Negotiating Tips Podcast

Just want to share a podcast series I’m learning a lot from. I only found it this week, but the podcast was produced a few years ago by Slate and it’s called Negotiation Academy. The series is proving to be a useful tool for thinking about salary negotiations.

The whole series is only ten podcasts about 15-20 minutes a piece. Each episode covers a different topic on negotiation strategy from preliminary research to BATNA (Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement) to asking for a raise. So far every episode has taught me some new piece of negotiation strategy that I can incorporate into my daily life.

I haven’t quite finished the series yet, but I can strongly recommend it. I’ve been starting each morning lately with a podcast and a new negotiation tip. Give it a shot and see what you think. I’ll probably pull the series all together in a future post on negotiating strategy.

You can subscribe to Negotiation Academy in iTunes or listen to the first episode here.

Negotiating Tips Podcast

Hey Unions! Wake Up!

Yesterday I was unabashedly pro-union. Today I’m going to play a bit of a skeptic.

That’s pretty much the way I’ve always dealt with unions. I like them in theory, but I sometimes wonder how much they actually do for their members. I think it’s good to challenge the union occasionally to keep it working hard for the people.

I have a little union experience myself actually. My first paycheck came from a union job. I bagged groceries at Kroger, and I paid union dues out of every paycheck. $4.23 a week. That was 1996 and I was sixteen years old.

As far as I could tell the main thing we got in exchange for our membership was a due process system that basically made it impossible to be fired. Stealing was about the only justifiable cause for a supervisor to can one of us.

Truth be told, most of my fellow baggers and cashiers—myself included—deserved to be fired at least once a week, but the management’s hands were tied. I remember thinking it was kind of absurd that our jobs were that locked down. I witnessed aggressive insubordination and drug-fueled, on-the-job antics that always went unpunished. All in exchange for $4.23 a week.

I’m sure there were serious grievances also being filed, but I never heard about any during the two years I crammed groceries into paper or plastic. The union system seemed like it was just existing. Just feeding off the corporation in some kind of asymbiotic state of dependence.

These are the times when I question the value of unions. When they seem to have stagnated and just gotten comfortable making very small token gains occasionally—just enough to project the illusion of helpfulness so people will continue paying dues.

Union Dependence

Is your union getting lazy?

On Monday, the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources released a new report known as the “Two-Year Institution Faculty-Salary Survey” that details pay raises for faculty members at community colleges and other two-year institutions. The report indicates that many faculty unions at two-year colleges are existing in the same kind of comfortable “maintenance mode” that my union at Kroger occupied.

Salaries at schools with faculty unions increased by 2.1% this year. No issue with that number per se—a raise is always a good thing. The problem is that this salary increase is almost identical to the average salary increase for faculty members at schools without faculty unions. Salaries at these schools were up 1.9% this year.

So what exactly did the unions do here? When it comes to salaries, not much. Professors did just fine without the unions and they didn’t have to pay dues, so they probably actually came out ahead financially.

Obviously there are lots of intangible benefits to having union representation. Job security for professors is probably more of a concern than it was for me and my grocery-bagging buddies, for one. And sometimes just having a union stand behind you keeps potential management bullies at bay. No question that’s also a valuable benefit that shouldn’t be denied. But is it enough to make it all worth it?

Despite my critiques, I’m of course pro-union. I think faculty unions are almost always a good idea, but I do think it’s important to shake them up a little bit from time to time. Make sure they haven’t fallen asleep and gotten comfortable living off the system. When a union is making salary gains identical to those at non-unionized schools, that’s a red flag and it should be explored more deeply.

It’s Time for the AAUP to Get Serious About Adjunct Pay

Despite increased attention on the plight of adjunct professors, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is still showing its bias against this professorial underclass.

The 2013-2014 AAUP Faculty Salary Survey data was released today and, just as in years past, it does not include a category for adjunct professor pay. This despite the fact that adjuncts and other non-tenure-track professors now make up the majority of the professoriate.

As this report reveals, tenure-track faculty members are still prioritized in the AAUP’s salary data. By the AAUP’s own statistics, tenure-track faculty make up only about 30% of professors now. The AAUP’s continued ignorance of the majority in their annual salary data is inexcusable.

