Adjunct faculty at Temple University had something big to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. It wasn’t the 20-pound turkey, and Adele didn’t stop by Thanksgiving dinner to say “Hello.” "We are thankful for a union," wrote the members of the organizing committee at Temple University.
The news came on Nov. 25 that the adjuncts won their union and a big voice at the workplace—1,400 strong.
While universities justify the low wages because of their part-time status, Ryan Eckes, an adjunct faculty member at Temple University who teaches English and creative writing, shares the reality that most adjuncts are running between two and three different schools. As a Temple alum, Eckes has been on both sides of an equation that doesn’t add up: "The corporate model of education uses cheap labor to turn out a product while students incur huge debt. A career in higher education is not sustainable."
Set Fire to the Rain
Poverty wages. Lack of health care. Lack of job security.
These were the top issues raining down on Temple adjuncts. What got people really fired up? “Job security...not knowing if you will have work wears on people over time,” Eckes exclaimed. He shared how adjuncts would load up in the fall to cover canceled classes in the spring just to earn the full-time income needed to survive.
While the Temple terrain was rocky, for two years a committed group built support through one-on-one conversations, organizing meetings and media support. Finally, the adjunct faculty won their union! Philadelphia, in particular, has been a hotbed of activity with the AFT local United Academics of Philadelphia giving support to more than 15,000 adjuncts in the area. However, like fast-food workers in the Fight for 15, adjuncts at Temple University see themselves as part of a wider national movement.
Don’t You Remember...
...all the rights the labor movement fought for? In the temp economy, the social contract has been compromised, and it has affected a wide range of working people, from teachers to taxi drivers to autoworkers. Adjuncts, like Eckes, have taught for more than a decade but never saw a pathway to full-time employment and benefits. Until now.
Eckes will now have a powerful voice at the workplace, standing 2,800 strong with adjuncts and the full-timers in the same union. Congrats!