Friday, September 16, 2011

Strike FAQs

I've been forwarding some questions from comments to our IEA folks, who are looking into them. In the meantime I should note the Strike FAQs posted over on the Unions United site. They won't answer all your questions, but are a good place to start.


  1. It's pretty scary that you are calling for a strike vote and don't know the answers to some of these fundamental questions. You don't even know what you are asking faculty to sacrifice.

  2. Ah, but we do know have some idea of what we may sacrifice if we don't go on strike. We also know that the imposed terms cost us 2% of our salary last year. And that the current administration posture wouldn't get us that 2% back over a four year contract.

    We don't have all the answers about a strike in part because we don't know what the administration will do. That affects the health care issue a great deal. CMS doesn't know what will happen. Other questions involve legal niceties. A question I've been asked about COBRA isn't covered on the Federal Goverment's Department of Labor COBRA FAQ webpage. The unions have tried to provide as many answers as they can and have tried to be careful not to provide misleading answers; hence getting answers is fairly slow, as you need to clear many things through the lawyers.

    This isn't to say your point isn't reasonable; the unions have an obligation to answer the major questions as quickly and accurately as possible, and be responsive to new questions as they come up. My point is rather that the presence of some unanswered questions at this stage is natural and understandable.

    The bottom line for me is this: a strike may well require some financial sacrifice on my part. Or it may not: if we have to to make up classes or assignments with our students (as we should), we should get paid for doing so, recouping lost pay. But that would be negotiated during the strike.

    I wouldn't go on strike to get a 3% raise instead of a 1% one. But how much is tenure worth? Or working at a university where the administration can't require you to film your course so it can be "managed" by a GA for the next 10 years while you get to design another video course which will be managed--you see where I'm going. That's the sort of thing they want to reserve the right to do.

    My conclusion is that I can't afford not to go on strike--unless the administration starts to negotiate in earnest before a strike.

  3. Dave - I fear that if you call a strike, the students might be gone when you get back. If I were a student, I would leave and not look back.

  4. Anonymous 9:36: The more well-organized and well-coordinated a strike, the shorter it will be. The longevity of a strike--and the longer it goes, the more detrimental it will be to students--will depend on whether the Administration decides that they want to reach a settlement.

    In fact, if the Administration decided to actually engage in the bargaining process (as they are legally required to do), a strike could be averted altogether. The outcome resides with the Administration. If they truly cared about the students on this campus, they would start engaging in actual bargaining with the aim of reaching a fair settlement. It's really up to them at this point.

  5. Natasha - The FA can't claim to care about students and then leave them high and dry in the middle of the semester. I know that the FA feels desperate and I agree that the administration should bargain in good faith. A strike is not the answer. It will drive students away making this financial crisis at SIUC even worse. No matter what you claim, the FA cannot put all of the blame on the administration if they choose to walk out. It is their decision.

  6. I need some explanation for scheduling a vote at the end of this month rather than the end of next month (for example) after additional attempts to increase membership, awareness, and support.

  7. If you care about the students you should wait until the end of the semester. Then the students can decide to go somewhere where the faculty really care about their students.

  8. Dave,

    We have legitimate grievances but for me it's "show me the money" (salary and benefits). I am disturbed by some of the disinformation and lack of information.

    1. Distance Learning: Go to the imposed terms and read the section on DL. The unit retains control and the Creator retains ownership. The admin. has been pushing to get this all down to units. I think this is s bad management strategy because central support is lacking and the transition is NOT going well. The other bogeyman--forcing faculty to teach online--is laughable given the sad state of the transition (you have no idea how bad it is going).

    2. Tenure, sexual harassment procedures. These ARE important but experience has shown that no contract language seems able to protect those wrongfully removed with tenure or under SH procedures that lack due process. In the end, you have to "sue the bastards."

    3. THE STUDENTS: they *may* be dragged into this by having their federal financial aid frozen. See 8/20 links here: (my FreeU site)

    4. LOANS: those zero interest loans to replace insurance/lost pay are dependent on donations from other locals. As one person noted, their IEA local donated $9,000 to Wisconsin but that was a big publicity event. How many cheeseheads even know SIUC exists?!

