Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Department of Economics, Part II: Organize, Goddammit!

Illustration credit.

This is a follow up to Monday's post, "Department of Economics," which  Historiann commented on today with a brilliant post of her own.

There is an outstanding comment thread to follow at both Tenured Radical and Historiann, much of which reveals that vast numbers of our colleagues in public education and small colleges have salaries frozen below, or well below, 70K.  For those of you who say we need a union -- I am on record as saying "union, yes" as well: I would *happily* trade tenure for a union, any day, any time. But you know why we have no unions? Faculty do not believe in the collective, and they are so easily divided by self-interest, envy and shame.  Our individualism, and our fear that if we organize we will lose the social respect that came with that PH.D., bites us in the ass every time.  Hence, those of us who can cut our private little deals and leave most of our colleagues in the dust.  

We are also a little starry-eyed about employers, and a profession, that doesn't treat us very well especially when we sacrifice for them and for students.  Note the vast number of people in both comment threads who think I should be "happy" about an escalating work load and a shrinking salary, and their only reason is -- I currently make more $$ and have a lighter teaching load than they do.  Listen carefully, for this I believe:  if privileged people like me are starting to notice a shift in the compensation atmosphere, if relatively wealthy schools that have a lot invested in the "prestige" of a traditionally tenured faculty, a 2-2 load, and a bank-busting annual fee for students think they donlt have to pay us any more -- well, many of you who are at the mercy of state legislatures ain't seen nuthin' yet.

I also think this question of salary rips off the cover off the fairy tale what we are sold in graduate school (particularly by Ivy League and Big Public Uni mentors who, my friends, make 2-4x as much as I do, at an earlier stage in their career, and have annual tax-free accounts worth upwards of 6K for research and travel to conferences) that all of us, when we leave graduate school, are really playing on the same level field. We are not the same, not by any stretch of the imagination, and the folks at the top do not think any of us are the same as they are. We get sorted into the masses and the classes in the job market, we more or less stay where we are sorted, and it isn't because some people are deserving and some people are not.  It's because of how we are paid and how hard we are forced to work for it. Have you noticed that we haven't heard a peep from any big-time RI people coming clean on what *they* make to lecture twice a week, manage a stable of TA's and teach a graduate class of 10?  No, you have not.  Now that doesn't mean they don't work hard:  it just means that if you are looking for Nicholas Romanov, he doesn't live at Tenured Radical.

But let's get back to the nitty and the gritty.  In what world is it too much to expect that a professional salary for someone in her fifties, who trained for eight years in graduate school and who has put in almost twenty years at her job, should exceed 107K? Take a look at the AAUP Annual Report On The Economic Status Of The Profession: for my category of school, I am very underpaid. That said, I think many of you are *vastly* underpaid, and I am truly shocked -- by that fact, and by the resignation to being underpaid that makes itself evident in the view that shrinking faculty salaries are an inevitable outcome of -- what?  History? Shrinking education budgets because we divert so much money to fight wars and politicians do not have the stones to tax corporations?

The neoliberal economic policies that are killing education are a cynical political choice, not a natural and inevitable force.  I find it staggering, for example, that we clearly have a generation of scholars (many of you) who may not be able to send their own children to college without taking out loans because tuition, even at public schools, keep rising exponentially but their own salaries don't even keep up with the cost of living over the long term.  I find it staggering that college teaching may soon, except for a sliver of the population, be something that a person can only afford to do if s/he has inherited wealth or a spouse with a good income.  I find it staggering that many of you who have worked so hard to get where you are could easily be bankrupted by a serious illness, because your benefits are probably as $hitty as your salaries.  For this you went to school for 10-15 years?  For this you took out loans?  Aren't you angry at someone other than me?

I think the other organizing problem is this: because I am better off than many of you, your attitude is that I *should* be happy and I must be whinging because all my upper-class friends from college are coining it. We aren't going to get a thing done about any of this until some of you stand up and say, "I'm getting screwed! Royally screwed!" Don't buy the "I'm so lucky to be teaching," or "I'm from a working class background and I could be homeless or working in a factory for minimum wage, but by some miracle I don't understand I get to teach." You earned the right to teach; and with that, you earned the right to respect from your employers.  Since when did teaching college become a lifetime job at a starter salary?  And since when did the "privilege" of shaping young minds (gag) pay the mortgage?

Have I changed my tune on this, as Historiann points out?  Two years after the initial economic crisis, as shrinking faculty salary pools, cutting back benefits and eliminating tenure-track lines has revealed itself as the long-term plan for education, you bet I have.  


Anonymous said...

I'm a member of AAUP, but we can't strike, so the bite of our collective action is pretty limited.

Anonymous said...

Another problem is those states that don't allow collective bargaining for teachers. Like my state. Like, not only for professors, but also for P-12 teachers. Or the folks in right to work states. Which make up a good many states across the south and the west of our great nation.

