July 31 is Black Womenâs Equal Pay Day. That means that this is the day in 2017 when black women have finally caught up with what white men were paidÂ in 2016. Thanks, wage gap! While we often hear the (accurate as far as it goes) statistic that women are paid 80 cents on the dollar compared with white men, the gap gets a lot worse when you break it out by race, and black women are paid just 63 cents on the white manâs dollar.
Pursuing higher education does little close to the wage gap. Black women with a bachelorâs degree are typically paid $46,694âjust under what white, non-Hispanic men with only a high school degree are paid ($46,729).
Black women have to earn a Masterâs degree to make slightly more ($56,072) than white, non-Hispanic men with just an Associateâs degree ($54,620).
High wage jobs, low wage jobs âŚÂ the gap persists.
Among workers in low wage jobs, Black women make just 60 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. Black women who work full time, year round in these occupations are typically paid about $21,700 annually, compared to the $36,000 typically paid to white, non-Hispanic men in these occupations. This gap translates to a loss of $14,300 each year to the wage gapâmore than enough to pay for an entire yearâs worth of rent or more than a year and a half of childcare costs.
Among workers in high wage occupationsâsuch as lawyers, engineers, and physicians or surgeonsâBlack women are paid 64 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men in the same occupations. Black women who work full time, year round in these occupations are typically paid about $70,000, compared to the $110,000 typically paid to white, non-Hispanic men in these same jobs. This amounts to a staggering annual loss of $40,000 each year, or $1.6 million dollars over a 40-year career.
Over 48Â years, the entire time for which data is available, the situation has only improved by 20 cents, from black women making 43 cents for every dollar a white man made to making 63 cents in 2015, and âIn Louisiana, the worst state for Black womenâs wage equality, Black women typically are paid slightly less than half of what white, non-Hispanic men are paid.â
Â This blog wasÂ originally published at DailyKos on July 31, 2017. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura ClawsonÂ is labor editor at DailyKos.Â
The exploitation of academic workers has simmered for decades. Now, buoyed by a National Labor Relations BoardÂ ruling that graduate employees at private universities have the right to unionize, a new generation is organizing unions across private universitiesâdefying a wave of pushback from administrations. Some students win (Columbia, Loyola). Some withdraw (Duke). Some get caught in a limbo of university appeals (Yale).
But all of these efforts are integral to the U.S. labor movement, as graduate workers challenge their own exploitation and the neoliberal decimation of the higher-education institutions that employ them.
Iâm a graduate worker at Vanderbilt University and a member of the committeeÂ organizing to unionize 1,200 graduate employees. I attend graduate school out of a passion for learning, writing and teaching young people. I came here to critique Western intellectual history by analyzing social, economic and political issues. These matters impact my life and the lives of loved ones; they are not academic hobbies or intellectual fancies. Even lecturing is no mere academic exercise: Higher education is what fosters democratic citizenship. It cultivates capacities for critical self-reflection, engagement in public discourse and thoughtful participation in a rapidly changing world. We need these pursuits now more than ever.
I did not come to graduate school to spend thousands of dollars out-of- pocket to fulfill professional obligations while watching my institution insidiously cut funding opportunities for faculty and graduate workers. I did not come to graduate school to listen to administrators rebrand us as students gaining âexperiential education opportunitiesâ rather than as employees teaching introductory classes, executing research programs, or building scholarly communities. Most importantly, I did not come to graduate school to bolster a system that abuses its workers, ignores academic rigor, overlooks sexual harassment allegations against distinguished (male) faculty, engages in unlawful labor practices and disregards the needs of its staff and faculty.
