring in, say, student representatives to faculty committees, to bring in staff to participate. These efforts were carried forward under student initiatives, with some degree of success. Most universities now have some degree of student participation in faculty decisions. And I think those are the kinds of things we should be moving towards: a democratic institution, in which the people involved in the institution, whoever they may be (faculty, students, staff), participate in determining the nature of the institution and how it runs; and the same should go for a factory.
These are not radical ideas, I should say. They come straight out of classical liberalism. So if you read, for example, John Stuart Mill, a major figure in the classical liberal tradition, he took it for granted that workplaces ought to be managed and controlled by the people who work in them—that’s freedom and democracy (see, e.g., John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy, book 4, ch. 7). We see the same ideas in the United States. Let’s say you go back to the Knights of Labor; one of their stated aims was “To establish co-operative institutions such as will tend to supersede the wage-system, by the introduction of a co-operative industrial system” (“Founding Ceremony” for newly-organized Local Associations). Or take someone like, John Dewey, a mainstream 20th-century social philosopher, who called not only for education directed at creative independence in schools, but also worker control in industry, what he called “industrial democracy.” He says that as long as the crucial institutions of the society (like production, commerce, transportation, media) are not under democratic control, then “politics [will be] the shadow cast on society by big business” (John Dewey, “The Need for a New Party”[1931]). This idea is almost elementary, it has deep roots in American history and in classical liberalism, it should be second nature to working people, and it should apply the same way to universities. There are some decisions in a university where you don’t want to have [democratic transparency because] you have to preserve student privacy, say, and there are various kinds of sensitive issues, but on much of the normal activity of the university, there is no reason why direct participation can’t be not only legitimate but helpful. In my department, for example, for 40 years we’ve had student representatives helpfully participating in department meetings.
On “shared governance” and worker control
The university is probably the social institution in our society that comes closest to democratic worker control. Within a department, for example, it’s pretty normal for at least the tenured faculty to be able to determine a substantial amount of what their work is like: what they’re going to teach, when they’re going to teach, what the curriculum will be. And most of the decisions about the actual work that the faculty is doing are pretty much under tenured faculty control. Now of course there is a higher level of administrators that you can’t overrule or control. The faculty can recommend somebody for tenure, let’s say, and be turned down by the deans, or the president, or even the trustees or legislators. It doesn’t happen all that often, but it can happen and it does. And that’s always a part of the background structure, which, although it always existed, was much less of a problem in the days when the administration was drawn from the faculty and in principle recallable. Under representative systems, you have to have someone doing administrative work but they should be recallable at some point under the authority of the people they administer. That’s less and less true. There are more and more professional administrators, layer after layer of them, with more and more positions being taken remote from the faculty controls. I mentioned before The Fall of the Faculty by Benjamin Ginsberg, which goes into a lot of detail as to how this works in the several universities he looks at closely: Johns Hopkins, Cornell, and a couple of others.
Meanwhile, the faculty are increasingly reduced to a category of temporary workers who are assured a precarious existence with no path to the tenure track. I have personal acquaintances who are effectively permanent lecturers; they’re not given real faculty status; they have to apply every year so that they can get appointed again. These things shouldn’t be allowed to happen. And in the case of adjuncts, it’s been institutionalized: they’re not permitted to be a part of the decision-making apparatus, and they’re excluded from job security, which merely amplifies the problem. I think staff ought to also be integrated into decision-making, since they’re also a part of the university. So there’s plenty to do, but I think we can easily understand why these tendencies are developing. They are all part of imposing a business model on just about every aspect of life. That’s the neoliberal ideology that most of the world has been living under for 40 years. It’s very harmful to people, and there has been resistance to it. And it’s worth noticing that two parts of the world, at least, have pretty much escaped from it, namely East Asia, where they never really accepted it, and South America in the past 15 years.
On the alleged need for “flexibility”
“Flexibility” is a term that’s very familiar to workers in industry. Part of what’s called “labor reform” is to make labor more “flexible,” make it easier to hire and fire people. That’s, again, a way to ensure maximization of profit and control. “Flexibility” is supposed to be a good thing, like “greater worker insecurity.” Putting aside industry where the same is true, in universities there’s no justification. So take a case where there’s under-enrollment somewhere. That’s not a big problem. One of my daughters teaches at a university; she just called me the other night and told me that her teaching load is being shifted because one of the courses that was being offered was under-enrolled. Okay, the world didn’t to an end, they just shifted around the teaching arrangements—you teach a different course, or an extra section, or something like that. People don’t have to be thrown out or be insecure because of the variation in the number of students enrolling in courses. There are all sorts of ways of adjusting for that variation. The idea that labor should meet the conditions of “flexibility” is just another standard technique of control and domination. Why not say that administrators should be thrown out if there’s nothing for them to do that semester, or trustees—what do they have to be there for? The situation is the same with top management in industry: if labor has to be flexible, how about management? Most of them are pretty useless or even harmful anyway, so let’s get rid of them. And you can go on like this. Just to take the news from the last couple of days, take, say, Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase bank: he just got a prettysubstantial raise, almost double his salary, out of gratitude because he had saved the bank from criminal charges that would have sent the management to jail; he got away with only $20 billion in fines for criminal activities. Well I can imagine that getting rid of somebody like that might be helpful to the economy. But that’s not what people are talking about when they talk about “labor reform.” It’s the working people who have to suffer, and they have to suffer by insecurity, by not knowing where tomorrow’s piece of bread is going to come from, and therefore be disciplined and obedient and not raise questions or ask for their rights. That’s the way that tyrannical systems operate. And the business world is a tyrannical system. When it’s imposed on the universities, you find it reflects the same ideas. This shouldn’t be any secret.
