The proposal for Temple adjuncts to join the Temple Association of University Professionals, Temple’s full-time faculty union, would ultimately be a harm to both adjuncts and students, despite claims on the contrary by TAUP and the adjuncts campaigning for a union. The main source of the issue is the fact that higher wages will reduce the amount of adjuncts that Temple hires. When unions collectively bargain, they push up the wages that union members get, which shifts how much labor a business (which is exactly what Temple is) employs to a lower level than what it would at the prevailing market determined wage. What effect will a lower amount of adjuncts have? Less teachers, higher student per teacher ratios, increased costs on adjuncts as far as grading goes, less individual attention students get from adjuncts, substituting adjuncts for graduate students or even full-time faculty. Adjuncts do not have access to TAs like full-time faculty have, so there is no way a 40- or 50-person class will have individual attention that TAs can afford to reduce the workload of professor. Hence, students will be left behind as adjuncts are also put into a bad position.
The adjuncts have cited lack of “sustainable” employment in the current regime of adjunct hiring. What do adjuncts think will happen for those who won’t be hired given higher wages? Is employment at $1,300 per credit – stated in a Letter to the Editor, published on February 24 – not preferable to $0 per credit, as some adjuncts won’t be hired? What of those adjuncts, do they matter? Unions are only ever good for those within the union, not without. If adjuncts care about employment and care about adjuncts as a group, they should oppose a union. Those who voted in favor of a union at the recent adjunct union vote have shown they do not care about those who dissented. Furthermore, think about what will happen as Temple grows in the future. The adjunct union will be harming the adjuncts who are trying to enter the education market in the years to come. Those adjuncts – possibly students here at Temple right now – did not have a voice. They were already disenfranchised by the adjunct union today.
Interestingly, the adjuncts here are already victims of a union – the TAUP. Full-time and tenured faculty are protected by the union here, pushing up wages and lowering employment. More adjuncts would be brought on for full-time and “sustainable” employment if full-time faculty had to compete with them for jobs. Instead, full-time faculty have again prematurely disenfranchised adjuncts. Adjuncts are already the victims of a system they want to join.
What does a union mean for students otherwise? Unions get to protest and shut-down university activities if they do not like the terms of a contract. As someone who had to experience a union shut down of his high school in his freshman year, I know from firsthand experience that it is completely counterproductive to learning. Students should not be held hostage to union demands, as Temple is about student education, not a high-wage jobs program for adjuncts or full-time faculty.
I sympathize with the adjuncts who are upset – I realize employment is a stressful, emotional and extremely important issue. However, a union will not help the situation – it will only make it worse. Adjuncts and students both would do well to oppose this union, not support it.
Cory Haberkern is a senior economics major.