By Darryl McGrath
The history of unionism in the United States is filled with stories of people who took great personal risks to seek justice not only for themselves but their fellow workers.
UUP knows that personal risk still plays a role in unionism.
In recognition, UUP annually presents the Fayez Samuel Award for Courageous Service by Part-time Academic and Professional Faculty.
Robert Earle Gregg Weatherby
This year’s co-winners—Robert Earle and Gregg Weatherby—share the award for serving as founding members of the organizing committee for the proposed TC3 Adjunct Association at Tompkins Cortland Community College in Dryden, Tompkins County. In addition to their work as adjunct faculty at Tompkins Cortland, both men are also UUP members and lecturers at SUNY Cortland—Earle in the philosophy department and Weatherby in the English department. And it is their awe-struck UUP colleagues there who nominated them for the award.
“Mr. Weatherby speaks to labor issues at every opportunity,” wrote Bill Buxton, a former Cortland Chapter president, in his nominating letter. He described Earle in a related nomination as a catalyst for change at TC3 “by virtue of his optimism and also his training as a philosopher, which enable him to envision and strategize a way forward.”
The formation of the prospective NYSUT local for TC3 adjuncts is before the Public Employment Relations Board, following a protest by the college, which asserts that its adjunct faculty should instead join the existing local for full-time faculty. Because a majority of the adjunct faculty signed cards—more than 200 did so, in fact—NYSUT was able to seek recognition without an election, but the college’s subsequent protest of the adjunct local will delay the outcome until the fall.
“Both of these members exemplify what it takes to be a unionist in these tough times, when national and well-funded forces are trying to destroy the rights of working people, and that attitude trickles down to a local level in the workplace every day,” UUP President Fred Kowal said. “We are proud to claim these two courageous leaders as our own, and even more gratified that they want to empower others.”
Stepping up; fighting back
Weatherby joined the organizing effort at TC3 when he tried to return to his adjunct faculty job at the college following a medical leave and learned that his illness—from which he was by then recovered—was cited as the reason that the college almost did not rehire him. Earle joined the organizing effort after the TC3 college president watered down an amendment to the college’s bylaws that Earle had drafted; the amendment would have allowed for greater inclusion of adjunct faculty in the college’s governance.
Both have been outspoken about the struggle to organize their colleagues at TC3.
“Imagine working two full-time jobs and still not making a livable wage,” Weatherby told the Tompkins County Board of Legislators as he asked for their support. “What message does this send to our students? What does it say about how much we value education?”
Both believe that the organizing effort will prevail.
“Because of the widespread support for union representation, there is no question that TC3 adjuncts will have a union,” Earle said in a statement last fall to the college’s board of trustees. “The TC3 Adjuncts Association looks forward to a cordial and productive relationship with the college and, of course, we also look forward to continuing our hard work and dedication in serving the needs of our students.”