So to all of those who say, over and over again, that unions are the answer, and that the problem is that proffies won't get on board, well, that just doesn't work for me, or for lots of other people. I'm not against organizing, but I do not at all think that unionizing is an effective answer for all of American higher education. I do not think it's that simple. Unless somebody plans to change laws at the state level for about the next 20 years. And where we'd get all the money for that lobbying and wheel-greasing, I have seriously no idea.

squadratomagico said...

You know what this sounds like? More work.

The worst kind of work, too: the work of meetings, and emails, and organizing, and writing memos, and going to my depressing, rundown campus to raise hell and meet clueless administrators and take notes and report back ... and *still,* in the end, having the same salary. Because realistically, there is no chance my salary is going to increase by 40% or more. Zero.

Moreover, I don't particularly crave the extra cash. Indeed, three years ago, when my combined household salary was 10K higher than it is now, I formed a non-profit foundation and gave that 10K away. My biggest regret at losing that 10K is not on my own behalf, but because I've had to put that foundation on hold.

So, I can be happy with the pleasant life I currently lead, or I can increase my workload by 50% for no particular reason. You do the math.

Anonymous said...

No unions allowed in my state! It's the law. We have an AAUP chapter and I'm even a member. The admin treats us like children who are overinvested in magical thinking. But, I was assured at orientation a few years back that we were lucky because we are in a "right to work state!" I call it "right to fire."

I'd take a pay cut to go to a union faculty job. No lie.

Tenured Radical said...

Wait a gosh darned second. When were the Wagner Act, the Taft Hartley Act and the Landrum-Griffin Act voided by Congress? The NLRB has been dramatically weakened in the past several decades, but no state can make your right to unionize illegal.

In Right to Work States, a person cannot be required *or* prohibited from organizing. So you can have a union, but you can't insist that it be a prerequisite to working.

At Hofstra, the AAUP chapter has a collective bargaining agreement with the university, having gone out on strike in 1985. At CW POst the faculty, organized as an AFT local, went out on stroke in 2009.

The difficulty in organizing, squadro, is undeniable. And yes, becoming an organizer is an unpaid second job.

Anonymous said...

I don't want a union. Schools that are unionized pay humanities profs well, and attract stellar humanities profs. But to do that, they lower salaries for traditionally higher-salaried fields, of which mine is one. So there's a reason I'm not at any of the Cal-states. I don't want to live on 55K/year in an expensive part of the country.

I make 97K, it's my fourth year out. We didn't get a raise last year. I make less than many of my cohort who are at better schools with lower teaching loads, though I make more than the ones who landed at SLACs. My (trailing) spouse makes 70K in a different department. Wages in industry for either of us would be well into the six figures (and one of my graduate colleagues almost makes 7 figures, but I wouldn't want his life, even for a year).

random guy said...

I'd agree that one has a right to expect a decent living, but I fail to see how spending time in grad school,ipso facto, entitles anyone to a high paying job/upper middle class lifestyle. Assuming one's student loans aren't too onerous, anyone with a take home pay over 50K ought to be reasonably satisfied with what they have. That is well above the median income. Saying that someone else at the same work or comparable job elsewhere really doesn't change that.

I try to see all sides of an issue, but I can't muster much sympathy for those who complain when people who do hard and demanding physical labor aren't earning a third of their salaries-never mind they don't have summers off. To paraphrase Bill Hicks, it's like people complaining about their lack of dancing skills to the crippled.

JoVE said...

I do not disagree. But some of what you describe is very particular to the US, particularly the depth of anti-union sentiment and belief that individuals can negotiate better deals alone (something that is never true, by the way; the top salaries will be lower in a collectively bargained agreement but average salaries will be higher).

In Canada, there is tenure and widespread unionization and collective bargaining of salaries. Even in universities with "faculty associations" rather than unions, collective bargaining is common.

Collective bargaining sets a scale, and criteria for being at various points on the scale, moving up it, etc. There are still problems of frozen budgets and all the rest of it, but faculty have a collective voice to address those.

Strikes are not at all common. Faculty are reluctant to strike. But I think there are still benefits.

In the UK all faculty are unionized. There is no tenure as such, though many are on long term open contracts. There is national bargaining for salary which means the pay scales for each level are the same across the country (with a small extra amount for those in London to account for higher cost of living, though it doesn't really). Again, doesn't save anyone from the kinds of cuts you are seeing (search Times Higher Ed re. comprehensive spending review for most recent axe). But all are in same boat.

You comment about the job of professor only being open to those with well paid spouse or inherited wealth is already the case in many other countries, including those in Eastern Europe.

You are right to be angry. You are right that focusing on how much better off you are than "some people" is irrelevant (particularly when those people are suffering from the same economic crunch with the same causes, which are not natural and normal but the result of specific government policies).

There are lots of ways to organize and fight this. For those not wanting to join unions, maybe they can start writing to their elected officials and electing officials who are interested in raising taxes on corporations and rich people and investing in public goods like education.

Anonymous said...