On the purpose of education
These are debates that go back to the Enlightenment, when issues of higher education and mass education were really being raised, not just education for the clergy and aristocracy. And there were basically two models discussed in the 18th and 19th centuries. They were discussed with pretty evocative imagery. One image of education was that it should be like a vessel that is filled with, say, water. That’s what we call these days “teaching to test”: you pour water into the vessel and then the vessel returns the water. But it’s a pretty leaky vessel, as all of us who went through school experienced, since you could memorize something for an exam that you had no interest in to pass an exam and a week later you forgot what the course was about. The vessel model these days is called “no child left behind,” “teaching to test,” “race to top,” whatever the name may be, and similar things in universities. Enlightenment thinkers opposed that model.
The other model was described as laying out a string along which the student progresses in his or her own way under his or her own initiative, maybe moving the string, maybe deciding to go somewhere else, maybe raising questions. Laying out the string means imposing some degree of structure. So an educational program, whatever it may be, a course on physics or something, isn’t going to be just anything goes; it has a certain structure. But the goal of it is for the student to acquire the capacity to inquire, to create, to innovate, to challenge—that’s education. One world-famous physicist, in his freshman courses if he was asked “what are we going to cover this semester?”, his answer was “it doesn’t matter what we cover, it matters what you discover.” You have gain the capacity and the self-confidence for that matter to challenge and create and innovate, and that way you learn; that way you’ve internalized the material and you can go on. It’s not a matter of accumulating some fixed array of facts which then you can write down on a test and forget about tomorrow.
These are two quite distinct models of education. The Enlightenment ideal was the second one, and I think that’s the one that we ought to be striving towards. That’s what real education is, from kindergarten to graduate school. In fact there are programs of that kind for kindergarten, pretty good ones.
On the love of teaching
We certainly want people, both faculty and students, to be engaged in activity that’s satisfying, enjoyable, challenging, exciting—and I don’t really think that’s hard. Even young children are creative, inquisitive, they want to know things, they want to understand things, and unless that’s beaten out of your head it stays with you the rest of your life. If you have opportunities to pursue those commitments and concerns, it’s one of the most satisfying things in life. That’s true if you’re a research physicist, it’s true if you’re a carpenter; you’re trying to create something of value and deal with a difficult problem and solve it. I think that’s what makes work the kind of thing you want to do; you do it even if you don’t have to do it. In a reasonably functioning university, you find people working all the time because they love it; that’s what they want to do; they’re given the opportunity, they have the resources, they’re encouraged to be free and independent and creative—what’s better? That’s what they love to do. And that, again, can be done at any level.
It’s worth thinking about some of the imaginative and creative educational programs that are being developed at different levels. So, for example, somebody just described to me the other day a program they’re using in high schools, a science program where the students are asked an interesting question: “How can a mosquito fly in the rain?” That’s a hard question when you think about it. If something hit a human being with the force of a raindrop hitting a mosquito it would absolutely flatten them immediately. So how come the mosquito isn’t crushed instantly? And how can the mosquito keep flying? If you pursue that question—and it’s a pretty hard question—you get into questions of mathematics, physics, and biology, questions that are challenging enough that you want to find an answer to them.
That’s what education should be like at every level, all the way down to kindergarten, literally. There are kindergarten programs in which, say, each child is given a collection of little items: pebbles, shells, seeds, and things like that. Then the class is given the task of finding out which ones are the seeds. It begins with what they call a “scientific conference”: the kids talk to each other and they try to figure out which ones are seeds. And of course there’s some teacher guidance, but the idea is to have the children think it through. After a while, they try various experiments and they figure out which ones are the seeds. At that point, each child is given a magnifying glass and, with the teacher’s help, cracks a seed and looks inside and finds the embryo that makes the seed grow. These children learn something—really, not only something about seeds and what makes things grow; but also about how to discover. They’re learning the joy of discovery and creation, and that’s what carries you on independently, outside the classroom, outside the course.
The same goes for all education up through graduate school. In a reasonable graduate seminar, you don’t expect students to copy it down and repeat whatever you say; you expect them to tell you when you’re wrong or to come up with new ideas, to challenge, to pursue some direction that hadn’t been thought of before. That’s what real education is at every level, and that’s what ought to be encouraged. That ought to be the purpose of education. It’s not to pour information into somebody’s head which will then leak out but to enable them to become creative, independent people who can find excitement in discovery and creation and creativity at whatever level or in whatever domain their interests carry them.
On using corporate rhetoric against corporatization
This is kind of like asking how you should justify to the slave owner that people shouldn’t be slaves. You’re at a level of moral inquiry where it’s probably pretty hard to find answers. We are human beings with human rights. It’s good for the individual, it’s good for the society, it’s even good for the economy, in the narrow sense, if people are creative and independent and free. Everyone benefits if people are able to participate, to control their fate, to work with each other—that may not maximize profit and domination, but why should we take those to be values to be concerned about?
Advice for adjunct faculty organizing unions
You know better than I do what has to be done, the kind of problems you face. Just got ahead and do what has to be done. Don’t be intimidated, don’t be frightened, and recognize that the future can be in our hands if we’re willing to grasp it.
Prof. Chomsky’s remarks in this transcript were elicited by questions from Robin Clarke, Adam Davis, David Hoinski, Maria Somma, Robin J. Sowards, Matthew Ussia, and Joshua Zelesnick. Noam Chomsky’s OCCUPY: Class War, Rebellion and Solidarity is published by Zuccotti Park Press. 

