KFT takes action with teach-in
By Joshua Rosario | Published May 8, 2017
Kean Federation of Teachers take “Day of Action” by hosting teach-in session on why unions matters to students.
The event took place in the Miron Student Center (MSC) on Wednesday afternoon. This “Day of Action” is to raise awareness among students and the community about the importance of unions and the lack of master contract for the professors since the current contract expired on June 30, 2015.
The KFT is the union that represents the faculty at Kean University.
“Much of what we do is focused on improving the education that we provide to you, improving the environment in which your learning takes place,” said the first speaker, Dr. James Castiglione, President of the KFT.
Castiglione gave a brief history of unions in the United States. He spoke about how the amount of people in unions peaked around 35 percent in the 1950’s. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2016 only a little over 10 percent of workers are unionized.
Castiglione continued discussing the many things we have today thanks to the labor movement like unemployment insurance, eight hour workdays, 40 hour work weeks, sick pay, vacations, etc. He finished off with presenting a video about the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the union for teachers.
“You know I might mention, the labor movement has had some other impact pushing some other legislation like the family medical leave act. Which allows you to care for a loved one who is sick,” said Castiglione. Castiglione also mentions the civil right act and title 7, a law that prevents job discrimination of race, color, sex, and national origin.
English associate professor, Richard Katz, spoke after Castiglione focusing more on the issues here directly at Kean University like the dependency of adjunct professors. According to Kean University’s 2016 Institutional Profile in 2015, 75 percent of professors at Kean are part-time, also known as adjuncts.
There are only 336 full time professors at Kean University in 2015. Those 336 full time professors taught almost 47 percent of classes at Kean.
“Our working conditions are your learning conditions,” said Katz quoting Castiglione. “The power here rest with you, the students.”
Katz spoke on the working conditions for the professors, how the lack of full time working professors is an issue for students, and how this comes back to affect the professors. He also discussed the lack of student voices and students need to be active by speaking out at meetings like the Board of trustee meetings.
The president of New Jersey’s AFT, Donna M. Chiera, also spoke about her experience as an educator of 30 years in Perth Amboy and the importance of educators. Representatives of other unions like the Fraternal Order of Police were also in attendance.
The day of action was not just held at Kean University. Th e day of action was a state wide event at all New Jersey public universities involved in the lack of contract. According to Montclair University’s student newspaper, The Montclarion, professors there held a mock funeral for higher education. Professors had a casket with “ R.I.P. Statewide contracts” displayed on the front of the casket.
“We thought [the teach-in] would be a great opportunity to collect with students and to build a broader coalition to improve public higher education,” said Castiglione in a phone interview after the teach-in.
Negotiations to a final contract have been ongoing for almost two years. In New Jersey public university master-contract negotiations, Th e Council of New Jersey State College Local, is the collective-bargaining agent that represents professors for not only Kean University, but also others, including Montclair State University and Th e College of New Jersey. The Office of Employee Relations in the New Jersey Governor’s office coordinates and negotiates on behalf of the state.