A Day Without a (Contingent) Woman

New Faculty Majority endorses A Day Without A Woman and the International Women’s Strike of March 8, 2017.

Slightly more than half of all contingent faculty are women, and women constitute the clear majority of contingent faculty in “feminized” fields in the humanities.  Women of color are underrepresented in the faculty as a whole, but overrepresented in the contingent ranks.  For us at New Faculty Majority, these statistics are reason enough to support the International Women’s Strike, in all of its forms.

Recognizing that the precariousness of adjunct and contingent faculty working conditions makes it risky for many women to participate, we encourage allies, especially tenured women allies, to stand up for their precarious colleagues and we encourage all to wear red in solidarity.

Red, we point out, is traditionally associated with the labor movement. It is also an apt color for adjunct and contingent faculty and especially for those who are women.  The Scarlet A is an unofficial symbol of the feminization and the exploitation of adjunct and contingent faculty, those who are doing the work at the heart of the mission of higher education and who are sacrificing the most for their students and colleagues.

We encourage all of our colleagues and supporters to learn more about the working conditions of adjunct and contingent faculty and to work with us to demand and to work for equal pay for equal work, workplace dignity, and a re-dedication to the women faculty and students without whom colleges and universities would cease to function.

NFM’s Women and Contingency Project

Addressing the Scarlet A: Adjuncts and the Academy


A Friendly Reminder to FTTT Faculty in this season of contract negotiations

Something just a little too true in almost every blended union:

“…the general membership (by which I mean US, the rank and file) is lagging behind in terms of coming to grips with the fact that our adjunct faculty are just as much a part of the bargaining unit, and thus the union, as any tenured/tenure-track (T/TT) faculty member is.”

Read more here: (7) Seth Kahn

CUNY Adjunct Project recommends a “No” Vote on new contract



CUNY Adj ProjOn Thursday, June 16th, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) announced it had reached a tentative contract with CUNY management, and the following evening it released a summary of the contract’s details. By Wednesday, June 22nd, the “memorandum of agreement” providing the contract’s full details started to circulate, although as of this writing that memorandum hadn’t been officially distributed to the PSC’s membership at large. And on Thursday, June 23rd, the PSC’s Delegate Assembly voted to endorse the tentative contract by 111-11. It will now be sent to the union membership for ratification, in which all of us—higher education officers (HEOs), tenured and full-time faculty, CUNY Language Immersion Program (CLIP) and CUNY Start instructors, graduate employees, and adjuncts, the group of workers the Adjunct Project was created by the Doctoral Students’ Council to serve 22 years ago—will be able to vote for or against it.

As the coordinators of the Adjunct Project, we recognize that many members of the bargaining unit are grateful just to have a tentative contract after six years without one, and we’re ourselves grateful for the work of so many people not just to reach this point but to amplify adjunct and graduate-employee concerns throughout this process. We recognize that there may be aspects of this tentative contract that are agreeable to some or many, and that the contract overall may be perceived, as one common reaction has it, as “better than nothing.” We also understand that, in the midst of austerity, the fight back from the threatened $485-million funding cut by the state—a fabricated crisis—and from management’s initial 6% economic offer are not just immediate victories but  important steps in the continuing struggle against austerity as an ongoing political economic project. Indeed, we look forward to participating in this struggle with even greater resolve going forward.

Nevertheless, and mindful of both the Adjunct Project’s and the Doctoral Students’ Council’s endorsements of striking as the only means to achieve a genuinely fair contract, we are advocating a “NO” vote on the tentative contract because it fails adjuncts, who teach approximately two-thirds of CUNY courses, by maintaining our unsustainably low wages and insecure employment status while increasing the disparity between our pay and employment status and that of full-time faculty. Moreover, the tentative contract fails all workers in the bargaining unit by its overall concessions to the state and management. We offer the following specifics:

