News

Contingent Labor: Focus on Higher Education and Adjunct Professors

By Rebecca F. Plante

On one hand, I like my job, which I take pride in doing well, and I look forward to every class. 

On the other hand, it is dead end job (only every semester), with stagnant pay, and no pathway to predictable employment. The merits of my work are known only to my students, as no one evaluates my teaching.

I could quit – It’s just a part time gig. This would be an easy decision if I didn’t love my actual job, didn’t work well with my colleagues or didn’t care for my students, but none of those things are true. I’m a good teacher – my students learn and I make them work hard. I have a good thing going and my department appreciates my work. 

If I quit, those things are lost, but the college gets just what it wanted: 9 years of my best efforts (the equivalent of 6 years of full time employment – compensated at a fraction of the salary and no benefits) and then me giving up and going away quietly when I feel used up. I don’t know what to do, and I’m tired of giving my tenure-track colleagues teaching advice. –Ithaca College Adjunct Professor

First, the good news. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) just introduced legislation intended to extend the benefits of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program to adjunct professors. This would enable adjuncts with the student loan debt often associated with earning one, two, or more degrees to eventually have their government-backed loans forgiven.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), with two million members across the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico, has created Adjunct Action, an effort to unionize contingent professors. Over 21,000 adjuncts have voted to unionize on their campuses, gaining the power of union bargaining, collective action, and access to benefits.

The New Faculty Majority, founded in 2009, has begun to raise awareness about all levels of contingent faculty. And adjuncts across the United States have used the Internet to publish accounts of their working conditions, their decisions to remain in or leave academia, and to connect.

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Become a Monthly Sustainer of the Tompkins County Workers’ Center!

Who is looking out for the local worker? The Tompkins County Workers’ Center [TCWC] is, and we can only do it with your help! We are asking for your support right now to strengthen our work in our community and with local workers. Consider becoming a Monthly Sustainer of our work and/or a one-time donor!! Click on this link to find out how to Donate! https://afl.salsalabs.com/o/4023/c/200/shop/custom.jsp?donate_page_KEY=26

• Whether it is the caller to our Workers’ Rights Hotline who feels bullied at work by being constantly ‘put down’ by a supervisor, or unfairly terminated in the workplace;

• Whether it is supporting Milton Webb and Stanley McPherson doing the hard work that most of us would not want to do at the County’s Recycling Facility for less than a living wage, and then supporting the awesome leadership role they took with us in alerting the County that there are many workers doing County business who are making poverty wages;

• Whether it is Hotel Ithaca (formerly Holiday Inn) bringing 13 J-I Visa student workers from abroad to work as housekeepers, in what is billed as a cultural exchange program for the students. This lowers the floor on wages locally and also means these jobs won’t become permanent jobs for Tompkins County residents. (Hotel Ithaca, incidentally, receives public economic development assistance);

• Whether it is the Ithaca, Lansing, or Dryden restaurant workers having their tips stolen by the owners and managers of their restaurant.

• Whether working at McDonalds; Wal-Mart; Hotel Ithaca; the School District; the County’s Solid Waste Recycling Facility; or Cornell, we all need to be paid a Living Wage and be treated with dignity in our workplaces.

Youth Training: Health and Safety in the Workplace

We will train fellow teenagers and youth in these areas:

• Introduction to OSHA Rights
• Sexual Harassment
• Workplace Violence
• Health & Safety Hazard
• Solutions at Work

Potential peer trainers will receive a stipend to attend. Job opportunities are available with the Midstate Council for Occupational Safety and Health after training.

This 7-hour training will be held in Ithaca this Fall. The exact date and time(s) will be determined for the convenience of the facilitators and those attending.

Pre-registration required. To register and for more information contact: Tom Joyce, Midstate COSH 275-9560, midstatecosh@gmail.com

Over 300 People Attend 31st Annual Labor Day Picnic in Ithaca: List of Awards

Over 300 people attended the Tompkins County Workers’ Center and Midstate Central Labor Council’s 31st Annual Labor Day Picnic on Monday, September 1st. The Picnic organizers focused on the theme: Building a Strong Local Economy for Workers, Awards were handed out to the following deserving recipients:

**Mother Jones Award went to: Christine Johnson, a longtime Housekeeper at the Statler Hotel @ Cornell University, as well as a Steward with the United Auto Workers Local 2300 that represents most service workers at Cornell. Johnson was recognized for her superb representation of workers at the Statler, as well as the union in general.

Christine Johnson receiving the Mother Jones Award as presented by UAW Local President, Terry Sharpe.

Christine Johnson receiving the Mother Jones Award as presented by UAW Local President, Terry Sharpe.

