February 15, 2016
Dear PTL Colleague:
I am writing to you to let you know what your union, the Rutgers PTL Faculty Chapter AAUP-AFT, is doing to prepare for the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case that the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on by the end of June. The ruling could have dire consequences for our ability to represent part-time adjuncts--unless more of the nonmembers become full members. Thanks to everyone who is already a full union member!
At its core, Friedrichs is about denying free speech rights to unions and weakening our ability to act in the collective interest. The plaintiffs—a handful of California teachers, backed by pro-corporate forces like the Koch brothers—have argued that they are being forced to pay for political activities and speech with which they do not agree.
On its surface, this free speech argument to not pay the representation fee might seem reasonable. However, by law, a union's legislative activities are in fact already separated from representation fees. At Rutgers, neither membership dues nor representation fees are used to support candidates of any party, whether Republican, Democratic or any other. Only voluntary contributions from full members (who are US citizens or legal residents) placed in a separate and discreet fund are used for union political activities.
At the heart of the issue is whether employees who are nonmembers should continue to pay representation (agency) fees. If the court rules against unions, as seems likely from the oral arguments in January, 1.6 million employees nationwide could become "free riders" who pay nothing to support their unions' bargaining and other activities, despite their union’s legal responsibility to represent nonmembers. This would drain much needed resources from unions, including ours.
We need to counter the effects of the Friedrichs case. Why? Let me give you several reasons: regular adjunct salary raises, defense of fairness and dignity for adjuncts, the need to counter the precariousness of part-time employment. We’ve already seen what happened in Wisconsin. Similar pro-corporate and anti-union forces have severely weakened public employee rights in Wisconsin, including the rights of faculty in the University of Wisconsin system.
The only thing that stands between us and a similar attack in New Jersey is a robust, healthy union. This is why your membership is so important.
Our plan to withstand Friedrichs is to encourage all PTLs to become full members over the coming months. Already, a large majority are full members, but too many PTLs are not yet members. We can maintain and advance our employment gains--with your help.
Over the weekend, we learned that a conservative Supreme Court justice, Antonin Scalia, passed away. How will this affect the Friedrichs case? Experts speculate the case may end in a 4-4 tie, which would mean the lower court ruling stands. (The lower court upheld the constitutionality of representation fee laws.) Or, the Supreme Court might choose to hear the case again, once a new justice has been confirmed. However, other cases related to the representation fee are in the pipeline. Union leaders are certain that anti-union forces will continue to press their attacks, no matter the decision in the Friedrichs case.
None of this news changes our plans. Our union will continue to reach out to PTLs to build our strength, one member at a time.
Here is what you can do because you are a full member of the PTL Faculty Chapter:
-Talk to your colleagues about the importance of everyone having full union membership. We can pair you up with an experienced organizer and your presence for these one-on-one conversations will be very helpful. Email us (via email@example.com) to let us know what times you might be available to recruit your colleagues and either myself, another colleague, or a staff member will contact you to help you with it (if you need help). I urge you to take just a few hours this semester to do this important work!
Here’s information to share with nonmembers:
Full PTL members pay 0.5% of salary, which is $24.63 in total for a semester, if paid the salary minimum of $4926 for teaching a 3-credit course. Nonmembers are paying this fee that is 85% of membership dues (0.425% of salary). Your colleagues may assume that they are already members because they are paying the representation fee. It is the constitutionality of state laws that created the representation fee for public sector employees that is being challenged; in the Friedrichs case, the Supreme Court seems likely to overturn a 1977 decision that found such laws constitutional.
Faculty who pay only this nonmember representation fee forfeit their ability to have a voice in the direction of the union. For example, agency fee payers may not vote for union representatives or vote to ratify any collective agreements between the union and the administration. For a few pennies more per week, nonmembers may become full members with all the benefits that go along with union membership. Here’s the link to the membership form for download: http://www.rutgersaaup.org/members/part-time-lecturers/join-ptl-chapter
-Display our new poster on your office door, window or anywhere else you see fit. Our new poster explains many of the things that the union has done for faculty. Email us (via firstname.lastname@example.org) and we can get a copy of the poster to you.
If you get involved, together we can stand up to the Koch brothers’ agenda!
President, PTL Faculty Chapter-AAUP-AFT
Part-Time Lecturer, Journalism and Media Studies (SC&I-New Brunswick)