Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Inside Job" Sunday at 2:00

[Two updates:
1.  Rich Whitney will be the speaker at the post-film discussion Sunday.
2. This innocent announcement has generated a lively comment thread on the possibility of a strike.  Click on it at your peril.]

A reminder about the Film Series:

The SIUC Labor Coalition, representing all four IEA locals on campus, will present the film "Inside Job" at 2:00 on Sunday afternoon, August 14. This is the second in our film series entitled "Viewing Issues of Labor and Capital." All screenings will be held at the Varsity Center for the Arts and will be followed by discussion and refreshments in the community room at the Varsity.

Click on the picture to go to the film's website.
Our hope is that the film screenings can create a community space where we can gather to discuss the current labor crisis at SIUC, its broader social and political context, and the history of labor of which it is a part.

33 comments:

  1. Still waiting for

    "Sometimes a Great Notion"

    http://goo.gl/lkm0B -- the ending is classic.

    "On the Waterfront"

    http://goo.gl/kvLn6

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  2. SIU labor crisis...? Riiight. Maybe for a couple a dozen people who have some romantic image of themselves as oppressed factory workers.

    Maybe "Norma Rae" would be a better choice.

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  3. If you don't think a strike this fall (however misguided you may feel it would be, and whatever its result) would constitute a "labor crisis", I'm not quite sure how you'd define one. Perhaps you don't believe in such things. Is it that we Professors share absolutely nothing with mere factory workers? Because we are protected by robust organs of shared governance and our professional expertise shapes priorities on campus?

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  4. Anonymous is sort of correct, SIU does not *currently* have a "Labor Crisis" (that is, not today, not yet), but Dave is correct that it may escalate to that this Fall if the FA calls for a strike.

    The real problem for many faculty is that as few as 1/6th of the faculty (50% of 1/3) could bring such a crisis about, and drag us all through the mud by doing so.

    IMHO, one way or other things will come to a head this fall. It is obvious that many of those that post here regularly WANT a strike. If a strike is called and succeeds in effectively shutting down most or all of the University, that will precipitate a crisis that will affect the reputation of the university for many years. That would probably put pressure on the President/Chancellor to step down (after some delay), and we would likely have to continue our leadership roller coaster (which would also damage the reputation of the University). Enrollment will probably suffer because students and their parents will simply not pay to attend a university where faculty may not be present to teach. They have other choices, and they will take them. That said, continued or renewed falling enrollment is the surest recipe for reducing the number of faculty. Personally I think that would probably be allowed to occur via attrition rather than layoffs, (especially given the current rush of retirements due the changes in SURS), because laying of T/TT faculty also damages the reputation of a university and the administration is well aware of that. Although, a really dire reduction in enrollment, especially at the freshman/sophomore level (who pay the highest tuition), might force a fiscal crisis that could result in layoffs.

    Conversely, if a strike is called and fails, the reputation of the university will still suffer but the relevance of the FA will be broken. That would show that those that claim that the FA is just a vocal minority out of touch with the majority of faculty have been correct all along. Faculty who suffered financially by losing pay for a week or two or even more will not thank the FA if they find that that sacrifice did not get them what the FA told them it would and what they think they want. If that occurs I would not be surprised by an effort to decertify the FA altogether. BTW, I have never seen or heard anyone articulate exactly what criteria the FA would use to determine whether or not they have “won” a strike)

    Escalation of the current situation is a major risk for all concerned. It will damage the University (and by extension, its faculty). In time it may drive out the Chancellor or President if that is the goal, and/or it may break the FA.

    The point is, that this is a fight that no one will win. There will only be losers, it’s just a matter of who will lose more?

    This is not how adults and professionals should resolve their differences.

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  5. Yes, the above post points out the reality of the situation. But I maintain that, if a strike is called, it will be the end of the FA. And somehow, I think the FA knows this.

    If a strike is called, how many will actually not report to work? FA membership is about a third of those eligible to join. I'm willing to bet that only about a third of the membership is willing to forego a paycheck, health insurance, etc. The bottom line effect is that SIU will continue to operate with only a minor hiccup along the way. If that's the case, which is highly likely, the union will prove to be ineffectual and powerless.

    No, there won't be a strike. That is if the union wants to continue to be a player.

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  6. Certainly, a strike is an "all in" bet for the FA. Win, or leave the table forever.

    P.S. Interesting note about health insurance. Is it correct that health insurance is suspended for those who go on strike? I wonder if the IEA will pay medical expenses for any faculty member or their family who gets sick or hurt during a strike. What if a wife or child is hurt in, say, a car accident or something like that?