Many scholars have already exposed the decline of education and the poor labor conditions of university educators. In his 2011 The Fall of the Faculty, Benjamin Ginsberg published a devastating analysis of the decline of faculty power. More recently, Elizabeth Andersonâs 2015 Tanner Lectures at Princeton, published as Private Government, chronicled dictatorial employment practices. And last month, University of Michigan dual-Ph.D. candidate Maximillian Alvarez penned âContingent No More,â a manifesto criticizing the laissez-fare academic culture that perpetuates the âneoliberization of higher education.â
These writers illuminate the struggles of a new generation of faculty and graduate workers in academia. Burdened by insurmountable student debt and confronted by the machinery of U.S. capitalism, we fight just to survive.
Why? Because contingent labor is cheap, and no tenure means weâre expendable. This allows universities to slash salaries for faculty while expanding bureaucratic administrations that obstruct grievance processes and legal redress.
All the while, faculty and students are left in the dark as to how university revenue is spent. The Illinois State Senateâs 99 Percent General Assembly 2015 Report on Executive Compensation notes that âtuition increases have coincided with a dramatic increase in administrative costs, including the size of administrative departments and compensation packages for executives.â Vanderbilt Universityâs Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos was cited by Forbes as the fifth-highest- paid university president in 2012, with an annual salary of $2.23 million. He and 35 other university presidents across America made over $1 million that year. Nearly 40 percent of university presidents are eligible for financial bonuses for increasing statistics like graduation rates, at the expense of faculty resources for research and conference travel.
For the administrative university, undergraduatesâour studentsâhave gone from âfuture leadersâ to âcommodities.â
The generation of capital, rather than free and critical thought, is increasingly becoming the purpose of higher education. Deans see themselves as micro-CEOs, while provosts and chancellors view the university as a money-making venture. We instructors are the face of the university and provide the classroom education that students pay for, yet revenue we bring in doesnât pay for our security. Instead, we are told that admission to a doctoral program is a gift, that our employers are benevolent, and that quiet gratitude is the only appropriate response to our conditions. They pretend this is enough to ignore watching us sink below a living wage, struggle with mental health with little support, and work ourselves to exhaustion.
This piece was originally published at In These Times on July 5, 2017. Reprinted with permission.Â
About the Author:Â Sabeen Ahmed isÂ a PhD student in the Department of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. She is interested in social and political philosophy and critical phenomenology. She is currently working to analyze refugee discourses through a critique of Western intellectual history.
The Labor Center at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) atÂ Amherst is in turmoil. Its director, Eve Weinbaum, says she was abruptly pushed out of the position. In an alarming e-mail to alumni, students and allies, she protested funding cuts to teaching assistants and part-time instructors and, more troublingly, threats to the âLabor Studies facultyâs autonomy to make programmatic decisions and to designate a Director.â
Founded in 1964, the Labor Center is one of about 30 labor centers around the country. Most are rooted in the extension programs of land grant public universities. In addition to its extension workâproviding trainings for unions and worker centersâthe Labor Center runs undergraduate and graduate degree programs in labor studies.
These days it is most renowned for its limited residency Union Leadership and Administration (ULA) program, in which union leaders, staff and rank-and-file activists meet for intense 10-day periods of instruction every summer and winter and can earn a graduate degree in three years if they keep up with readings and assignments from home (or in the field).Â As you might have guessed, Iâm a proud alum of the program.
The response to Weinbaumâs letter produced nearly 500 letters of protest in a few days, according to organizers for a Save the Labor Center campaign. Local union leaders, heads of other labor centers, alumni and current students also expressed alarm about the situation in a prominent article in The Boston Globe. According to Jeff Schuhrke, another UMass alum and writer for In These Times, an organizing committee of at least 30 alumni is holding regular conference calls to plan the next steps of the campaign. The upheaval there has many worried about the future of labor education at public universities nationwide. Changes in the way education programs are funded are setting off a kind of labor center âHunger Games,â where some programs grow while others die.
Austerity and the corporatization of higher education
The plight of the Labor Center is rooted in a very common problem: state divestment in public higher education. Public university systems that were once so adequately funded that they charged little-to-no in-state tuition to students have seen their state funding decline over a period of decades.
