Representative? Really?!

I was active in the CUNY adjunct struggle in 2008. Back then, we were faced with a rotten contract, insensitive to our needs. And when we demanded a contract discussion bulletin, to voice our objections, like we are doing today, we ran into the same brick wall of bureaucratic paternalism (maternalism?).

So I’m having this strange feeling of déjà vu, all over again.

I was also active in the Part Timers United movement decades ago, when we faced, not the “progressive” New Caucus, but the Shankerite CUNY Unity Caucus. Asked to contrast the two, I would say there’s really only a comparison to be made. Sort of like Trump vs. Clinton and Obama—as experienced by the immigrants they both deport. And both have left immigrant families to die in the desert.

The New Caucus knows how to be make more sympathetic noises about how they “feel our pain.” They know how to bleat about the fact that they wish so much that CUNY would hire more of us as full timers. And they brag about the historically astonishing pay raise they earned for us (by schmoozing with CUNY management). How that pay raise, which will only kick in a few years from now, is going to get us adjuncts through the winter, much less the summer, of 2020, unless we a) get a Winter term course, and b) once again borrow money from friends and family—that they don’t explain.

In their heart of hearts, both of these movements only serve the full timers, all the while staying carefully within the parameters set by the Taylor law, their cozy relationship with CUNY management, and their pals, the Democratic Party pols. Neither of these outfits really gave nor give a good god damn about us.

But what really beats all is the New Caucus’ refusal, one decade after another, to permit us to democratically and freely voice our objections to yet another rotten deal: in an online Contract Discussion Bulletin, which we of CCU have been calling for, for decades.

Have these “progressives,” so eager to defend small Third World countries from imperialism, never heard of Kant’s essay, “What is Enlightenment?”

There, the great bourgeois philosopher argued that it is our responsibility as adults to think for ourselves: rather than lean upon others to do our thinking for us. We should stay away, as the 20th century social critic David Riesman argued, from the “Lonely Crowd,” and instead, be “inner directed.”

Even if you see your role as a loyal camp follower of the New Caucus, with its ties to CUNY management, and the profit hungry, austerity-pushing plutocrats standing behind them, everyone must realize that this is a rotten contract. And that, despite their empty promises, the NC has done virtually nothing to get the $7K per course that we have been demanding.

But an “enlightened,” genuinely “progressive” union officialdom would at least offer to us, the respect owed to us, as fellow adults, to permit us to raise such objections in a public space created by our union.

Instead, we have been given the usual excuses:

  • “We need unity now.”
  • “7K is just not possible: give it a merciful death.”
  • “It’s just not done! We’ve never done it in the past. So we can’t do it now!”
  • Our contract bargaining team worked so hard. You don’t know how hard we worked, what we suffered for you. And now you’re complaining?! Buck it up!
  • Be grateful for the successes we’ve achieved!
  • You don’t really want to go on strike, do you?!
  • [This is a variant of the old “Clean your plate! People are starving in China!”] People are starving right now! We need to sign this [piece of crap] so we can send them their checks of [paltry] back pay, so they won’t starve!”

What these geniuses don’t seem to realize, is that being our union “representative” means they have to represent the interests of the majority—which is comprised of us adjuncts.

We can think for ourselves, we know when we’re getting ripped off, and we demand the right to voice our complaints that you have not done your job, and this rotten deal doesn’t work for us!

We’re the adjuncts. And we’re not going to take this from you anymore.

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