As usual, your friends at the New York Times let higher education employers off the hook. After finally picking up on the nationwide scandal of unemployment claims denial, a story that Joe Berry broke years ago specifically in connection with higher ed employers, the Times mentions the complicity of just about every kind of employer except higher ed.

Here’s how it works. Because employers fund unemployment insurance (UI) in this country, generally in some relation to how many of their employees receive UI, they are highly motivated to contest claims. The system was designed, of course, to penalize employers who try to dump the costs of their workforce on the public by making those who aggressively churned their staff pay more.

As Jason De Parle’s piece makes clear, this incentive to fight the claims of the unemployed has created a boom industry for niche sleazebags like the Talx Corporation, to which million-dollar-a-year pimps in management outsource the dirty business of denying a few hundred a month to the serfs they’ve laid off.

They operate on the same “quality” principle as arduous phone trees–Talx employees simply gum up the works for state agencies and applicants, understanding exactly how much delay is required to make a sufficient percentage of claimants to just give up and go away. In many states, including California, state law specifically entitles contingent faculty to unemployment pay over the summer and other periods of unemployment, but state universities will fight the claims vigorously.

Over on adj-l (join), a discussion of Talx revealed prominent universities on their client list, including the unionized Cal State system. According to Jonathan Karpf:

TALX has handled all UI claims for the California State University system (CSU) for a number of years.

I and the other CFA EDD expert, Dan Bratten at CSU-Stanislaus, have noticed an upsurge of denials in the past 4 months or so. At first I attributed this to the number of new hires that EDD had to make to handle the highest unemployment rate since the great depression. Now I suspect it’s a self-conscious strategy on the part of TALX to deny legitimate claims on the hope that a certain percentage of Lecturers will not avail themselves of the appeal process.

I have guided several dozen Lecturers denied UI benefits in the past few months through the appeal process and 100% have won on appeal before an administrative law judge. All of these folks had been to one of my Lecturer Unemployment Rights workshops that I give throughout the 23 campus CSU, so with a bit of guidance they were all able to successfully handle their own appeals. That said, I agree with Jack that in the absence of knowledgeable contingent faculty, it would be ideal to have someone well-versed in that state’s EDD statutes and case law available to accompany the contingent faculty to their appeal.

For those planning on attending COCAL IX in Quebec City August 13-15, I will be part of a workshop panel on unemployment rights for contingent faculty. (used with Jonathan Karpf’s permission)

So, hey, why not make the sleazeballs pay you an extra couple thousand bucks this summer–download Joe Berry’s indispensable free pamphlet on how to succeed in filing for UI.

In the Chicago area? Join one of Joe’s filing parties being held at various campuses May 10-15!

On a related note, please join me in THANKING Joe Berry for his brilliant work (buy his wonderful book, Reclaiming the Ivory Tower) and his generous service to the movement over the decades. He is losing his job at UIUC.  Predictably his employers found that the financial crisis is an “opportunity” to cut back on labor centers employing scholars criticizing the labor practice of higher ed. He’s moving back to the Bay area with his retiring spouse, Helena Worthen, so hurray for the Bay area. Joe will remain active and join the AAUP committee on contingent employment that I co-chair.

Finally, I don’t usually mention my appearances here, but I’m trying to cut back on them for the next couple of years, and want to note that I won’t be at COCAL this summer as advertised. But you can still catch me at UCLA on Monday, May 3, and at Simon Fraser on June 10.






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