Noam Chomsky is a professor of linguistics and philosophy at MIT.

Monday, February 24, 2014

PSU faculty union labor talks hit impasse

PSU faculty union labor talks hit impasse

The union representing more than 1,250 Portland State University faculty declared an impasse Monday morning in its labor contract talks with university administrators.
“It sets us up on a timeline toward a period when we could strike,” says Mary King, an economics professor who leads the PSU local of the American Association of University Professors.
Both sides spent five full days in mediation, plus a sixth full day of one-on-one talks between the top negotiators for PSU and the union, King says. “We’re been negotiating for far too long without making progress.”
PSU spokesman Scott Gallagher says the university is disappointed in the impasse declaration because progress was being made in mediation talks.
"We are confident that a fair and equitable contract settlement can be reached," he says.
PSU administrators have declined to discuss contract specifics during negotiations, saying they’ll leave that to the bargaining table.
The faculty’s existing contract expired last August, though it has been extended by the university during negotiations.
Under state collective bargaining law, the two sides now have a week to submit their final and best offers to the state Employment Relations Board, and “cost out” those proposals, King says. Then the board has a week to publish those proposals.
That triggers a 30-day “cooling off” period. If no settlement is reached by then, PSU would have the right to impose its last contract offer, and the faculty would have the right to go on strike.
There has never been a strike by PSU faculty before, and AAUP has not yet taken a strike vote among its members, King says.
But it’s clear that looming budget cuts have soured relations between PSU administrators and faculty, and the AAUP has complained that academics are being cut at the expense of administrative and athletic spending.
The university’s best salary offer in mediation would not keep pace with inflation, King says. In addition, the faculty is strongly resisting the administration’s attempt to eliminate contract language that assures faculty remain protected by the tenure and promotion policies adopted by the PSU Faculty Senate. The union also is concerned that more and more fulltime and tenured positions are being replaced by short-term and parttime teaching posts.
Despite the impasse declaration, another one-on-one negotiating session is slated for 3 p.m. Monday, King says.
Class registration for PSU's spring term continues as planned, Gallagher says, and the spring term will begin on March 31 as scheduled.
"Our priority is to make sure that students remain on track with their courses and are not interrupted," he says.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

