I’ve been an adjunct lecturer at Eastern Michigan University for 20 years. I’ve always received stellar student reviews. My textbook has been used and endorsed by lecturers and tenured faculty both at EMU and at other universities. Most folks who remember the organizing campaign that first brought collective bargaining to full-time lecturers at EMU recall me as the long-time leader of that successful effort.
Our goal was to create a bargaining unit for all lecturers, full-time and part-time. We were united in our community of interest. Our success in creating what became EMU Federation of Teachers, Local 9102 of the American Federation of Teachers was historic: EMUFT is the first collective bargaining unit in the entire State of Michigan made up entirely of lecturers.
But success came with a painful compromise. We agreed, for the time, to limit its membership to full-time lecturers only. As a result, I was one of those lecturers who were denied membership. Most of the leadership of EMULOC (EMU Lecturers Organizing Committee) – the forerunner to our current ALOC (Adjunct Lecturers’ Organizing Committee) – was also kept out, along with nearly four-fifths of all lecturers. We did it for the cause, and with the belief that the resulting bargaining unit would continue the struggle to broaden its base and bring us in.
That struggle is going on right now. It is a just struggle. It is time for the rest of our family of EMU lecturers to be welcomed home. But we are facing a hostile group of individuals with long-time ties to the university, and yet little interest in its actual well-being, who care more about protecting their power base than supporting the needs of those of us who do the work to make the university work. They do it with divide-and-conquer techniques, which allege that full-time and part-time lecturers have competing interests and therefore shouldn’t be united. They hire high-price lawyers with university money and pay them exorbitant sums that would finance our just needs.
It is an immoral, wasteful effort on their part and should be exposed as such. It saddens me to see former faculty members and friends who should know better serving them against us. It is my hope they will come to their senses, and also that President Martin will recognize the injustice and take the side of the legitimate university community, including her part-time lecturers, before this senselessness leads to a major public relations disaster.
At a recent conference call between representatives of Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC), EMUFT, and the EMU administration, EMU spokesperson and high-priced attorney Craig Schwartz said, “The part-time employment of adjuncts provides them with a little money and a nice experience.” This deliberate lie is a continuation of the heartless mischaracterizations the anti-university gang laid on us during our original struggle.
Some of the core purposes of the EMUFT are to promote academic and educational excellence to EMU students and in the EMU community through a commitment to high-quality and professional teaching by securing, maintaining and exercising a voice in the academic affairs of the university and by advocating on behalf of students for a quality education. Adjuncts like myself are also embracing these ideals by organizing, joining the EMUFT and gaining the right to negotiate terms of employment with EMU.
I am writing this brief letter to rally adjuncts but I am also writing it to thank the greater community for your continued support and love. Do not let a hostile group of outsiders define for us who we are and want to be. We are adjunct lecturers, proud and united. We open the future to growing scholars, teachers, workers, and professionals.
I’m approaching the end of my teaching career. Before I retire, I want a home. EMUFT for all EMU lecturers!