Combined Operations

To be fair, the AAUP has begun to get much more involved in the fair pay for adjuncts fight. They’re getting better. Now it’s time to start treating adjuncts like a part of the university by including them in the salary data survey. Adjunct salary should no longer be invisible.

No doubt one reason for the absent adjunct salary information is its relative difficulty to collect. Adjunct pay varies widely. Even adjuncts at the same university can earn different salaries based on how many classes they teach. It’s definitely not easy to glean that kind of information from the universities or even from the adjuncts themselves. But it can be done, as the Adjunct Project has proven.

The data exists; it’s just a matter of how much time and resources the AAUP is willing to invest in order to obtain that data. If the organization continues to ignore this huge swath of its constituency, it will lose relevance among the majority of faculty members. Why would adjuncts be interested in joining an organization that ignores them?

How the AAUP Can Include Adjuncts in the Annual Salary Report

Here are some steps the AAUP can take in order to start being more inclusive of the majority of professors in its salary data report.

  1. The AAUP should create a category for adjunct pay and list it on a per course basis. This would alleviate the problem of varying adjunct salaries due to teaching load. Readers can extrapolate full-time equivalents based on these per course numbers.
  2. Partner with the Adjunct Project in order to take advantage of existing salary numbers. The Adjunct Project currently has about 7,400 self-reported entries on adjunct pay and counting.
  3. Designate a dedicated researcher to contact schools directly and inquire about adjunct faculty pay. All it would take is a couple hundred schools to report their adjunct pay information in order to get a reasonable data set. This might also put pressure on other schools to divulge their information.
  4. At the very least, the AAUP should acknowledge in this annual salary report that it is missing salary numbers for 70% of the professoriate. Not acknowledging this fact is a pretty egregious misrepresentation of reality.

It’s time for the AAUP to step up and take a stand for adjuncts by committing resources to the annual salary report. Continuing to omit adjunct pay information is only hurting the organization by projecting the (certainly unintentional) message that the AAUP doesn’t care about adjunct pay.


English Professors Are Among the Lowest Paid Professors

According to new data on professor salaries released today by The Chronicle of Higher Education, pay for English professors and history professors is among the lowest across all disciplines.

The Chronicle‘s new data table on average salaries of tenured and tenure-track professors at 4-year colleges and universities reveals median incomes of professors across all disciplines and career levels. The salary data is the most current available on professor pay, reflecting information for the current 2013-14 academic year.

According to the chart, the discipline with the lowest-paid professors is visual and performing arts. New assistant professors in that field earn an average of $54,671.

Professors of History, theology, and English earn just a notch above the lowest pay at $55,691, $55,876, and $55,987, respectively. Basically the entire group of humanities-based disciplines fared pretty poorly in this salary cross-section.


The highest-paying discipline for new assistant professors is, not surprisingly, business, with an average salary of $107,066. Double the pay for the same rank and title in humanities departments.

Professors in these same departments who are late in their careers, having earned tenure and received the highest promotion level of “full professor,” earn salaries that are similarly disparate. In other words, the trend continues as professors develop in their careers.

Full professors in English, for example, earn an average of $85,404, while full professors in business earn $123,233 on average. So the disparity does not actually increase exponentially, but the business professors of course start far ahead of their humanities-based colleagues.

The highest-paying of all professor jobs in 4-year colleges are found in the legal and professional studies departments. These professors, who are presumably practicing or former attorneys, earn an average of $143,757.

Average Professor Salaries Determined by Private Sector

As these trends reveal, professors who have higher-paying alternatives in the private sector command higher salaries in the university. Makes sense. In order to compete with the private sector, schools have to offer better packages to prospective employees.

Currently, humanities professors have fewer non-university options and therefore, have less negotiating leverage for academic jobs. They have to take what they can get.

This presents all the more reason why alternate academic jobs would benefit Ph.D. holding job seekers. By creating government and private sector positions for humanities Ph.D.s, we would be generating market competition for those degrees.

This market competition would give humanities people more options, thereby creating leverage in negotiations for academic jobs.

Professor salaries for humanities fields like English, history, and religion are notoriously low when compared to industry standards. That contrast becomes even more glaring when factoring in the value conferred upon terminal degrees in other fields that operate more fluidly in the private sector outside of the academy.

Creating alternate non-professorial paths for humanities professionals would also make life better for those within the academy by facilitating leverage in salary negotiations.