As dictated by federal labor laws and state minimum wage laws, it’s illegal for companies and organizations not to pay employees that provide work that has immediate benefit to said company/organization. In the land of education, where schools are the employers and students the customers, teachers unquestionable provide value. If teachers failed to show up, refused to teach, or simply weren’t hired, the school wouldn’t be of much value to students.
But the City University of New York has a teacher problem—more specifically, an adjunct professor problem. Adjunct professors, who are hired on for short contracts and often shortly before classes begin, often live paycheck-to-paycheck on tight salaries. So when their employer, in this case CUNY, doesn’t pay them, it’s a problem—a really big problem.
According to this article on Raw Story, “only” 400 adjunct professors haven’t been paid for classes they taught in August, and “only” 100 haven’t been paid for both August and September. Even for teachers on long-term contracts and higher base salaries, missing two months worth of pay can be a serious problem; for adjuncts, it can be devastating.
CUNY says adjuncts are responsible for asking for “advances” on these overdue salaries. Putting the blame in the lap of employees that haven’t been paid through no fault of their own shows nothing but blatant disregard for the well-being of said employees.
While some adjunct professors have other careers to support them—like David Petraeus, KKR’s newest high-profile hire—others are not so lucky. Regardless, it is completely unacceptable for the school to “hire” employees and then refuse to pay them for their work. The professors have honored their end of the bargain, and it’s high time for CUNY to honor its end.