Last night — actually, VERY early this morning — I was searching to see if there were any videos posted by media or individuals of APSCUF’s protest at the PASSHE Board of Governors meeting yesterday. One of my searches brought up a video interview I did for a project some of my colleagues did a couple years back: Union Stories: Kutztown. I did the interview on October 14, 2010, back when we were still working under our previous contract. Now, more than two years later and 19 months without a contract, the story I told in that interview still holds up…for the most part. After two rounds of deep budget cuts, having to fight like hell to prevent our local administration from gutting programs and faculty, and little promise that we can expect anything different for the near future, I hear the edge in my voice when I tell the short version of the story in the 2010 interview. I have a creeping feeling that I am trying to convince myself of something…or that my narrative no longer matches my experience. That’s hard to write, actually.
Coming across this interview was good timing in one respect at least. I was having a conversation with someone a week or so ago who wanted to know why having a union contract was so important to me. I got asked a version of that same question by a FOX 43 reporter yesterday at the APSCUF protest in Harrisburg: “What’s the big deal with working without a contract?” I’ve had versions of this conversation with scores of people over the 10 years I’ve been at Kutztown University. I can’t even begin to count the number of people that wondered why the hell I was going to take a job at Kutztown when I had other offers with lower teaching loads and, in one case, a significantly higher starting salary and in the city I lived in at the time. I had then and have now several reasons. But, one reason stands out above all the rest. I took the job at Kutztown because of the union, because of APSCUF. If Kutztown did not have a unionized faculty, I would have never taken the job. Period.
I’ve tried to make the case for several years that if our contract continues to erode, if our working conditions deteriorate even more, or if we strip away protections and quasi-equity for temporary faculty, then Kutztown – PASSHE as a whole – will not be able to hire AND KEEP quality faculty. We will go elsewhere. That’s sad and infuriating to me. It’s an injustice to the student body we teach and to the mission of the 14 universities that make up PASSHE. But that’s the game that the Chancellor, the Chair of PASSHE Board of Governors, and PASSHE as a whole is playing. They want to strip away quality and leave in its place a degree factory – a State-owned version of ITT Tech or the University of Phoenix.
When I watch my “Union Stories” video now I am keenly aware of why I chose to come to Kutztown, why I am fighting like hell to protect and secure a good contract for ALL faculty, and why I may ultimately end up having to leave. But the game is not up yet and the fight is not lost yet. So, back to work. Here’s the video: