Justin Miller

 Justin Miller is a senior writing fellow for The American Prospect.

Recent Articles

How Big Money Lost in Philly’s Mayoral Race

Support from unions and public-education advocates won Jim Kenney the primary election, despite $7 million in outside spending for his opponent.

(Photo: AP/Matt Slocum)
(Photo: AP/Matt Slocum) Democratic mayoral candidate Jim Kenney, center, celebrates after winning Tuesday's primary election in Philadelphia. Broad union and progressive support gave the former city councilman more than half the votes in the six-candidate race. O n Tuesday, Philadelphia city council veteran Jim Kenney won the Democratic mayoral primary with 56 percent of the vote—a commanding victory in a crowded campaign of six candidates. Kenney’s win is not only a step in the right direction for the progressives who supported his candidacy; it’s also a refreshing reminder that heavy outside spending doesn’t always guarantee electoral success. Pennsylvania State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams, the runner-up with 26 percent, was backed by a trio of suburban Philadelphia hedge fund financiers with a strong interest in market-driven education reform. As Paul Blumenthal noted in The Huffington Post , the PAC’s $7 million support (as of the latest filing date) of Williams’s candidacy was...

Faculty Join Fast Food in the Fight for $15

On campuses across the country, adjunct professors are starting to organize against rock-bottom pay and tenuous job security. 

Faculty Forward USC
Faculty Forward USC Adjunct faculty march for better pay and working conditions at the University of Southern California on April 15, 2015. A s yesterday’s Fight for $15 protests wound to a close across the country, it’s become clear that this movement is not a fleeting effort—it’s here to stay. The focal point has primarily been on the most visible low-wage workers: fast food and retail workers whose pay perpetually hovers around minimum wage. And their employers seem to be taking a small, yet encouraging, step in the right direction as both McDonald’s and Wal-Mart recently announced increases to their respective minimum wages. However, another employment sector that’s not typically associated with low wages was prominent yesterday as well: the American professoriate. Higher education institutions in the United States employ more than a million adjunct professors. This new faculty majority, about 70 percent of the faculty workforce , is doing the heavy lifting of academic instruction...

At Colleges Across the Country, PhDs Join the Ranks of Low-Wage Workers

 

 

Posted by guest blogger Justin Miller

In college towns across America, adjunct faculty are quickly becoming the new, Ph.D.-educated working poor.

If nobody noticed that adjuncts now comprise the majority of faculty in higher education, that surely changed yesterday, on what organizers deemed National Adjunct Walkout Day. The idea was to shine light on the precarious conditions that are now the norm for most college-level instructors—terribly low pay, unpredictable job security, little-to-no academic freedom.

So yesterday, adjuncts used their vast numbers to be seen (or not seen, rather) by collectively walking out of classes they teach, participating in demonstrations, or even doing teach-ins about the state of the academy, as it were. Thousands of instructors from hundreds of institutions across the country, from Ohio State University to Central New Mexico Community College, took action. Even a school in Ireland took part.

The goal was simple: Put pressure on administrations to change their hiring practices by showing students that even as they pay more and more for tuition, the working conditions for their instructors are sinking.

Many adjuncts are forced to patch together teaching gigs at multiple institutions just to make a living. Not much of one, though: The average pay for an adjunct teaching a three-credit course is less than $3,000. Benefits are typically out of the question. Opportunities to engage in traditional faculty tasks—like curriculum development—are scant.

This is the new reality for most people trying to make a career in academia. In the United States, non-tenure-track faculty now make up more than two-thirds of the instructional workforce in higher education. Over the course of just 15 years, part-time faculty positions increased at three times the rate of full-time positions.

There’s a “national upsurge from the grassroots, which has been pushing everything along,” says Joe Berry, a contingent faculty member and organizer.

That includes pushing national unions to become active in adjunct organizing—several of which got on board with the day of action. SEIU, for one, issued a statement of support, on the heels of announcing an initiative to set a national standard for contingent faculty at $15,000 a course, including benefits.

 

 

Workers Centers: Organizing the 'Unorganizable'

From contract janitorial workers to day laborers, new strategies emerge for seeking justice on the job.

(Photo: CTUL/Minneapolis)
(Photo: CTUL) On November 28, 2014, workers for a company contracted to clean retail stores staged a Black Friday strike in front of a Target store in Minneapolis, just blocks from the big-box chain's headquarters. The action was organized by the CTUL workers center. M ost days Maricela Flores starts work at three in the morning—3:30 a.m. on a late day. Flores and her co-worker are tasked with cleaning an entire sprawling 125,000-square-foot Target store in six hours—every day. They sweep, buff, wipe, and scrub the store, erasing the evidence of the day of the previous day’s shoppers, who have streamed through the store. It’s hard work, certainly not glamorous—and at just $8 an hour, neither is the pay. As a single mother, Flores finds that’s barely enough to support her four children. “I always have to be making decisions about what to buy,” Flores tells me in Spanish, through an interpreter. “It’s very difficult to have to stretch every dollar.” Her family currently lives in a...

Top 5 Senate Races Where Dark Money and Outside Spending Ran Wild

Half a billion dollars was spent on U.S. Senate races this year, making this cycle the most expensive midterm campaign ever.

Shutterstock.com
This article has been corrected. G et ready for a week of pundits making claims of just what was proven by the results of the 2014 midterm elections. But one thing is already quite clear: Money is indeed a deciding factor. Half a billion dollars was spent on U.S. Senate races this year, making this cycle the most expensive midterm campaign ever. Much of that money was used by non-profit issue groups for what is known as “outside spending”—meaning money used for advertising and other forms of communication ostensibly to support an issue, but most often an issue that is framed in such a way to lend support to the group’s favored candidate. (These are the ads that often say something like: “Call Senator X and tell him to stop [supporting some allegedly terrible thing].") The 2014 cycle also shows how effectively outside spending groups can sway elections: When conservative groups outspend liberal groups (and sometimes even when they don’t), conservative candidates win. North Carolina,...

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