I was so excited to hear your call to organize, thanks! Then my hope was dashed by squadratomagico's comment. I'm not trying to pick on her specifically; in fact it could have come from the mouth of nearly every tenured professor I know. "It's too much work and I'm personally getting by, so forget it." What about the broader community, or the future of your discipline?

There is no class consciousness in academia (right-wing accusations about Marxist professors is laughable). The comments to your post (so far) only confirms this. It's sobering.

Organizing can't be about what it does for YOU, but what it does for US--academics, humanists, whatever--collectively as a group. And it's never going to happen if those with some semblance of power in the current system (i.e. tenured professors) make their decisions based on a cost-benefit analysis of how that action might enhance their personal comfort. Until that changes, the humanities as a whole will continue to atrophy.

I can't let my adjunct pittance of $2700 per class blind me to your entirely legitimate grievances and those of other tenured faculty. In fact, I need to be willing to fight alongside you. In return, tenured folks need to refrain from thinking that adjuncts are the cause of a problem that boils down to oversupply...that they are simply incompetent academics that never should have gone into graduate school in the first place. The grievances of both groups are so clearly related (connected to the sick system that is academia today) and yet we are fighting among ourselves instead of joining forces against the real enemy. We've got to wake up!!!

Clearly, I'm not saying anything that hasn't already been said, far more elegantly, by others. And so I will now sheepishly step off my soap-box and go back to lurking.

Tenured Radical said...

Great comments so far, although I'm just curious as to why people who do intellectual labor are less entitled to a good salary than those who do physical labor, particularly since all our good industrial jobs have gone abroad.

(Did someone say Yale in Singapore? NYU in Abu Dhabi?)

And adjuncts (bless you, whoever you are)? Well, adjuncts are the good, hard-working people who would be hired in decent jobs with benefits if tenured and tenure-track people weren't teaching 5-4 for under 60K.

random guy said...

TR-I wouldn't say that professionals are less worthy of pay than blue-collar types. It's just that there's a threshold of pay and benefits over which it comes off as ungrateful to complain about. One could just as well ask what's up with the "need" for high salaries. Maybe I'm wrong, but I've a sneaking suspicion that at least some feel that a more modest pay is beneath them. Similarly, I can appreciate that someone might not find working at a fast-food place interesting or fulfilling, but I despise the fact some would see doing so as an affront to their dignity.

My partner is a well-paid professor and by far the "breadwinner". This may well continue indefinitely, though we expect the situation to level-off at least a little eventually. We find our shared financial situation easily good enough; there are two of us and our collective income isn't much greater than her's alone. This is why I fail to understand a good deal of this.

Historiann said...

TR--have you considered that the resistance you're getting from some of your commenters here (those who accuse you of whinging about your comparatively princely salary, for example) wouldn't respond the same way to a d00d complaining about $107K at age 52? I'm not suggesting that anyone is making these comments out of sexist intentions, but I wonder: if we all close our eyes and imagine that a 52-year old man with a Ph.D. made these comments, does it look or sound any different?

Just wonderin'.

j said...

wait, since when do manual labor jobs make more than professional ones. and seriously, you are complaining about 70 k a year. granted some folks in the academy are living in more expensive parts of the country but, you are still making substantially more than the rest of the country, let alone the WORLD. feeling a bit exploited, well welcome to the world the rest of us inhabit and have and will for the rest of our lives. i think we all deserve to live well, and i don't think being in the academy entitles you to a larger share than any other worker, period. how we can say your work is harder than that of the people who grow your food or build the buildings you work in, or manufacture the clothes you wear.

sidenote: i would like to reiterate the point about the NLRA-- it is anyone's right to unionize, it is a guaranteed, federal right, granted it may be harder in right to work states but it is possible.

if only the truly exploited had the same tenacity and righteous indignation to rise up against the plutocracy that the privileged, liberal middle class has...

jason fossella said...

What we're talking about is ceding a century of social progress because everyone is too lazy or selfish or both to get off their asses. If only the very wealthy can be bothered to get advanced degrees, we'll be going back to the way it was in the nineteenth century, when every doctorate in history went to a rich white dude.

Incidentally, this is already happening in other fields. One of the reasons I went into history instead of linguistics (which was my undergrad major) was because I was told that, unless I was independently wealthy, the only way to get a degree was to take out massive loans, because there is *no* funding- and I wasn't about to take out loans when I knew how low the promised salary was/is. Or I could have, as my adviser put it, "go take a class at MIT and try to do something brilliant and get noticed." That's where we'll all headed- degrees for the rich, crumbs for the rest.

And don't you science people think your disciplines are immune to this- they just haven't gotten to you yet. When they've squeezed every penny out of the humanities, where do you think they'll go next? Those grants yall love to brag about will start coming with some unpleasant strings attached.

Ernest Tubb said...

I think that all of these comments reflect broader changes occurring at every level of our profession. For those of us teaching at public universities in I guess what some on the East or West coast would disparagingly call “flyover country,” these changes are manifesting themselves in a multitude of ways.