**Joe Hill Award went to: Dave Richardson, a retired union electrician at Cornell University who continues to be active in labor issues. He was a founding member of the Skilled Trades Diversity Council to promote diversity in the trades. The council is a partnership between Cornell and the Tompkins-Cortland Building Trades Council.

Dave Richardson receiving the Joe Hill Award as presented by Dave Marsh of the Tompkins-Cortland Building Trades Council.

Dave Richardson receiving the Joe Hill Award as presented by Dave Marsh of the Tompkins-Cortland Building Trades Council.

Jim McCauley, a local labor law attorney in Ithaca, received the Friend of Labor Award for his superb representation of working people, both organized and unorganized, in labor disputes.

The Goat of Labor was presented to two different business endeavors. The first was to Suit-Kote, a paving company in Cortlandville, NY, that was found guilty by the New York State Department of Labor for $4.3 million in Wage Theft (as related to Suit-Kote’s not paying prevailing wages to their workers working on government contracts; not always paying overtime; and not adequately paying benefits as promised.

The second Goat of Labor Award was presented to the McDonald’s Corporation for their egregious payment of low wages to workers across the world, as well as incidents of Wage Theft in various parts of the United States.

In late July, 2014, the McDonald’s Corporation was considered by the National Labor Relations Board as a Joint Employer with local McDonald’s franchisees. The general counsel of the NLRB ruled on Tuesday that McDonald’s could be held jointly liable for labor and wage violations by its franchise operators — a decision that, if upheld, would disrupt longtime practices in the fast-food industry and ease the way for unionizing nationwide.

Tompkins County Organizers Rally Outside Ithaca McDonald's on National Day of Action Targeting Fast Food Restaurants in May 2014

Tompkins County Organizers Rally Outside Ithaca McDonald’s on National Day of Action Targeting Fast Food Restaurants in May 2014

The fast-food workers who filed cases asserted that McDonald’s was a joint employer on the grounds that it orders its franchise owners to strictly follow its rules on food, cleanliness and employment practices and that McDonald’s often owns the restaurants that franchisees use.

Tompkins County Workers’ Center Certifies Foodnet’s Meals on Wheels as Living Wage-Certified

(Ithaca) The Tompkins County Workers’ Center is pleased to announce that we now have certified 85 employers as being Living Wage Employers, having just added the following:

Foodnet’s Meals on Wheels, 2422 N. Triphammer Road, Ithaca

Foodnet’s Meals on Wheels employ a total of 23 workers; this brings the total of workers, countywide and regionally, who are working for Living Wage Employers up to over 2,905 people.

Foodnet’s ability to become a Certified Living Wage Employer was made possible partially by the Tompkins County Workers’ Center’s campaign, along with Solid Waste workers, Stanley McPherson and Milton Webb in 2013, to ensure that all County-contracted workers (of which Foodnet workers are) are paid a Living Wage. A $100,000 Living Wage Contingency Fund was created in 2013 to help such employers gain the extra income needed to ensure they could pay a Living Wage.

FoodNet executive director Stephen Griffin said of the increase, “We’re really happy to get up to this level, and we intend to keep up with it.” He noted that his board and he have worked hard to make the organization financially sustainable and to create full-time jobs with good benefits, which he sees as crucially important to the organization and to the people FoodNet serves. He recognizes the wisdom of providing decent wages to reduce staff turnover and to make for a happier workplace.

Kiehara Hunter, a driver and food preparer at FoodNet, agrees that her agency is a great place to work staffed by friendly people. As a mother of two young children, she is grateful for the recent increase that brought her wage up to $12.62/hour. “We are helping the needy so it was a very good experience to see that FoodNet is giving us a raise.”

The Workers’ Center initiated the Living Wage Employer Certification Program in 2006 to publicly recognize and reward those employers who pay a living wage. Any employer in the private, public, and non-profit sectors is eligible to apply. With your help, we can provide incentives for other employers in our community! Please go to http://www.tcworkerscenter.org/community/certified-employers/ to find out which employers are Living Wage-Certified, as well as to download criteria and an application form.

Tompkins Workers’ Center Certifies Five New Employers as Living Wage

The Tompkins County Workers’ Center is pleased to announce that we now have certified 84 employers as being Living Wage Employers, having just added the following five:

Town of Danby, 1830 Danby Road, Ithaca
Quintile Biosciences, 19 Brown Road, Ithaca
Miller Mayer Law Office, 202 E. State Street, Ithaca
Ithaca Oral Surgery and Implant Care, 1301 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca
Avalon Homes, 950 Danby Road, Ithaca

The five new Living Wage-Certified Employers employ a total of 233 workers; this brings the total of workers, countywide and regionally, who are working for Living Wage Employers up to over 2,882 people.

