Elaine Bobrove
Elaine Bobrove
Unions part of the solution, not part of the problem
When I switched on my car radio one morning recently, I heard the host of a talk radio station say, “It’s not the teachers or the policemen or the firemen who are ruining America. It’s the unions!”

This seems to be the same message we are getting from Gov. Chris Christie. He seems to believe that teachers are solely responsible for putting New Jersey into a financial hole. I’m hearing the message repeated by strangers when I’m in line at the supermarket and even had one of my offspring (definitely one who should know better) saying that teachers are both overpaid and unsuccessful in what we do.
There seems to be a universal perspective that maybe there was some validity to the work of unions back in the day of the sweatshops, but that things have gone too far in the other direction. The unions, this line of thinking goes, have betrayed the public trust by negotiating outrageous contracts.
I have also heard it said that the reason people cannot get jobs is that the unions have made it too expensive to hire American workers.
Let’s look at the facts. When I started teaching as a community college adjunct in 1982, we earned $800 to teach a three-credit course. Before we voted to form a union in 1995, salaries had only risen to between $950 and $1,000 for a three-credit course. That would be $10,000 per year if we were allowed to teach a full academic load of 10 courses per year.
In 1995, when we began negotiating our own contracts, the poverty threshold for a four-person family was $15,568. Our most recent contract in 2010 started at $670 per credit hour — the equivalent of $2,010 for a three-credit course. Are we abusing the system now?


Elaine Bobrove is president of United Adjuncts of New Jersey and a higher education vice president of the American Federation of Teachers New Jersey. She is an adjunct at Camden County College.

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