A lot of the changes come down to accountability concerns first foisted upon public universities during the Bush II years, then maintained by Obama. You can see it in the push for new outcomes assessment and accreditation procedures, and you can see it in this recent WSJ article on transparency and its effects on faculty work and its valuation: http://tinyurl.com/39metpj. You can see it in the push for upping graduation numbers, which in many cases frankly means passing students who do not deserve to pass, thereby diminishing the value of the school’s diploma. This push for short-term gains sounds like Wall Street taught public university administrations nothing. You can also see it in the massive budget cuts that most of us have probably experienced (for our part, after about 14 percent in cuts from the state budget to our university system over the last 18 months, we are about to get hit with an additional (up to) 34 percent cut—you think we can remain viable as a system, let alone a university? And, to be brutally honest, unionizing right now, in these economic conditions, in a “right to work” state, umm, would definitely NOT work to my colleagues’ tactical advantage as far as our community and state legislature is concerned (shrieks of horror from labor historians, who have clearly not lived in the South during the past 30 years, insert here).

Apply elsewhere, you say? With between 400 and 500 applicants going after each of the handful of jobs that I DO apply for each year, yeah…I’m still here, even with a well-received book and several articles already published. I think my salary is lower than every other tenure-track asst prof who chimed in on these posts (going into my fourth year on the tenure track, I make 44K/year. the merit-based raises for which the book and articles would have qualified, as well as all other raises, have been frozen for three years). Despite that, to be perfectly honest, I actually feel pretty darn happy to have a job in this climate—I would think that most humanities PhDs just out of grad school and not of Ivy League pedigree probably feel the same way, unless they are delusional. I have very, very smart and capable newly minted PhD friends with no secure line of work ahead of them—how is the fact that I have a tenure track job at this point anything other than luck? Three years ago, in what amounts to nothing less than arrogance, I probably would have felt entitled to have a good, highly respected, well paying teaching job. These days I certainly do not feel entitled to have even this job, that’s for d*&n sure. Again, I suspect that for most of the recent or soon-to-be PhDs out there, this is the case. Entering the profession in the 2000s, even more so the late 2000s, seems to be quite different from entering it in the ‘80s or even the ‘90s.

part 2 continued below...

Ernest Tubb said...

part 2...

Other sorts of changes are taking place as well—if you live in “flyover country,” or especially in the South, you can read it in the comments section of your local newspaper’s website—many of our louder lawmakers and citizens often mount vigorous protests to faculty and admin salaries—and it really doesn’t matter whether or not their concerns are infused with any sort of reality. That’s the thing—it doesn’t matter whether or not we are fairly compensated for what we do—none of us are developing any sort of adequate rebuttal of those claims to the people that matter, namely the non-academic citizens in our local communities and states. Again, my observations relate much more closely to those of us working in public universities, but I imagine the SLACs will eventually face the effects of this as well as like-minded alumni begin to make similar calls. Without convincing our local communities and the citizens of our states that they should value our work and (sometimes heavily) subsidize it, we will soon find that we will have no more public support. It seems to me that most public universities are, due to these changes, now in the midst of privatizing, but without the massive endowments that support the most elite private (and public) universities. Who will lose? Our students. Our community members. And of course, us.

I do not predict these changes will as dramatically affect those teaching in the upper echelon universities, which perhaps is unfortunate in one sense—the students who attend those schools, and the faculty who teach in them, will grow increasingly alienated from the economic and social conditions in which most of us presently reside.

Comrade Svilova said...

Some of the people who, like me, see 100K/year and gasp over how far that exceeds their working class salary seem to be taking the stand "I'm exploited and faculty should be too." Really? How about doing what we can within our own fields to end our own exploitation and cheering on others doing the same in their professional lives? Workers of the world unite and all that. :-)

It's a bleak future if we demand that everyone aim to be as exploited as the heavily exploited bottom rung of society. I can't imagine making 60K a year, let alone 100K, but I can imagine asking for a raise that would bring me to $9.50 an hour next year, especially since my bosses (illegally) allow only a 15 minute break during the 8.5 hour day. Even so, I know my working conditions and salary are a lot better than some people's; should I be content with my lot just because other people have it worse? That's the message I'm hearing directed at TR and others posting their salaries here.

If only we had a real, effective progressive tax on those making 250K and over! If that were the case, then there would be even more incentive for the working class to support higher salaries for faculty and other professionals ... more money back into the system for social programs and education.

In our dreams, right?

But let's not demand equal exploitation for all; let's seek an end to exploitation for all. And progressive taxes that would ensure that the wealthiest were giving back to the most exploited.

Anonymous said...

Just a quick response about unions being legal everywhere. Sure they are. But it is *also* the law in my state for the state to *refuse any negotiation or collective bargaining* with teachers. So, yes, I can be a union member. But I can't negotiate collectively, and I can't strike. I do not understand how spending my energy in that particular way does anybody - least of all me - any good.

