Tuesday, September 27, 2011

ACsE votes overwhelmingly in favor of authorizing a strike

I'm simply repeating what Kristi Brownfield says and links to over on Unions United, but this is worth a post: 80% of ACsE (Association of Civil Servcie Employees) members voting voted yes to authorize a strike, and 75% of those eligible to vote turned out to vote.

I find it most impressive that members of the union who are the most vulnerable to layoffs, the least well paid, and whose jobs have steadily been cut over years, were the first to vote on a strike, and have had the courage to support their leadership so strongly.

As all who work on this campus know, the civil servants working in the ranks represented by ACsE are paid terribly low wages. And we all know the absolutely essential work ACsE employees do to make this university function. We all know many represented by ACsE whose dedications to their jobs, our students, and our university is a wonder to behold, particularly given their low pay and the low status afforded them by this administration. I was in fact not ten minutes ago emailing with one of our ACsE represented office staff, who could not come to work today due to health reasons but was eager to make sure that a task I had asked her to do got done in a timely way.

Graduate students of course are paid far too little, have grossly inadequate healthcare, and face other challenges, but they are in a temporary phase in their lives. NTT faculty, especially under the current regime, where one-semester contacts have become the rule, are overworked and underpaid, and deprived of the basic job security and the basic respect that anyone with a position as responsible as that of a university instructor ought to merit. We in the FA have it easy by comparison, though of course for all the reasons outlined elsewhere on the blog our status is also at threat, and with it our role in ensuring quality education at SIUC.

I for one am honored to be voting after ACsE has set us all such a strong example, and proud to be in coalition with them.


  1. I strongly affirm the message and value of your above post.

  2. I think you meant "vulnerable" not "valuable" to layoffs? Otherwise, ditto. Of course I'm sad it got to this point for all of us but I'm really encouraged by the dedication and commitment all four unions are showing to getting a contract that benefits both the employees and SIUC. I just wish it felt like the administration had the same commitment.

    Newest rumor floating around: classes will be cancelled and no credit will be given if the strike lasts more than 2 weeks.

  3. I am humbled by ACsE and their vote. The across-the-board approach to furloughs was particularly hard for ACsE employees. The likely financial burden of a strike for this part of the campus community will also be heavy. They do not make this decision lightly nor without good reason.

    I heard President Poshard on NPR opining that none of the unions acknowledge the economic climate of the university. I don't think he realizes how aware we all are of those conditions. But the Administration is unwilling to negotiate these times with any input from those most immediately affected by these economic conditions. The unions are not blind to the ways the administration is taking advantage of the current climate to grasp more centralized power all in the name of purr-words like "flexibility."

    Nothing would improve the morale and therefore the image of the university more than to include the entire campus in the strategic planning for addressing our continuing economic challenges. With these votes, we remind our administrative leaders that we are here, we are not sheep, and we will not be outsourced.

  4. Noticeably lacking from this story is how many of the total number of civil service employees were eligible to vote. Does anyone know that number, and are they willing to share it? These numbers in a vacuum mean very little without knowing what percentage that is of the whole.

  5. The IEA will not willingly release the vote tally for the very reasons you cite. I think that is short-sighted. But it does not really matter as it only makes the process of making that info public more protracted (via FOIA). I am sure that the various media groups with interest in this situation, and possibly affected individuals, will file such requests soon enough, so the data will be available at some point.

  6. The IEA will not willingly release the vote tally for the very reasons you cite. I think that is short-sighted. But it does not really matter as it only makes the process of making that info public more protracted (via FOIA). I am sure that the various media groups with interest in this situation, and possibly affected individuals, will file such requests soon enough, so the data will be available at some point.