New Analysis Shows Problematic Boom In Higher Ed Administrators

New Analysis Shows Problematic Boom In Higher Ed Administrators

New Analysis Shows Problematic Boom In Higher Ed Administrators

Posted: Updated: 
The number of non-academic administrative and professional employees at U.S. colleges and universities has more than doubled in the last 25 years, vastly outpacing the growth in the number of students or faculty, according to an analysis of federal figures.
The disproportionate increase in the number of university staffers who neither teach nor conduct research has continued unabated in more recent years, and slowed only slightly since the start of the economic downturn, during which time colleges and universities have contended that a dearth of resources forced them to sharply raise tuition.
In all, from 1987 until 2011-12—the most recent academic year for which comparable figures are available—universities and colleges collectively added 517,636 administrators and professional employees, or an average of 87 every working day, according to the analysis of federal figures, by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting in collaboration with the nonprofit, nonpartisan social-science research group the American Institutes for Research.
“There’s just a mind-boggling amount of money per student that’s being spent on administration,” said Andrew Gillen, a senior researcher at the institutes. “It raises a question of priorities.”
Universities have added these administrators and professional employees even as they’ve substantially shifted classroom teaching duties from full-time faculty to less-expensive part-time adjunct faculty and teaching assistants, the figures show.
“They’ve increased their hiring of part-time faculty to try and cut costs,” said Donna Desrochers, a principal researcher at the Delta Cost Project, which studies higher-education spending. “Yet other factors that are going on, including the hiring of these other types of non-academic employees, have undercut those savings.”
Part-time faculty and teaching assistants now account for half of instructional staffs at colleges and universities, up from one-third in 1987, the figures show.
During the same period, the number of administrators and professional staff has more than doubled. That’s a rate of increase more than twice as fast as the growth in the number of students.
It’s not possible to tell exactly how much the rise in administrators and professional employees has contributed to the increase in the cost of tuition and fees, which has also almost doubled in inflation-adjusted dollars since 1987 at four-year private, nonprofit universities and colleges, according to the College Board. Those costs have also nearly tripled at public four-year universities—a higher price rise than for any other sector of the economy in that period, including healthcare.
But critics say the unrelenting addition of administrators and professional staffs can’t help but to have driven this steep increase.
At the very least, they say, the continued hiring of nonacademic employees belies university presidents’ insistence that they are doing everything they can to improve efficiency and hold down costs.
“It’s a lie. It’s a lie. It’s a lie,” said Richard Vedder, an economist and director of theCenter for College Affordability and Productivity.
“I wouldn’t buy a used car from a university president,” said Vedder. “They’ll say, ‘We’re making moves to cut costs,’ and mention something about energy-efficient lightbulbs, and ignore the new assistant to the assistant to the associate vice provost they just hired.”
The figures are particularly dramatic at private, nonprofit universities, whose numbers of administrators alone have doubled, while their numbers of professional employees have more than doubled.
Rather than improving productivity as measured by the ratio of employees to students, private universities have seen their productivity decline, adding 12 employees per 1,000 full-time students since 1987, the federal figures show.
“While the rest of the economy was shrinking overhead, higher education was investing heavily in more overhead,” said Robert Martin, an economist at Centre College in Kentucky who studies university finance who said staffing per students is a valid way to judge efficiency improvements or declines.
The ratio of nonacademic employees to faculty has also doubled. There are now two nonacademic employees at public and two and a half at private universities and colleges for every one full-time, tenure-track member of the faculty.
“In no other industry would overhead costs be allowed to grow at this rate—executives would lose their jobs,” analysts at the financial management firm Bain & Company wrote in a 2012 white paper for its clients and others about administrative spending in higher education.
Universities and university associations blame the increased hiring on such things as government regulations and demands from students and their families—including students who arrive unprepared for college-level work—for such services as remedial education, advising, and mental-health counseling.
“All of those things pile up, and contribute to this increase,” said Dan King, president of the American Association of University Administrators.
“I think there’s legitimate criticism” of the growth in hiring of administrators and other nonacademic employees, said King. “At the same time, you can’t lay all of the responsibility for that on the universities.”
There are “thousands” of regulations governing the distribution of financial aid alone, he said. “And probably every college or university that’s accredited, they’ve got at least one person with a major portion of their time dedicated to that, and in some cases whole office staffs. These aren’t bad things to do, but somebody’s got to do them.”
Since 1987, universities have also started or expanded departments devoted to marketing, diversity, disability, sustainability, security, environmental health, recruiting, technology, and fundraising, and added new majors and graduate and athletics programs, satellite campuses, and conference centers.
Some of these, they say—such as beefed-up fundraising and marketing offices—pay for themselves, and sustainability efforts save money through energy efficiency.
Others “often show up in student referenda, to build or add services,” said George Pernsteiner, president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. “The students vote for them. Students and their families have asked for more, and are paying more to get it.”
Pressure to help students graduate more quickly—or at all—has also driven the increase in professional employees “to try to more effectively serve the students who are coming in today,” Pernsteiner said.
But naysayers point out that the doubling of administrative and professional staffs doesn’t seem to have improved universities’ performance. Since 2002, the proportion of four-year bachelor’s degree-seeking students who graduate within even six years, for instance, has barely inched up, from 55 percent to 58 percent, U.S. Department of Education figures show.
“If we have these huge spikes in student services spending or in other professional categories, we should see improvements in what they do, and I personally haven’t seen that,” Gillen said.
Martin said it’s true that adding services beyond teaching and research is fueling the growth of campus payrolls. But he said universities don’t have to provide those services themselves. “They can outsource them, the way that corporations do.”
To provide such things as security and counseling, said Martin, “You can hire outside firms, on a contract basis with competitive bidding. All these activities are a distraction from what the institution is supposed to be doing.”
Universities and colleges continued adding employees even after the beginning of the economic downturn, though at a slightly slower rate, the federal figures show.
“Institutions have said that they were hurting, so I would have thought that staffing overall would go down,” Desrochers said. “But it didn’t.”
There’s also been a massive hiring boom in central offices of public university systems and universities with more than one campus, according to the figures. The number of employees in central system offices has increased six-fold since 1987, and the number of administrators in them by a factor of more than 34.
One example, the central office of the California State University System, now has abudget bigger than those of three of the system’s 23 campuses.
“None of them have reduced campus administrative burdens at all,” said King, who said he is particularly frustrated by this trend. “They’ve added a layer of bureaucracy, and in 95 percent of the cases it’s an unnecessary bureaucracy and a counterproductive one.”
Centralization has been promoted as a way to reduce costs, but Vedder points out that it has not appeared to reduce the rate of hiring of administrators and professional staffs on campus—or of incessant spikes in tuition.
“It’s almost Orwellian,” said Vedder. “They’ll say, ‘We’ll save money if we centralize.’ Then they hire a provost or associate provost or an assistant business manager in charge of shared services, and then that person hires an assistant, and you end up with more people than you started with.”
In higher education, “Everyone now is a chief,” he said. “And there are a lot fewer Indians.”
This story was prepared by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit news center based at Boston University and WGBH Radio/TV.

IRS guidance on health care law clarifies formula for counting adjunct hours | Inside Higher Ed

IRS guidance on health care law clarifies formula for counting adjunct hours | Inside Higher Ed

