My Post Election Dream
I crawled into bed after suffering through the awful election results of Nov. 8. Then, I started seeing visions of programs affecting education and faculty members going up in smoke because of Donald Trump’s election as president. I saw tuition-free college programs, a fairer National Labor Relations Board and a U.S. Supreme Court that supports union rights disappear.
After tossing and turning over these losses, I fell into a deep sleep and had this peculiar dream where I was standing at this strange campus. I turned and saw a sign: Emerald City College.
I turned and was greeted by four adjunct professors:
- Dorothy, who made so little money from her class assignments that she had to live with relatives.
- The Scarecrow, who felt inferior and did not apply for better assignments because he only had a master’s degree and not a doctorate.
- The Tin Woodsman, who taught six or seven classes at four or five colleges besides Emerald City and felt like an overworked machine because of the workload.
- The Cowardly Lion, who was afraid he would make his department chair angry if he complained about his lousy class assignments and then would not be hired back the next semester.
All four adjuncts thought they could make their lives better if only someone would step in and improve their working conditions and salaries.
They were sure the good fairy in the pantsuit would work wonders but she fell short of getting the right to run Emerald City College to everyone’s dismay.
They turned to the man who said he was a wonderful wizard. Sadly, once the adjuncts pulled back the curtain they saw he was a phony who relied on lies and false images to gain people’s support.
Finally, another fairy arrived on the scene and she told the adjuncts there was a way for them to have happier lives teaching. The fairy told them to stop thinking politicians can make things better.
Republicans do not care whether adjuncts’ pay is poor and working conditions are lousy, she said. While Democrats do care, they always seem to lose their power at the most critical moments. Other political groups were too small to compel the college’s administrators to effect changes, she added with a sad sigh.
“What is the answer then?” the four adjuncts asked.
“Silly adjuncts. You could have improved things yourselves all along. The power was always within you,” she told the four astonished instructors.
“Click your heels each time I tell you what to do,” the fairy commanded. The adjuncts listened intently to what the fairy had to say:
“First, stop complaining and organize yourselves. This way you make your four voices and the voices of other adjuncts into one strong one. Any group of adjuncts can be an organized group with regular communication among themselves and with administration officials. Then you can look into affiliating with a union and have their backing and tremendous support. But it all starts with you speaking together as one.
“Two, demand regularly scheduled meetings with the administration. If you do not force the administration to speak with you, they will never know about your issues.
“Three, speak out to gain attention and support of people in the community. No public sector labor group ever succeeded without the support of others, whether it is the people they serve, who live near the college, or are somehow connected with the college. Of course, this means connecting with students.
“You can’t be a bystander; you have to get involved or nothing will happen. No wizard is around the next turn on the Yellow Brick Road to change the status quo. It’s up to you. It is clear from the Nov. 8 election that adjuncts cannot rely on elections to improve their futures. They need to stand up and step up their fight for better wages and work conditions. No one else can do it for them but themselves.”
I awoke from the dream and started making plans to organize.
Mitchell Tropin, vice president Montgomery College (Md). Part-Time Faculty Union and SEIU Local 500 treasurer.