Justin Miller

Justin Miller is a former Prospect writing fellow and is currently covering politics for the Texas Observer

Recent Articles

Minorities in Minneapolis: Underprivileged and Over-Policed

Behind its progressive reputation, Minneapolis is a deeply divided city. 

Fibonacci Blue/Creative Commons
Minneapolis often shines brightly when in the national spotlight. It’s a “ miracle ” city that’s managed to weather the economic downturn better than any place in the country. Unemployment is low. Education levels are high. It’s the healthiest city in the country. It’s perceived as a bastion of progressivism; an active city with plenty of opportunity. However true this narrative is, it’s a white façade. “From the outside, the experience of communities of color in Minneapolis—across nearly every facet of life—is hidden behind the widespread prosperity of white residents,” a new report from the American Civil Liberties Union states. The ACLU report shows the unvarnished reality of institutionalized discrimination by the Minneapolis Police Department against the city’s minority communities. It’s a damning indictment of racialized policing. Both black people and Native Americans are nearly nine times more...

Gawker Changed the Internet. Can It Change Workplace Organizing?

What the site's very public union drive means for the future of digital journalism. 

Scott Beale / Laughing Squid
Around 100 editorial staffers will vote next week on whether to unionize the workplace behind Gawker.com. The secret online vote, set for June 3, is a first among digital native outlets like Gawker that have dramatically recast the world of online journalism in recent years. The decision marks a new chapter for the company, and for a media landscape still grappling with the complex realities of a digital future. The union drive at Gawker began as you might expect: loudly. Six weeks ago senior writer Hamilton Nolan announced at Gawker.com that the editorial staff was in the early stages of organizing a union with the Writers Guild of America, East. The bold announcement sent shockwaves throughout the Internet for a number of reasons—primarily because it involved Gawker and people like Gawker. It also turned on its head the traditional organizing strategy of not going public until the organizing is near completion. That wasn’t necessarily Nolan’s intention. “I...

How Big Money Lost in Philly’s Mayoral Race

Support from unions and public-education advocates won Jim Kenney the primary election, despite $7 million in outside spending for his opponent.

(Photo: AP/Matt Slocum)
On Tuesday, Philadelphia city council veteran Jim Kenney won the Democratic mayoral primary with 56 percent of the vote—a commanding victory in a crowded campaign of six candidates. Kenney’s win is not only a step in the right direction for the progressives who supported his candidacy; it’s also a refreshing reminder that heavy outside spending doesn’t always guarantee electoral success. Pennsylvania State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams, the runner-up with 26 percent, was backed by a trio of suburban Philadelphia hedge fund financiers with a strong interest in market-driven education reform. As Paul Blumenthal noted in The Huffington Post , the PAC’s $7 million support (as of the latest filing date) of Williams’s candidacy was nearly equal to the funding of all other candidates and super PACs combined. With the votes now counted, it looks like American Cities paid about $116 for each Williams vote. Union-backed PACs like Building a Better...

Faculty Join Fast Food in the Fight for $15

On campuses across the country, adjunct professors are starting to organize against rock-bottom pay and tenuous job security. 

Faculty Forward USC
As yesterday’s Fight for $15 protests wound to a close across the country, it’s become clear that this movement is not a fleeting effort—it’s here to stay. The focal point has primarily been on the most visible low-wage workers: fast food and retail workers whose pay perpetually hovers around minimum wage. And their employers seem to be taking a small, yet encouraging, step in the right direction as both McDonald’s and Wal-Mart recently announced increases to their respective minimum wages. However, another employment sector that’s not typically associated with low wages was prominent yesterday as well: the American professoriate. Higher education institutions in the United States employ more than a million adjunct professors. This new faculty majority, about 70 percent of the faculty workforce , is doing the heavy lifting of academic instruction. These are positions with tenuous job security (often semester-by-semester), sparse instructional...

At Colleges Across the Country, PhDs Join the Ranks of Low-Wage Workers



Posted by guest blogger Justin Miller

In college towns across America, adjunct faculty are quickly becoming the new, Ph.D.-educated working poor.

If nobody noticed that adjuncts now comprise the majority of faculty in higher education, that surely changed yesterday, on what organizers deemed National Adjunct Walkout Day. The idea was to shine light on the precarious conditions that are now the norm for most college-level instructors—terribly low pay, unpredictable job security, little-to-no academic freedom.

So yesterday, adjuncts used their vast numbers to be seen (or not seen, rather) by collectively walking out of classes they teach, participating in demonstrations, or even doing teach-ins about the state of the academy, as it were. Thousands of instructors from hundreds of institutions across the country, from Ohio State University to Central New Mexico Community College, took action. Even a school in Ireland took part.

The goal was simple: Put pressure on administrations to change their hiring practices by showing students that even as they pay more and more for tuition, the working conditions for their instructors are sinking.

Many adjuncts are forced to patch together teaching gigs at multiple institutions just to make a living. Not much of one, though: The average pay for an adjunct teaching a three-credit course is less than $3,000. Benefits are typically out of the question. Opportunities to engage in traditional faculty tasks—like curriculum development—are scant.

This is the new reality for most people trying to make a career in academia. In the United States, non-tenure-track faculty now make up more than two-thirds of the instructional workforce in higher education. Over the course of just 15 years, part-time faculty positions increased at three times the rate of full-time positions.

There’s a “national upsurge from the grassroots, which has been pushing everything along,” says Joe Berry, a contingent faculty member and organizer.

That includes pushing national unions to become active in adjunct organizing—several of which got on board with the day of action. SEIU, for one, issued a statement of support, on the heels of announcing an initiative to set a national standard for contingent faculty at $15,000 a course, including benefits.