    My guess: those with a spouse working outside SIUC may strike. The rest of us need answers.

  9. I don't think anybody wants to walk out and leave the students without instructors. But a few things are worth noting: 1) The FA is not some rogue group that invented the concept of a strike--academic or otherwise. The right to bargain and strike are recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human rights as valued principles 2) This is often the only tool workers have to right certain basic inequalities in the system (I truly am open to other suggestions for ways to respond) 3) I myself am devoted to my students--I really do treasure them. I dare say I have won some teaching awards along the way. But this is exactly what the administration is relying upon--that your sense of responsibility will stop you from exercising your legal rights. I simply can't accept the idea that if you care about your students, you simply put up and do nothing. In the end, these are not easy decisions--especially in an academic setting--but there are basic principle or right and wrong that have to attend our assessment of labor relations, and I simply can't imagine a situation in which workers--brain workers, physical workers--abandon their basic rights. The faculty who are agitating are really truly trying to build a better university--to think long term about what a good education ins and what makes sense for professors and students in the 21st century.

  10. Just to clarify -- that last "Jonathan" is not "Jonathan Bean" (me!).

    Jonathan, you get the wrong perspective from my statement of issues. A savvy union would use student interests to get them on our side (note that students often rally to the faculty side when the government tells the ADMINISTRATION to withhold their financial aid. This is a tactical issue, not something for discussion before the U.N.!

    I am agitating as well but let's get the real issues out there rather than false ones or ones that are backed by little or no information.

    Striking because we have the right under U.S. law the UN Declaration of Rights is a) irrelevant to whether we should strike; and b) doesn't tell us what issues to use if we DO strike.

    If the union strikes, it needs to strike with its brain, not its emotions. IMHO

  11. I must begin by stating that I do not need to be convinced of the virtues or necessity of a strike. I am a dues-paying, meeting-attending, blog-reading member of the FA, and I embrace our right to strike. But I think that those leading the charge toward a strike vote and a strike (pending approval by Membership) need to know this: Many of us don’t need to be sold on the necessity of a strike, but we need to be convinced that we are prepared to endure the hardships and consequences of a strike in the coming weeks. At this point, I am not convinced that we are.

  12. Hi Jonathan Bean,
    This is the other Jonathan. Strange that my comment followed yours. When I posted my comment, yours was not even up yet. I guess we wrote ours at the same time. I was therefore not responding to you but to the general sense that it is somehow a betrayal of one's students is one strikes.

  13. I personally agonize about the impact my striking will have on my students. However, for me, Cheng and Poshard have pushed us to a point where we have to consider which alternative causes our students the least pain. I look at the millions that have been spent on logos, administrative raises, athletics, and the millions taken out of the Southern Illinois economy versus the millions that HAVENT been spent on students and I realize me striking is the only way to make that change.

  14. IMO, there is a fundamental difference between a strike in an educational institution and strikes in other settings.

    When a factory worker strikes, manufacturing ceases wigits are not made and profits decrease. This is the leverage that is invoked by the strike.

    If we strike, students won't get educated.

    The difference is … the wigits don't care. They are not hurt by the actions of those striking. In our case, whatever your feelings about whether or not a strike is justified and whomever you blame for the situation, it is inescapable that our action are hurting others: our students, who are innocent in all of this. My conscience will not allow me deny/harm their education in order to fight for benefits for myself. I will cross the line.

    In any case, I don't buy for one second the baloney about this being about distance education etc. This fight is about the same things ALL such fights are about, it’s about power (who is ultimately in charge and who gets to make the calls), and it’s especially about money.

    Remember why we are at impasse? It was over furloughs. The administration claimed that they were necessary in order to prevent layoffs and the FA denied it. The FA bargaining tactic was to try to run out the clock on the 2010 AY and so win by default and the administration waited until there was no more time without imposing all 4 days in a single pay period then imposed the "contract" and the furloughs. It was about money

    Having lost that fight, the FA shifted tactics and the focus shifted to claims that the imposed terms (imposed because we are at impasse) shifted to claims that tenure had been eliminated by the imposed terms. More baloney in my opinion, but whatever your feelings on that question, that argument has been played here ad nauseum in terms of job security. Lose your job, lose your income, Its still about money.