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  7. Wow, we've gotten off the film series . . .

    Anonymous 12:04 outlines possible outcomes of a strike. It is certainly true that there are plenty of "lose-lose" scenarios. There are in fact many scenarios, especially when we view the strike option as part of the whole bargaining process (as we should: the goal of a strike is to bargain to a good contract). The most happy outcome, presently, is that the administration will view the strike threat as credible and compromise enough to avoid a strike. If the administration doesn't view the strike threat as credible (following Anonymous's reasoning, perhaps), and doesn't compromise, the FA will strike.

    Which brings me to Anonymous 12:50. I think the extent of faculty support would probably be considerably higher than s/he suggests, and the disruption caused by multiple units striking (even if with far from universal participation) would almost certainly be far greater than a "minor hiccup". But it's impossible to know until we get there. The more crucial point is that s/he is definitely wrong about the union's decision making process.

    When the administration presented its furlough and layoff positions to the FA bargaining team, their response was to say that the furlough policy removed any need for a union on campus, and the layoff provision gutted tenure. I'm not going to go into the ins and outs of that position right here (you may think it exaggerated), but if the FA leadership holds those views, then they have very little to lose by going on strike. And if the FA leadership remains unified in this position, the vast majority of the membership will follow them. If a faculty union can't negotiate salaries (as the administration can cut them at will via furloughs) or protect tenure, then it has lost much or all of its raison d'etre. A strike would be risky and costly. But if the alternative is losing the union and weakening tenure, it's worth it.

    I think it is crucially important that administrators understand this. So if some of you, beloved readers, are administrators (or talk to them), do tell them. You (administrators) may not think you are attempting to break the union (by not being willing to negotiate salaries with them) or gut tenure (by imposing the new layoff policy). Then it should be easy for you to compromise. But without administrative compromise, there will be a strike.

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  8. The following is copied from www.ehow.com

    COBRA Coverage During a Strike

    Employees that take part in a strike are entitled to health benefit coverage under COBRA. Also, if a union goes on strike and you are part of management and covered under the union health insurance plan, you will still be entitled to COBRA.

    Cost

    Prior to losing health care coverage, the employee and employer typically split the monthly premiums. In the event of a strike, an individual on COBRA will pay up to 102 percent of the monthly premium, and the employer may no longer pay any part of the payment.


    Read more: Can I Have Cobra Coverage If I Am on Strike From My Work? | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/facts_7524445_can-coverage-am-strike-work.html

    If this is correct and applies in Illinois, then it would appear that striking faculty would can maintain health insurance but would be required to pony up the full premium. That might be hard to do while foregoing salary and would certainly be a disinducement to anyone sitting on the fence.

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  9. Dave,

    I agree with you that there will be a strike (because of the low bar required to call it). I completely disagree that it will be worth it.

    The problem with your analysis is that it is based on your perception of the support the FA enjoys around campus. You do not take into consideration that many faculty do not share your views. Note that even in the current climate around campus, even with faculty having had to take furloughs etc etc., two thirds of faculty STILL have not joined the FA. For example, many faculty are angry that the FA’s intransigence on furloughs (which many felt WERE necessary last year) forced faculty to take multiple unpaid days in a single pay period – which really hurt. No, furloughs were not the fault of the FA, they were necessary due to decreasing enrollment, a major recession, years of fiscal mismanagement in Springfield and delays in taking action to put the university’s fiscal house in order by the previous (interim) administration (including a regrettable decision not to raise tuition in the previous year). But yes, the FA is held responsible by some (many?) for the way in which the pain associated with furloughs was concentrated into a small space of time.

    And that is just one example. This blog is mostly a mutual admiration society of FA supporters who reinforce each other’s views. Posts with opposing positions are commonly met with derision and contempt, so most faculty, even if they have heard of it, simply avoid this site. Why bother? So your gauge of support is probably a little biased because you don’t have as broad a sense of the mood of the faculty as you seem to think you do.

    First and foremost, Faculty will cross or respect a picket based on their individual situations, not party (FA) loyalties. Even if they support the FA, no one is going to risk losing their house or endangering their credit rating by missing payments on their mortgages or other bills. A few ideologues, (like you?) might, but most are more pragmatic than that and they see wrongs on both sides of the negotiating table. They will not destroy their personal finances or put their families at risk for the FA.

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  10. I've looked into the health care issue a bit and can basically confirm the comment above: those on strike could well end up having to pay the employer's share of their health insurance benefits. But as far as I can tell, there's no threat of losing coverage for pre-existing conditions or the like (save *perhaps* for those who have only been employed a short time).