February 11, 2014
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration on Monday released its long-awaited final guidance on how colleges should calculate the hours of adjunct instructors and student workers for purposes of the new federal mandate that employers provide health insurance to those who work more than 30 hours a week.
The upshot of the complicated regulation from the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service:
  • On adjuncts, colleges will be considered on solid ground if they credit instructors for 1 ¼ hours of preparation time for each hour they spend in the classroom, and instructors should be credited for any time they spend in office hours or other required meeting time.
  • On student workers, the IRS opted to exclude work-study employment from any count of work hours, but the administration declined to provide an exemption for student workers over all. As a result, colleges and universities will be required to provide health insurance to teaching and research assistants who work more than 30 hours a week.
Adjunct Hours
The issues of how to count the hours of part-time instructors and student workers have consumed college officials and faculty groups for much of the last 18 months, ever since it became clear that the Affordable Care Act definition of a full-time employee as working 30 hours or more a week was leading some colleges to limit the hours of adjunct faculty members, so they fell short of the 30-hour mark.
All that the government said in its initial January 2013 guidance about the employer mandate under the health care law was that colleges needed to use "reasonable" methods to count adjuncts' hours.
In federal testimony and at conferences, college administrators and faculty advocates have debated the appropriate definition of "reasonable," with a focus on calculating the time that instructors spend on their jobs beyond their actual hours in the classroom. The American Council on Education, higher education's umbrella association and main lobbying group, proposed a ratio of one hour of outside time for each classroom hour, while many faculty advocates have pushed for a ratio of 2:1 or more.
In its new regulation, published as part of a complex 227-page final rule in today's Federal Register, the government said that it would be too complex to count actual hours, and it rejected proposals to treat instructors as full time only if they were assigned course loads equivalent or close to those of full-time instructors at their institutions.
The administration continued to say that given the "wide variation of work patterns, duties, and circumstances" at different colleges, institutions should continue to have a good deal of flexibility in defining what counts as "reasonable."
But in the "interest of predictability and ease of administration in crediting hours of service for purposes" of the health care law, the agencies said, the regulation establishes as "one (but not the only)" reasonable definition a count of 2.25 hours of work for each classroom hour taught. "[I]n addition to crediting an hour of service for each hour teaching in the classroom, this method would credit an additional 1 ¼ hours service" for "related tasks such as class preparation and grading of examinations or papers."
Separately, instructors should also be credited with an hour of service for each additional hour they spend outside of the classroom on duties they are "required to perform (such as required office hours or required attendance at faculty meetings," the regulation states.
The guidance states that the ratio -- which would essentially serve as a "safe harbor" under which institutions can qualify under the law -- "may be relied upon at least through the end of 2015."
By choosing a ratio of 1 ¼ hours of additional service for each classroom hour, the government comes slightly higher than the 1:1 ratio that the higher education associations sought, and quite a bit lower than the ratio of 2:1 or higher promoted by many faculty advocates.
David S. Baime, vice president for government relations and research at the American Association of Community Colleges, praised administration officials for paying "very close attention to the institutional and financial realities that our colleges are facing." He said community colleges appreciated both the continued flexibility and the setting of a safe harbor under which, in the association's initial analysis, "the vast majority of our adjunct faculty, under currernt teaching loads, would not be qualifying" for health insurance, Baime said.
Maria Maisto, president and executive director of New Faculty Majority, said she, too, appreciated that the administration had left lots of room for flexibility, which she hoped would "force a lot of really interesting conversations" on campuses. "I think most people would agree that it is reasonable for employers to actually talk to and involve employees in thinking about how those workers can, and do, perform their work most effectively, and not to simply mandate from above how that work is understood and performed," she added.
Maisto said she was also pleased that the administration appeared to have set the floor for a "reasonable" ratio above the lower 1:1 ratio that the college associations were suggesting.
She envisioned a good deal of confusion on the provision granting an hour of time for all required non-teaching activities, however, noting that her own contract at Cuyahoga Community College requires her to participate in professional development and to respond to students' questions and requests on an "as-needed basis." "How does this regulation account for requirements like that?" she wondered.
Student Workers
The adjunct issue has received most of the higher education-related attention about the employer mandate, but the final regulations have significant implications for campuses that employ significant numbers of undergraduate and graduate students, too.
Higher education groups had urged the administration to exempt student workers altogether from the employer mandate, given that many of them would be covered under the health care law's policies governing student health plans and coverage for those up to age 26 on their parents' policies. The groups also requested an exemption for students involved in work study programs.
The updated guidance grants the latter exemption for hours of work study, given, it states, that "the federal work study program, as a federally subsidized financial aid program, is distinct from traditional employment in that its primary purpose is to advance education."
But all other student work for an educational organization must be counted as hours of service for purposes of the health care mandate, Treasury and IRS said.
Steven Bloom, director of federal relations at the American Council on Education, said higher ed groups thought it made sense to exempt graduate student workers, given that their work as teaching assistants and lab workers is generally treated as part of their education under the Fair Labor Standards Act. He said the new guidance is likely to force institutions that employ graduate students as TAs or research assistants -- and don't currently offer them health insurance as part of their graduate student packages -- to start counting their hours.
The guidance also includes a potentially confounding approach to students who work as interns. The new regulation exempts work conducted by interns as hours of service under the health care employer mandate -- but only "to the extent that the student does not receive, and is not entitled to, payment in connection with those hours."
So in other words, at a time when there is a push to encourage employers to provide paid as opposed to unpaid internships, the new health care guidance appears to let employers off the hook from offering health insurance to interns if they are unpaid -- but not if they are paid.


Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/02/11/irs-guidance-health-care-law-clarifies-formula-counting-adjunct-hours#ixzz2t2MFICC0
Inside Higher Ed 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Major Steps Forward for Rutgers Non-Tenure Track Faculty | Rutgers AAUP-AFT

Major Steps Forward for Rutgers Non-Tenure Track Faculty | Rutgers AAUP-AFT

Submitted by Rutgers AAUP-AFT on Fri, 01/31/2014 - 17:38
Rutgers faculty today approved a tentative Agreement for full-time non-tenure track (NTT) faculty that includes multi-year contracts, paths to promotion, and titles with greater respect. This Agreement allows Rutgers University’s employment policies to be competitive with its peer institutions in research and will improve the quality of instruction because great teachers will be recruited, recognized and retained.
Rank-and-file members of the union expressed their pleasure that this special round of negotiations has finally come to a successful conclusion. Leon Fraser, Instructor in the Rutgers Business School on the Rutgers-Newark campus for the past seven years, said, “I am pleased that this agreement recognizes NTT faculty for their contributions to students and research at Rutgers as well as their status as true professionals.”
One of the major gains in the new agreement is that “non-renewable” contracts have been abolished. Lecturer Shaheen Ayubi remarked that she is pleased that “NTT faculty will no longer be perennial ‘annuals’ and the administration is no longer allowed to impose a non-renewable contract suddenly without rhyme or reason.” Dr. Ayubi, who has been employed in the Department of Political Science in the Rutgers-Camden campus for five years, added that, “we NTT faculty can look forward to much brighter futures being recognized as major contributors in our departments!”
New title series have been negotiated that create career paths with proper evaluations and promotion potential for state-funded teaching and grant-funded research faculty who are hired off the tenure track. This means that Teaching, Professional Practice, and Librarian faculty will now enjoy career paths alongside those in the existing Clinical and Research title series.
Hundreds of faculty will no longer have to tolerate the title Assistant Instructor—an unused title at peer research universities. This will move Rutgers up in reputation as a quality workplace and a stable learning environment for students.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Ninth Circuit Reaffirms Free-Speech Rights for Professors

Court Implicitly Rejects WSU’s Argument that “Professional Speech” Does Not Deserve Protection

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals this week denied a second appeal from four Washington State University administrators who wanted the authority to discipline professors who offer alternative plans for restructuring an academic program.

In November, WSU asked the full court to rehear the case after a three-judge panel, led by William A. Fletcher, ruled Sept. 4, 2013, that a 7-Step Plan for improving the Edward R. Murrow School (now a College) of Communication, created in 2007 by then-tenured-associate professor David Demers, deserved First Amendment protection.

In its brief for an en banc rehearing, WSU argued that Demers’ plan was “professional speech” — not speech related to scholarship or teaching — and, therefore, did not deserve constitutional protection.

However, a three-judge panel of the appeals court, in its revised opinion issued Jan. 29, ignored the “professional speech” argument and reiterated that First Amendment protection should be extended to speech that is “related to scholarship and teaching” and deals with “matters of public concern.”

“It may in some cases be difficult to distinguish between what qualifies as speech ‘related to scholarship or teaching,’” lead judge Fletcher wrote in the revised opinion. “ ... But this is not such a case. ... The 7-Step Plan ... was a proposal to implement a change at the Murrow School that, if implemented, would have substantially altered the nature of what was taught at the school, as well as the composition of the faculty that would teach it.”

The plan, which Demers submitted in January 2007, recommended, among other things, that the Murrow School remove one of its non-professional academic programs, give more power to untenured professional faculty, and seek accreditation for the remaining programs in journalism, public relations and advertising. Demers was serving on a School restructure committee when he developed the 7-Step Plan.

Demers filed a free-speech lawsuit in 2010 against then-Murrow Director Erica Austin and three other upper-level administrators, claiming he was punished in annual reviews for proposing the plan and for writing a controversial book.

“‘Related’ appears to be the operative word in the appeals court decision,” Demers said. “It doesn’t matter what role you are playing at a university — teacher, scholar, faculty senator, committee member, or pain-in-the-ass gadfly — if you, as a professor, are speaking on a matter of public concern that is related to teaching and/or research, you are protected from retaliation, according to the court.”

Demers added that “the decision helps preserve the century-old principle of shared governance, which distinguishes academia from virtually every other form of organization in modern society. Shared governance enhances the search for truth and knowledge.”

Since 2006, federal courts have denied free-speech protection seven out of eight times to faculty who, like Demers, spoke in their service-related roles.

The Demers v. Austin et al. case is the sole exception to the rule.

“I hope other federal courts will realize that truth in scholarship and teaching depends not just upon ideas, but on how universities are structured and maintained and how power is distributed.”

WSU has the right to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s not clear whether it will do that.

A copy of the appeal court’s revised opinion is posted here 

Adjuncts Gain Traction With Congressional Attention - Faculty - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Adjuncts Gain Traction With Congressional Attention - Faculty - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Friday, January 31, 2014

San jose state adopts faculty focused policy for MOOCs

http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/san-jose-state-u-adopts-new-policy-for-online-and-hybrid-courses/50029?cid=pm&utm_source=pm&utm_medium=en

Friday, December 13, 2013

Retail Sit-Down in 1937 Detroit: Lessons for Today’s Low-Wage Strikers | Labor Notes

Retail Sit-Down in 1937 Detroit: Lessons for Today’s Low-Wage Strikers | Labor Notes

n 1937, Woolworth’s was the Walmart of its day. The company had transformed the retail marketplace by creating a national chain of stores staffed by low-wage workers, mostly young women. The lunch counters in these stores, serving inexpensive food, were in some ways a precursor to today’s fast food mega-corporations.
So the story of a successful sit-down strike at a Woolworth’s in Detroit gives us some useful parallels for low-wage workers today. In the wake of the Walmart and fast food strikes on Black Friday and December 5, it’s worth asking where the movement is going. What are its goals? Are workers getting organized for the long haul? Are we on a path to victory?
The Detroit sit-down electrified the nation at the time. A recent pamphlet by history professor Dana Frank should resurrect this history and its lessons.

