Bonnie Bucqueroux retired from Michigan State University's School of Journalism to experiment with online publications, including Lansing Online News. She is also co-president (with Susan Masten) of Lansing Area NOW.

4 responses to “An Open Letter to the Union of Non-Tenured Faculty”

  1. Melissa Quon Huber, Ph.D.

    Thanks for writing this, Bonnie.

    I had no idea about the status of the union. I had got a letter about coming to a meeting a million years ago. I couldn’t make it but tried to follow-up with the phone numbers listed and that was a complete bust. I never heard anything after that and presumed nothing came to fruition. I guess that is partially true!

    And I’m really disheartened to hear about these recent turn of events. I’m curious to know how these folks got into leadership positions.

    Or is that a sign that the membership is also lackadaisical? Or do members feel too vulnerable to show any teeth?

    If I was eligible to participate I certainly would.

    For ten years I worked with 3 to 6 month (12 months if I’m lucky) contracts, often getting paid late while contract renewal paperwork was in the system across 3 different colleges.

    Some of the problem was just inherent in relying on grant funding. That’s something not unique to non-tenured staff and faced by non-profit workers elsewhere.

    But other problems I encountered certainly could have been addressed by having a union.

    – Making sure I still had campus parking while the paperwork was in renewal.
    – Fining departments for taking too long to process paperwork
    – Keeping my MSU netID privileges to access the secure databases during those gap times when paperwork was in process.

    During those gaps my employee status would be revoked, even though I continued to work, in some cases as the PI. I could not access the contract and grant services pages to see my accounting ledger.

    I’m sure I lost a good 10-20% of my productive hours just to dealing with these administrative hassles every couple of months.

    You know, my life as a student teaching assistant was much more financially stable and had some of these protections available.

    Maybe the concerned non-tenured employees should try to join the student union. *sigh*

  2. Leslie Cavell

    Bonnie, I was really disappointed to read this blog, which feeds into the administration’s efforts to undermine our union. i thought you supported worker’s rights! surely you know by now that employers use all the tools at their disposal to divide and conquer efforts for fair pay and working conditions. criticizing people who are volunteering their efforts to help improve your working conditions is a poor idea.

    Union leaders have sent emails and met with members steadily throughout the year, and those who could volunteer their time have done so. Union leaders are all volunteers. They also teach and have other job responsibilities, and families. I haven’t seen you at any bargaining committee meetings this year; I take it you were letting someone else do the work for you. Many other people are afraid to act, and that is because this administration, and so many departments across the university, are hostile to the non-tenure track faculty, willing to insult or fire people who don’t tow the line.

    At the bargaining table, the administration has acted so meanly, dragging their feet all year long, and they have been so willing to turn a deaf ear to reasonable union demands–this entirely on Simon’s instructions, surely– that i am embarrassed to be associated with this administration in any way.

    That we may not get the contract we deserve is not the union’s fault. the administration has all the cards, and the administration’s ugly choices will damage the education of our students in the future, that much is certain.

    Do you really think it would have been better not to have voted for the union? In that case, we would never get steady evaluations, pay raises or a chance at job security. Would that be okay with you?

  3. Bonnie Bucqueroux

    As I noted, it was with reluctance that I posted my open letter. Yet the picture you paint makes my case. We have an MSU administration whose paid representatives are skilled in ensuring that any contract benefits them more than us, which is why UNTF needs to have its act together. The issue isn’t whether a union is a bad idea – the issue is whether the UNTF/AFT efforts are up to the task. I hear repeatedly from people who offered support but never heard back from anyone. The people representing us did not inspire confidence. Communications from UNTF are erratic. We know little about what you are doing. There is a lack of much-needed transparency. I just hope you take my letter as a wake-up call and not as an excuse to blame the messenger.

  4. Leslie Cavell

    Thank you, you are much more diplomatic that I can be, and I am sorry I was harsh all around. I am really not used to blogging.

    I worked on the Bargaining Committee as much as I could this year (and tried my best to help) and I know everyone involved has been doing their best.

    The issues are many and complex, but the union position from day one has been transparent, that withholding the possibility of job security and grossly underpaying your faculty are just bad ideas. Fair treatment and fair wages, these are the take-home messages we need to get behind.

    The union bargaining team needs all our help–all union members need to help one another–you are so right, this is the time for a wake-up call.

    I will go to the Rally on Wednesday at 11 am at the MSU Administration building to stand up for fair treatment and a fair wage for all the excellent teachers in this newest MSU union.

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