    And then there’s fair share. The FA does not want to talk about it, but let's not forget that a strike is a strike to give the IEA the irrevocable right to tax every faculty member every month, in perpetuity, whether or not they are members or even wish to be represented by the FA. Its true that furloughs dipped into my pocket, but let’s not blow smoke over the fact the IEA is also trying to dip into my pocket. Fare share is just another pay cut as far as I am concerned and one I will not support. (If you choose to be represented by the FA, that is your right and privilege, but I was never given a choice as to whether or not I want to be represented by them. I was never asked, so do not seek to impose your taxes on me - I reserve to myself the right to not be a member of an organization I do not support.)

    The bottom line is the bottom line - Its about money.

  15. Jonathan Bean:

    Just what do you think is disinformation? Simplification, perhaps, as when we assume that when the administration demands the power to do something it may actually have an intention to use the power it is demanding (despite denying this).

    Re distance ed, for example: thanks for your insight into the dysfunctional transition process. But if the FA claim that the administration wants the power to force faculty to teach distance ed courses instead of standard on campus courses is false, why doesn't the administration simply agree to as much in contractual language? They could even float a side letter, I suppose, if they don't want to drop this claim in perpetuity. Until they are willing to commit to some such limit, I don't see how this FA charge can be considered a bogeyman.

    We are working on getting answers to your bread and butter issues. We should have answers about IEA loans and COBRA by Monday, I would think.

    Your doubts that any contract can provide protection could of course just as well be applied to the courts. And it is a hell of a lot easier to sue the bastards if the bastards have violated your contract, isn't it? The SIUC administration has *by and large* honored the contract in the past. They have, on the other hand, changed their own policies repeatedly to dilute tenure rights and to allow them to implement "unpaid administrative closures".

    Juggling our commitment to our students vis a vis our commitment to the issues the union is fighting for will be a delicate issue for all of us. One thing faculty seem to me to consistently overestimate is what happens if we end up losing a few classes. What would have taught you more, as an undergraduate, living through a faculty strike, or two weeks of intermediate Latin? And of course the union position will be that we should make up that work with our students, as best we can--for pay. If the administration chooses not to allow us to make up that work, that will be their call.

  16. 2:09.

    If faculty go on strike for two days, or two weeks, or two months, students wont' get educated for two days, two weeks, or two months. Our claim (which you can of course dispute if you see fit) is that if we don't go on strike, many future students wouldn't get educated properly at all.

    If you can reduce tenure, academic freedom, and power (the power to make pedagogical and programmatic decisions) to cash, then that says more about you than it does about the union. People who think that everything is all about money--and such people needn't be fools or rascals, just cynics--are going to think this crisis is all about money. No surprise there.

  17. The timing issue.

    There will always be more communication and more outreach to do. The DRC's judgement was that bargaining was essentially at a standstill and would remain stuck until the union put on more pressure. Calling for a strike vote ought to get the attention of the faculty; judging by frantic action on this blog, the union now has the attention of the faculty. That will help us to educate one another.

    Waiting much farther into the semester would risk having a strike go over the winter break. There is a very practical reason to avoid this. Do you want to lose a month's pay over a time period in which you wouldn't be teaching classes, and your being on strike would not disrupt the university in any way? That's why a strike or even a credible strike threat needs to be made relatively early in a semester.

  18. "Do you want to lose a month's pay over a time period in which you wouldn't be teaching classes, and your being on strike would not disrupt the university in any way? "

    So you are using disruption of student's education as your leverage! Well, I have to at least give you credit for being honest about it.

    The students have done us no harm, and we should do them no harm.

  19. It will no comfort to our current students (or their parents or those providing them financial aid) that the damage done to their education *might*, *arguably*, *possibly* be of potential benefit to future students

  20. Anonymous 2:48. Poshard and Cheng have already harmed our current students and the s. Illinois residents. They took millions out of the local economy during a time that was already a near depression with the furlough days. And then took millions that could have been spent on students and instead decided to spend it on administrative raises, a new logo, stadiums, and a basketball coach.