(For what it's worth, my state also doesn't like unions for people like cops and firefighters, and one of our candidates for senator is actually against *miners* having unions if the mining companies don't want them. I wish I were kidding, but sadly, this is where I work and live. And yes, it is a real place that exists in the United States. And yes, universities exist here, too.)

REK said...

Interesting discussion. Four thoughts:

(1) Historically unions emerged to support commodity labor. The purpose of an advanced education is to decommodify one's skill set. The goal of an academic, as I understand it, is to pursue a path of intellectual contributions and teaching that decommodifies one self. For academics to unionize is to volunteer that they are commodities. Commodities are interchangeable.

(2) Increasing productivity. Every sector of the economy has, and continues to experience, increasing productivity. Academics need to get our heads out of the sand and realize that these forces apply to us as well. We need to learn how to work smarter. And, yes, this may involve learning new ways of doing things and/or adopting new technologies/processes.

(3) Mobility. Market forces work when resources participate in and compete in the market (i.e., one must actively participate in the market). Faculty that are unwilling to change institutions (at least explore alternatives) establish a self-imposed eddy that insulates them from the benefits of the market (e.g., salary and benefits).

(4) Get radical: Create new programs at your institution that generate new revenue. Rather than focus exclusively on the income side (your income), think also about the institution's income side. If you can help grow the institution's income pie, the institution has more funds available for things like faculty salaries and benefits.

Knitting Clio said...

TR, glad to see you're finally coming around to my position on unions!
Although those of us in the state system have lower salaries on average than you do, we have been able to negotiate raises and prevent massive layoffs of both tenure track and contingent through collective bargaining.

re: the anonymous comment about humanities faculty dragging down those of other fields -- this is a continual complaint from our business faculty and I find it unacceptable. If they want a higher salary, they can go work in the private sector and give up job security and flexibility. Our salaries and location allow us to attract and retain talented humanities faculty which raises the prestige of the institution.

Anonymous said...

If our output can be measured in terms of productivity, e.g. number of students in seats, number of points assigned to tier 1 journals and presses (it doesn't matter what we publish or who reads it as long as it is 'excellent!');
if we have mobility within the marketplace and are thereby transferrable/replaceable;
and if the surplus value (external grants and funds) of our work is meant to generate extra revenue for our employers...
haven't we already become commodified?

Anonymous said...

Reading this as a unionized assistant professor at a big state uni, I have two thoughts:

1. The vitriol that's directed at us reminds me of what's being thrown at public employees: the idea that $100,000 is outrageous for a professional person who's gone to graduate school, or any person who's mid-career and at the top of their field.

Of course, $1 billion is just fine for a failed banker and $250,000 a year is fine for a 1st year law firm associate, because the free market RULES!

The instinct of the moment seems to be that "since we have it so lousy, you should too" instead of "why don't we fix this?" There is nothing extravagant about making $100,000 as a productive scholar who's gone through the job market, published, become a good teacher, and worked to improve and maintain your home institution. It's a fine salary, but let's not kid ourselves - we invested an enormous amount of money in our educations, and we provide good value. We deserve to be treated like professionals.

My second thought stems from REK's comment about mobility.

What mobility?

How on earth can you just pick up and change jobs when there's no effective job "market." It's a market that isn't a market at all - vastly oversupplied and asymmetrical, it's a market that never clears. I'd like to work close to home, but there's nowhere for me to work doing what I do. We don't have mobility - that's why we have to fight to fix this before it's too late.

At the risk of being long-winded, this is something that really ticks me off. At a conference this summer, there was a panel devoted to honoring a lion of the profession, and there were a series of tributes from grandees of top Ivy schools. Their attitude was that we were all lucky to work in this field, and that they did everything worthwhile thirty years ago, as if we were all pulling down their salaries, yet our research was rehashing issues they already solved in a field that they also invented.

First of all, the R1 people aren't on here because most of them have stopped reading or caring about the profession. They're set already, and this isn't their problem. During the q&a I wanted to ask "if you're all so great, why the hell is the profession sliding into the toilet?" Alas, I couldn't :)

But the fact remains that we're caught in a tough spot: people in in the administration think we should be treated like commodities and outsourced to India, people in the public think we don't work, and our colleagues in adjunct spots are envious, while our colleagues at top schools think everyone has it as good as they do.

I, for one, am glad I'm in a union. I know where I stand, I have a job definition, and there are people who have my back.

Yet, the fact is that eleven years after I left my entry-level job in the private sector, and went to grad school for 7 years, my salary is less than it was before (not accounting for inflation) and my benefits don't even come close to what they were.

And my previous career was in journalism! Not exactly the path to riches!

Anonymous said...


A fair point, but I suspect class resentment plays a far bigger role. Heck, I agree with TR, but there's still something a little unsettling about a person who makes six figures complaining that they're underpaid -- we should all remember that University of Chicago professor who was raked over the coals because he thought that a 300k salary did not make him "rich."

I'd like to hear more analysis about unionization and right-to-work states.

Anonymous said...


