It all began with a letter.
In 2004, Tommy McDonnell, an adjunct at MMC, was upset that she had received a Letter of Agreement for the next semester without any raise in her fee. Granted, prior to that, MMC had sporadically offered raises to adjuncts. At the same time, when contrasted with other area colleges, the wage that MMC was offering was far below the prevailing standard.
Tommy wrote this letter to the Budget Committee in protest, which was signed by several fellow adjuncts in solidarity. The response from MMC was a modest raise. This action caught the attention the New York State United Teachers. Through the guidance of Daniel Esakoff and Julie Berman of NYSUT, in the Spring of 2006, we banded together as adjuncts and organized our union.
MMC at first had resistance to our organizing, as it may have appeared to have been an affront the school itself. High among the favorable aspects of working at MMC has always been its familial and friendly environment. Our point was, however, that benevolence aside, we never had any say in our wages, reappointment, and representation at MMC, yet we were 60 per cent of the teaching faculty.
This resistance led to a protracted negotiating process beginning in November of 2006 – at times acrimonious, and at times pleasurable – which resulted in our first contract being signed in November of 2009, and ratified by the Membership at the end of that year.
After a three-plus year journey, we achieved many significant achievements in our contract:
- A significant raise (wages at MMC were at $2325/class since 2004)
- Guaranteed raises throughout the course of the contract
- A lump-sum payment of back pay
- A Medical Assistance Fund
- A Professional Development Fund
- Peer evaluations
- Rules regarding reappointment
Since then, we’ve established a constitution and by-laws and held elections, and have negotiated four-going-on-five new contracts, adding additional benefits and wage increases.