  21. So your argument is..

    Poshard and Cheng have already harmed our student... Therefore its OK for Faculty to hurt them too???

    You raise arguments that have been batted around before. Some agree, some do not. But how does anything that you offer as past harms justify more future harm to the least responsible and most vulnerable group on campus - the students? I am sorry, but I do not believe that your anger at the administration (whether justified or not) justifies harming students education.

  22. To the various anonymous folks who are against striking on principle, a few questions: Do you ever believe an academic strike might be justified? K-12? College? Do you believe teachers unions should exist at all? Is it a case of "unions are ok, just not this one?" These are not just hypothetical questions. I am truly curious about what the large ideological outlook is. Give me a bigger picture here

  23. Anonymous 4:33, that is not my argument. I brought up my points to show Cheng and Poshard have shown their willingness to harm students. If the faculty dont do something to stop it they will continue to do so.

  24. Dave,

    You wrote: "Re distance ed, for example: thanks for your insight into the dysfunctional transition process. But if the FA claim that the administration wants the power to force faculty to teach distance ed courses instead of standard on campus courses is false, why doesn't the administration simply agree to as much in contractual language?"

    I gave the link to the "imposed terms" (which FA says are the Board's view of a contract) and stated that the section on Distance Learning does provide the guarantees you want. Units have control (departments) and faculty own their courses. It may not be in a new contract but even by the "imposed terms"

    For weeks I (and others) asked, "OK, the administration offered 0-0-.5-1%. What did the FA ask for?" All I got was vague answers that "it didn't even come up yet" (before Hughes noted the 0-0-.5-1%) and then suddenly we find (on Friday) that it DID come up. Well, the administration put their numbers on the table, what did the FA ask for at the outset? No information. 3%? 5%? Also I don't get the tying it to the budget. It almost seems like the FA was undercutting bargaining just as much as the administration. Again, this is just a reaction to NO INFORMATION from the FA. What's the big secret about the percentages requested? Please inform!

    After the meeting, one of the FA bargainers noted the admin. wanted a higher faculty/student ratio (30:1). That indicates that they want to benefit from the mass retirements that will push our current 26:1 ratio up to 30. They WANT that and I asked the FA bargainer if they asked for a give-back on releasing some of those faculty lines for pay raises. ANSWER: "No, we didn't ask because they just aren't interested." Well, how do you know?

    This year everyone knows there will be a big fat pie of savings from mass retirements before June 30th 2012 pension formula change. Put a price tag on that pie. Then draw a pie and cut a sliver for faculty pay raises. That is something people can understand.

  25. I agree with the poster above that it is about money but also JOB SECURITY and keeping SIUC open for the students. IMHO, if there is a strike, we shouldn't lead with "preserve tenure!" First, it's a hypothetical (no tenured faculty laid off). Second, it's an unpopular notion with the general public and even some students (who are part of our public!) Third, the phrase "job security" is better. Talk about being able to offer courses STUDENTS need. Say we need job security because we are now teaching our students plus all the students left without faculty due to the hiring freeze and retirements. "Simplify, simplify!"

  26. I just lost a long post to Dave's position on Distance Learning. (Perhaps it is in your spam box?). Cut to the short: I posted the imposed terms (that the Board considers "contractual language." The unit and instructor have control and ownership. So this is not an issue. It may not be in the new contract yet but the "imposed terms" still have protections. On DL in general, I may blog about my past two years on the issue (I have online courses and was on the Chancellor's DL committee). I'm waiting to give the transition a shot but my fears -- repeated all last year (ask my chair!) -- are coming true.

    My other point was make a big pie representing mass retirement savings. The FA bargainer (after meeting) told me the admin. wants 30:1 student ratio so that means they want to benefit from the hiring freeze and mass retirements. Take your Pie and cut a sliver for raises. People can understand that concept. After all we are doing the work of all those now retired. I was disturbed when the bargainer said they didn't ask for a give-back on that issue because "they don't want to give us raises." How do you know if you don't ask? And after weeks of no answers on salary bargaining ("it hasn't come up yet" we were told), it seems it DID come up with admin. 0-0-.5-1% raises. Then, on Friday, FA says it put forth % raises -- well, HOW MUCH? Why the secrecy? We know more about the admin. offer than the FA counteroffer. The followup strategy of tying raises to the budget suggests FA wants to undercut bargaining as much as admin. That may be untrue but this dribbling of basic information and the release of ANY information at the last moment makes one wonder. Please inform!