(1) In providing across-the-board wage increases, the tentative contract further increases the pay disparity between full-time and part-time faculty. In order to decrease this pay gap—and achieve the “movement toward adjunct salary parity” the PSC called for as its third contract demand—adjuncts need to receive “equity pay” in the form of substantial raises over and above across-the-board wage increases. Under the terms of the tentative contract, the across-the-board pay increase of 10.41% (with compounding) will provide an adjunct lecturer at the bottom of the pay scale with $300+ more per course by the end of the contract ($3,222 [rounded], compared to the present $2,918 for a 15-week course). This keeps adjunct pay at an unfathomably low rate in spite of the fact that the Adjunct Project—and the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor, the Doctoral Students’ Council, and the Modern Language Association—call for a minimum of $7,000 per course, while the PSC’s First Fridays adjunct group endorsed a $5,000 minimum (a minimum the PSC itself has endorsed via its support for the National Mobilization for Equity). By comparison, a full professor at the lowest rung of the pay scale will receive an additional $7,000+ per year by the end of the contract ($68,803 currently, versus $75,975 under the proposed contract).

(2) The signing bonuses reinforce this pay disparity. Full-time faculty and staff will receive a $1000 signing bonus, to be pro-rated for part-timers. However, adjuncts who are paid for just 45 hours of work per three-credit course while actually working many multiples of that amount will receive only a minimal signing bonus—and most of us won’t qualify for the designated adjunct bonus given the high bar set for obtaining it. Meanwhile, graduate employees will only receive $750 or $500 depending on what appointment they have (graduate assistant A, B, or C, or graduate assistant D, respectively).

(3) Instead of equity pay for adjuncts, the PSC conceded to management’s demand for what might be termed “elite pay,” or the up-to-15% raises that “select faculty and staff” will be able to receive under this contract beyond the upper limit of the pay schedule. This concession not only considerably widens the pay disparity at the top end: it also shows that additional money can be found for targeted wage increases.

(4) Although the three-year appointments for adjuncts are being hailed as a breakthrough by some, the details prove otherwise. First, the three-year appointments are only a pilot program, fully contingent upon management’s approval to continue them beyond the initial five-year trial period. Second, management reserves the right to appoint adjuncts to the three-year terms on the basis of the “fiscal and programmatic needs of the department and/or the college” (provision #4 in the relevant section of the memorandum of agreement), which means even under the pilot program, adjuncts will be appointed at management’s discretion, just as we are now. Third, the appointments will not apply to the majority of adjuncts, who won’t meet the requirement of teaching six credits a semester in the same department for 10 continuous semesters. Further, since most of us will not qualify for the appointments, the appointments create yet another tier of employment status within the faculty ranks. Finally, the three-year appointments, which will require a “tenure-lite” review triannually, are a far cry from the “Certificate of Continuous Employment” the PSC listed as its 22nd demand, in which adjuncts, after teaching a minimum of 12 contact hours for one department in five of the previous seven years, would undergo a single review and then could only be terminated for just cause. Instead, a seniority system, for which the First Fridays group and others lobbied, would be the best job protection short of tenure.

(5) The 9/6 rule will remain, which limits adjuncts to teaching nine credits at one campus and six credits at another. Many of us lobbied for either an outright end to this policy—a PSC rule that ostensibly limits our exploitation—or its significant relaxation, so that we could have more control over our teaching schedules (say, by centralizing our teaching at one campus, thus increasing and solidifying our presence there while cutting down or eliminating travel time between campuses). Again, as adjuncts and graduate student workers, we should and must be paid more, but until we achieve parity, we should be able to work more and have more choice about where we work.

(6) The 10.41% across the board wage increase is less than the rate of inflation (12%) since the last wage increase went into effect in 2009, and is considerably less than the cost-of-living increase in the New York City area over that same period (above 20%, according to various estimates).

(7) Ultimately, incrementalism will not end either the two-tier system of faculty labor at CUNY nor the austerity program of New York State and CUNY management. Indeed, austerity can only be defeated by following through on the strike authorization and taking other bold, imaginative, committed, collective action.

