Where Do They Stand? (An Open Letter to President Haynes and TC3’s Board of Trustees)

Dear President Haynes and Members of the TC3 Board of Trustees,

The TC3 Adjunct Association looks forward to the official confirmation of our majority from the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB). We are confident we can then begin the process of forming a strong and mutually beneficial relationship with TC3 administration and the Board of Trustees, one similar to that enjoyed by the three existing bargaining units on campus.

Since October 22nd, when you were first notified that a majority of TC3 adjunct faculty had chosen union representation, we were straightforward that we were prepared to demonstrate majority support of our union — The TC3 Adjunct Association — before a neutral third-party. We heard nothing directly from you in response other than your November 18th formal rejection of our request for voluntary recognition. We did hear many indirect statements from you — letters from Dr. Connors, a press release, quotations from members of Administration in the media — all of which shared the same underlying theme that you were doubtful that a true majority of TC3 adjunct faculty had chosen union representation. In an effort to put those doubts to rest, late last month we asked Reverend Richard Rose of Ithaca’s First Baptist Church  to confirm our majority support, which he did. As you know, we then sent the authorization cards and requisite paperwork for our union’s certification to PERB, the state agency which members of your administration have described as the “legitimate arbiter of the majority question.”

We have been transparent from the beginning that our goal is to exercise our legal right to form a union, so as to ultimately benefit from what other TC3 employees already have through their unions, namely, the right to negotiate the terms and conditions of our employment through good faith negotiations. We trust that your concerns, which we have learned of through members of your administration and through the media, are similarly unambiguous. Aside from your stated doubts of our majority support, you have repeatedly said that you would prefer PERB conduct a conventional secret-ballot election, a preference we assume you must know will soon be moot, since the labor laws of New York State are clear: once majority support is confirmed, PERB is empowered to certify the union. The only thing that would delay the certification is if the employer raises objections about other issues, such as the make-up of the proposed bargaining unit.

So we ask you now to let us know where you stand. Is it correct to say that you simply want to confirm that union representation is indeed the choice that a majority of current TC3 adjuncts has made? Is it correct to say that you will not raise any other objections — such as those raised last year at Cayuga Community College — which would unduly delay PERB’s certification process of our union?

We look forward to your response, and working cooperatively with you in the best interest of the TC3 community.

Respectfully and on Behalf of the TC3 Adjunct Association Organizing Committee,
Herman Altmann (Biology), Betsy Caughey (English), Robert Chapman (Political Science), Cynthia Coleman (Sociology), Nancy Crane (Spanish), Robert Earle (English & Sociology), Elizabeth Grant (English), In Shik Lee (Graphic Design), Kristin Lovelace-Ross (Mathematics), Randy McGory (CAPS), Barbara Need (English), Jaclyn Pittsley (English), Jessica Ryan (Sociology), Patrick Sewell (Environmental Studies), Lorraine Sinclaire (English), Sherry Tacktill (English), Gregg Weatherby (English), Steve Weed (English), Butch Westlake (Sociology), Michele Whitecraft (Chemistry), Diane Williams-Altmann (Biology), Brandy Williams-DeBottis (Psychology), Sarah Wolff (English)

“The Group or Party That is the Greater Part of a Large Group”

For the TC3 Adjunct Association, that’s the most relevant dictionary definition of “majority” we could find. As in “A majority (group that is the greater part) of the College’s adjunct faculty (the “large group” since 69.6% of all faculty teaching this semester are adjuncts) support union representation.”

We’ve been saying that for a little over a month now, ever since we formally notified President Carl Haynes that a majority of the employees the College considers current adjunct faculty had signed union authorization cards and we asked him to voluntarily recognize the TC3 Adjunct Association. The official rules of the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), the state agency which oversees unions and employers in the public sector in New York, require that once a union requests voluntary recognition, the union must then give the employer 30 calendar days to consider the request before proceeding to the next step in the certification process. According to PERB rules, during that time the employer can grant voluntary recognition, or  reject voluntary recognition, or ignore the request. If the employer ignores the request that can be a form of passive rejection since after 30 days a lack of employer acknowledgement morphs into a legal rejection.