  27. Jonathan: yes, one of your messages again hit the spam filter.

    I'm sorry, but I think you're way off base here.

    If the unit has control that means your chair has control. Your current chair in history isn't going to force you to each a distance learning course, as we both know, but the administration is apparently insisting on chairs' retaining that power, and some chairs (especially under pressure from on high) would use it.

    The current FA proposal says nothing about % raises, so I think you misunderstood something at the meeting. See my comment over here for more details. The FA, responding to the administrative argument that fiscal uncertainty doesn't allow them to promise us anything, responded with a proposal that would tie our salaries to the (uncertain) future finances of the university. If you think that our responding to their call for flexibility by offering a flexible salary proposal is undercutting bargaining, then we've got a rather big disagreement about what good faith bargaining consists of.

    Perhaps this is the sort of rant one types at midnight after writing and reading far too many comments--but I expect that you can take the heat though you, having been interested in these issues for a long time, are hardly the worst culprit in this regard. I've had enough of the "dribbling out of basic information" theme. The FA's full contract proposal has been on the website for months, and the FA has made various efforts to distill that proposal for months as well, in fact sheets, white papers, newsletters, and emails. Could our communications have been better? Yes. As it happens, though, we working on FA communications are volunteers who have day jobs. Many such complaints come from faculty who have been consistently been putting Randy Hughes' emails into their trash folder for months. I've made this dangerous comparison before: when faculty think they haven't been taught enough about what's going on by the FA, that may be true--just as it may be true that we as teachers haven't taught our students enough. But our students, and our faculty colleagues, also have a obligation to both listen to what those trying to teach them have to say, and when questions come up, to give those attempting to communicate with them a decent amount of time to respond.

    Compare, if you would, the Chancellor's website. It sports links to "Budget FYI", her Q & A, and her "Budget News"; they haven't been updated in months. Where do you go to find info on the administration's offers? The FA website. And yet the Chancellor, I believe, has a paid staffer or two working on communications. (The FA website has its own problems--the new organization may even be worse than the old scheme--but failure to include new information isn't a major one.)

    I can think of lots of respectable arguments to make against the union and its positions. But the implication that we aren't doing our best to answer questions strikes me as complete rubbish. And by "we" I here don't just mean "me". Our failure to answer questions immediately is due to a lack of resources, lack of omniscience, and desire to get things right, rather than some effort to mislead people or ask for their blind allegiance.

  28. I went to the link Jon Bean gave to the imposed terms. I read Addendum D on Distance Learning. I did not find any reason to be concerned that the Admin can force someone to teach a DL class. Everything seems to be handled he way it is with conventional classes. My chair can assign me to teach a course I do not like but cannot tell how to teach it. If I tell the students they need to come and hear my lectures it is up to them to do that or they will not pass the course. If I tell them when and where the test is then they have to be there. If they choose to drop the course that is up to them. If others disagree please explain why.

    I do strongly object to Articles 18 & 19 on furloughs and layoffs. Those are worth striking over.

  29. I compared Addendum D on DL of the imposed terms and Addendum D of the old contract. How are they different? (Aside from the God awful font the new one uses! And why is the ToC at the end?)

    Imposes terms:

    Old contact:

  30. Here, FYI, is a link to the SIUE Faculty Handbook.

    I have not had time to go through it. But I found this:

    "Termination of a tenured appointment is also possible because of a bona fide financial exigency or because of cutbacks in or elimination of programs, provided that said cutbacks or elimination and the implications thereof for tenured faculty positions have been duly reviewed by the Faculty Senate."

    Faculty Handbook

  31. "I can think of lots of respectable arguments to make against the union and its positions. But the implication that we aren't doing our best to answer questions strikes me as complete rubbish."

    Dave, you are losing the sense of moderation and common sense that garnered you many readers, myself included. I'm not making arguments against the union or saying it's run by bad people. Chill out, dude!


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