Thus we’re left with no option but to vote “NO” on this contract, an obligation we share with fellow adjuncts, graduate student workers, and all those who recognize that our union is only as strong as the most exploited among us. Voting “NO” also makes it clear to our bargaining team and to CUNY management that “better than nothing” isn’t good enough—not after six years without a raise, and not at a moment when we’re more organized and ready to fight than ever. Finally, voting “NO” means not giving up on the strike that we campaigned for and authorized with a 92% majority, and which remains the most powerful tool at our disposal to secure a contract worthy of our labor. We’ve waited too long and fought too hard to accept this contract. By refusing to accept it—by refusing to wait for another endless round of negotiations on the next contract—we also refuse to accept the worsening status quo. We know in our working hearts, minds, and bodies what we need to do, and we look forward to a vigorous discussion about it after we say “NO!”

With love and solidarity,

The Adjunct Project coordinators

[Image: “Striking clothing workers parade” via Digital Collections, UIC Library via CC BY-NC-Nd 2.0.]

For a “Yes” vote recommendation, see “Proposed Contract: From the Perspective of Seven Graduate Assistants.”

This post originally appeared on the CUNY Adjunct Project blog. Republished here by request.

The Dry Season

educate-agitate-organizeSumer is icumen in and it’s both a relief and a source of fear for adjuncts. Relief that the semester is over and we can take a breather, fear that we won’t be able to pay the bills and won’t get another class assignment in September. Fear that we are well and truly FUBARed.

It’s also the season when we turn to our own scholarly and activist work in earnest, and that’s what we’ll be doing here. The blog has been a bit dry lately, and that’s going to change now. So if you’ve been sitting on something juicy that you want to get out into the world and think NFM woud be a good place for it, send it along. I’m back in the editor’s chair.

Reclaiming the Artist: Organizing through Art, Part 3

by Jessica Lawless

Part 1, Part 2

March and puppetry at Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture. Photo by Jennie Smith-Camejo.

March and puppetry at Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture. Photo by Jennie Smith-Camejo.

No Justice No Service was held ten days after National Adjunct Walkout Day (NAWD) and just over a month before the nationwide Fight for Fifteen day of action on 4/15. This was strategic. Bay Area #NAWD was organized to bring together the adjunct and the fast food workers’ fights against income inequality. We did turn out for No Justice No Service during NAWD, letting folks know there was a follow-up event to keep up our momentum. Similarly, No Justice No Service was another opportunity to bring together adjunct faculty and fast food workers while ensuring turnout for the 4/15 day of action.

In early 2015, Black Lives Matter activists in Oakland launched Black Brunches. Black activists walked into restaurants in gentrified—predominantly white—neighborhoods and read aloud names of black trans and cis folks murdered by state-sanctioned violence. During No Justice No Service, several of the Black artists staged a Black Brunch style intervention. Lukaza Verrisimo- Branfman, a CCA student, wrote a special roll call naming fallen labor activists alongside the names of Black people murdered since the beginning of 2015. As a non-black person standing in that art gallery, I found it chilling to embody the sensations of sorrow, helplessness, anger, and confusion about my role in the face of the violence she had referenced. It was a moment to confront what we are doing to ensure Black lives do, in fact, matter.

No Justice No Service was the first time the bargaining teams of the five newly unionized Bay Area colleges came together face to face. This was strategic for metro organizing. The bargaining teams gave joint updates on each of their school’s progress. The contingent faculty on stage, many of them new activists, were given a round of applause welcoming them into the broader labor and social justice movements of the Bay Area.

Print-in at California College of the Arts Oakland Campus with SFAI & CCA students. Photo by Jessica Lawless

Print-in at California College of the Arts Oakland Campus with SFAI & CCA students. Photo by Jessica Lawless

Students participated as equal artists. Zach Ozma and Grace Chen gave tarot readings. The CCA Students of Color Coalition restaged a sculpture they made during the organizing campaign: a wall with large text reading “Stay Neutral” that had originally been set up at a captive meeting held by the President and Provost. Mills MFA writing students read poetry and prose. The SFAI student group, The Poster Syndicate, held a print-in in front of the gallery.

