I have been wondering about how to develop a system, nationwide or statewide, that would serve as some sort of a -shield for activists who are facing harassment, termination or pressures at their home institution(s). Increasing numbers of high-profile activists are being run out of their departments, suddenly find themselves with no class assignments, or are subject of shaming, bullying, shunning and other forms of discouragement for their work. We all have stories! The tools of civil lawsuit and NLRB ruling seem to be working fairly well, but there is a landscape of events and actions that happen prior to the triggering action that might be staunched, aggressively resisted, or turned. One weapon is communication, letters, and so on. Steven Salaita’s premature firing, at Illinois, was an occasion for thousands of letters, petitions, and forms of pressure and this pressure was ultimately successful. But for every Steven Salaita, there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of Part-time, or otherwise contingent, faculty–who disappear from the classroom without fanfare. It might be useful to create documentation (start a folder!) and share your documented experiences with your state level of union, your local union and organizations like AAUP. Make sure you have alerted folks to your treatment (especially your local) and have evidence. Of course, this is a real problem when your “reporting officer” so to speak is the harasser. When it is the union itself that is trying to move you out of leadership or back bench you, or, more seriously, is behind the scenes trying to shut you out of class assignments (Oh, they say, we have no classes this semester in your availability window!), then you have legitimate reason to despair. In that case, turn to the national organizations and document your claims! If NEA, AFT, AAUP and other organizations are not responding, be sure you have evidence of that.
The most recent successful fightback is from Illinois, and it is a favorable NLRB challenge. Here is the reblogged version, from Robin Meade :
“On September 17, the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board (IELRB) made its final ruling in my case against Moraine Valley Community College (MVCC).It all started in August of 2013, when I was fired by the administration at Moraine Valley Community College for writing a letter to the League of Innovation in the Community Colleges decrying MVCC’s lack of innovation toward adjuncts. I sent the letter as president of the adjunct bargaining unit. My termination letter specifically stated “your letter goes far beyond what could be considered responsible advocacy on behalf of the Moraine Valley Adjunct Faculty association”, meaning I was fired for my activities as union president and not my teaching position. This situation began the workings of two legal efforts; one with the labor board (IELRB) and one in federal court defending my freedom of speech.
I must say that with many decades of precedent supporting me for both legal efforts, I did not anticipate losing. However, I did not anticipate the MVCC administration and presumably the board fighting so hard. This is the final ruling from the IELRB. An administrative law judge ruled in my favor early this year. The college chose to pursue an appeal and I suspect they will appeal this ruling at the state appellate court which is their right. The federal case was initially dismissed but the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit resounding trounced that ruling. This IELRB ruling came in just in time for my attorney to use it for his summary judgment in the federal case. The IELRB cited the college’s own testimony and evidence as a reason for ruling in my favor.
These ongoing court proceedings have been a learning experience and the curve is sharp. During the depositions for the members of the college administration, I came to full realization of the arrogance and group think that plagues the college administration and board. There was a refusal to accept that the contract I signed to teach was actually a contract and that the Seventh Circuit court determined it to be so. The administrators and the board agreed to fire me with absolutely no consideration the contract I had signed or the adjuncts I represented.
Where do things go from here? According to the IELRB ruling, MVCC must offer me full and unconditional reinstatement of my position without prejudice, pay me with interest the wages I have lost since being terminated, wipe away any reference of the termination from my record and, my personal favorite, post the IELRB notice prominently on the employee boards all over campus for 60 days. The college also has to report to the IELRB what actions they have taken to comply with the order within 35 days.”