    The precise details are unclear, even to CMS (Central Management Services, which administers our benefits), as they've never actually had to handle a higher ed strike. The administration (in consultation with CMS) could well choose to stop paying health care--though the paperwork for doing so might cost more than any savings. They could either stop paying their share of our insurance, and demand that we pick up the tab, or they could perhaps cut us off, during the duration of the strike, from health insurance at all, leaving us to go through the COBRA process.

    The union is talking to CMS and trying to understand the possible scenarios (and possible union responses). More on this should be available by the time Labor School runs on August 20.

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  11. I'm going to shut up for the day shortly, but will quickly respond to Anonymous 2:47. Ultimately my personal decision about whether or not to strike won't be based mainly on the degree of faculty support (which it would certainly be foolish to judge from comments on this blog). It will be based on what I'll call principles and you can call ideology. I think the best hope for faculty to have a real say on this campus is to retain a union, and that the administration's current stance, whether this is intentional or not, amounts to an attempt to destroy the union (by rendering it powerless to bargain salaries or protect tenure). I'm willing to pay some price for that.

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  12. You probably need to find out what COBRA means, and what it would cost. It ain't cheap, and for a person on strike with no paycheck, well, it'll be ugly.

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  13. The FA's attitude of "we represent you whether you like it or not, so we don't have to ask you what you think and we sure don't have to listen to you", has alienated so many faculty for such a long time that I think its supporters may find themselves with only familiar company at the picket lines. (Hoping that they don't catch a cold...)

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  14. Dave,

    Of course YOU (and most of the regular bloggers, I guess) are "willing to pay some price". The question is how many others will join you?

    You are asking a lot!!! A strike lasting 10 days (roughly a minimum time to have a major disruptive effect, *IF* you can get enough people to walk) will have far greater individual financial impact than furloughs last year had (not even including health care, life insurance, retirement and other benefits) and that impact will all occur at once, making it even harder to manage.

    This is not a question of "paying a price", its a question of "enduring the agony" (and putting our families through it as well) and as a previous blogger noted, the FA has not done a great job of endearing itself to many faculty (as evidenced by the membership numbers even in times of turmoil).

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  15. If you have been so unhappy with the FA for so long, why didn't you try to decertify years ago?

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  16. Dave,

    "But without administrative compromise, there will be a strike." (Posted in bold type)

    Bold of you indeed to make such an assertion! I thought that the membership had a say in this. That is, I thought that this would be decided democratically, by a vote. You sound as if the leadership of the FA has already determined what the outcome of that vote will be?!

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  17. Someone mentioned decertifying the FA. I'm not saying that is a good idea but if FA leads an unsuccessful strike even members (myself included) would be interested in alternatives. When I arrived here in 1995, we had no union but there had been attempts and some of the faculty were supporting AAUP, if memory serves me.

    Also, as I recall from asking a labor lawyer, there is a window of opportunity to decertify--I believe around the time of bargaining but not in the middle of a contract. I don't care enough to look now (busy preparing classes, strike or no strike!). But will look up. If any lawyers out there know, this is a hypothetical question but send real answers. ; - )

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  18. My impressive use of bold font (note my html expertise) was meant to help avoid one thing I suspect is in no one's interest, misunderstanding about the likely actions of the other side. Of course there would be a vote, and in that very post I outlined circumstances under which the membership could well vote no--just not in bold. I'm just predicting the result, and last I heard predicting votes wasn't undemocratic. If everyone on the faculty voted (a state of affairs we'd be closer to under fair share), then I wouldn't be so bold. If only union members vote, and there's a credible argument that no union can accept the terms on offer, then I think the result of the vote is pretty clear. That's a message I'd like the administration to hear. As they are busy people, I reached for the bold.

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  19. If a strike starts at the beginning of a month all employees will have their insurance paid as normal through that entire month. Public sector strikes typically last only a short time, so its LIKELY health insurance will not even be an issue.

    However, if it goes longer the University is required to offer COBRA to the affected employees. Employees then have 30 days to notify that they will accept it. During that time they continue to have coverage at no additional cost. Thats 60 days with NO additional cost. There is no way this strike is going that long.

    The University is gonna play the "youre going to lose your insurance card" to scare everyone, but thats all it is; a scare tactic.