Yes, if the salaries get squeezed for my profession too much (and they are squeezed a little in terms of no COL increases), guess what I'm going to do?

I'm going to leave academia and make a lot more money in the private sector or working for government or a think-tank (starting salary for someone in my field just out of school at RAND with no outside offers: 135K). So will most of my talented not selfless colleagues (the selfless ones will probably stay at their SLACs where they're already underpaid and overworked). At some point the perks of academia won't be worth the lower relative salary and living in the boondocks so we'll all move to coasts and live a different life. We won't be as happy as we are now, but we sure as heck aren't trapped taking whatever the university gives us.

Collective action is great for folks in the lower paid fields, but it's just going to cause a mass exodus or bizarre perks for folks in the higher paid fields with the outside options.

If you're in a field where supply outstrips demand and you don't have collective bargaining, then you're just going to have lower salaries and fewer outside options. If you've got collective bargaining, you can drive that up for the folks in the union and make it worse for the folks not in the union.

And even with collective action, the money has to come from somewhere. Where are you willing to cut? Salaries for other fields (as is the current case with most unions... and watch out as the big grant raisers leave for government and industry)? Increased tuition (hurting students, decreasing enrollment)? Less building maintenance? Less administration (more faculty service)? Good luck cutting the football department.

This is why I HATE going to Women's faculty network meetings. It's all complaining about why I get paid a decent salary (even though it's low compared to new hires elsewhere) and they don't.

Anonymous said...

Okay, Anon 9:12, have to ask.

What field are you in? Room for one more in it?

squadratomagico said...

I'm sorry that Anonymous 8:57 was so saddened by my previous comment. But I think hir offer of solidarity with tenured professors in their struggle for six-figure salaries is misplaced. Undoubtedly, the fastest route to full adjunctification of the university and elimination of any faculty lines with benefits, is to make such lines more expensive. Join the fight if you will, anonymous, but you will be fighting only to expand your adjunct opportunities, not opening up a vista of better employment for yourself and other adjuncts.
My salary is not high, but I have the gift of contentment with being solidly middle class.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:40

It could be business, economics, engineering, pharmacy or a handful of others. There's plenty of room in all these fields-- that is why the salaries are high and there's mobility.

But there's a reason that the supply is lower in these fields and there are a lot more people vying for positions in the humanities. Do you want to study petroleum or economic models or drugs?

Brian W. Ogilvie said...

@REK: I'm no expert in labor history, but I'm pretty sure you're wrong on point #1. The late 19th century in the US saw the formation of trade unions by skilled laborers. Lizabeth Cohen argues in Making a New Deal that their unwillingness to work with non-skilled laborers, as well as management's exploitation of ethnic divisions, led to the end of the first union era in the US. That fits as well with my vague memories of reading David Brody's Steelworkers in America: The Non-Union Years back in my college days.

I certainly don't feel like my labor is a commodity just because I'm a member of a faculty union.

Bardiac said...

I took just enough Econ to know that there are different ways to figure out what labor gets paid. It seems to me that a lot of our responses think of labor as something to be paid based on what education we got and such. But a Marxist would, I think, tell us that labor is paid just enough to reproduce itself as labor, if the employer can get away with that. A market analyst would tell us that labor is paid what the market would bear, and if we humanities PhDs are in oversupply, then our labor is worth less than if we are in short supply.

Medical blogs complain about the pay, too, though MDs average 150K.

I know, I, too, worry about money. (And for transparency, I make about 46K a year, and live in a midwestern state where it's fairly cheap, but I dread retiring here, and I'll never be able to retire where I'd hope to.)

But I'm too much of a coward (maybe that's the word?) to quit my job and go find another. If I did, my new job wouldn't involve teaching in any direct way. But I might be able to find one in a geographic area that's more what I'd like. Or not.

My state's law changed so that state faculty employees can now unionize, and a number of our state schools have done so. I joined, eagerly. But the fact is, I don't expect to get a raise, or even to get relief from the furloughs. And if we elect one of the gubernatorial candidates, he wants to cut the state payroll by a huge number of jobs.

I don't see a good way out for me, the state, or my colleagues here (and I include our adjuncts, the folks most likely to lose jobs if the one candidate is elected).

Anonymous said...

@Anon 9:40,

Hey, for 135k starting, I'll study anything you want me to.

To quoth Harlan Ellison, I'll my soul, but only at the highest rates.


Knitting Clio said...

To the anonymous who hates going to women faculty networking meetings -- if you are in such high demand why aren't you able to negotiate a bigger salary and/or other perks through outside offers?

Anonymous said...

Piggybacking on what Bardiac said, I think it's important to note that a strong union won't necessarily result in salary increases, even in cost of living. I have a friend who is a high school teacher at one of the best funded, most well respected high schools in the country. They are going into year 4 of a salary freeze, and money for summer teaching and extended contracts is shrinking or drying up altogether. Because her condo fees have doubled while her salary has stagnated and insurance premiums have gone up, she's not in great shape at all. And that is *with* a strong union in a *good* school district.