  7. Tangentially related, but I have seen little written about how the NTT has negotiated the last 6 years. You wrote,"NTT faculty, especially under the current regime, where one-semester contacts have become the rule, are overworked and underpaid, and deprived of the basic job security and the basic respect that anyone with a position as responsible as that of a university instructor ought to merit." NTT has played its part if ensuring some of its members remain underpaid. To my knowledge, contracts negotiated thus far have included salary increases for only those who have more than 50% assignments. For example, I have been an NTT for 10 years and have received a salary increase once. I negotiated this salary increase with my chair pre-union. I teach two large lecture this semester. Spurred by the oft stated "I am paying you" uttered by students, I calculated how much each student is paying me per lecture . . . that is less than $1 per student per lecture. I recently received a missive from the NTT stating a YES vote for a strike would be me affirming that I trust they will bargain for me. I do not trust that they will. Our current President signs these messages "In Solidarity" . . . "In Partial Solidarity" is more accurate in my estimation. Eight years without a salary increase . . . for me, and a lot of other NTTs in my shoes, it is about the money. But, it does not appears our union is interested in selective bargaining rather than collective bargaining.

  8. Correction: NTT FA in appropriate places.

  9. Conservative estimates of union numbers have been published previously and discussed here on this blog. Numbers do not include those who pay directly or, given the date of the article, those who joined more recently. It is important to not assume ulterior motives when the information you are seeking has been available and discussed.


  10. At the end of the NPR interview, Pres. Poshard said (paraphrasing) that the FA is not working without a contract. They are working under an extension of the best 4 year contract they have ever had (one that brought raises to near peers, etc.).

  11. 8:57 AM : I am not sure you can fill a FOIA with a private organization. While I agree we should be open about out membership levels, as private organizations unions may not be required to.

    9:36 AM : I heard P say that despite the bad budget they had not laid anyone off. But they tried to lay off 93 NTT faculty!

    8:59 AM : I am sure the NTT FA would like better pay for part timers b/c the full timers don't want to be replaced by part timers. But it is an up hill battle. NTT faculty will have to pull together to make gains. I hope you won't be taking anyone else's classes if there is a strike.

  12. 9:56 AM: From my understanding of how negotiations have actually played out, the statement "the NTT FA would like better pay for part timers" does not appear to be accurate.

  13. Angela,

    Can you explain that? Or is your comment just based on the end result?

  14. Can someone address the what happens if a non union member in a bargaining unit joins a strike? You cannot be fired for lawful union activity, but if someone chooses not to cross a "picket line" but hasn't signed up for whatever reason, what are their rights?

  15. 9:56 AM: Please know that I have not sat at the bargaining table so this is hearsay but the results so far have corroborated with what I have heard. In a conversation last fall, I was told that the administration offered raises for part-timers that were rejected by the NTT FA negotiators. Obviously there was more to the contract that I am not privy to. I have heard similar observations lately - the the NTT FA is short changing the part-timers.

  16. I am a civil service employee and am happy to NOT be represented by a union. Although I would happily cross a picket line if I had to.
    Unions are for people who actually work in substandard conditions. Individuals who are crawling on their hands and knees for 12 hours a day. Not for those who think they deserve more money just because.
    People can complain about pay, insurance, and academic freedom all they want. Join the real-world. When is the last time you worked for a non-state entity? I will take my paid days off - Thanksgiving, Christmas Holiday, etc., while others bust their butts working on those days for less pay than I make. I remember working on every holiday and never getting paid vacation. I am thankful for what I have at this University. A few furlough days do not deter me from seeing the sweet deal I have. The whining and complaining gets so old.

  17. One quick response: Anyone represented by a union that goes on strike, whether they are members of the union or not, can strike. While the NEA has certain support programs available only for members (like interest-free loans), my understanding is that it does provide legal support (so that if a non-member is penalized for striking, they would get the same legal support as a member). It's part of the duty of the union to protect the rights of all workers it represents, whether they pay dues or not.

    I don't know how many members ACsE has. They too work under the no fair-share rule, so many they represent choose not to pay anything for their representation, for one reason or another (including those expressed by the last anonymous comment). Contact information for the ACsE folk is available on their website: http://acseunion.wordpress.com/.

  18. One more response before I prep for class, to Poshard's comment (which I've heard only via hearsay) about our current contractual situation. The FA's current contract status is confusing. Here's my understanding.