For the past several weeks various College officials have been publically — and perhaps privately — doubting our word. So much so, that on Tuesday, November 18th (the 27th day of that 30 day period or three days before what would have become a passive rejection of voluntary recognition) the College took the highly unusual step of not only actively rejecting our request for voluntary recognition but of also sending out a press release about that decision.

College officials were very specific about their reason for the rejection. The College’s press release quoted John Connors, TC3’s Vice President and Provost, as explaining, “President Haynes, in rejecting the request to recognize the proposed TC3 Adjunct Association, is not convinced that the majority of adjunct faculty members support this organizing effort… Given these doubts, it would be irresponsible for the college to move forward, when doing so would perhaps be against the will of the majority.” In answer to a Cortland Standard reporter’s question  about why President Haynes had summarily turned down a local elected official’s offer to act as a third party and count the cards to confirm whether or not we had majority support, Dr. Connors implied that the offer (which was made on Friday, November 14th) had come too late and that it was made only after the College had already decided not to grant voluntary recognition.

Too late? The College didn’t even send out its letter of rejection to the Union until Monday. If the rejection was based — as Dr. Connors claimed — on concerns about our majority status, why not welcome an opportunity to clear that up once and for all?

Well, we’ve taken care of that.

Earlier this week we asked Reverend Richard Rose, pastor of Ithaca’s First Baptist Church, to examine the original cards and compare them to the list of 258 current adjuncts which TC3 had provided to us earlier this month in response to our request under the Freedom of Information Act. Here’s what Reverend Rose said, “After carefully comparing the names on the original signed cards against the list of eligible employees the employer provided to the union, there is no question in my mind that in the last three months a majority of TC3’s adjuncts have signed cards expressing their desire for union representation. I would hope that today I have at least been able to provide reassurance to college President Haynes and TC3’s trustees that they no longer need be concerned that accepting the union would somehow be against the will of the majority of their adjunct faculty. It is clear to me that by opposing the union the college would be acting against the will of the majority.”

So what happens now? Nothing precludes Dr. Haynes from changing his mind and deciding the College should voluntarily recognize the union. But barring that, the next step in PERB’s official process is already underway. The cards and accompanying requisite paperwork (called a “Petition for Certification“) should arrive at PERB’s Albany offices by the end of the week.

Since a majority of current adjuncts have signed cards (as Reverend Rose recently affirmed and PERB will easily be able to confirm), the TC3AA should be eligible for certification without an election. That’s because, according to PERB rules, elections are held when there are two or more unions seeking to represent the same group of employees or when a single union is seeking representation but does not have majority support on cards. PERB rules clearly state, “…the employee organization involved will be certified without an election if a majority of the employees within the unit have indicated their choice…by individual designation cards which have been executed within six months prior to the date of the director’s decision recommending certification without an election.”

So, to repeat the message that more than than forty adjuncts and supporters from Cortland and Tompkins counties delivered at last week’s Board of Trustees meeting: Once our majority status has been confirmed, we urge the College to take the high road, respect our decision, and not waste taxpayer money on legal fights against their own employees in an effort to delay or derail PERB’s certification of the TC3 Adjunct Association.”

Neither Snow….Nor Gloom of Night…

Post Meeting Nov20

The (non camera shy contingent) of the forty plus adjuncts and supporters who braved the weather to make a (69.6) point to President Haynes and other members of the College’s Board of Trustees took another minute to pose for a quick photo opportunity before braving the icy roads home.

Despite the increasing intensity of the snow falling above, and the deteriorating conditions of the roads below, more than forty TC3 adjuncts and supporters from Cortland and Tompkins counties braved the weather last night to make a point at this month’s Board of Trustees meeting.

