Our Struggle With the Union Isn’t Unique–A View From a Washington State Community College

The problem adjuncts are having with PSC in New York is far from unique. Whenever adjuncts, who have no job security, are placed into units with tenure-track faculty, the latter tend to dominate. The problem is that the two-tier system creates numerous conflicts of interests between the two tiers and advantages the tenured faculty.

Jack Longmate has pointed out how his NEA union, with few adjuncts and only one handpicked adjunct on the bargaining team (the wife of the union Vice President), bargained away the automatic seniority system for all adjuncts in return for a few multi-quarter contracts that a) no one may end up getting, and b) must be renewed each and every year. At least 80% of the Olympic College adjuncts have lost their job seniority.

At Green River Community College, our AFT-NEA union has many similarities with Jack’s union at Olympic College. It has long been run by and for tenured faculty, especially the Division Chairs who dominate the union executive board. The union contract has long read like a system of Jim Crow laws, basically locking the adjuncts out of nearly everything of any importance.

The Green River union is negotiating its first contract in ten years. The tenure-track faculty have been so happy with it, they have rolled it over three times.

There are 150 full-timers and 400 adjuncts at Green River. There are NO adjuncts on the bargaining team. To my knowledge, no adjuncts have ever been placed on the official bargaining team in 40 years. The current team is headed by the union president, who is tenured, and four tenured division chairs.

We wrote to the union president twice, copying the board and all faculty. We insisted that the union add three adjuncts to the five-member bargaining team. We wanted the adjuncts to elect these people.

The union president responded with a brief note ignoring our request, which we first made in October of last year. Not a single tenured faculty member has written to support our request.

In mixed units, grievances for adjuncts are nearly non-existent, especially when they are initiated by actions taken against adjuncts by tenured faculty. Our union always sides with the tenured faculty. We have filed a dozen grievances in the last 18 months, and the union has refused to take any of them to arbitration. The college knows in advance the union will not arbitrate, so there is little incentive for the college to rule in favor of an adjunct, and thereby anger the tenured faculty who control the union.

In effect, our union refuses to enforce the contract when it comes to adjuncts.

I believe this is why in the private sector the NLRB forbids putting tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty in the same bargaining unit. Many states forbid it as well. In Washington, state law forces us into the same unit, which is why we are trying to change it.


Keith Hoeller, Seattle, WA

One thought on “Our Struggle With the Union Isn’t Unique–A View From a Washington State Community College

  1. […] response to Keith Hoeller’s recent post, I might pose an alternate perspective to the position that FT and PT faculty have irreconcilable […]

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