I'm not anti-union. I just think it's important not to romanticize unionization as the solution to all our woes, and to think of other strategies that could work alongside unionization (whatever those may be) to address the complicated factors involved here.

Anonymous said...

Knitting Clio:

I am able to, and many of my colleagues have (that's why they're making 20 or 30K more than I am). If I don't get salary increases, I will be doing that in a year or two too.

Right now I'm tired of traveling, don't feel like going on the market, and trying to focus on my research so that my cv is better. I also don't really want to go on the market if I don't intend to leave (not that that stopped my colleagues and their outside offers last year). The school has me somewhat trapped here as half of a dual spousal hire, which is why my spouse is making 20K less than hir colleagues hired the same year. But, in a couple years it may be worth it for us to go on the market again.

Anonymous said...

Via a Baseline scenario post, an economics professor in the WSJ yesterday about the new accountability at Texas A&M (What's Your Econ 101 Professor Worth).

This is a system designed to produce a class of grant-getters who bring in research revenue, and another of teachers (presumably to be paid as little as possible since teachers are transferable and the labor pool is vast) to bring in tuition dollars.

Institutions delight when tenured and adjuncts quarrel amongst themselves. It makes keeping everyone in line that much easier. If we all don't look after each other, it will only get worse. I'd argue that getting rid of tenure, aka the expensive lines, will only make adjuncts of us all (at least all of us without McArthur grants).

Anonymous said...

Words of wisdom from across the pond: the vice-chancellor of the university of Sheffield says 'we should stand by our colleagues, especially those deemed 'non-priority.' Here in the UK this means us, all of the humanities, but it applies equally to adjuncts in the US system. As a funded grad student at a NYC institution where the union went on strike a few years back, I struck more out of concern for the adjuncts (my possible future) than my stipend-cosseted self at the time, seeing the possibility that I would be in their situation very soon. I'm not yet, but at the end of my two-year postdoc, who knows. Here's the link:

As for the salary and relative privilege issue: my dad was a pilot for a major airline starting in the early days of '80s deregulation, and saw the profession slide from the height of glamour to the depths of drudgery, with plane maintenance and other safety issues (to say nothing of passenger comfort) falling by the wayside in favor of profit. As a relatively senior captain he made about the same amount as TR for the last few years, and was a union man fighting for better conditions for all pilots till his retirement day. Organizing isn't selfish--it's our duty on behalf of others, even when we feel that we ourselves have enough. What's more important now is to develop a clear vision of how things should be.

Anonymous said...

Well, in regards to the union question, I think we're at a disadvantage when we're disorganized:

1. Administrators used to be professors who were tapped to run institutions. Now they're found in the private sector, come in with new initiatives, and don't necessarily understand our workplaces.

2. Our job market isn't a 'market' in any sense of the word. There's little mobility, little ability to negotiate, and little incentive for employers to treat us better.

3. By not having a union, we bargain individually. A coalition can be broken by offering a raise to a colleague, or release time, or some other perk. Because our colleagues are also, in some sense, our competition, it's very hard to establish trust.

There are a few other benefits to unions: in some cases, when they fight for adjuncts' pay and benefits, they improve the plight of adjuncts, and at the same time make them more expensive to hire relative to ft tt faculty.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

This is the same phenomenon as is going on in the economy at large: a very small number of elites are getting richer and richer and richer while everyone else gets poorer and poorer and poorer. By the standards of academia, someone in Tenured Radical's position at an institution like hers is right around the inflection point, and thus sees many of those whom she considers her peers galloping off into the distance, while many of the commenters here see someone like that a few lengths in front of them and wonder what they are complaining about.

Lisa Moore said...

Hi TR, you keep saying no one at an R1 has contributed their stats, so here are mine for what they're worth: 19 years at the University of Texas English department, about to go up for promotion to full, salary $73K, no raises this year and no promises for the future. I refer to myself as "modestly paid." I also do not have, and very much need, domestic partner benefits. My compensation sucks. BUT. My job rules. My department is huge (75 faculty) so I really can say no to service when I need to get my writing done, as I have done for the last few years finishing 3 books. Some semesters I teach giant lecture courses of 250 students, but this semester I have two seminars of less than 20 students each. 75% of the time no one knows where I am. That's worth a lot to me.

Keep on radicalizing, TR! I'm a big fan.

Dean Dad said...

From a community college perspective, this is fascinating. Deans at my cc -- in a noncheap part of the Northeast -- make 80k. That's for a twelve month year, five days a week, with no tenure.

This year we eliminated one dean's position, redistributing the responsibilities without any raises. (No raises here for non-union folk since 2008; the unionized faculty is getting a small raise.)

Maybe that's why whenever I read allegations of "administrative bloat" I roll my eyes. Any senior faculty out there feel like giving up summers and tenure for 80k?

Brian W. Ogilvie said...

