13 April 2012

CNM cowardly defends its escalating union-busting campaign

In a recent article on part-time faculty salaries published in the Chronicle, the student-run newspaper at Central New Mexico Community College, a college spokesperson defended the current pay rate with the explanation that they are competitive with those offered by other community colleges nationwide. The statement may be correct, but so what? That does not make the compensation fair, just or right.

First, a little background: Full-time CNM faculty average $54,292 per year, according to the Chronicle, and the new hires start at about $46,500, at least they do in the school of Communication, Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS), where I teach part-time. Because CNM practices are not transparent, the average full-time salary may be inflated; other sources claim it is closer to $49,000. Full-timers in CHSS are expected to teach 10 classes over the school year, but a part-timer with a Ph.D. would earn $26,630 for teaching the same 10 classes. Now, the full-timers have additional expectations outside the classroom that part-timers don’t, though that doesn’t prevent part-timers from being solicited to volunteer for additional duties at their own expense, as I was earlier this week

Against this backdrop, CNM under the leadership of President Katharine Winograd has continued to wage a relentless campaign to crush the CNM Employees Union, an American Federation of Teachers-affiliated local that represents faculty, instructional support staff, security officers and others. Earlier this week, Winograd announced by email that CNM employees, who have seen no adjustments to pay for almost three years, would receive “3 percent recurring and a 2 percent non-recurring salary increase.” Well, may be not everyone. Workers represented by the CNM Employees Union would be excluded, Winograd explained, until there is agreement on the contract the administration has been resisting for years. The proposed contact advanced by Winograd et al contains a provision that says any raises can be recalled if state funding is reduced. What is the point of a contract if not to assure a predictable pattern of wages and working conditions that cannot be unilaterally recalled?

The problem with inadequate part-time faculty salaries is a national one and is part of a trend that began decades ago, most notably in retail department stores, like Walmart, and in the fast-food industry with chains like McDonald’s. The goal was to reduce costs to become more “competitive,” i.e. more profitable, by reducing labor costs. The race to the bottom for cheap wages drove some businesses to relocate overseas. In those industries where it wasn’t practical to relocate, the number of full-time employees was reduced in favor of more part-time workers, who were typically paid less and less likely to receive benefits like health insurance and pensions.

The trend that began in the private sector spilled over into public sector; institutions of higher education like CNM and the University of New Mexico are no exception. Solid figures are elusive but part-time faculty members at CNM outnumber full-timers 771-321, according to the college. (A list I downloaded from the CNM website at the start of this semester indicated there were 843 part-timers.) In the public sector, the logic of reducing costs, particularly those for labor, is not to enhance profitably, but to realize savings, in part, to offset reduced public and private support. However, the same downward trend in compensation in this corporate model of management excludes the architects of cost-cutting, who are typically rewarded, often ridiculously so, for eliminating jobs and/or reducing the salaries of their co-workers. Winograd is paid an annual salary of $206,000 and her administrators average $84,861, reports the Chronicle. But other insiders at CNM say Winograd's actual salary is closer to $238,000, excluding perks. By comparison, N.M. Governor Suzanna Martinez's annual cash compensation is $110,000, according to the Sunshine Review online site.
The widening disparities in income and wealth ignited the Occupy movement and are effectively symbolized by the view that 1% has immensely profited at the expense of the 99%, which is simply a more palatable and pervasive acknowledgement that class warfare is escalating.

Actions that are justified because “everyone else is doing it” are the refuge of conformists seeking to avoid or deflect personal responsibility. The labor movement had to battle these arguments in the late 19th century when it advocated for the “radical” notion that workers should be entitled to a weekend, an eight-hour work day, or that children should not work 60-hour weeks in dangerous workplaces, like coal mines and textile mills. “Everyone else is doing it” was the rationalization used by many opponents of the Civil Rights Movement, which sought to end racial segregation and discriminatory practices that treated large groups of Americans as second-class citizens.  Exploitation today, when justified by the claim that “everyone else is doing it,” is as cowardly and gutless as it was then.

Note: A shorter version of this was submitted as a letter to editor of the CNM Chronicle.  

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:52 AM

    Nice piece of writing.
    Winograd is not a leader, only an administrator. CNM, find a president who can recognize and build quality.