Posts Tagged ‘academy’

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It took two and a half years but, on the basis of yesterday’s ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (pdf), research and teaching assistants at Columbia University now have the right to form a union (as GWC-UAW Local 2110).

It comes as no surprise that Columbia’s administration opposed the ruling:

The university said in a statement Tuesday that it’s reviewing the ruling, but that it “disagrees with this outcome because we believe the academic relationship students have with faculty members and departments as part of their studies is not the same as between employer and employee.”

First and foremost, Columbia said, “students serving as research or teaching assistants come to Columbia to gain knowledge and expertise, and we believe there are legitimate concerns about the impact of involving a nonacademic third party in this scholarly training.”

And the consequences of the NLRB ruling extend far beyond Columbia:

NPR’s Yuki Noguchi reports that “only a small fraction of graduate students at public universities are currently represented by unions — but the decision governing private university students is expected to lead to unionization efforts that could organize tens of thousands more.”

The NLRB had long held that students who teach or research at a private university were not employees covered under the National Labor Relations Act, Yuki reports. That changed in 2000, when the board decided a case in favor of students, and changed again with another ruling four years later. Now the NLRB has reversed itself yet again.

In Tuesday’s decision, the board majority wrote that the 2004 ruling “deprived an entire category of workers of the protections of the Act, without a convincing justification in either the statutory language or the policies of the Act.”

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Not surprisingly, Yale (where graduate-student employees have been attempting to organize their own union for 25 years) echoed Columbia’s response:

Peter Salovey, president of Yale, said in a separate statement that the “mentorship and training that Yale professors provide to graduate students is essential to educating the next generation of leading scholars” and that he’d “long been concerned that this relationship would become less productive and rewarding under a formal collective bargaining regime, in which professors would be ‘supervisors’ of their graduate student ‘employees.’”

But the American Association of University Professors, which argued in an amicus brief in the Columbia case that collective bargaining can improve graduate students’ academic freedom, applauded the NLRB decision.

“This is a tremendous victory for student workers, and the AAUP stands ready to work with graduate employees to defend their rights, including rights to academic freedom and shared governance participation,” Howard Bunsis, chair of the association’s Collective Bargaining Congress and a professor of accounting at Eastern Michigan University, said in a statement. “Graduate employees deserve a seat at the table and a voice in higher education.”

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Lisa Liberty Becker is absolutely right: there’s something seriously wrong with a university system that has “gone the way of Walmart,”

profiting from the continued manipulation of the lowest rung. However, these customers aren’t shopping for $2 T-shirts but for an education. You can give that lowest rung more pay and say it’s better than nothing, but a 50 percent raise on low pay still equals low pay, and one-year contracts don’t provide stability. These conditions affect the courses that college students and their parents pay huge bucks for, thanks to astronomical tuition rates now averaging $35,000. For one of the courses I taught last spring, the school collected $105,000 in student tuition — more than 16 times what I was paid to teach said class.

Adjunct professors across the country—who make up almost three quarters of college and university classroom teachers in the United States—have responded by forming unions and collectively bargaining for contracts, to increase their pay and to obtain longer contracts.

That’s a start. But, Becker is correct, it’s not enough.

I respect those speaking up against university administrations when administrators have so little respect for them, and their union wins are certainly moral victories. However, the cracked framework of the college system persists even after these protests end and union contracts are ratified, and administrators continue to fill adjunct spots with little difficulty.

The problem, as adjunct and tenure-track faculty both know, is the rise of the corporate university, which is governed by boards of directors, run by CEOs, and has all but eliminated faculty governance.

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Many CEOs and top-level managers manage to capture an enormous share of the surplus as payment in exchange for working. That we know.

We also know that, while faculty salaries have stagnated, the size and salaries of collegiate athletic coaching staffs have soared in recent years.

Then there are those, like former-Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis, who get their cut of the surplus for literally not working—for doing nothing.

As has been the case for many years, former Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis again received more money from the university in a recent year than any Notre Dame athletics employee.

Weis — who was fired by Notre Dame in November 2009 — received what has become his customary $2,054,744 during the 2014 calendar year, according to the university’s new federal tax return.

That means Weis received more from Notre Dame in 2014 than all but two university employees listed on the return, which the school provided Monday in response to a request from USA TODAY Sports.

Vice President and chief investment officer Scott Malpass was credited with nearly $5.4 million in total compensation in 2014, including just over $1 million that had been reported as deferred compensation in prior years; Malpass’ total also included nearly $2.9 million in bonus pay. Michael Donovan, the school’s managing director for private capital investments, was credited with more than $2.3 million, including just under $400,000 that had been reported as deferred pay in prior years and more than $1.1 million in bonus compensation. . .

According to the school’s tax records, Weis received more than $6.6 million pay and severance in 2009. He subsequently has been paid nearly $10.3 million by Notre Dame from 2010 through 2014. The tax records say that Weis was due to be paid through December 2015.

During that time, Weis also worked as an assistant for the Kansas City Chiefs and the  University of Florida. In December 2011, he became the head coach at Kansas, which was paying him $2.5 a season until firing him in late September 2014 with more than $5.6 million owed him under that contract.

 

Disclaimer: I am an employee of the University of Notre Dame but I have no say in determining the pay of anyone, working or not.

Fast Food Workers Protest For Increased Wages Ahead Of McDonald's Annual Shareholder Meeting

One week ago, the McDonald’s Corporation reported a 35-percent increase in profits (from $811.5 million in the period last year to $1.1 billion) in the quarter that ended 31 March. A few days later, former McDonald’s President and CEO Ed Rensi published an opinion piece in Forbes to explain why raising the minimum wage would be a huge mistake.

Let’s do the math: A typical franchisee sells about $2.6 million worth of burgers, fries, shakes and Happy Meals each year, leaving them with $156,000 in profit. If that franchisee has 15 part-time employees on staff earning minimum wage, a $15 hourly pay requirement eats up three-quarters of their profitability. (In reality, the costs will be much higher, as the company will have to fund raises further up the pay scale.) For some locations, a $15 minimum wage wipes out their entire profit.

Recouping those costs isn’t as simple as raising prices. If it were easy to add big price increases to a meal, it would have already been done without a wage hike to trigger it. In the real world, our industry customers are notoriously sensitive to price increases. (If you’re a McDonald’s regular, there’s a reason you gravitate towards an extra-value meal or the dollar menu.) Instead, franchisees can absorb the cost with a change that customers don’t mind: The substitution of a self-service computer kiosk for a a full-service employee.

What Rensi doesn’t mention is that U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing McDonald’s profits.

As Ken Jacobs reports,

Workers like Terrence Wise, a 35-year-old father who works part-time at McDonald’s and Burger King in Kansas City, Mo., and his fiancée Myosha Johnson, a home care worker, are among millions of families in the U.S. who work an average of 38 hours per week but still rely on public assistance. Wise is paid $8.50 an hour at his McDonald’s job and $9 an hour at Burger King. Johnson is paid just above $10 an hour, even after a decade in her field. Wise and Johnson together rely on $240 a month in food stamps to feed their three kids, a cost borne by taxpayers.

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In fact, according to a study by Jacobs, Ian Perry, and Jenifer MacGillvary (pdf) for the UC Berkeley Labor Center, 52 percent of fast-food workers make so little that they’re are on some form of public assistance.*

That’s the social cost of McDonald’s (and other fast-food corporations’) private profits.

 

*Note also in the chart above the following observation about nominally non-profit higher education in the United States: “high reliance on public assistance programs among workers isn’t found only in service occupations. Fully one-quarter of part-time college faculty and their families are enrolled in at least one of the public assistance programs analyzed in this report.”