Robin Meade Wins Ruling for Her Adjunct Job at Moraine Valley

Last fall, AcademeBlog reported on the case of Robin Meade, an adjunct instructor and head of the adjunct faculty union at Moraine Valley Community College in Illinois, who was fired in 2013 and banned from campus because she wrote a letter critical of how the administration treated adjuncts. Meade wrote an essay about her experience.

On January 22, 2015, Administrative Law Judge Ellen Maureen Strizak for the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of Meade as an unfair labor practice.

Under the ruling, Moraine Valley is required to “offer Robin Meade immediate and full reinstatement to the position of adjunct faculty professor without prejudice to her seniority or other rights and privileges” and provide her “backpay with interest.”

The Moraine Valley administration was also ordered to cease and desist from “interfering with, restraining or coercing employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed them in the Act” and from “retaliating against employees” for their union activity.

Without the existence of a union and the enforcement of legal protection against retaliation for union activities, it’s unlikely that Meade would have ever gotten her job back even with the favorable legal ruling last fall, and any compensation would have required many years of litigation that no adjunct could afford for such a minimal payout.

10 thoughts on “Robin Meade Wins Ruling for Her Adjunct Job at Moraine Valley

  1. Ah, but you see, you have to have a union that will file the grievance and back it all the way to the end. Unfortunately, neither AAUP nor UUP can be counted on to do that for adjunct academic freedom and other union rights (e.g., cf. http://zarembka.blogspot.com/2010/10/reply-to-response-of-gary-rhoades.html).

    When union bosses cut deals with other union bosses (e.g. AAUP with AFT and UUP) where, in exchange for dues/agency fees or “relationship” payments, the AAUP will enforce a “noli me tangere” policy and not get involved in assisting faculty without the “permission” of the other union, then adjuncts — and even ladder faculty — are just out of luck.

  2. Thank you for that posting, Robin Meade, for it brings to mind several important points:
    1) In the instant case, the union itself filed the unfair labor practice; however
    2) Because there is no requirement that only a certified collective bargaining agent may file an unfair labor practice (in New York State, the PERB refers to this as an “improper practice”), indeed anyone can file such a charge, and should, when the facts of the case so warrant; and
    3) The premise of the blog posting itself is thus undermined by the fact cited in number 2 because it is not essential to have union support in this type of charge.

    Thus, in the end, this is an important case not so much because a union supported an employee — since the employee could have filed on her own behalf — but because rank-and-file public employees are thereby informed that there is generally a state mechanism for bringing charges against an employer — and against a union — which violates the state’s public employee labor laws.

    I fear that there are very few public university faculty who realize that they have this right. In SUNY, for example, UUP field reps have often given complainants the impression that only the union may file such a charge. This is consonant with the kind of administrative “company union” collusion with management on display in the Grabowski case cited in the linked correspondence with the former AAUP General Secretary.

    • It should be noted that the protections in this case have to do with union activities. So if there was no union, and no union organizing involved, I believe (correct me if I’m wrong) it would not have been possible for anyone to file an unfair labor practice. Then this would have required a court to issue a First Amendment ruling to protect speech critical of the administration, which is much more costly, lengthy, and difficult. Perhaps we need a system where violations of academic freedom are treated like violations of union organizing rights. Until then, this kind of protection is only available for union activism, which is certainly another reason to start a faculty union.

      • You raise an interesting issue: Do state public employee labor laws apply to employers in all circumstances or only if there is a collective bargaining agent?

        While I am not a lawyer, from my reading of statutes in several state, it appears that state public employment laws always precede and thereby enable, limit, or forbid the organizing for and existence of individual collective bargaining agents. Such laws govern the actions of employers, the actions of unions, and the rights of workers both before and after an agent is elected and certified. Among other things, such laws generally set the conditions under which unions may be certified, define the bargaining units, what constitutes an improper practice for an employer, etc.

        So it would seem that the existence of a union is not the prerequisite for the law’s protection of public employees, but the other way around.

  3. Great work Robin! Educators of every level need Union support now more than ever during this time.The public should only know the meager “contract” amounts that Adjunct Professors get paid, even after many years of teaching at the community college. Too many huge administrative salaries versus an adjunct working 2 jobs with no benefits….that’s what’s wrong with education today!

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