LWE

The Workers’ Center initiated the Living Wage Employer Certification Program in 2006 to publicly recognize and reward those employers who pay a living wage. Any employer in the private, public, and non-profit sectors is eligible to apply. With your help, we can provide incentives for other employers in our community! Please go to http://www.tcworkerscenter.org/community/certified-employers/ to find out which employers are Living Wage-Certified, as well as to download criteria and an application form.

Weekly TV Show On Cable Access: What Matters at the Round Table: Working for a Living Wage in Tompkins County

Two workers, Milton Webb and Stanley McPherson, from the Tompkins County Solid Waste Facility, who have helped to spearhead efforts, along with the Tompkins County Workers’ Center, to ensure that all Tompkins County ‘contracted workers’ are paid a Living Wage, host a weekly TV Show on Time Warner Cable.

Tuesdays at 7:30pm and Wednesdays at 9pm
on Community Access TV Channel 13 (w/TWC provided Digital Adapter) & Channel 97-3 (new TV’s)

Length: 30 minutes

Stanley McPherson, right, and Milton Webb, left

Stanley McPherson, right, and Milton Webb, left

For a complete Schedule of shows on Cable Access, go to http://pegasys.webstarts.com/channel_13.html

Tompkins County Stands with Fast Food Workers @ McDonalds in Ithaca: Thursday, May 15th from Noon to 1 p.m.(#fastfoodglobal)

Fast food workers are standing up all over the world this Thursday, May 15th, to demand a Living Wage for all fast food workers, the right to organize a union, and against Wage Theft. In Ithaca, our presence will be at the McDonald’s at 372 Elmira Road on Route 13 close to Buttermilk Falls from 12 noon to 1 p.m.

Join the Tompkins County Workers’ Center and the Labor-Religion Coalition of the Finger Lakes as we stand witness to this growing global movement to hold fast food restaurant owners accountable to the communities they operate in.
5.15.14
From local Unitiarian-Universalist Minister, Darcey Laine: “Recently McDonald’s workers filed seven class-action lawsuites in New York, California and Michigan over Wage Theft violations. One employee in California states that sometimes he was ordered to punch out soon after starting work and to hang around unpaid. [In fact, the New York State Attorney General's office in April 2014 settled for $500,000 with one franchise owner in NYC for exactly the same sort of thing.]

If you are a victim of Wage Theft, or otherwise angry at your low wages, and work in the larger Tompkins County area, please give our Workers Rights Hotline a call at 607-269-0409 or email us at TCWRH@tcworkerscenter.org, or see our Workers Rights Handbook online at http://www.tcworkerscenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/may2010wrhb.pdf.

Tompkins County Legislature Approves First Expenditure Out of County Living Wage Contingency Fund

The Tompkins County Legislature, in a 12-1 vote on Tuesday, May 6th, approved the first proposed subcontractor, Foodnet’s Meals on Wheels Program, receiving additional funding of $16,500 to bring its’ 22 workers up to the Tompkins County Living Wage ($12.62/hour with health insurance; $13.94 without).

The Tompkins County Workers’ Center (TCWC) had lobbied long and hard last year, along with the incredible stand taken by ReCommunity Recycling workers, Milton Webb and Stanley McPherson, to get the County to approve a Living Wage Contingency Fund of $100,000 to get the ball rolling on ensuring that all County-contracted workers are paid a Living Wage.

Since this is an ongoing campaign, the TCWC continues to push forward. Thus we ask if you live in Tompkins County and agree that all County-contracted workers should be paid a Living Wage, to sign our petition here. (While TCWC would certainly prefer that all workers in the County get paid a living wage based on having a statutory minimum wage that was a living wage, it is not legally possibly for a County in NYS to have its own minimum wage without specific ‘state-enabling legislation’.)

Monday, 4/28 Workers’ Memorial Day in Ithaca to Feature NY Dairy Farmworker and OSHA Area Director

April 28 is Workers’ Memorial Day, which is when we remember those who have suffered and died on the job from workplace injuries and diseases. Nearly 5,000 workers die on the job in the U.S. every year. This year’s event is in memory of Francisco Ortiz, a Mexican dairy farmworker who was killed on a Town of Ithaca farm on February 5, 2013. Ortiz was pulled into a moving augur, a preventable tragedy. How can we stop these tragedies?

On Monday, April 28th, a speaker’s panel, followed by community response, will be talking about the dire situation of dairy farmworkers in Upstate New York. The event will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Borg-Warner Room at the Tompkins County Public Library (101 E. Green St., Ithaca) featuring the following speakers:

**Jose Canas: New York Dairy Farmworker; and
**Christopher Adams, Area Director of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, OSHA, who will explain the Local Emphasis Program, which is to educate New York dairy farm owners about their responsibilities under OSHA and begin selected farm inspections in July 2014.
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