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Why I'm A Member - Member Profiles

Carol Gold, Carol Gold, CCRI adjunct, English, Community College of Rhode Island

Before I became an adjunct professor, I worked in CCRI’s Human Resources Department for 28 years. What I learned is that when employees are aware of and understand their benefits, rights, and responsibilities, they can spend more time concentrating on their jobs. Union contracts have helped provide that knowledge, understanding, and peace of mind for most employees at CCRI – but not for adjunct faculty. We have no benefits or rights and, depending on a particular department, may not even be sure of our responsibilities. We may or may not be invited to department meetings; we do not serve on committees; we have no input into curriculum development; we have no say as to how courses are assigned or what we are paid for teaching them. The adjuncts at our sister institutions, University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College, are unionized and have a voice. We did not. Now we do. The CCRI adjuncts voted overwhelmingly in early April to join NEA. Now we begin the process of building an organization of energetic and committed members who will work to ensure consistent and equitable treatment of the talented adjunct faculty here at CCRI. Adjuncts working together can make a difference.


Angela Calcaterra, John A. Logan College, Illinois

Your rate of pay should not depend on your father’s last name, and your likelihood of job promotion shouldn’t vary according to your family’s connections either. And yet, professional staff members at John A. Logan College, a community college in southern Illinois, have felt for years that their recruitment, compensation, and promotion has depended more on institutional nepotism, than personal professionalism. The college’s salary scale is indecipherable, said Angela Calcaterra, campus coordinator for students with hearing disabilities. But what is clear is that “it favors employees with connections,” she said, and what is obvious is that it demonstrates a lack of respect for the work done by Logan’s professional staff—”the people in the trenches,” said Calcaterra—whose work is key to college access and student success. “We feel very undervalued,” she said. Fed up with the inequities and the disrespect, this spring Logan’s professional staff formed a union, the Logan Professional Staff Association, certified by the Illinois labor relations board in May. Led by co-presidents Calcaterra and career counselor Beth Stephens, the new IEA-NEA affiliated union is comprised of nearly 70 non-teaching employees whose work ranges from financial aid to library services. These union members are counting on their newly acquired right to collectively bargain to get them a real salary scale that is transparent and comprehensible, and provides for appropriate professional advancement, Calcaterra said. And their bargaining team is "rarin' to go."


Gabe Camacho, El Paso Community College

It’s been five years since Texas Gov. Rick Perry and his anti-public education cronies launched their war on higher education with “seven breakthrough solutions,” which included rating professors based on student evaluations and measuring academic programs according to their revenues. “To say that Texas is hostile to higher education is an understatement. You could consider it a war on higher ed,” said Gabe Camacho, president of the El Paso Community College faculty union. “When you look at Governor Perry’s policies… they’re completely inappropriate, especially for a community college in this economy.”

Camacho understands students in El Paso, an area of high poverty near the U.S.-Mexico border, need access to a high-quality, affordable higher education in order to get jobs. But state funding cuts endanger access and quality. Since 2001, Texas funding per full-time college student has dropped 21 percent. Making matters worse, last year the state Legislature reduced financial-aid funding for students by 15 percent. Meanwhile, tuition at four-year public universities in Texas has jumped 266 percent over the past two decades.

The answer to these problems, says Camacho, is in a well-organized faculty that raises its voice on the important issues. “If you’re organized, if you have big numbers, people tend to pay attention to you,” said Camacho, who teaches philosophy. “First, it’s going to be the administration at your institution listening to you, but increasingly it’s also going to be your legislators.” In Texas, a right-to-work state, unions don’t always get a lot of respect. But Camacho, who has been a member since 2007, his first year at EPCC, tells his colleagues, "If you want to enact change, it has to be through some organized movement."


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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