MCCS guarantees poverty wages for many through built-in inequity

SenatorMillettAndRepresentativeKornfield

State Senator Rebecca Millett, at left, asks a question May 2 during testimony in support of LD 1538, An Act Regarding Compensation Equity for Positions in the Maine Community College System. Senator Millett and State Rep. Tori Kornfield, at right, co-chair the Maine Legislature’s Education Committee.

Senator Millett, Representative Kornfield, members of the Education Committee, my name is Jeff McCabe, Director of Politics and Legislation for the Maine State Employees Association, Service Employees International Union Local 1989. We are a labor union representing 13,000 public sector and publicly funded workers and retired workers statewide, including adjunct professors, support workers and supervisory workers for the Maine Community College System. We respectfully ask you to support LD 1538.

LD 1538 is about fairness. It’s about equal treatment not just for workers but also for the students. It’s about educational equity, ensuring that Maine’s public resources are allocated fairly across each campus to recruit and retain qualified staff. It’s about one Maine. It’s about treating all of the employees of the Maine Community College System with the respect and dignity they have earned.

Right now, the rates of pay for adjunct professors and faculty throughout the system are all over the map. Each of the seven campuses has its own per-credit rate for adjunct professors. Rates for adjunct professors range from $511.01 per credit hour taught at Northern Maine Community College to $806.20 per credit hour taught at York County Community College. The rates at the other five campus fall in between. That’s a difference of almost $300, or almost 60 percent.

Similarly, salaries for full-time faculty are all over the board from campus to campus and also within particular instructional fields. Others testifying today will elaborate on those disparities in faculty pay.

In contrast, the approximately 250 workers we represent in our Support Services Bargaining Unit and the approximately 50 workers we represent in our Supervisory Services Unit all have pay scales ensuring workers in the same classification are paid equally regardless of the particular campus where they work. This wage equity applies to maintenance workers, custodians, administrative workers and information technology workers in our Support Unit, and to all of the workers in our Supervisory Unit. We believe educators should be treated equally as well.

We think wage equity is the right way to go; wage equity should be the only way to go. That’s what LD 1538 is all about.

Under the current wage system, adjuncts have been reluctant to speak out for fear of retaliation. They could find that if they speak out, they are not reassigned courses for an upcoming semester. We know there are adjuncts who have been intimidated because they have spoken out — and they did not fight back against that intimidation out of concern for further reprisal. Attached is testimony of one of our members who works as an adjunct professor and requested anonymity.

We believe all employees of the Maine Community College System should rise and fall together as one, not as seven individual islands. It’s wrong for the system to increase discrepancies among workers who do the same work. The public sector has a responsibility to lift up the entire state by eliminating pay inequities. Using public sector dollars to exacerbate wage inequality is highly problematic, yet that’s exactly what the Maine Community College System has been doing with its disparate wages for adjunct professors and for full-time faculty. LD 1538 will ensure equity across the seven campuses by eliminating the disparities that can lead to resentments, divisions and morale issues that adjunct professors and full-time faculty are experiencing.

It’s important to note the adjunct professors have tried to do their part to address these inequities. In their previous contract negotiations, they took it upon themselves to propose adjuncts at five of the campuses receive less of a raise so that adjuncts at the two lowest-paid campuses, Northern Maine Community College and Washington County Community College, could receive more of a raise. They advocated for this approach in multiple contracts – but it isn’t enough.

Even with those good intentions by the adjunct professors at the Maine Community College System, the entire wage structure for adjunct professors and full-time faculty remains deeply flawed. The structure has guaranteed poverty wages for many through the built-in wage inequity. It’s past time for the Maine Community College System to stop balancing its budget on the backs of adjunct professors and full-time faculty. It’s past time to pass LD 1538. Thank you and I would be glad to answer any questions.

Updated: May 16, 2019 — 11:49 am