Magazine article Academe

Lobbying in a "Right-to-Work" State

Magazine article Academe

Lobbying in a "Right-to-Work" State

Article excerpt

Tennessee is what is known as a "right-to-work" state, where laws privilege the rights of employers to terminate employees at will and prohibit workers in several sectors from exercising their rights to organize a collective bargaining unit. This fact greatly aggravates the plight of part-time faculty in the Tennessee Board of Regents system, who have not seen a pay increase in more than ten years. The system, which is distinct from the University of Tennessee system, includes six universities and thirteen community colleges in the state.

Without the benefit of collective bargaining, our adjuncts have organized a small but steadfast advocacy movement under the auspices of the Committee on Part-Time and Non-Tenure-Track Appointments in our state conference of the AAUP.

Our recent efforts have focused on creating a proposal to raise the maximum (there is no minimum) pay rates per credit hour that govern how part-time faculty are compensated on a semester-by-semester basis. Currently, the most an instructor can earn for a three-hour course is $2,100, but some instructors earn as little as $310 per credit hour. At the universities, adjuncts are supposed to teach no more than three courses each semester, which means that the maximum annual income for an adjunct is $12,600 - with no benefits, no job security, no representation in faculty governance, and often, no summer employment. At least one community college, however, publishes an adjunct handbook that explains how adjunct faculty may teach as many as nine classes each year at a maximum wage of $ 1 ,470 a course.

So far, our proposal has gained an authence with the faculty senates on some of our campuses, with some ad- ministrators on other campuses, with the vice-chancellors in the regents system, and with the various councils and subcouncils that make up the governing structure of the system. The faculty subcouncil (comprising representatives from various campuses) approved the proposal unanimously, the one with the most clout, the presidents' council, has yet to act on it. …

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