Don't Lynch Me But Unions for Adjuncts is a Terrible Idea!

The adjuncts in our local community college system are pushing for a union. I just got a letter in the mail asking me to agree to representation, and I want to go on record as saying, As an adjunct, I am completely and totally and utterly opposed to being represented by a union.

I am willing to allow that businesses and entrenched bureaucracies at places like colleges can be insular, vaguely corrupt, and more than a little officious. But unions don't change this or make it better! Instead of having one step between me and the insular, vaguely corrupt, and officious bureaucracy, I would have two steps between me and the insular, vaguely corrupt, and officious bureaucracy, and that first step would be filled by-guess what?-an insular, vaguely corrupt, and officious bureaucracy!

Sorry—but I, eh hem, very much dislike unions. I was represented by one once (as a secretary at a college). I found the attitude of the union and the union members to be unbelievably self-righteous, self-aggrandizing, and offensive. All the union thought about was getting what it wanted; the college was ALWAYS the bad guy ("Why do you want to work here then?" was my thought.) The union didn't care about the state of the economy, the expenses involved in running a college, the need for the college to pay faculty members more than secretaries (you can run a college without secretaries but you can't much without faculty members, and, yes, I thought that before I became an instructor). The union didn't care about the larger picture at all.

Granted, most institutions can be wasteful, but giving adjunct faculty at a community college health benefits would bankrupt that institution. Benefits, full or partial, are cripplingly expensive. I've heard lots of stories about how wasteful colleges are and how they could save money by turning off lights and buying less paperclips. True. But benefits are not the difference between turning off lights and buying less paperclips. Benefits are the difference between a business staying afloat and that business ceasing to exist.

The reason community colleges have so many adjuncts is because they can only afford adjuncts! They honestly don't love having to put up with us adjuncts: they can't control us all that well. If they could go with only full-time faculty, they would, believe me! They use adjuncts because full-time faculty members (who are represented by a union) are expensive. If an adjunct union got its way and start forcing our local colleges to shell out benefits, what do you think would happen?

I'll tell you what I think would happen: the college would cut classes plus its enrollment, hire two or three full-time faculty members, and everyone else would lose their jobs because that is what the college could afford.

Now, I could be one of those new hirees. I am good enough that I'd be in the running, so maybe, I shouldn't care. Maybe, I should say to the union people, Go ahead; your behavior will get me a full-time job. But frankly, the completely subjective mentality of people who have no appreciation for the real costs of hiring upsets me too much for me to get all Machiavellian. They honestly seem to believe in the big lie (should I call it a myth?) in our culture: There's lots and lots of money out there somewhere; the big bad company doesn't want to save on costs; they are keeping the money from us; IF ONLY, the big bad company would run things our way, all kinds of money would come pouring out of the heavens. Oh, yeah, just what we need: TWO self-righteous bureaucracies who think they know where more money can come from!

I apologize to all those sensitive nice people who love unions and think they are a good idea. I also apologize for my tone :) I'm not usually so angry-girl, but I had to go on record here: unions for adjuncts is a terrible idea!

However, I will agree that colleges should back off their in-your-face expectations for adjuncts and admit that we cheap adjuncts save them lots and lots and lots of money. So, stop asking me to play nursemaid to students, boss.


Dan said...

Well said, Kate. The wikipedia entry on rent seeking provides a good basis on which to explain the economic policies of the political left. If one assumes the pie will always grow bigger than all that matters is deciding how big of a slice each market participant gets. Unfortunately, it is not safe to assume the pie will always grow bigger.

"In economics, rent seeking occurs when an individual, organization or firm seeks to earn income by capturing economic rent through manipulation or exploitation of the economic environment, rather than by earning profits through economic transactions and the production of added wealth."

Cari Hislop said...

I agree! Unions are economic paracites. They're a standing army you have to pay to stand around, but they get bored and need to look like their earning their ill gotten gains so they stick their ore into the machine and stop it to prove how strong they are...losing everyone money...while they make money bleeding their members dry!

If people really are being expolited and need to challenge their pay or work conditions (because their lives are in danger) they should form a transient Union that will enable them to negotiate and then disband.

History proves most of these Union bosses are pigs at the trough! The more I know about Unions the more I hate them.

Joe said...

When you're done getting rid of the union, get rid of tenure.