Inspired by the Los Angeles and the Bay Area festivals, long-time adjunct activist Bri Bolin organized a day-long festival in Chicago. Fight for 2015: Chicago Art, Education, and Justice Festival was held at Columbia College on April 15, 2015, as a part of the day of action. Our networks expanded.

The Great Tortilla Conspiracy. Photo by Jennie Smith-Camejo.

The Great Tortilla Conspiracy. Photo by Jennie Smith-Camejo.

Because of the concrete organizing successes of the print-ins and No Justice No Service, art in its broadest forms was accepted as a part of organizing at our local. When we held a protest outside of SFAI’s yearly fundraising gala, it included a poetry security force; a giant puppet, St. Precaria; a performative “prayer for precarious workers;” and a brass marching band. Instead of the usual print-in, the Great Tortilla Conspiracy printed with edible ink the Dean of Faculty’s face on tortillas that were made into quesadillas that demonstrators and gala attendees ate.*

During the summer when campuses were quieter, Lauren Elder, who had worked on No Justice No Service and is part of the CCA Contract Action team (CAT); Jessica Beard, an SFAI bargaining team member; and I planned a series of creative workshops called Adjunct Action/Art in Action.  Our goal was to make clear the narrative of the “oppressed adjunct professor” was now the narrative of the “standing up and fighting back adjunct professor.” Partnering with the Center for Digital Storytelling, participants in the workshop wrote their stories of struggle as an academic. It was a cathartic experience that built genuine solidarity. We took those stories and created puppets, in workshops led by Lauren Elder, which were used at CFA and SEIU actions during the fall semester. Finally, we storyboarded an Instagram campaign for a future launch. Faculty and organizers from different schools and unions, as well as community organizers, attended the workshops. One attendee went on to become a bargaining team member at her school. Jessica Beard became an organizer with California Federation of Teacher’s higher ed campaign. And Lauren Elder was hired by the California Faculty Association (CFA) to lead a puppet-making workshop as preparation for an action.

In the fall, Local 1021 held our membership convention. I invited No Justice No Service artists to install art as a part of the convention. Alicia Bell on behalf of Black Magic Arts Collective set up altars to Black laborers. Danielle Wright created a provocative piece about Black women’s hair as it connects to concepts of labor. Catherine Powell from the Labor Archives and Research Center brought a display highlighting women organizers during the 1934 San Francisco General Strike, and Dawn Kceul from the Debt Collective and Strike Debt created an interactive project tallying the collective debt of convention attendees.

Also in the fall, two other events were organized collaboratively between SEIU Local 1021, CFA, The Labor Archives and Research Center, and The San Francisco State University Poetry Center. These were spearheaded by Steve Dickison, a poet and adjunct at CCA as well as the director of the Poetry Center, and Tanya Hollis of the Labor Archives and Research Center that is housed on San Francisco State University’s campus. The first event, Poet | Artist | Activist: Let’s Make a Plan, was held at the Labor Archives and focused on engaging students in art and activism. It featured Chris Higgenbotham, Christian Nagler, and Cassie Thornton. The other event was a panel at the Second Annual Howard Zinn Book Fair in San Francisco.  Adjunct Action|Poets in Action featured Stephanie Young and David Buuck from Mills, Hugh Behm Steinberg from CCA, and Jessica Beard from SFAI. They each read poetry or prose about adjunct organizing in the movement. Shelia Tully from CFA and I moderated the follow up discussion.

While I was focused on the above events, Jonathan, my co-worker at SEIU, was building a coalition between AFT 2121 (San Francisco City College) CFA, SEIU 1021, and Jobs with Justice SF. They convened a hearing about the state of higher education in San Francisco. Among the many things happening that evening, the Poster Syndicate set up a print-in. The hearing resulted in an important report making recommendations to the city supervisors and SFUSD Board of Directors.

