Thom Foy, Statement to Admin April 6th, Open Bargaining

I started teaching in the fall of 1997 at Henry Ford Community College. At that time, I had a full-time job in the film and video industry, albeit not one of the glamorous jobs. I had started at that company, Producers Color Service, in 1987 in the building maintenance department and completed my bachelor’s and master’s degrees while working there. My plan was to transition to full time teaching when I finished my schooling.

When I began teaching as an adjunct at HFCC in 1997, I hadn’t yet completed my master’s. After I earned that degree in 1999, I fully expected—rightfully so—that I would be able to find a full-time job at a community college or university pretty quickly. But it didn’t happen that way. So I continued to work full time in the building maintenance department at Producers Color and teach part-time in the evenings at HFCC, while scanning postings for full time college teaching jobs. In the summer of 2000, I was laid off from Producers Color, and in the fall of 2000, I started teaching in the Writing Program at UM-Dearborn, determined to make it a full-time job.

I was under no illusions; I knew it was a part-time lecturer position. But I assumed at that time that if I committed to working here I might be able to advance. That has not happened in any permanent way.

In 2008, I was promoted from Lecturer I to Lecturer II. But after performing for ten years the additional duty of faculty consultant in the university’s Writing Center, last year the budget was cut and faculty are no longer permitted to have a role in the Center. I also assist in the assessment of English placement exams, but budget restrictions have put the future of that vital assessment tool in jeopardy.

I continue to teach, of course; in fact, I frequently teach a 100% appointment, which is much needed and greatly appreciated. I do research and present at conferences, but that is neither expected nor encouraged of Lecturers. I do these things because I am dedicated to giving students a quality education, to living up to the high standard of the University of Michigan, to being one of the leaders and the best.

Furthermore, I have applied for full-time Lecturer III positions in Dearborn, but the jobs went to outside applicants. I assume I may be able to do other additional duties as they arise, but there is no guarantee of that; there is no system of advancement for me as a Lecturer II.

I have a Master’s degree and have been teaching continuously at the college level for twenty years, yet last year my gross earnings from the University for teaching alone totaled $39,405 for a 4/4 load. That is immoral.

I do everything available to me to advance in my profession here at the University, but I am not rewarded for it. How should I take that? It feels like a lack of respect.

Working multiple jobs should NOT be the standard for working as a professional, especially at such an august, time-honored, and trend-setting institution as the University of Michigan. But working multiple jobs is exactly what many of us must do in order to pay the bills, one of which—for me and many others I’m sure—is a school loan.

In 2002, my stepson began cleaning offices, doing business as Dustin’s Maintenance Enterprise or DME (his initials). One year later, he asked my wife and me if we wanted to take it over. After some discussion, we agreed to do it. At that time, he had two accounts, one nightly and one two times per week. The work involves picking up trash, cleaning desks, cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming, and mopping. Cleaning is not rocket science; it doesn’t require an advanced degree. But it’s not easy. It requires a keen attention to detail and dedication to a job well-done, both vital qualities that I bring to my teaching.

From 2003 to 2005, my wife and I worked those two accounts, which included not only the cleaning but accounting and billing (which my wife did and does). We even hired two casual laborers. I continued to teach at UM-Dearborn and Henry Ford, and I also got the occasional stage-managing gig for video shoots as a result of contacts made while working at Producers Color Service.

I worked those four jobs in order to live the life I owed my family; my wife had worked in an office in Southfield, which made it possible for me to go to university.

I earned the qualification to join the teaching profession, but that job did not—and does not—pay me what I am worth.

As a result of our cleaning business, my teaching appointments became intermittent during the years ’03-‘05. But I increasingly felt the pull to get back to teaching regularly. Due to a series of events—the most significant being the formation of LEO—in the fall of 2005, I began teaching continuously at UM-Dearborn. And my wife and I continue to own and operate DME.

Since 1997 I have worked multiple jobs, as has my wife. Currently, we clean one office twice a week on Sunday and Wednesday evenings. Typically, the two of us take about three hours to complete our tasks. The hours working the DME job, then, total about 12 hours per week. I typically spend around 50 hours per week performing my teaching duties, usually over seven days of the week. That’s 62 hours per week for a salary for two people. I don’t mind cleaning, and the extra money is essential. But if pay for Lecturers was better, I would drop the cleaning job. I see no reason why I should have to mop floors and, further, why such unskilled work should earn me nearly as much as what I make teaching at UM-Dearborn.

Let me repeat that multiple jobs should not—cannot—be the standard by which lecturers are expected to exist at the university. It is not sustainable. The University of Michigan is poised to be a leader in this moment, to show the state, the nation, and the world that the group that teaches the majority of its students are valued, respected, and honored with the vast resources that this great university has amassed.

I love teaching; I see it as a creative outlet that is also in service of the high ideal of education. The value of education is extolled in all facets of our civic life; it is one of the “pursuits of happiness” and part of the American Dream. It is incredibly rewarding to help students to succeed in their educations, and it is rewarding as well to do it here.

I would like to continue to teach here—and only here—to realize that American Dream that I help to provide for so many bright-eyed students, and to be respected for what I bring to this institution, not just with crumbs but with the full meal that is already prepared.

I am a dedicated member of the UM-Dearborn community, and have been for nearly twenty years. I have taught hundreds, if not thousands, of students at this point. I am owed for past work performed for exploitative wages. There must be a substantial equity adjustment for all lecturers and a major increase in salary moving forward.

I thank you for your time.