In the news

Demand release of UUP member held hostage Aug. 13 was a grim anniversary for Warren Weinstein, a former political science professor and United University Professions/NYSUT member at the State University of New York. Three years ago, 
just days before he was due to return home from a seven-year stint as an economic development consultant in Lahore, Pakistan, he was kidnapped by al-Qaida terrorists.

The last glimpse his family has had of their 73-year-old husband and father was a video released anonymously Dec. 26, 2013. It shows a gaunt and bearded Weinstein asking President Obama to negotiate for his release. It is not clear whether he is delivering his message under duress.

The United University Professions and the AFT are working to ensure Weinstein’s case does not fade from view and are calling for stepped-up efforts to secure his safe release. In an Aug. 20 letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, AFT President Randi Weingarten writes, “We urge you to redouble your efforts to find Mr. Weinstein and bring him home safely to his family and community.”

The UUP notes that the former SUNY College at Oswego professor is a humanitarian. “Weinstein has devoted his life to helping others since he started working as 
a human rights activist in 1969,” says UUP President Frederick Kowal, who is an AFT vice president.

Weinstein’s wife, Elaine Weinstein, and his two daughters have created a website, bringwarrenhome.com, that documents his story and provides links for concerned citizens to contact their members of Congress and the White House. They are working to ensure that Weinstein’s dire situation remains prominent in the public eye and a priority for the U.S. government. Visit the site to add your voice on his behalf. And go to http://bit.ly/1qLRly7 for more details and links.

Court tells Illinois to make good on retiree health benefits Public employees in Illinois are among those in many states fighting to keep retirement benefits that were won through sweat and sacrifice at the bargaining table. And their unions are prevailing.

On Aug. 28, a circuit court judge 
ordered that healthcare premiums that 
were wrongfully increased under SB 1313, a 2013 state law, must be restored immediately to their previous rates and refunds provided. For Illinois Federation of Teachers retirees, these withdrawals were 1 to 2 percent of their pension checks.

“This is a big step toward righting the wrongs inflicted upon so many people after they had dedicated their lives to public service in Illinois,” says IFT President Daniel Montgomery, who is an AFT vice president.

The ruling came in response to a motion filed by the IFT and other union members, which asked the court to strike down SB 
1313 based on a July judgment by the state Supreme Court. The court ruled 6-1 in Kanerva v. Weems that health insurance premium subsidies for retired state workers are protected under the Pension Protection Clause of the Illinois Constitution, which states that pension benefits “shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished 
or impaired.”

Nontenure-track unit organizes at Big Ten campus A new union has formed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A majority of nontenure-track faculty submitted authorization cards to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board in May, and the union, the Campus Faculty Association, representing 500 lecturers, instructors, and clinical, visiting, teaching and research faculty, was certified in July. The CFA is affiliated with the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the American Association of University Professors and the AFT.

The faculty came together with a view 
of the future that includes longer-term contracts, clear guidelines for promotion, higher salaries and respect as faculty, says Dorothee Schneider, history lecturer at UIUC. “We represent a very diverse community of teachers, researchers and scholars.”
“We don’t have visibility,” Kay Emmert told the locally based News-Gazette. She is a full-time lecturer in the UI’s English department. “We want to feel as though we’re seen and the efforts we make are seen” on campus, she said.

A Sign of Hope for Adjuncts at Temple When the public hears about the reality of adjunct faculty’s lives, the stories seem unbelievable but universal: Pay so low it can leave faculty living below the poverty level; no benefits; no assurance of a job from semester to semester; lack of resources or even a space to meet with students outside of class.

That is all true at Temple University, but now you can add hope to the picture. On Sept. 15, the United Academics of Philadelphia, AFT Local 9608, announced the launch of a card campaign to bring stability, fair compensation and union representation to the more than 1,000 faculty who teach on a contingent basis at the university. UAP is a union dedicated to making higher education careers sustainable for the 15,000 adjunct professors teaching in Philadelphia-area colleges.

Linda Lee is teaching in the Intellectual Heritage program this semester at Temple and at three other area colleges, Cabrini College, Philadelphia University and Rowan University (in New Jersey). For adjuncts in the area, she says, “Temple is one our favorite places. It’s one of the places that has better compensation.” Still, the university just raised its credit-hour rate to $1,300 this year for the first time since 2010, the last time adjuncts had an organizing campaign.

“If we can improve teaching and learning conditions for adjuncts at Temple, that will have an effect at the other colleges where we teach.”
Full-time tenure- and nontenure-track faculty at Temple are represented by the Temple Association of University Professions/AFT.
 

AFT On Campus, Fall 2014
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