For a state as wealthy and as liberal as its reputation, Massachusettsâ divestment in its university system is particularly egregious. The state allocates some $508 million to UMass. Thatâs only 17 percent of the schoolâs $3 billion budget. And the legislature only increased state funding by 1 percent this June, which will lead to more increases in tuition and student fees.
The skyrocketing tuition and crippling student debt caused by this divestment have been well documented. What is a bit murkier is how it impacts the function of aÂ university, as every academic discipline is forced to generate revenue. This is what critics refer to as the corporatization of higher education.
Science and engineering faculty must secure federal grants, philanthropic funding, corporate contracts and Congressional earmarks in order to gain tenure and get promoted. Those revenue sources fund an army of non-tenured research assistants, postdocs and research professors.
Law and business schools can turn to corporations and wealthy alumni for donations and endowed chairs to fund additional faculty lines. But the humanities and social sciences donât have the same rich resources to draw upon. Their charge from administration is to drum up student enrollment, particularly for profitable masterâs degree programsâhence, the pressure on the Labor Center to recruit more out-of-state students for its residential masterâs program.
Labor centers are changing with the times
But not every labor center is struggling. Some, like the ones at Rutgers University and Cornell University, have deftly pursued program grants from unions and philanthropic organizations, allowing them to expand and create new institutes. Cornellâs Worker Institute is partnered with the AFL-CIO on a next generation leadership development program and convenes a workers research network, among other projects. Rutgersâ Center for Innovation in Worker Organization does leadership development work for alt-labor groups and is a key partner in Bargaining for the Common Good, among its other programs.
Bucking the state-funding trend, the City University of New Yorkâs Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies has, according to its director, Gregory Mantsios, âreceived a commitment from the University to elevate the status of the Institute to a CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies.â With this come more state funding and control over that money. It is the result, according to Murphy professor Stephanie Luce, of a sustained lobbying campaign by local labor leaders that labor should have a school with the same status as CUNYâs business school.
âIt reflects that New York City, and the state, and CUNY have decided to invest in the labor school,â she said.
Another labor center thatâs bucking the trend is the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University. A private Jesuit university, Georgetown didnât even have a labor center until a few years ago. They had just two labor history professors, Michael Kazin and Joseph McCartin.
Georgetown president John DeGioia sought to create a labor center at the university in 2006. He was eventually connected to the Kalmanovitz Charitable Foundation (which, ironically, was carved out of theÂ estate whose caretakers left a deep scar in the city of Milwaukee by shuttering the unionized Pabst brewery in the mid-1990s). An influential board member, who was steeped in the Catholic social justice tradition and whose children had attended Georgetown, wanted to steer a significant grant to a labor education program in the Washington, D.C. area.
McCartin agreed to head up the new labor center, bringing the influential labor strategist Stephen Lerner along as a fellow. The modestly-funded initiative (its annual budget rarely tops $700,000) served as the incubator for Bargaining for the Common Goodâa union coalition effort that aligns bargaining demands with those of other members and with community demands around progressive taxation, affordable housing, youth incarceration and government transparency.
But, if youâre wondering why Kalmanovitz is an âinitiativeâ and not an âinstitute,â the charitable organization provides rolling grantsânot a bequest or an annuityâwhich leaves the Kalmanovitz Initiative as vulnerable to the fickle priorities of a charity as the public labor centers are to the indifference of state legislators.
The future of labor education at UMass and beyond
John A. Hird, dean of social and behavioral sciences at UMass, assures In These Times, âWe have no intention of allowing the ULA program to stand on its own.â
He says the university is working with the Labor Center to increase residential enrollment in both the undergraduate and graduate programs, which have declined in recent years. He sees some promise in the planned â4+1â bachelor’s/master’s program for increasing labor studies enrollment. The program would allow undergraduate students to earn graduate credit in their junior and senior years and walk away with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in just five years.
âRest assured we are doing everything we can to further develop this jewel of a program,â Hird said about ULA.