Meanwhile, our work was being noticed by SEIU International. Jonathan and I were invited to present on using art as a part of public campaigns and to support new organizing at our state-wide organizing convention.  Our work was also being noticed by other artists and curators. Cassie Thornton and I were invited to Charge 2016, “a three day convening presented by Art League Houston to 1. platform artist-led alternative models of sustainability 2. advocate for equitable compensation for artists 3. consider artists’ work in the larger economy.” We were asked to present on No Justice No Service and adjunct union organizing with artist/adjunct professors.

At Charge 2016 Cassie and I had the opportunity to explore new ways of collaborating. In addition to presenting about art as an organizing tool, we designed an organizing 101 workshop that used self-defense techniques for embodied learning. The shift in the room when we used those techniques to move from agitation to action was palpable.  It was also fun, something much needed when we are fighting the exhausting state of precarity that defines our daily experiences.

When Mills College announced severe budget cuts, Jonathan included Cassie as part of the union actions fighting the proposed department closings. She was paid for her time as artist which allowed her to pilot a new project called Institutional Dreaming, a reinterpretation of Laurie Anderson’s Institutional Dream Series. Laurie Anderson used her dreams to study the impact public institutions had on her psyche and sense of vulnerability to bureaucracies. Cassie is creating spaces for collective dreaming of utopian visions that can restructure the privatization of formerly public institutions that is putting us all in a debt crisis.

Many lifetimes ago, I co-founded a feminist self-defense organization. I revisited self-defense as community building in my MFA thesis project. An effect of learning self-defense is that the embodiment of facing ones fears and/or history of sexual and physical assault seeps into the subconscious and shifts the outcome of recurring violent dreams. Cassie and I are exploring learning organizing skills through feminist self-defense techniques and then capturing the dreaming process as a way to harness our power and shift the vulnerability we feel under neoliberalism onto the institutions. Give us a shout if you are interested in hosting a workshop!

As I wrote in the beginning of this piece, caught in the trap of adjuncting for nine years led me to believe I was no longer a practicing artist. Getting hired as a union organizer felt like the nail in that coffin. I never could have foreseen that this new career would provide opportunities to do the things I thought I’d be doing as an academic: developing my art practice, curating and programming, presenting at conferences, writing and publishing, pushing the boundaries of my field. It’s been one more lesson in NOT accepting that  you just never know what your life or your advocacy can be the catalyst for.

*To see pictures of our events go to the photo albums on the Adjunct Action Bay Area Facebook page

There are many more people who made each event and project possible. You know who you are. Know how much you are appreciated for being a part of this amazing journey.


Reclaiming the Artist: Organizing through Art, Part 2

by Jessica Lawless

Part 1

I started with the first step to any campaign and put together an organizing committee. The OC consisted of Stephanie Young and David Buuck from Mills College, Lauren Elder from CCA, Christian Nagler from SFAI, Cassie Thornton, a CCA alum, and Jessica Tully, an SFAI alum. We were a mix of poets,  artists, and organizers. Adam passed on his notes and materials from the LA event. Local 721’s communications team gave us strategic advice, saying it drew more people than any other public event the local had ever done and they would lend support any way they could. That was the key to greenlighting the project within the chain of command at 1021.

The OC met almost weekly for six months, no small feat since a key struggle with adjunct organizing is, unsurprisingly, attendance at meetings and longevity of OC and bargaining team members. Faculty may not be at the same school during the semester following a union election or the entirety of a first contract campaign. And obviously contingent faculty are not working regular daily shifts at one worksite. Finding a time people can meet for another unpaid commitment is a very real organizing challenge.  The consistent attendance at the art event planning meetings impressed my supervisors as they learned that collectively producing a public event was familiar territory for the adjunct professors who are artists and poets. This was positive for our purposes but it was also a reflection on the double whammy that artists who teach face. We sell ourselves short in two systems that do not provide adequate compensation for our labor. For a variety of reasons, artists have a troubled relationship with the art market while the art market has a troubled relationship compensating the labor of those who create the work the system profits from. Lise Soskolne, in her essay On Merit, does an excellent job of laying out this contradiction. Our planning sessions included how to address this double whammy as an aspect of what we were doing.