    According to the administration (regardless of what Poshard said), we are working under the imposed terms. Those terms do include most of the provisions of the 2006-2010 contract. And everything in those terms is binding on the administration. But they also include items (especially on furloughs and "reduction in force") that the FA vehemently objects to.

    The FA's position is that the imposed terms are illegal (because they were imposed following a phony declaration of an impasse). We therefore believe that we are legally operating under the unrevised 2006-2010 contract, for the most part (I hedge because of a few minor side agreements, as to follow new grievance procedures, have been agreed to by both sides).

    This dispute would only be resolved by the ILRB in the even our ULP filing is resolved before a new contract is signed. That strikes me as most unlikely.

    Thus "without a contract" isn't simply a shortcut for "without a new contract", as is the case in most union negotiations, but rather "under terms imposed on us illegally and against our will". If the administration really believes we have a contract (i.e., a functioning collective bargaining AGREEMENT), they would have to withdraw their imposed terms, refund furloughs, and go back to the 2006-2010 status quo. No objection here.

  19. Angela, I am grievance chair for the NTT FA and the original President. I am also a member of the bargaining team.

    I can tell you unequivocally the Union wants more for the part timers and it has been the administration who has been blocking it until very recently. Over the last two bargaining sessions it appears they are thawing to the idea of creating a path to a continuing appointment for part timers.

    We have always wanted to do more for the part timers, but considering the low level of support they have for the union and the administrations attitude towards you guys it hasnt been a fight we have been able to win.

  20. So the latest public information, published in the Southern Illinoisan, showed 428 eligible to join the ACES union, but there were actually only 126 dues paying members.

    IEA claims 75 percent voted...That's about 95 people out of an estimated 126. IEA claims the question was approved by 80 percent of those voting...that's about 75 yes to 20 no. So...in effect 75 people are calling the shots for the 428 they supposedly "represent." A real mandate....LOL.

    Granted the numbers could have changed since the article was published...but probably by not more than a half-dozen either way.

  21. This is article 1:16 was likely referring to:


    Membership in all four unions has grown since then. Also, some pay dues through their checking account not through the pay roll. But, it is true that our numbers need to grow if we are to have a strike and win. But mostly if our numbers were stronger the odds that we could get a better contract without striking would go up.

    So, now is the time to join. I know there are those philosophically opposed to unions. But for the true silent majority - those who like the past pay raises but don't like paying dues - now is the time. If you like the imposed terms, do nothing. If you think we deserve better, join.

  22. Dave,

    The confirmation that the (false) claim about the 2006-2010 contract being extending for a year isn't just hearsay is in Monday's Morning Conversation with President Poshard. It is at minutes 17:00-17:40.


  23. Keith,

    The salary increase issue has not been addressed. I am looking at article 16 in the 2010 contract - 75% FTE or higher = 3.5% increase; 75% FTE or lower = no increase. Why is that?

  24. And from the FAQs on the SIU NTT FA website (http://siujlab.info/siuntt/faq/):

    "How will collective bargaining affect my current salary and benefits?

    Your current salary and benefits will not be reduced by collective bargaining. In fact, when financial times were better, we received small raises, or cost-of-living increases. Collective bargaining can set a “basement” compensation level – a minimum salary – not a ceiling. It can also provide increases based on your longevity at SIU and for promotion and advancement."

    "We" is misleading. It should read "those with 75% FTE continuing appointments received small raises."

  25. Angela, we wanted all the NTTs to get the raises but the administration would not agree to it and insisted only those of .75 FTE and above get it.

    At that point the only alternative was to take it or go on strike to try and get it.

    Considering, very few part timers are inclined to even join the Union let alone strike it was a concession that had to be made. How can striking on behalf of people unwilling to join at the expense of people who have be justified? I apologize, but that is the reality of the situation.

    While, the Union has not helped you financially please remeber the workload standards of 1 class = .25FTE still applies to you and keeps you from being abused and the grievance procedure still protects you.

    Also, I think there was an incident a few years back where some department was trying to lower half timers to .49FTE with no drop in workload to compensate simply so they could stop paying health insurance. I personally stepped in and got that stopped.

