Faculty for Sensible Negotiations (henceforth, FSN) has now indeed released a notion of how negotiations would continue after they put an end to the Faculty Association (FA). This apparently in response to email comments that, in keeping with the tenor of my earlier post on this subject, asked them what, if anything, they had in mind by "negotiations". They would simply have the Faculty Senate appoint a committee to do so. Presto! This plan appears to have been drafted on a cocktail napkin. Their latest email, together with their invitation to a decorous BBQ, is pasted at the end of this post.
Yes, my tone is somewhat cutting, but this is because the FSN have still failed to show themselves interested in anything other than destroying the FA. They have no substantive positive agenda, despite all their talk of comity. Their Senate proposal is obviously unworkable in its current form. Unless and until the FSN show themselves willing and able to develop a meaningful alternative to the FA, the Senate plan, or any other half-baked alternative they present, will remain a phony proposal meant to present faculty with a false alternative method of negotiation. It resembles efforts by a political party to recruit a fake primary candidates to disrupt the opposing party (as was recently done in primaries in Wisconsin). To be clear, as I've said many times, decertification is a legal and legitimate course of action to pursue. But claiming to be for negotiations by replacing the nasty FA with a nice sounding but phony alternative does not strike me as a responsible course of action. Perhaps the FSN can prove me wrong by developing a responsible alternative route to negotiations. Anyone want to take a bet?
I am torn between my desire to list all the problems this proposal raises and my desire not to gift Professor Eichholz and his crew with a to-do list that would help them lend their proposal some aura of plausibility. But I think it is incumbent on them, if they are to show themselves serious and responsible, to develop a plan of how this would work. Otherwise they would be asking faculty members to sign a petition and potentially vote on a vague proposal that is no more than a pipe dream, and would be as likely to be brought to fruition as most pipe dreams. In this event voting for the Senate plan would, as I suggested earlier, simply result in the end of negotiations, not the pursuit of negotiations by a more pleasant means.
I'm no lawyer, but the FSN proposal, that the current Faculty Senate simply appoint a bargaining team to represent the faculty in negotiations, is obviously impracticable and illegal. A Memo of Understanding between the Senate and the FA distinguishes their two roles--a document oft accorded the status of something like the Magna Carta in Senate debates--and would obviously have to be scrapped. The Faculty Senate contains many who are not represented by the FA (NTT faculty and employees on AP contracts), and could not represent faculty or choose those who would represent us. Senators, even those who are members of the bargaining unit, were not elected to represent faculty at bargaining. The Faculty Senate is funded by SIUC, which would have to stop--an employer cannot fund a union representing its workers. Is it legal under Illinois law for a body like the Faculty Senate, even in some reconfigured form, to act as a "exclusive bargaining agent"? Can the FSN find examples of this on other campuses? Would the Faculty Senate bargaining team have legal support to aid employees filing grievances? Would it be empowered, as the FA is, to call a strike? If so, how would the Faculty Senate provide the logistical, financial, and legal backing to make a strike feasible? Just how long would it take to remake the Faculty Senate into a Faculty Union? If the Senate would not have the power to strike (the Wisconsin plan), just how could the Faculty Senate bargaining team have any leverage at the bargaining table? Or is the FSN just using the term "negotiate" in a vague sense, short of that of the right to collective bargaining under Illinois Labor law? In which case we return to Faculty for No Negotiations.
Those tempted by this plan--and I do not doubt that Professor Eichholz has received many positive emails, though I also suspect he has received many negative ones--resemble, to my mind, Republican primary voters who want another candidate for president--Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, etc. Unhappy with the choices before them, they launch on to the hope for some White Knight to solve all of our problems. But you know what? None of these figures is willing to run for president. Nor, I suspect, is the Faculty Senate willing to run negotiations. And even if it were willing, and could completely reconfigure itself so that doing so were legal, we would soon see, just as primary voters have now seen with Governor Perry, that candidates often look better in the abstract than in the glare of reality. The Faculty Senate is just faculty, faculty who volunteered and were elected to attend one meeting a month, not to run a faculty union. Faculty who disagree with one another as faculty tend to do. I've just been elected to the Faculty Senate, and I believe it has a important role to play on this campus. But this proposal goes way beyond the realm of possibility, as far as I can tell.
Finally, it would be interesting to see what qualifies as "sensible" for the FSN other than "nice". Would they advocate giving the administration the power to cut our salaries whenever it sees fit (administrative closure days)? Would they advocate giving the administration power to define, declare, and implement a financial exigency policy without meaningful faculty involvement? Would they allow the administration to require faculty members to teach courses in the manner, and place, of the administration's choosing? Would they allow the administration to define our workload as it sees fit? To overrule departmental operating papers whenever it wishes to do so?
Representing the faculty is hard work. FA volunteers have been doing this hard work for years. If the FSN wants faculty to vote to repudiate all that work, and make all of those volunteer hours an utter waste of time, well, they had better expect some heated opposition. More importantly, they had better be prepared to get working. The least they can do is to present faculty with a real plan. If they cannot do that, they are clearly serving only one purpose: undermining those who are doing their level best to represent faculty at the bargaining table.
Here's the full email from Professor Eichholz.
Dear Fellow Faculty Members,
Thank you for the overwhelming positive response to our initial email. Since the email was distributed, the “Faculty for Sensible Negotiations” has swelled from 20 to more than 140 supporting faculty members who indicate they endorse an effort to replace the FA as our sole bargaining representative, and this number is still growing. We are appreciative of input from both those supportive and “not so supportive” of our cause and will consider all opinions as we move forward. In partial response to that input, we would like to provide more detail of how we intend to proceed. We are in the process of organizing an executive committee that will include faculty from all colleges. We are also establishing a Facebook page to foster conversation and disseminate information. We are organizing a faculty BBQ/gathering to facilitate rebuilding faculty collegiality, which we feel has degraded with the current campus climate. The BBQ is tentatively scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 18th at Turley Park. We will send additional information as soon as it becomes available.
In response to those who requested additional information regarding alternative representation, we suggest that the entire faculty should determine the new form of representation. We currently propose that the Faculty Senate be empowered to appoint a bargaining team on our behalf. The Senate already represents the faculty on many other issues and all faculty members have the right to vote to elect representatives to the Senate (and it costs nothing to do so). The faculty would determine and approve the manner in which the senate would appoint members to our bargaining team (through our operating paper). The process would be transparent and inclusive of all faculty. If we acquire signatures from 30% of the represented faculty supporting the Faculty Senate as the bargaining unit, a vote would be held by the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board ( IELRB) that would include 3 choices (FA, Faculty Senate, or no representation). A representative of the IELRB has informed us that the option of no representation would be required. In the case of no clear winner, there would be a second vote between the two that received the most votes in the first round of voting.
Thanks for supporting this effort!
Faculty for Sensible Negotiations