While UMass is earnestly conducting a search for a new director of the Labor Center, Hird concedes that it is likely the position will go to an internal candidate, and not a new hire, due to the financial picture. Sources at the Labor Center say they hope their campaign might result in a commitment to hire a new tenure-track labor professor to direct the center, or, at a minimum, to win more input for Labor Center faculty and staff in the selection of its next director.
âThis crisis is going to bring more attention to UMass and more of a commitment to fund it,â said Paul Mark, a Democratic state representative.
Mark was a shop steward and executive board member of his IBEW local when he was a classmate of mine at ULA. He notes that Massachusettsâ senate president is also an alum of UMass, and that the Democratic legislature is moving a plan to institute a graduated income tax in order to better fund education and transportation. You read that right, the state that Republicans love to malign as âTaxachusettsâ has a constitutional flat tax. It will take two successive legislative sessions to vote on a progressive tax amendment before the matter can be put before the voters in 2018.
Mark also reports that he has sat in on strategy meetings this past weekend with Tom Juravich, who is serving as interim director of the Labor Center, and state AFL-CIO president Steven Tolman, among others, to brainstorm ways to direct more union funding and programming to the center. If the current crisis gets Massachusettsâ unions to realize that they cannot take for granted that the Labor Center will always be there, well, that is certainly a silver lining. Although, even this may not be enough. As the Kalmanovitz InitiativeâsÂ McCartin laments, “Even if youâre taking care of your labor constituents well, they donât have the resources they once did to keep you funded.”
Many people I talked to note that the Boston area is thick with private colleges, including elite institutions like Harvard University and theÂ Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Their many graduates have moved on to careers in politics. As a result, UMass doesnât command quite the same alumni loyalty among legislators that many other state universities do. The other intrinsic challenge for UMass that supporters will note is its physical remoteness. Most of Massachusettsâ labor movement is based in Boston, in the eastern end of the state. The beautiful flagship UMass campus is located âin the sleepy west of the woody eastâ of Amherst.
I happen to think that remoteness is an asset.
Most of the surviving labor centers sprang up after World War II. They were founded in the spirit of labor-management partnership, a post-war consensus that emphasized mediation, arbitration and respectable political statesmanship. This is a framework that most employers abandoned long ago. But, to this day, most unions approach the labor centers as places for shop stewards and staff representatives to learn how to handle grievances or the finer points of collective bargaining.
What our movement needs from our labor centers is to be a place where leaders, staff and rank-and-file activists, from all kinds of different unions, can get the hell away from their offices and daily grievances and meet together in a retreat-like setting and study, read, discuss and debateâand maybe come up with some potential breakthrough strategies.
A model worth revisiting is the labor colleges of the 1920s. Brookwood Labor College in upstate New York was a bucolic retreat where thoughtful activists studied and debated the big strategic questions of the day. These included how to adaptÂ craft union structure to mass industrial production and organize key sectors of the economy.
Brookwood made a substantial, if underappreciated, contribution to the strike wave that revived laborâs fortunes in the late 1930s. Our current economic order is marked by massive inequality that some call the New Gilded Age, and our current union structures are as ill matched as those were in the 1920s to the ways industry restructured to avoid our reach. Looking backwards to that time makes sense.
We need more spaces like the UMass Labor Center to regroup and reconsider our strategic choices, not fewer. Labor centers are worth fighting for.
This blog originally appeared at InTheseTimes.org on September, 13, 2016. Reprinted with permission.
Shaun Richman is a former organizing director for the American Federation of Teachers. His Twitter handle is @Ess_Dog.