Their point? 69 POINT 6. As in, 69.6% of the instructors teaching classes this semester are adjuncts. That’s right, adjuncts (who also are responsible for teaching the majority of the classes this semester) comprise more than two thirds of the current faculty at TC3.

There was more.

Despite confusing (and often conflicting) information released from the TC3 administration over the last few weeks, TC3AA members and supporters wanted to make it clear to the Board of Trustees that a majority of current adjunct faculty have indeed chosen to be represented by the TC3 Adjunct Association and how the election TC3 management has proposed is not consistent with the rules of the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB) nor even necessary. Pat Sewell, an adjunct faculty member of Environmental Studies, detailed how adjuncts have already voted and explained precisely how the process and results were far more democratic and representational of current TC3 adjuncts’ choice than any PERB election could be. Other adjunct faculty and community supporters also addressed the Board during the public comments portion of the agenda to reassure the College that an adjunct union is a positive step forward, not something to fear.

Or fight.

The underlying theme of the evening was urging President Haynes and the Board of Trustees not to waste taxpayer money fighting their own employees. Our challenge to them? We urge the Board to publically commit that once a neutral third party has confirmed that a majority of adjuncts teaching this semester have indeed signed union authorization cards, the College will not take any further legal action in an attempt to delay or derail the Public Employment Relations Board from speedily completing the formal certification process of the TC3 Adjunct Association.

After the public portions of the meeting, the BOT was scheduled to hold a private executive session to discuss the adjunct unionization.

We hope their discussion last night was fruitful and they chose to take the high road and commit to respect the decision of their employees.

We look forward to hearing from them soon.

YES, You Are STILL Invited to Join Us This Thursday at 5:15pm @ TC3

We just learned this morning that President Carl Haynes has apparently decided to reject the TC3 Adjunct Association’s request for voluntary recognition. TC3 issued a press release about this decision at approximately 9:45 this morning. Please note that in no way does that change our intention to address the Board of Trustees later this week.

With three longstanding existing unions on campus we must assume that TC3 Administration is aware of the rules of the Public Employment Relations Board (the government entity that oversees unions and employers in the public sector in New York State) and knows full well that an election is unnecessary when a union, such as the TC3 Adjunct Association, has obtained majority support on union authorization cards.

To be crystal clear: a strong majority of the 258 employees who appeared on the list of current adjuncts that the Administration provided to us have signed authorization cards stating their desire for union representation. Many of those adjuncts were reluctant to add their names to the public list of union supporters. PERB’s rules do not require any worker to publically state their support for unionization. The fact that 100+ adjuncts agreed to add their names to the Union’s public message to President Haynes and the Board of Trustees doesn’t indicate a lack of majority status. Quite the contrary! It shows that nearly 40% of current adjuncts at TC3 did not merely sign union cards, but that they were also willing to let their employer (and the world) know they had done so.

It’s a rather silly thing for abstract quibbling about anyhow since there’s an easy way to confirm TC3AA’s majority status. Last week, in fact, after reports about the Administration’s concerns that TC3AA does not have majority backing of current adjuncts first started appearing in various news stories, we attempted to alleviate these concerns by trying to find a neutral third party who would be willing to check the actual cards against the list provided by the College of current adjunct faculty to confirm that TC3AA does indeed have a majority. A local elected official was willing to assist and reached out to President Haynes who summarily rejected the offer.

It’s actually not too late for the College to change its mind. Perhaps even more importantly at this point, it’s not too late for the College to assure everyone that it has no intention of trying to delay or derail their employees’ legally protected right to form a union. We urge President Haynes to make a public commitment  that when the Public Employment Relations Board does (as it will) confirm that TC3AA has majority status, the College will not stand in the way of PERB officially certifying the union so we can proceed to negotiations and begin to address the real issues at hand — regular and reasonable pay increases, a modicum of job security such as multi-term appointments, and access to affordable benefits (like health insurance) for adjuncts who need them — all of which will benefit not only adjuncts but our students and the entire institution as well as it will help enable the College to continue attracting and retaining the most qualified and dedicated adjuncts for years to come.