  26. Thanks for the clarification, Keith. Now, I know I need to pay an organization for even a cost of living raise (unlike the other unions on campus). It doesn't matter how long I have taught or how well I teach. It's about union membership.

    If I remember correctly, myself and a colleague were informed that we could no longer be claimed on our spouses' insurance if we were 50% or above. Paying for insurance out of our own paycheck was a significant percentage of our salary. We asked our chair if there was some way to go down to 49%. There was not. The other option was going down to 25% - forfeit a class so we didn't have to pay insurance. We did contact the union, but in the end I found a clause in the benefits handbook that stated we were grandfathered in and could stay on our spouses' policies.

    I am glad to have had this exchange so that I now know exactly where I (and anyone else who has the misfortune of teaching less than 3/4 time) stand.

  27. Angela, its going to sound incredibly jaded and cynical but its not even that easy. Joing the Union is not going to guarantee youre included in the cost of living raises either; unions are not pay to play schemes. Unions are about collective action and, especially with SIUs administration, power struggles.

    The administration looks at the unions membership numbers and sees we are weak when it comes to membership in the part time ranks. They instantly know they can impose their will on that part of the bargaining unit and get their way. Its a straight power game.

    The union has always wanted to have ALL the NTTs included in the across the board raises, but it has always fallen on deaf ears. In the end the union has had to make the concession in order to get an agreement. Unlike the administration unions have two choices, reach an agreement they can live with or strike in an attempt to get what we want. Until now the collective will has not been there to strike and we have had to eat these agreement that while bad are better than the alternative for the majority of the bargaining unit.

    The only advice I can give you is to join the union and convice as many of your part time to colleagues do the same. Become active! The union needs more leaders. As the numbers grow among the part time ranks the administration will realize they can no longer abuse you and the union will have the power it needs thru collective action to meet your needs.

  28. Regarding ACsE represented employees, a few years back our union negotiated parity raises in addition to across-the-board raises. It took great courage and perseverance to say “no” to the Admin’s offers and stand our ground in order to gain those desperately needed raises but union members did. I might add that no anti-union or non-union members qualifying for a parity raise pooh-poohed it or turned it down.

    ACsE has represented civil service employees at SIU for over 30 years, longer than most current represented civil service employees have been employed here. Must have been some reason/need for its formation. When anti-union folks represented by ACsE tout or take advantage of their benies, they have ACsE to thank for them.

    Many represented by ACsE, folks that truly cannot financially afford dues and cannot afford to strike, have stated support for the union, collective bargaining rights, and the proposed strike action vote. Many union members who can barely afford dues and cannot afford to strike voted in support of a possible strike action. If you didn't support the proposed strike action, the best thing you could have done was to have paid your dues then voted no.

    To those “love it or leave it” types who like to state that there’s a line of willing and able unemployed folks waiting to fill the ranks, might I remind you of the tests you took, the interviews you participated in, the upgrade forms you filled out, the bumping you dodged, and the various other hoops you jumped thru to get the position you have. To the unemployed who think ACsE represented employees don’t appreciate how “easy” we have it, I suggest you tune into ABC’s Wipe-out for a reasonable comparison to the civil service employment and advancement process.

    ACsE is working first and foremost to protect jobs…to prevent more positions from going unfilled as folks retire, to equalize the resulting extra work added to existing employees by these reductions in staff, to prevent the down-sizing that is occurring on the backs of those employees represented by ACsE because we’re the ones the Admin believes are the most expendable…we, who gross on average less in a year than most in upper Admin gross in 1 month. Admin’s bargaining rep has already stated in past negotiations that the University would function just fine without ACsE represented employees. It’s disturbing that, in this day and age, at an institution of higher learning, the Administration would use threats and scare tactics.

    As a great professor once said, "It is our choices, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

  29. Albus Dumbledore. Really?

  30. Great, so now Hogwarts is what we aspire to?

  31. Aspire to be Hogwarts? Looks like SIU is already there, with their own little pink-dressed, bow encrusted High Inquisitor. And evidently she's issuing decrees faster than her minions can email them out.


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