Faculty Join Fast Food in the Fight for 15

From American Prospect:


As yesterday’s Fight for $15 protests wound to a close across the country, it’s become clear that this movement is not a fleeting effort—it’s here to stay. The focal point has primarily been on the most visible low-wage workers: fast food and retail workers whose pay perpetually hovers around minimum wage. And their employers seem to be taking a small, yet encouraging, step in the right direction as both McDonald’s and Wal-Mart recently announced increases to their respective minimum wages.

However, another employment sector that’s not typically associated with low wages was prominent yesterday as well: the American professoriate.

Higher education institutions in the United States employ more than a million adjunct professors. This new faculty majority, about 70 percent of the faculty workforce, is doing the heavy lifting of academic instruction. These are positions with tenuous job security (often semester-by-semester), sparse instructional resources, limited academic freedom, and meager wages—the average working adjunct makes around $3,000 per three-credit course. An astounding 20 percent of part-time adjunct faculty rely on government assistance, according to a recent report from NBC News.

That is to say, many faculty in the United States are among the ranks of low-wage workers. From Seattle University in Washington and the University of Southern California, to schools in Chicago and North Carolina, adjuncts made it clearyesterday that they are fed up with their second-tier status. This isn’t the first mass mobilization of adjuncts either. Adjuncts across the country participated in aNational Adjunct Walkout Day back in February.

While fast food workers called for $15 an hour, adjuncts rallied for a base pay of $15,000 per course—an aspirational standard initiated by SEIU’s new Faculty Forward campaign.

In Portland, Oregon, adjunct Tiffany Kraft led a Fight for $15 rally of hundreds of workers—everyone from fast food and home care workers to local carpenter union members and part-time adjuncts. “It was such good energy,” she says. They first marched on the Portland City Hall, filling the cavernous halls with echoing chants, before heading to the Portland State University campus.

In being a presence in the Fight for $15 movement, Kraft says it’s all about “exposure, exposure, exposure. Outing the abuser.”

“I don’t think people understand how oppressive it is to work without security. To work on a terminal, sometimes ten-week, basis, without knowing you’ll be re-employed,” she says. “It wears on you psychologically, physically. Not only are you underpaid, there’s absolutely no respect. Over time, that hurts.”

Read the full story here.