As the group of employees who are responsible for teaching the majority of the courses at TC3 we are as deserving of the same  level of respect as that enjoyed by every other employee at the College.

So, yes, please join us to remind the Board and Administration this Thursday that respecting adjuncts’ decision to form a union is a basic manifestation of the respect that ALL employees at TC3 should be afforded.

Countdown… Thursday, November 20th, 5:15pm @ TC3

This Friday, November 21st, will mark the 30th day since we informed President Haynes that a majority of TC3’s adjuncts have signed authorization cards indicating their desire for union representation and the 30th day since we requested that the College “voluntarily recognize” the TC3 Adjunct Association. On the eve of the 30th day — at 5:30pm this Thursday, November 20th — TC3’s Board of Trustees will hold its next regular monthly meeting (open to the public) and…. YOU are invited! We’ll meet up first, at 5:15pm, in the Fireside Café, on the first floor of the Main Building on the Dryden campus (closest parking is in Lot #4) and then proceed together to the Board meeting in the Sprole Boardroom (Room 200, near the Empire State wing of the building) with the goal of arriving a few minutes before the 5:30pm start time. The Trustees plan to discuss the union in an executive session immediately following the regular meeting so if you are a member of the TC3 community or a resident of Tompkins or Cortland county please join us for this important opportunity to let the Trustees know we want them to respect the decision of the majority of TC3 adjuncts. Earlier today President Haynes informed the Union that he would not  voluntarily recognize the TC3AA. While disappointing, that is the College’s legal right. However, what made the rejection more disappointing (and somewhat disturbing) was the assertion by President Haynes  (later repeated in a repeated in a press release issued by the College) that the Administration has doubts as to our majority status. It’s odd since last week, as media coverage of the TC3AA started picking up (like in The Ithacan, The Lansing Star, 870 WHCU, and 14850, to name a few) we started hearing of TC3 Administration’s that about whether or not we have achieved majority support amongst TC3 adjuncts. For example, in an article that appeared in last week’s edition of The Ithacan, one member of TC3’s administration is quoted as saying, “If the union is going to come into existence, we want to be confident that it is supported by the majority of people it wants to represent.” Apparently this same administrator also told the Ithacan reporter that the fact that only 100+ adjuncts had signed on to a public letter of support was in and of itself cause for concern since those adjuncts do not constitute a majority of the 250’ish adjuncts teaching this semester at TC3. We guess it’s not as obvious as we thought but not every adjunct who signed a union authorization card was willing to announce to Administration (let alone the world) that they had done so. But, WHEW, it’s not every day we get an opportunity to clear up a misconception so easily! We certainly DO have a strong majority (in fact, we have a strong majority even of the somewhat inflated list that TC3 provided to us which included several managers who would not be eligible for union representation). All that’s needed is to count the cards in a way that confirms our majority status but does not violate our commitment to respect the wishes of the many adjuncts who are reluctant to publically state that they signed a union authorization card. A local elected official was willing to help us out by acting as a neutral third party and comparing the names on the signed union authorization cards to the names on TC3’s list to confirm that a majority of the adjuncts listed on TC3’s list did indeed sign a union authorization card. But on Friday, President Haynes summarily rejected the local elected official’s offer. The offer still stands and we’ll make it again to the Board of Trustees on Thursday. Though technically it’s not to late for President Haynes and the Board to change their mind and agree to voluntary recognition, the second “highest road” they can take is to agree that when PERB confirms our majority status and then seeks to certify the TC3AA that the College will not then waste taxpayer money by engaging in any legal challenges  in an effort to derail or delay our decision to form a union.

We hope to see you Thursday at 5;15pm.

