Glenn Feldman has taught labor economics, macroeconomics, labor history, and more since 1996 at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). He is a full professor with tenure, but his lawsuit claims university officials tried to unlawfully fire him, in part because of his ties to labor unions and the Democratic Party.
UAB is the same university that unlawfully terminated me in May 2008 largely because of my criticism on this blog of the Bush Justice Department, especially its handling of the Don Siegelman prosecution.
Feldman, who is of Hispanic descent, alleges race discrimination, retaliation, breach of contract, First Amendment violations, and more in his lawsuit. He is seeking lost and back wages, compensatory damages, attorney fees and costs, and other relief.
According to Feldman's complaint, he is not alone in facing a hostile work environment at the UAB School of Business. He says others have suffered retaliation for not fitting a model that seeks to "attract conservative, affluent white students" in order to enhance the school's "reputation to the conservative pro-business community."
Such discrimination apparently can be traced to the arrival of David R. Klock as dean at the UAB School of Business in March 2008. Klock came to Birmingham after spending roughly two years as business dean at Cal Poly Pomona.
Feldman has a distinguished academic background, with five degrees, including a master's from Vanderbilt University and a Ph.D. from Auburn University. He has written seven books, is co-author of one book, and has written almost 100 scholarly articles. You can check out Feldman's biography here:
Glenn Feldman's Curriculum Vitae
Most of Feldman's career at UAB has been spent in the Center for Labor Education and Research (CLEAR), which offers clinics and seminars on labor issues for businesses, unions, and other groups throughout the Southeast. CLEAR's funding included a five-year, $3-million grant for a Workplace Safety Training (WST) program from the National Institute of Environmental and Health Services (NIEHS).
In October 2006, Feldman was named director of CLEAR and became principal investigator on the NIEHS grant and several other smaller grants.
When Klock came on board as dean, according to Feldman's complaint, he immediately began efforts to dismantle programs that did not fit the corporate image he wanted to project for the School of Business.
Within three months of his arrival, Klock closed the UAB Small Business Development Center, which provided services for individuals interested in starting and operating small businesses. Klock quickly turned his attention to CLEAR. States the Feldman complaint:
In an introductory meeting with CLEAR officials, Klock questioned CLEAR's value to the School of Business, stating that he was a "street fighter," that he had been hired as an "agent of change" and that it is his intention to start "mini revolutions" among other departments in the business school by depicting CLEAR's funding as a waste of resources.
Feldman and other faculty members contacted union leadership in an effort to help keep the center functional. In May 2008, the United Steel Workers of America sent approximately 400 faxes to UAB officials in support of CLEAR. Despite that, UAB initiated efforts within the Alabama Legislature to close CLEAR. The center and most of its employees eventually moved to Jefferson State Community College in Birmingham.
Assured that his tenure rights would be respected, Feldman decided to stay at UAB and teach in the Department of Finance, Economics, and Quantitative Methods (FEQM).
Roughly two weeks after announcing his decision to stay, Feldman was called to a meeting with Klock and Associate Provost Harlan Sands. They told Feldman that they had made an "institutional decision" to terminate Feldman's employment at UAB, effective September 30, 2009.
Feldman stated that as a tenured full professor, he could not be terminated without cause and without 12 months notice per university policy. Klock and Sands did not take that well, with Klock warning there "would be pain . . . considerable pain" if Feldman insisted on staying at UAB.
Klock arbitrarily moved Feldman from a 12-month to a nine-month contract and reduced his pay by almost $30,000. The dean also refused to pay for Feldman's benefits and family health care for three months in 2009.
Klock then initiated efforts to question Feldman's "academically qualified" status for accreditation purposes. This came even though Feldman had been deemed "academically qualified" throughout his tenure at UAB and had survived previous accreditation processes with the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
Feldman's complaint outlines a pattern of such abuses in the UAB School of Business under Klock:
As part of this pattern and practice, UAB and the School of Business administration have engaged in a long series of acts of creating a hostile work environment for those faculty who do not fit within this conservative, affluent, white atmosphere. Other faculty members who are minorities and women have suffered similar conduct as complained of by the Plaintiff, while similarly situated conservative white employees have not.
This all hits close to home for your humble blogger. As a former UAB employee, I know from firsthand experience that the above statement from Feldman's complaint is based in fact. I was fired largely because I chose to write, on my own time, what could be called a progressive blog. There is no doubt in my mind that I would still be working at UAB if I had chosen to write a conservative blog.
It also hits close to home because I know Glenn Feldman personally. I interviewed him several times during my time at UAB and always found him to be informed, insightful, and engaging. In fact I wrote the following article for UAB Magazine about one of Feldman's books, "From Demagogue to Dixiecrat: Horace Wilkinson and the Politics of Race."
Unions in Dixie: Labor and Race in the South
That article was written in 1999, before George W. Bush was "elected" president of the Unites States in 2000, before Carol Garrison was named president of UAB in 2001, and before Bob Riley "defeated" Don Siegelman for governor of Alabama in 2002.
Exploration of what might be called progressive ideas was encouraged at UAB back in 1999. But the university has taken a decidedly rightward turn since then--and that has led to considerable ugliness.
Glenn Feldman's lawsuit is just the latest example of that.