The Great Tortilla Conspiracy. Photo by Jennie Smith-Camejo

The Great Tortilla Conspiracy. Photo by Jennie Smith-Camejo

What we were doing became No Justice No Service: Bay Area Art, Education & Justice Festival. It was held on March 8th 2015 at The Lab, a gallery in the Mission district of San Francisco housed in an old labor hall. We brought together installation, performance, and spoken word artists alongside writers, printmakers, Bay Area educators and professors, students, unions, and social justice activists. Our focus was to make evident the interconnectedness between artists, contingent professors, student debt, labor, the Fight for Fifteen, and Black Lives Matter. Jennie Smith-Camejo, the 1021 communications lead for the project, met with us over and over trying to find the right public messaging to attract attendees. These meetings would end with her saying, “I think I get it.” On the night of the festival she said, “OK, I finally got it just now.” Her final revelation mimicked the process of making activist art.

Below are the reactions of other people who were involved with the festival:

As an artist, the work of co-creating No Justice, No Service was to engage in community cross-overs that were fresh, surprising, rewarding and enduring: artists and organizers sharing space, ideas, respect and appreciation. I have not felt part of a broad and vital social movement for decades and this has been a thrilling re-entry.”
–Lauren Elder, Artist, CCA Adjunct Faculty, No Justice No Service organizer

No Justice No Service festival impacted me tremendously. I learned about different movements I was unaware of, such as the Adjunct movement. I couldn’t believe people with Ph.D.’s were getting paid poverty wages. These are professors that teach the future of our country for crying out loud! It enlightened me that our issues with big companies/colleges in America are deeper than it seems from the naked eye. This festival also gave me the chance to perform my poetry for the first time. It was an amazing experience. Since No Justice No Service festival I have been more involved with helping different movements and using my poetry to broadcast different injustices around America.”
–Chris Higginbotham, Fast Food Worker/Organizer, Poet, Photographer, and Middle School Teacher, No Justice No Service artist

No Justice No Service took several forms as part demonstration, performance, teach-in, and even yoga studio to highlight the fight for adjunct unionization. The event brought people from various struggles together in an effort to continue engagement and foster connection between labor unions, Fight for 15, #blm/black.seed, income inequality, student debt and more. The connections fostered have continued between the various groups and constituencies via relationship building and exploring how these struggles are interconnected. ”
–Irina Contreras, Artist, School and Community Programs Manager, Museum of the African Diaspora, No Justice No Service MC

Lauren, Chris, and Irina do an excellent job describing the success of the day-long festival and its lasting reach. For me personally, No Justice No Service began to answer a question I was chewing on since I began working for the union: “What are the aesthetics of labor in the 21st century?” The visual and artistic aspects of labor have been defined by Soviet Era propaganda,  WPA murals, and Woody Guthrie. For some of us it was Ani Difranco and Billy Bragg a generation later. All of this is fantastic, but if we are trying to revive the labor movement I believe we should be looking forward rather than back. As an artist who has always worked at the intersections of social justice and visual culture, I’m now interested in art operating as an organizing tool rather than a separate sphere that occasionally crosses paths with grounded activism.

Reflecting on No Justice No Service, Cassie Thornton and I identified our artistic production during the festival as “live curation.”  Similar to live video mixing or DJ sets, our material was the event itself. We were making program changes for six hours solid, mixing everything from the artists, performers and speakers, to the organizations tabling, the installation artists, the slow food cafe, the print-in and the stenciling happening outside the gallery. Our actions were a performance in their own right. Through live curation we were able to explore how performativity is an aspect of concrete social change rather than art performing political ideologies without affecting change. In No Justice No Service we created a liminal space that interwove artistic labor, social relations, and the precarity of living under neoliberal capitalism. I am beginning to understand 21st century labor union aesthetics as a mergence of social practice and art thinking (See Thinking about Art Thinking by Luis Camnitzer in e-flux journal #65).

Ok, but back to grounded organizing.

Part 3