Questions? Please contact us at tc3adjunctassociation@gmail.com

Our Message to the TC3 Board of Directors, “Don’t Waste Financial Resources and Community/Employee Good Will on Delays”

Post BOT

(L-R) Robert Earle, Gregg Weatherby, and Sherry Tacktill after the October 23rd BOT meeting

On Thursday, October 23rd several TC3AA Organizing Committee members attended the October meeting of the College’s Board of Trustees. Robert Earle, an adjunct instructor in English and Philosophy read a statement to the Board while Gregg Weatherby, also an instructor of English who had read his own statement to the Tompkins County Legislature on Tuesday, passed out a letter signed by over 100 TC3 adjuncts urging President Haynes and the Board of Trustees not to waste money on lawyer and delays.

Below are Robert Earle’s remarks to the Board. The letter from adjuncts (which you can still add your name to) can be found here.

Mark your calendars: the next meeting of the TC3 Board of Trustees is scheduled for Thursday, November 20th at 5:30pm in the Ronald W. Space Board Room.

Dear President Haynes and Members of the Board of Trustees:

Speaking on Agenda Point #14A: Board of Trustees Retreat: We believe the following will be valuable information to consider during that retreat.

I am an adjunct, a member of the TC3 community, and a member of the Organizing Committee of the TC3 Adjunct Association. It is on behalf of that organization that I now speak. TC3 tenure track faculty, as well as professional and support staff have all had union representation for some time. Many of our counterparts at other institutions also have union representation. Now we feel it is our turn.

We see unionization as a benefit not only for adjuncts at TC3 but for our students and the institution as a whole. We all know
that building relationships with faculty is a critical factor in student success, especially at an institution like TC3, which has a large population of non-traditional students. But it can be difficult for students to build relationships with instructors who may not be at the College the next semester. We believe union representation and a fair contract will be a crucial component to helping TC3 not only attract but also retain the most qualified and dedicated adjuncts for years to come. We want to get started on that goal as soon as possible.

Yesterday, the President received our NYSUT representative’s mailed letter announcing the formation of our union and asking him to voluntarily recognize the TC3 Adjunct Association, NYSUT,/NEA/AFT,/AFL-CIO as the exclusive bargaining agent of TC3 adjuncts. We urge you to respect our wishes for voluntary recognition.            

Because of the widespread support for union representation, there is no question that TC3 adjuncts will have a union. The only question left is if the Administration and Board will adversely affect College funds (not to mention employee and community good will) by needlessly wasting resources on legal fees and forcing us to go through a hearing for union recognition at the Public Employment Relations Board.

The TC3 Adjunct Association looks forward to a cordial and productive relationship with the College and, of course, we also look forward to continuing our hard work and dedication in serving the needs of our students. We await your prompt response.

Respectfully,
Robert Earle, speaking on behalf of the Organizing Committee of The TC3 Adjunct Association

Field Trip to Ithaca’s Old Court House

Say “ORGANIZE!” TC3AA Organizing Committee Members (L-R), Sherry Tacktill, Gregg Weatherby, Nancy Crane, and Cynthia Coleman plus Theresa Alt from the Tompkins County Workers Center, gather outside the Old Courthouse after they addressed Members of the County Board of Representatives.

Say “ORGANIZE!” TC3AA Organizing Committee Members (L-R), Sherry Tacktill, Gregg Weatherby, Nancy Crane, and Cynthia Coleman plus Theresa Alt from the Tompkins County Workers Center, gather outside the Old Courthouse after they addressed Tompkins County Legislators.

On Tuesday, October 21st, several members of the TC3 Adjunct Association Organizing Committee attended the semi-monthly meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature  to address the legislators and ask for their help in our union organizing drive of TC3 adjuncts. Theresa Alt, a community resident and a member of the Tompkins County Workers Council, also spoke in support of TC3AA.

The core message to the legislature was simple: “TC3 adjuncts need, want, and deserve a union. Please tell President Carl Haynes and the TC3 Board of Trustees to respect our wishes and voluntarily recognize our union. Please tell them not to waste taxpayer money fighting us.” The details of the message were often moving as Cynthia Coleman (Sociology), Nancy Crane (Modern Languages), Sherry Tacktill (English) and Gregg Weatherby (English) told their personal stories which touched on everything from continuing to teach as an adjunct at TC3 even after finding fulltime employment elsewhere because of a passion for teaching, to working seven days a week (including weekends at the Ithaca  Farmers Market) to try to make ends meet as an adjunct, to how adjuncts teach the majority of the college’s courses yet are not paid a living wage, to the struggle faced to be assigned classes again after a six month medical absence spent fighting Stage IV cancer.