Another data point from an R1: 42 years old, in my 13th year at UMass Amherst, in the History Department (6 years as assistant, in my 7th as associate). My starting salary in Sept. 1997 was $40,704. I now make $79,183. (Contractual arithmetic does not make for nice round numbers, though my starting salary was palindromic.) I'm now about to get a 1.5% raise--from a contract that was negotiated a year and a half ago. Then we have average raises of 3.5% in the next two years. The current raise, retroactive to June 30, 2010, is our first raise since June 2007. In that time, health insurance premiums and copays have gone up, so effectively we've been losing pay. When I go up for promotion to full professor in a year or two, I can expect about a $12K promotion raise, presuming I get the promotion.

We're unionized, which hasn't helped a lot with negotiating raises recently (my first two 3-year contracts were a lot better), but the union is useful in many regards, including bringing transparency to the tenure and promotion process. That's worth a lot.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for unionization, but the majority seems to be like the anti union "be grateful" crowd you describe.

Then there are the real problems reassignedtime and squadromatico raise. At the last Senate meeting, one of my colleagues wanted us to do a lot of more activist things than we do.

The Senate was divided on this, and I approached this guy after the meeting and said look, I'll help organize, but you know it will take organization, discipline, work.

He said: oh no, I don't want that, I just wanted to shake people up a little.

Anyway, I'm 53 and I make 53K, which means I take home about 39K I think -- our health insurance is kind of expensive and our state does not put in a high percentage of the retirement. I do not have a second income, trust fund, etc. I have debt, though, because we fund our own travel and things like that, and it adds up. I also buy a lot more books than I would if I were nearer a library that had any books published this century (our library hasn't had funds to purchase books for some time), so this adds to the cost of things.

Still, it's a situation in which it is hard to get ahead, or do all of the things university faculty should do (and that are part of my job assignment).

FrauTech said...

It's all about your worth on the market. If you can't leave and get a higher paying AND better job, your employer has no incentive to pay you more. I recently found out the interns make 20% more than me. I'm about 6 months out from having my degree, and have 5 years full time experience here. So much as TR thinks her years of education qualify her for something, I can compare myself to my colleagues and note I have more experience, education and high performance reviews. I've asked for raises once or twice a year for the last three and gotten less and less as the economy means this place finds an excuse to cut back (we are doing fine, so it is not the economy). Thanks to the economy I have almost nowhere to go...they know they don't have to pay me more, so they likely won't. It's strange, but it's reality. And it's true we compare ourselves to how much those around us (or those with similar education and experience) make. And that's when it hurts. Not when you compare yourself to the guy working retail, but to peers in your field. I don't know what to say but I assume what goes in education goes out here too, you have to be willing to leave to get more money. And if you can't find someone willing to pay you any more for a new job, you're screwed.

I think people tolerate wall st bankers making tons of money out of a misplaced sense of ambition they they, too, could be wealthy bankers someday. To become a professor you have to get your PhD, but we've seen bankers are not necessarily especially qualified or always highly educated. It's the false promise of capitalism, and why so many people vote against their own best interests. We don't hate the CEO because we foolishly think that could be us some day. We oppose tax increases on the wealthy because we naively think that could be us one day and don't want higher taxes on our future dream selves.

Z said...

I appreciate the feeling of not making enough money. Of course, I'm still in grad school and feel delighted that my full time library assistant position which pays 32K in salary also covers my grad tuition in library science, so forgive me if my eyes bulge a little at the thought of 107K being insufficient. Before this gig, I made about 18K working at a Starbucks and was thrilled for the health insurance.

The thing about bankers is that they are in a *for profit* business. Most work really long hours in a tough environment. I assume, as intelligent, educated people, we all are capable of joining their ranks. In Academia, we are not in the business of making money, so where is the money to pay us going to come from? Can we realistically charge any more for tuition? Also, did any of us get into this line of work expecting to make huge amounts of money? If so, their field research was very poorly done. I agree that the work done by academics is valuable, but I don't think there's a tenable argument as to why it is intrinsically more valuable than work as a pharmacist, nurse, police officer, or forest ranger.

The only union I've experienced first hand was in a grocery store, and as a result, the employees were able to work very little with no threat of getting fired because the union was too strong. It seemed to me a good thing taken too far. The act of organizing doesn't come up with a solution to the problem, it just makes the complaining louder, which can be good, in the situation of 12 hour days in a factory, but limited.

Also, do you truly think that increased pay for tenured faculty is going to magically create extra money with which to pay adjuncts? It seems to me that paying faculty more means *less* money with which to pay adjuncts, or, ideally, properly pay the same people on salary. Would you take a pay cut to allow the adjuncts at your institution to be properly paid? That may be a realistic ambition for a union at an academic institution.

Anonymous said...

It's all enough to make a grad student cry.

Also, while I am not a TA, talk about exploitation. My university pays TAs 3K per semester. 3k. For serious. You can't pay utilities on that, so of COURSE everyone takes out gargantuan student loans.

And what happens next? When they (we)graduate they are happy for any freaking job, any paltry amount of money. We are being indoctrinated into poverty.