Workers Unite

In Vermont, 539 low wage workers have formed a union. Fifteen of the workers are in Brattleboro. They are professors at the Community College of Vermont (CCV), which has campuses around the state. “I sometimes have trouble paying my rent. Other professors do too,” Kathleen Moore told the Valley Post in a telephone interview on October 14. She has taught at CCV for almost a decade.

The Vermont union win was announced on October 12. The people who run CCV refer to Moore and her co-workers as adjunct professors. A 2014 study by the federal government found that nationwide most adjunct professors are paid so badly that their income is below the poverty line. CCV says all its professors are adjuncts.

Jil MacMenamin lives in Brattleboro and has been a professor at CCV since 1985. In a telephone interview on October 16, she told the Valley Post she had posted a video on YouTube in which she explains why she supports the union. MacMenamin posted the video to help undecided professors before the union election. In the video, she said that, from the point of view of the people who run CCV, “We are the cheapest faculty in the Vermont state college system.”

The CCV professors have a web site at www.aft.org.

Many professors at Smith and Amherst colleges – and at colleges around the nation -- have tenure or job security. This is so they can publicly speak the truth without being fired. “We have no job security,” CCV professor Moore said. “We are hired from term to term. We want fairness, transparency, and consistency in hiring.”

Emily Casey has been a CCV professor for five years. “We're very excited,” she told the Valley Post in a phone interview on October 15. “In the past we have worked in isolation – we haven't seen each other. The union has brought us together.”

On average, workers in the USA make 27 percent higher wages when they join a union. That's according to www.bls.gov. Most union contracts say workers can only be fired for "just cause." Non-union workers can be fired at any time for no reason.

Some colleges that are based in the USA offer online courses that are taught by professors who live in nations where wages are much lower than in the USA. Some unions in the USA are trying to organize those professors to raise their wages. About 6 million people in the USA were enrolled in at least one online college class in 2014.

Millions of workers in the USA are union members, including all the workers at UPS, UMass Amherst, the Brattleboro Retreat (900 or so workers), and the food co-ops in Northampton, Greenfield, and Brattleboro. The Brattleboro co-op has about 160 employees.

The middle class in the USA is disappearing. There are more rich people and more poor people than there have been since the 1920s. This allows billionaires more influence over politicians. Unions are one way to expand the middle class and increase democracy.

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