No Ordinary Saturday

“On the surface it seemed like the most ordinary of Saturdays at the most ordinary of American institutions,” Frank begins. “It was February 27, 1937, at Woolworth’s Five and Dime store, the big four-story red brick one in downtown Detroit…
“Like all Woolworth’s stores, this one was painted with red and green trim, with the chain’s name out front in big bold letters”—displaying the company’s corporate brand identity in a way that was new at the time, though omnipresent today.
But it was not the “most ordinary of Saturdays.” General Motors auto workers in Flint, north of Detroit, had won a historic victory just days earlier, after occupying their factory for several weeks, ignoring court orders to leave, and fighting off police assaults.
The workers had received so much sympathy and support that the governor actually sent in the National Guard to protect the strikers from the police. In the end, General Motors capitulated and recognized the then-fledgling United Auto Workers. Auto workers flooded into the UAW, helping to propel it and the new CIO to even greater victories.
Inside Woolworth’s was “a vast array of small, low-priced goods: hair combs, knitting needles, lampshades, safety pins, pie plates, face creams, and crisp new shoelaces … Tidily printed signs poked up from displays throughout the store to reassure customers that almost all the goods … cost only five or ten cents, just as the store’s name promised… Shoppers who were white could indulge in a banana split at the lunch counter.”
The women who staffed the store knew their place in the scheme of things. Frank Woolworth, the company’s founder, had put it bluntly: “We must have cheap help or we cannot sell cheap goods.” Bing Crosby provided a counterpoint with one of his hit songs, “I Found a Million-Dollar Baby in a Five-and-Ten-Cent Store.”

Strike, Girls, Strike!

The young women in the Detroit Woolworth’s undoubtedly had their meager paychecks and the victory at Flint on their minds that Saturday morning. And then “Floyd Loew, an organizer with the Waiters’ and Waitresses’ Union of Detroit, strode to the very center of the store’s first floor… blew a screeching whistle as loud as he could and yelled ‘STRIKE! STRIKE!’ (Or by some reports, ‘STRIKE, girls, STRIKE!’)
“Voices shouted out and cheers rose from different parts of the store. First the women in the white uniforms at the food counter stopped working. Then they moved quickly through the whole store, and soon almost all the women workers on all three sales floors had stepped back from their counters or rushed out from the kitchen, folded their arms, and stopped working.”
According to the Detroit News, “The jangle of cash registers stopped, and bewildered customers found themselves holding out nickels and dimes in vain… [But] not a girl tried to wait on a customer.”
Within minutes the store’s manager appeared. All the women, plus the stock boys, were ushered into a conference room.
The strikers gave the manager a list of demands: union recognition, a 10-cent per hour raise over their current 25 cents, an eight-hour workday, time-and-a-half after 48 hours per week, 50-cent lunches for the food counter workers, free uniforms and laundering, seniority rights, hiring of new workers only through a union hiring hall, and no retaliation.
The manager hemmed and hawed, but promised nothing. The strikers then said they would occupy the store until their demands were met.
“A hundred and eight ordinary young women had done a huge, astonishing thing: they were not only on strike, right in the depths of the Great Depression, but they were occupying the property of one of the largest transnational companies in the United States and refusing to leave until they won,” Frank writes.
“It was a classic sit-down strike, but for the first time the strikers were all women working in a variety store, not men in a factory. Within hours the eyes of the nation would be riveted on these young women and their strike. They had, after all, taken on one of the biggest corporate and consumer icons of the century, with two thousand stores in five countries—it was like striking Walmart, the Gap, and McDonald’s all at the same time.”

Organized to Stay

Frank tells us how the women organized themselves in the days ahead—using the store’s kitchen to prepare food, bringing in mattresses, keeping the store tidy using some of the on-hand cleaning supplies, occasionally helping themselves to candy and headache tablets—all the while partying pretty hard as well. The store’s three telephones were used to communicate with friends, supporters, and the press. They even formed a “Cheer-Up Committee,” which “watched for the first curling lip and… soon had all sadness chased away.”
On Monday, two days after the strike began, organizer Mira Komaroff with Local 705 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees met with some workers at a second, smaller Woolworth’s in downtown Detroit.
Before long, a second store had been occupied.
That night, Secretary-Treasurer Louis Koenig of Local 705 threatened Woolworth’s: if the strike was not settled by the following Saturday, he said, “I will ask the executive council of our association to call a national sit-down” at all Woolworth’s in the country.
That Koenig would do this was quite astonishing. He was known as a “typical, old-guard business unionist,” and led a union with all of about 600 workers at a few big downtown hotels and elite clubs. But the times called out for militant speeches, and he was happy to oblige.

