Seeing Red -Adjuncts fight for a fair wage

by Adam Tucker, Staff Writer

Photo Credit: Adam Tucker

Truman students might have noticed something different about professors recently – many of them are wearing more red clothing.  On Nov. 5th, adjunct faculty across all City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) wore red in solidarity over their ongoing fight with the district over salaries and benefits. The CCC adjunct faculty have been without a working contract since Summer of 2012.

Members of the City Colleges Contingent Labor Organizing Committee (CCCLOC) – the union for CCC’s adjunct faculty, protested in front of the City Colleges District Offices at 226 W. Jackson, on Nov. 5th. The rally also coincided with a meeting that union representatives had with Senator Durbin in Washington D.C. Protesting adjuncts continued their demonstration by sitting in during the monthly district board meeting agenda, and spoke during the public participation portion. Truman professor Randall Miller stood in front of CCC’s top chancellors and the seven CCC presidents highlighting CCCLOC’s core message, “equal pay for equal work.”

adjunct photo2Currently, over 65 percent of all professors at Truman are considered adjunct faculty, yet are paid about half of what their full time counterparts make per credit hour. According to Chicago City Council resolution R2015-777 sponsored by Ald. Will Burns, these adjuncts – some of which hold Ph.D.s, make on average roughly $14,140 per year while teaching an average of three classes per semester. That means CCC adjunct faculty make only $2,300 more than the Federal Poverty Line or 133% of the FPL according to Census Bureau data from 2014.

Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) data shows that CCC adjuncts have some of the lowest salaries compared to other Chicagoland community colleges. Last year, adjuncts at CCC that held a Masters received a max salary of $835 per credit hour – compared with Oakton Community Colleges max of $1,518 per credit hour. For many Truman adjuncts, their actual pay is much lower than the average.

Adjunct salaries

An adjunct asking to remain anonymous, provided a confidential salary summary for the Uptown Exchange to review. In the summary, this specific adjunct professor was compensated $565 per credit hour, or $1,695 for a three credit hour course. If this adjunct were to teach a full time class load – four classes a semester, the yearly salary would be $13,560. That is if no sick days are taken – which are unpaid. If a full time non-adjunct professor were to teach the exact same courses, their median salary would average $74,498, according to a 2015 ICCB salary report.

“I know faculty members that are filing for bankruptcy as they are coming to class. They are teaching and filing for bankruptcy.” Miller told the Uptown Exchange. “I know faculty members who have had to leave teaching because of medical issues and they don’t have benefits.”

Concerning benefits, CCC does not contribute to health care premiums for any adjuncts – meaning any coverage has to be paid completely out of pocket. For many professors, the cost is just too much to afford. “The instructor that I know personally, has delayed getting his medication to the point of not getting it at all sometimes, January this year he suffered a stroke, while at work.” “Now he is going through rehab with no income or no healthcare. This is the state of an adjunct instructor,” Olive Harvey professor Cleveland Jones shared during the meeting.

Because of the nature of the discussions, information concerning the current negotiations have not been made public. “We are really not at liberty to talk about it because of the fact that it’s a union matter and it’s a negotiation matter.” said Scott Brigham, Truman’s Director of Public Relations.

With the state of Illinois involved in an ongoing budget crisis, the CCCLOC face an uphill battle to shift public opinion in favor of the professors. Miller told The Uptown Exchange that what the union is asking for is not that unreasonable, “This isn’t a greedy thing; people are just trying to get a living wage.” The CCCLOC estimates that about one-third of adjunct faculty currently receive government assistance.

After the board meeting, adjuncts who sat in on the meeting were hopeful that their message was received. “I thought it was great; I thought the comments were wonderful […] and with the adjuncts and the students and the faculty coming together, I think this is going to be the start of some really wonderful efforts.” said Bill Silver.

adjunct photoBrigham says district Chancellors are listening to the CCLOC’s demands and public comments. “They are aware of the concerns of the faculty.” Brigham told the Uptown Exchange. “They are aware of the comments from students who not only are supportive of faculty in terms of compensation but in the job that they are doing, and I think that carries some weight.”

While adjuncts picket and protest, it is ultimately the students who have the loudest voices.

“They pay very careful attention to what students say regarding adjuncts.” said Brigham. Students who have an opinion on adjunct compensation are able to speak at the monthly district meetings and contact school officials.



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