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  20. Keith,

    Do you have some expertise on this or are you just saying what you *think* is (or should be) the case? Typically, striking workers do not receive benefits, but your post implies (pretty strongly) that health insurance policies will continue and that the state will continue to pay for health care for at least 30 days. No offense, but this is important, so I would like to know that you know *for sure* what you are talking about.

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  21. COBRA may be an option....but OMG, it's expensive!

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  22. If I recall correctly, if the FA calls for a strike this fall, it will not be the first time the FA leadership has called for a strike. And if memory serves me, last time, the rank-and-file broke with the leadership and voted No. Does anyone else remember the details?

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  23. This conversation is interesting, but one big item seems to keep being ignored. Just recently the union membership numbers for all unions were reported and we all finally got to see how paltry the numbers really are for them. We have all seen the union pickets and childish displays (the tour) and those have all been sparsely supported. We see the same few at each activity and it is also the same few that we constantly hear loudly. What I see is that a few loud members are always shouting! What is interesting to me is that even with them shouting, they are not gaining more membership even during a time when you would think it would be easy to do so with the furloughs and lack of a contract. In my opinion, and I know it will be questioned heavily on this site, the union has problems.

    I think that it is also interesting that this past year during negotiations the FA literally threw their own under the bus. I recall reading that the FA was willing to let quite a few faculty members be let go rather than accept the furloughs. I don't know about everyone else, but I figured that the FA was willing to upset a smaller number of faculty by this action. They did not even seem to care that those who were hurt would have lost their jobs. In addition, the FA was arguing for layoffs of NTT and others before any FA could be let go (I guess this is solidarity).

    What has been most surprising is that only the FA leadership are making the decisions. They have not brought anything to the entire membership. They say they are looking out for the memberships best interest, but wouldn't it be good to let the membership vote (unless, of course, you are afraid of what they wii say). Please, represent, don't dictate.

    I will finish by saying that I know my comments will be attacked, but I also know there are more faculty members who are not in the FA than in it. I wish more would speak out, but we all know that is not how things happen in real life. The vocal few always seem to run the debate (look at the Tea Party).

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  24. This is the third time I have tried to post this comment. Not sure where the problem lies...

    Someone asked about decertification. I am not a labor lawyer, but I found the following at http://www.nrtw.org/en/public-sector-decertification-laws-8-1-2010

    [begin quote]
    Illinois

    Illinois law permits public employees to obtain an election to decertify an exclusive bargaining representative if “a public employee or group of public employees . . . demonstrat[e] that 30% of the public employees in an appropriate unit . . . assert[] that the labor organization which has been certified or is currently recognized by the public employer as bargaining representative is no longer the representative of the majority of public employees in the unit . . . .” Illinois Statutes Chapter 5, section 315/9.

    Illinois law has a separate law which permits educational employees to obtain an election to decertify an exclusive bargaining representative if “an employee or group of employees or any labor organizations acting on their behalf alleging and presenting evidence that 30% or more of the employees in a bargaining unit wish to be represented for collective bargaining or that the labor organization which has been acting as the exclusive bargaining representative is no longer representative of a majority of the employees in the unit . . . .” Illinois Statutes Chapter 115, section 5/7.

    Public employees (other than educational): A petition for a decertification election must be presented to the Illinois Labor Relations Board (ILRB), on a form (Decertification Petition) prescribed by the ILRB, available here, accompanied by a 30% showing of interest. ILRB rules covering decertification can be found at 80 Illinois Administrative Code sections 1210.60 and 1210.80. Educational employees: A petition for a decertification election must be presented to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB) on a form prescribed by the IELRB.
    [end quote]

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  25. some posts are not getting put up. Is there a glitch, or what

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  26. Anonymous (11:42 AM):

    Spam filters on blogger stops some posts until Dave notices and releases them. Long comments, comments with bullet lists, and comments with lots of links seem to get stopped more than short, simple comments.

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  27. The comment on decertification did indeed get trapped in the spam filter. It is now up. The info posted there is from the Right to Work folks, who are anti-union, of course; but that doesn't mean it is inaccurate (and indeed I've shown myself open to decertification as a principled, if in my view wrongheaded, approach to things).

    Using my vast administrative powers I have promoted my lengthy response to Anonymous 10:31 eloquent comment to an independent post. One fairly minor thing I didn't include in my more lengthy response:

    10:31 criticized the FA's position that NTT should be laid off before TT. But if there were a genuine fiscal crisis that required SIUC to lay off instructional staff, of course the FA thinks non-tenured and non tenure-track track faculty should be laid off first. That's what the tenure system is all about. The NTT union seems to be ok with that--which is why they are still in coalition with the FA. Would you prefer we drop the tenure system?

