The PTL Spotlight is a segment of our newsletter that highlights the members who make our union strong. We will feature a different member each month. Photographs courtesy of Nat Clymer.
Bio: How long have you been at Rutgers? What do you teach? What brought you to Rutgers?
I’ve been teaching labor history in the Labor Studies department for 9 years. As an adjunct, I have taught at many universities, but Rutgers is the only one with a Labor Studies department. Here I can share my enthusiasm for the history of working people’s lives and struggles, a subject that may be relevant to students’ future lives.
What do you do when you’re not teaching?
I spend a lot of time with other adjuncts on union work. I’m working on a biography of John Tisa, a South Jersey union activist and Spanish Civil War veteran in the 1930s and 40s, and I enjoy spending time with my family and traveling with my wife Sharon (another labor historian!).
What is the best part of your job?
Every semester I get the opportunity to try to turn 70 students on to the fascinating story of America’s labor history, most of whom frankly have little interest in the subject at the start. There’s always a variety of responses to that, but it’s great to see many of them really engaging with the topic and I enjoy hearing their ideas on the past and future of work.
Why did you get involved with the union?
I joined the union my first week at Rutgers, but didn’t see any opportunity to get more involved at first. But when I saw a groundswell of opposition to the relatively weak 2018 contract from dozens of people I hadn’t previously known, I enthusiastically joined with them to work to transform our union into a strong member-led organization. It’s been great working with all of them and many others who have become active and who are turning our union into a real part of the current wave of unionization beginning to sweep the country.
If you sat down and had dinner with President Holloway, what would you want to tell him that you would like to change about Rutgers?
I would tell him that we need to change the focus of Rutgers away from merely symbolic things like his “beloved community” platitudes and school rankings and football, and towards what really matters: education and the people who make Rutgers work. The 30 percent of the faculty who are adjuncts have a hard time doing their best job if they are being grossly underpaid, don’t know if they’ll be offered courses to teach next semester, and have no health insurance.