Solidarity from All Over

As the strike escalated, solidarity efforts kicked in with a vengeance. Regular picketing of the stores was organized, in large part by local hotel workers. National labor leaders rushed to express support.
Telegrams hailing the women strikers flooded in from around the country, as did money for food and supplies and for the women themselves. Newspapers headlined the story; movie theaters showed newsreels. People were talking about the strike.
On Tuesday, the Retail Clerks’ International Protective Association in New York dispatched a telegram promising funds and saying the union would “open a boycott of the Woolworth stores in New York pending the outcome of the strike” at a demonstration Saturday—the same deadline Koenig had proclaimed.
In Detroit, other service workers got into the act. At Stouffer’s, 60 waitresses and kitchen workers occupied their restaurant on Tuesday in the middle of the lunch rush. Workers at Huyler’s Cafeteria in the Fisher Building sat down, then barricaded the doors. Unfortunately, Frank does not tell us the outcomes of these actions.
All the while, local store owners were falling over themselves to hand out wage increases in order to forestall more sit-downs.
On Wednesday, Woolworth’s finally agreed to negotiate. The workers were represented by Koenig, Louis Walters from the cooks union, and Louis Salter from the retail clerks—all men. None of the strikers was present. Woolworth’s was represented by some big shots from New York.
At 5:30 pm on Friday, the strike’s seventh day—just in time to beat the Saturday deadline for expanding the strike and the boycott in New York—Woolworth’s and the unions announced an agreement.

Victory

“No question, it was an absolute and clear-cut victory for the strikers,” Frank reports. “They won an entire laundry list of demands, including the laundry. First, the company agreed to a five-cent an hour increase for all female employees… Everyone would get time and a half for overtime, after a 48-hour work week. Future workers would be hired through the union’s offices. Uniforms would be furnished and laundered by the company for free…
“And, most amazing of all, the women would be paid at 50% of their usual rate for the time they were occupying the store (though not, presumably, for 24-hour days)… Moreover, the agreement covered not just the two stores that had been taken over, but all forty Woolworth’s stores in the city.”
Woolworth’s got nothing but a promise that union workers wouldn’t harass non-union workers.
As word of the agreement spread, striking workers from both stores gathered inside the main store. They sang and cheered; when they went outside, they found more than a thousand people jamming the sidewalks. They marched to a local hotel, where Koenig read the agreement. He didn’t bother to ask for a vote. Nobody seemed to care.
“On Saturday,” Frank writes, “Woolworth’s announced a special sale.”
The Woolworth’s strike produced a series of copycat actions. There were sit-down strikes at retail stores in Detroit, St. Louis, New York, and San Francisco, in Akron, Ohio; Superior, Wisconsin; St. Paul and Duluth, Minnesota; Tacoma and Centralia, Washington. “Unions today… all over the country,” Frank writes, “owe their existence in part to the Woolworth’s strike.”
She sums it up this way: “All this from a hundred and eight very young, entirely ordinary young women who one day in Detroit decided to stage a sit-down. That was the brilliance of it—it wasn’t some mythical superheroes who had pulled it off, but regular young women with no experience of striking, let alone of occupying a major chain store twenty-four hours a day for seven long days.
“They took on one of the biggest corporate powers of their time and won big, inspiring hundreds of thousands of other ordinary salesclerks—and who knows who else—to stand up (or sit down) for their rights, to claim a living wage… And they taught the arrogant Woolworth’s corporation an enormous lesson.”

Lessons?

Frank posits that the Woolworth’s workers won, first and foremost, because of “their own sense of audacity… and of faith in themselves.” I would add courage, closely related to audacity.
She also argues that “they won because they had an enormous array of powers behind them: the example of the General Motors workers [in Flint], the force of public opinion, neutrality from the mayor and the governor, [and] spectacular solidarity from thousands of allies.”
Few would argue that these conditions exist today for the labor movement. Many are hoping that low-wage Walmart and fast food workers will become the example like the Flint workers. But we are certainly not there yet.
Even under their favorable conditions, the Woolworth’s victory was fleeting.
In an epilogue, Frank notes that the Detroit Woolworth’s workers lost their union contract when it came up for renewal in October 1937—just a few months after their victory.
“As individual women left the store,” Frank tells us, “management deliberately replaced them with anti-union workers who didn’t then fight to keep the union.” There is obviously a story of its own here, including why the union failed to enforce the agreement that required hiring to come through the union. It’s not hard to imagine how an anti-union campaign by the Woolworth bosses, a union unable or unwilling to hold them to account, and the transitory nature of low-wage work could take their toll.
Sort of a like a fairy tale where everybody lives happily ever after, but only for a little while. One has only to look at the nightmare for working class people that Detroit is today to understand that a victory is never final—at least not while capital rules.
Ironically, Woolworth lunch counters would become the scene of yet another triumphant fight involving sit-ins in 1960—this time by black folks and their allies, demanding the right to eat at them. That fight was won, or so the received wisdom goes. But look again at Detroit, today over 80 percent black, and that civil rights victory seems a lot less than what it is cracked up to be, even with a black president in the White House.
Workers and exploited people everywhere fight back. That happens whether unions, activists, and politicos organize it or not. Rebellion is a fact of life. But to make rebellion into victory, and to maintain that victory, takes organization, plus vision and daring. And that means a lot more than Facebook postings, Twitter feeds, press releases, and the assorted media hype.
The Woolworth strikers fought hard and well. They won. Their audacity and courage can be an inspiration to us all, especially to low-wage workers. But the lessons of the failure to hold on to that victory need to be learned also.
Marc Norton has been a rank-and-file member of UNITE HERE Local 2, the San Francisco hotel and restaurant workers union, since 1976. He also belongs to the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). His website is www.MarcNorton.us.
- See more at: http://www.labornotes.org/blogs/2013/12/retail-sit-down-1937-detroit-lessons-todays-low-wage-strikers#sthash.46HibdGP.dpuf