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  28. During one of the Association of Civil Service Employee's (ACsE) previous contract negotiations, the University's rep said that the University could function just fine without staff. It was said as an insult and a threat. The Admin's negotiator was little more than a schoolyard bully. I add this to the discussion to remind folks that those of us in the ACsE ranks are far and away the most vulnerable of all university employees...even more so than range employees IMHO and I say all this as an individual ACsE union member not as an ACsE rep. The Admin is doing so because we are the one group they can manipulate and intimidate. We have the most to lose but, make the lea$t (insert irony here) so balancing the budget by dropping our numbers is like fighting a house fire with a squirt gun. Meanwhile, folks are still being hired to fill positions, with salaries double and triple that of ACsE employees. That said, ACsE members know that success for all comes thru unity and it's the reason we too are in the coalition. The buck doesn't stop at the FA or the NTT, the buck stops with the Chancellor, the President, and the BOT.

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  29. I thought I would put this thread back on track and respond to Jonathan's opening comments. Didn't Henry Fonda's anti-union father die at the end of GREAT NOTION and is not ON THE WATERFRONT a film justifying informing as the director and scriptwriter actually did?

    Anyway, to show that we are not biased I'd thought I'd suggest an SIUC Silent Majority Film Season" that may be funded with the money Cheng has removed from the Distinguished Women Award series.

    THE IRON CURTAIN (1948)
    THE RED MENACE (1949)
    THE WOMAN ON PIER 13 aka I MARRIED A COMMUNIST (1949)
    I WAS A COMMUNIST FOR THE fbi (1951)
    WALK EAST ON BEACON STREET (1952)
    MY SON JOHN (1952)
    BIG JIM MCCLAIN (1952)

    These films are of great artistic merit and complement our "silent majority" who openly used the term that Nixon did for those who supported the dropping of napalm on innocent Vietnam civilians and Agent Orange (that also affected Vietnam veterans.

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  30. Laura Dreuth ZemanAugust 13, 2011 at 7:08 AM

    Keep in mind that labor unrest and a strike can be avoided by bargaining a successor agreement in good faith. All this energy on debating the downfall of the university, marketing to overcome moral and image problems, and using the media to point blame seems to miss the fact that bargaining to a successful agreement is the only way to resolve labor disputes in collective bargaining environments. I think this debate is misdirected. Where is the energy to push the bargaining teams to bargain in good faith and bring a quick close the contract disputes?

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  31. I think it is important to look at the big picture here, not just our own self-interest. This includes the history of our country, and the broader social efforts at this time to undermine the power of the middle class and any people other than the ruling top several percent. Americans fought, with their lives at times, to establish unions, because of the slave conditions imposed upon them by the rich. Before slave conditions in factories, there were actually literal slaves. When that became illegal, there were slave conditions in factories. When unions gained rights for working people, corporations began hiring overseas or busing immigrants in from Mexico, re-establishing slave conditions for all. Since 1980 when Reagan took over, economic conditions have been eroding for the middle class and the rich have been getting richer. Even during this economic crisis for the country, the rich are still getting richer. We have an economic pattern in US history in which the ruling wealthy class (which rules the government as well) will take advantage until an economic crisis occurs, as in 1930 and now. In 1930 the government stepped in and helped the people. This time, the greed of the wealthy has become so untethered that the government refuses to help, and in fact, has launched an attack on unions, the last bastion of the middle class. This is the time the people must step up and assert their rights. NOW. We must stand firm. We cannot trivialize this situation and in denial claim it's not a crisis. We cannot overlook one violation of the established regulations for the way the administration should bargain with the union. What is at stake is human rights - the concession of the rich and powerful to the people, that they can have access to a modest, and yes I do mean MODEST standard of living as opposed to the slave conditions they would prefer. This is not the way we do things in Illinois. And this is not the way we do things in America.

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  32. Are you serious, or was this intended as parody?

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  33. To anonymous at 7:53 am: Yes, you will have health insurance that you do not have to pay more for for a minimum of 60 days provided the strike is called after the first work day of the month (which it will be for exactly this reason.)

    Youll have the 30 days of that month paid as normal and 30 during the following month to tell CMS you want COBRA.

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I will review and post comments as quickly as I can. Comments that are substantive and not vicious will be posted promptly, including critical ones. "Substantive" here means that your comment needs to be more than a simple expression of approval or disapproval. "Vicious" refers to personal attacks, vile rhetoric, and anything else I end up deeming too nasty to post.