I often ask myself why I continue to teach at MCC. It’s not because of the pay. It’s not because of the lack of benefits. It’s not because of the disrespect I am shown. It’s not because there is no career path. It’s not because we get one day of paid time off per course. It’s not because the administration sees us just as warm bodies to teach their classes. The reason I teach is to improve the lives of students and to prepare them for a successful future.
But to be honest, I can fulfill this purpose at other community colleges and get paid more. It’s an hour and a half drive to Lansing Community College, but I would make almost $140 per credit hour more. Mott Community College is just over an hour drive, but I would make over $250 per credit hour more. Saint Clair Community College is under an hour drive, and starting in 2020, their adjunct instructors will be making $1000 per credit hour compared to the $870 that Macomb is offering us at the end of three years. Why would I or any other adjunct stay here? Why would an adjunct want to apply to teach here when they could make more at several other local Michigan community colleges? The college is losing its competitiveness to attract excellent professors to instruct their students. Eventually, students will realize they can go to another community college and receive a better education from a professor that MCC lost because of its low pay. Sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side.
Macomb Community College has a choice to make: They can pay their adjuncts a comparable wage and retain and hire excellent adjuncts, or they can continue with their current offer, watch adjuncts leave, and find that they can no longer hire and retain the best professors. Macomb says that they are committed to their students and faculty, but by paying their adjuncts far below the wages adjuncts earn at comparable colleges, they are certainly not acting on that commitment.
I come from a union family: My father and grandfather have negotiated contracts, and I can see what the college is trying to do. To me, when Macomb constantly claims that they have made their last best offer, they are bargaining in bad faith. That the college is trying to rush these negotiations is just another sign that the college does not respect its adjuncts.
This is unacceptable, and MCC adjuncts deserve far better.
MCC students deserve better, too.
Our only option is to fight to get a better contract.
Contract negotiations resumed on Wednesday, January 9, as AAFMCC met with the state-appointed mediator for the first time. During the session, which lasted from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., the mediator spent time individually consulting with AAFMCC and The College in order to learn about what has ensued at the bargaining table at the last few sessions and better understand the issues that have not yet resolved.
The Good News
It’s looking like The College is willing to grant AAFMCC our request for campus-wide seniority for online teaching. We did not thoroughly discuss the details or contract language that will reflect this change, but we hope to do so during our upcoming sessions.
The Bad News
The College is still unwilling to accept our requests for increased PTO and our proposal for course cancellation stipends (or our alternative Section 4 proposals for improving assignment and reassignment procedures).
The College is also maintaining its latest salary proposal, which is hardly competitive with current adjunct compensation at comparable community colleges (see November 30 blog post for more information about The College’s salary proposal).
Based on our interactions with The College at the first mediation session, AAFMCC is worried that that The College is using mediation as a tactic to make AAFMCC settle for what The College has offered us us.
Although it is the mediator’s goal to work with each party to persuade them to resolve their differences and enter into a mutually acceptable agreement, a mediator’s recommendations are non-binding, and ultimately, a mediator has no authority to compel a settlement.
If we are unable to solve our issues during mediation, the next step in the process is fact finding: a formal procedure where a state-appointed fact finder will conduct a hearing relating to all of the facts in dispute. According to the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC), “the value of fact finding is that after a formal hearing, the parties receive an objective and professional evaluation of their bargaining positions.” Much like during mediation, the fact finder’s report is not binding, and the parties may accept the recommendations in whole or in part.
If a fact-finding hearing doesn’t facilitate an agreement between both parties, then the final step is arbitration. As published by MERC, “The majority decision of the arbitration panel is binding on the parties and enforceable in circuit court, if the conclusions are supported by competent, material, and substantial evidence on the overall record.”
This means that AAFMCC could spend several more months attempting to pass our proposals and several more months working without a contract or a raise without any guarantee that the arbitration panel will side in our favor.
Mediation and fact finding are both lengthy processes that must occur before arbitration. Ideally, mediation would facilitate the necessary collaboration and communication to settle our disputes, but since The College has indicated that they do not intend to move on the unresolved issues or increase their compensation package, it appears that The College is just going through the motions to either “starve us out” or push the process forward to arbitration in hopes that the arbitration panel will make a final decision that is favorable to The College.
MCC adjuncts deserve more than what The College is offering us. MCC needs to make it a financial priority to compensate adjuncts competitive wages that reflect the quality instruction that we provide to students.
AAFMCC is dedicated to upholding our mission:
The AAFMCC Bargaining Team needs to keep fighting.
AAFMCC members need to keep fighting, too.
We are crucial to this institution, and we can not settle for wages and working conditions that minimize our value!
We are the 76%, and we deserve better!
Our second mediation session is scheduled for February 14. Stay tuned for future updates.