Several of the legislators were openly supportive in their comments that followed. We are hopeful we can count on the Tompkins County Legislators’ help in the days to come as we press the TC3 Administration and Board of Trustees to voluntary recognize the TC3 Adjunct Association as the union for TC3 adjuncts.

The “Community” in Tompkins Cortland Community College

County taxpayer dollars help fund community colleges. TC3 gets 25.1% of its funding through local (county) sources.

Tonight, at 5:30pm the Tompkins County Board of Representatives are holding their semi-monthly meeting at 121 East Court Street in Ithaca.

Come tell our legislature to tell TC3 management that they should not waste taxpayer monies on legal fees to fight adjuncts’ right to organize a union. TC3 management should take the high road and voluntarily recognize the TC3 Adjunct Association.

15 Minutes

A few weeks ago the Ithaca Times published an article exploring the growing reliance on (and accompanying exploitation of) contingent faculty in colleges and universities nationwide and focused on the experiences of several Ithaca area adjuncts.

We noticed there was no mention of the organizing drive underway at TC3 and were concerned that the article did not do justice to the challenges that local adjuncts face professionally and financially.

So we wrote a letter to the editor. Check out the Guest Opinion in the October 15th edition.

We’re curious to hear your thoughts, both about the original article and about our response.

You’re Invited — Union Meeting on Friday, September 19, 2014 at 4pm

Dear TC3 Adjunct Faculty Colleagues,

We are writing to invite you to join us this Friday, September 19th at 4pm in the College Teaching Center (on the second floor of the Baker Commons) for the first informational meeting of the semester of the TC3 Adjunct Association.

We are pleased to report that in just the first few weeks of the semester there has been an impressive outpouring of support for the union and many o you have volunteered to assist us in the challenging (but exciting) task of attempting to make sure that no adjunct faculty member “falls through the cracks” and we reach all adjunct faculty to solicit their input and opinion and to encourage their support and participation as we build a strong and democratic organization for adjunct faculty at TC3.

The agenda for this Friday will include discussion of:
*Union 101 — Nuts and bolts of what is a union. How and why did a union organizing campaign for TC3 adjunct faculty come about?
*What are the benefits of an adjunct faculty union for us? How will it be beneficial to students and TC3’s educational mission?
*What’s realistic (and what’s not realistic) to expect when we negotiate a contract?
*What does TC3 Administration think about our union organizing drive?
*Where are we in the process of forming a union? What’s next?

There will also be plenty of time for questions!

We encourage ALL adjunct faculty to attend this meeting but particularly those who have not yet signed an authorization card and have questions or concerns about forming a union. Please reply to this email to let us know whether or not you will be able to attend this meeting You may also contact any of us directly. We look forward to seeing (and meeting!) many of you this Friday.

On Behalf of the TC3 Adjunct Association Organizing Committee,
Herman Altmann (Biology), Betsy Caughey (English), Robert Chapman (Criminal Justice), Cynthia Coleman (Sociology), Nancy Crane (Spanish), Robert Earle (Philosophy), Elizabeth Grant (English), In Shik Lee (Graphic Design), Kristin Lovelace-Ross (Math), Randy McGory (CAPS), Barbara Need (English), Jaclyn Pittsley (English), Jessica Ryan (Sociology), Pat Sewell (Environmental Science), Lorraine Sinclaire (English), Sherry Tacktill (English), Gregg Weatherby (English), Steve Weed (English), Butch Westlake (Sociology), Michele Whitecraft (Chemistry), Diane Williams-Altmann (Biology), Brandy Williams-DeBottis (Psychology), Sarah Wolff (English)