February 21, 2017

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Solidarity with the IC Contingent Faculty

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The Ithaca College Contingent Faculty, including full-time and part-time faculty, have authorized labor actions up to and including a strike. The authorization vote came last week, after 18 months of bargaining failed to persuade the Ithaca College administration to commit to the fundamental labor principles of “pay parity” and “equal pay for equal work.” The faculty members facing contingent work conditions, amounting to almost half of the current number of faculty at Ithaca College, held a rally on Monday, Feb 20th at the main entrance of IC campus. The rally preceded two days of scheduled mediation with the College administration and demonstrated the group’s collective power as well as public support for their insistent struggle to secure fair working and living conditions.

We, the members of Cornell Graduate Students United and Cornell Organization for Labor Action, stand in solidarity with the Ithaca College Contingent Faculty and unconditionally support all future labor actions undertaken by them.

We insist that no worker deserves the precarious, insecure and flexible working and living conditions to which full-time and part-time contingent faculty at Ithaca College are subjected. We reject the neoliberal capitalist narrative of inevitable austerity and its politics of deunionization that individualize structural problems, isolate workers, and depoliticize the workplace in an attempt to repress the collective power of organized labor. In this environment and historically, labor actions, especially strikes, are powerful expression of workers’ control of their own labor. By retracting their labor from profit-entranced employers, the workers, once organized in a democratic and bottom-up fashion, demonstrate that they are not commodities and that they can and should determine their working conditions in order to reach a just and sustainable society for all.

We, as current and future workers from Cornell University, remind the Ithaca College Administration that the fundamental role of the university is to critically challenge the status quo, which reserves justice, equality, and dignity for a small minority, and not to perpetuate it; and that their fundamental responsibility is to ensure the wellbeing of all their workers and not the direct or indirect corporate profits of their Board of Trustees.

We recognize that all labor actions by our colleagues and professors at Ithaca College are actions against the corporatization of higher education in the US, against the crisis-ridden capitalist system, and against the various forms of violence, dispossession, and insecurity that neoliberal corporate interests left and right inflict upon laborers worldwide. Their struggle is not separate but furthers solidarity with current struggles for justice and equality — including our unionization efforts at Cornell for the graduate students, and the struggles of Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, and immigrant workers in and across the US, drivers and public transit workers in India and Argentina, telecommunication workers in Sri Lanka, purged academicians in Turkey, women in Iceland and Kenya, and millions of civilians in Syria and in Romania.

The Ithaca College Contingent Faculty are rising up for better working and living conditions. They are rising so that they are able to provide the education that their students deserve; so that their students do not face the same or worse precarious working conditions that they now face, in the future. And they are rising up to remind all of us of organized labor’s power to act for justice, equality and democracy.

We, the members of Cornell Graduate Students United and Cornell Organization for Labor Action, embrace their labor actions as ours and commit to further their struggle — our struggle — with them.

We call on all members of Cornell University and the Ithaca community to support Ithaca College faculty in their struggle!

We call on the Ithaca College Administration to immediately fulfill “pay parity” and “equal right for equal work” principles at the bargaining table!

Sena Aydin, on behalf of: 
Cornell Graduate Students United Organizing Committee and 
Cornell Organization for Labor Action (COLA)

2 thoughts on “LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Solidarity with the IC Contingent Faculty

  1. The most puzzling part of this letter to the editor is the phrase, “not the direct or indirect corporate profits of their Board of Trustees.” Ithaca College’s Board of Trustees serve as unpaid volunteers. All of them love Ithaca College and most of them have donated considerable sums to that institution. There has never been an plausible argument advanced that a Trustee has profited from keeping contingent faculty salaries low.

    The facts are that with several institutions of higher education within commuting distance of Ithaca College, there is an oversupply of qualified labor to teach at IC on a part-time basis. For example, two academics are married but only one is offered a position on the Cornell faculty, so the other decides to pursue a teaching career at IC. While a mid-year strike might disrupt Ithaca College’s operations, the long-run economic value of a part-time contigent faculty member in Ithaca is approximately what Ithaca College is currently paying.

    Ithaca College offers an educational product that is “good enough” to attract and retain students, and the tuition at Ithaca College is set on the presumption that there will be a given percentage of contingent faculty. I would be interested in reading an economic study showing what the tuition at Ithaca College would be if all contingent faculty were replaced by full time faculty paid at the average salary of IC’s current faculty. That projected tuition level would be too high to attract students. The funding gap would have to come from a tuition increase, because there are no “direct or indirect corporate profits” to be diverted from the Ithaca College Trustees.

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