First Lady Michelle Obama is scheduled on Friday to provide a commencement address to the graduating class of 3,000 students at The City College of New York in Harlem. As the White House announcement states, her address has some additional historic significance in that CCNY was the first public higher education institution in New York City, âestablished as a free institution dedicated to overcoming barriers to advancement.â
It wouldnât be at all surprising for the First Lady to mention this in her address, as she continues to emphasize in all her commencement speeches this year her theme of âreach higher.â TheReach Higher Initiative, according to the White House, âis the First Ladyâs effort to inspire every student in America to take charge of their future by completing their education past high school.â So it would seem appropriate to recognize the monumental contribution that a free public higher education institution no doubt has had on helping multiple generations âtake charge of their future.â
Unfortunately, though, CCNY hasnât been free in 40 years. Even worse, student tuition and fees have increased dramatically in recent years, as the state continues to underfund the school since the economic downturn in 2008, while physical conditions and resources deteriorate.
As an article in The New York Times notes, at CCNYâs âhandsome Gothic campus, leaking ceilings have turned hallways into obstacle courses of buckets. The bathrooms sometimes run out of toilet paper. The lectures are becoming uncomfortably overcrowded, and course selections are dwindling, because of steep budget cuts.â
The problems at City College are symptomatic of whatâs happening to higher education throughout New York, where, according to the Times article, enrollment in the stateâs City University system â a collection of 24 urban campuses that includes City College â has climbed by more than 12 percent over the last eight years while funding from the state has dropped by 17 percent, adjusted for inflation.
Under the current austerity imposed by the state, another Times article explains, the CUNY system has had to raise tuition by $300 in each of the last five years and will likely continue to do so for another five years. Tuition hikes come on top of a $280 annual fee, significantly raising the financial challenge to CUNY students, more than half of who report family incomes of under $30,000.
Keep in mind this austerity has been imposed under the gubernatorial administration of Andrew Cuomo â a Democrat undermining the stated goals of a Democratic Party presidential administration. Cuomoâs plan is to reduce state funding to CUNY by $485 million, according to a report in Inside Higher Education.
Why is Cuomo intent on cutting higher education and raising tuition at the very same time government leaders are exhorting young people to take their education beyond higher school?
Itâs not just Cuomo. According to a new report, most states are on par with New York or even worse in cutting their commitments to higher education. A review of the report by Hechinger Reportexplains, âStates are collectively investing 17 percent less in their public colleges and universities, or $1,525 less per student, since 2007.â
While funding has been slashed, public colleges have increased published tuition prices by 33 percent since 2007.
Which states are worse than New York? According to the Times article cited at the top of this post, âArizona is spending 56 percent less, while students are paying 88 percent more. In Louisiana, students are spending 80 percent more on tuition, while state funding has been cut by 39 percent.
Students, of course, are the ones having to take the brunt of the funding crunch by taking on more college loan debt. As Hechinger notes, from 2008 and 2014, the share of students graduating with debt from a public four-year college increased from 55 to 60 percent, while the size of the average debt load rose 18 percent. In the six years before the recession, the average debt only went up by 1 percent.
College and university faculty have taken a beating from the financial austerity, too. According to recent data, faculty positions are 76 percent more apt to be filled by part-timers than they were 40 years ago. During the same time period, the number of tenured, full-time positions has dropped by 26 percent and full-time positions on a tenure track have gone down by half.
Given these circumstances, itâs understandable why college enrollments in the nation are now in decline. Part of this decline may be attributable to increased availability of jobs, but that doesnât change the fact that young adults forgoing a chance at a degree are also lowering their potential to have higher paying jobs later in life.
Declining enrollments are also not going to get the White House anywhere closer to its stated goal of ensuring, by 2020, that America once again has the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.
This Friday, Michele Obama may intend to commend City College graduates, and inspire other students, for their effort to âreach higherâ in education. Letâs hope she also tells policy leaders and public officials to do the same to fund it.
This blog originally appeared on ourfuture.org on June 1, 2016. Â Reprinted with permission.
Jeff Bryant is an Associate Fellow at Campaign for Americaâs Future and the editor of the Education Opportunity Network website. Prior to joining OurFuture.org he was one of the principal writers for Open Left. He owns a marketing and communications consultancy in Chapel Hill, N.C. He has written extensively about public education policy.
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