Friday, October 28, 2011

When "Facts" Become Petulant

As the unions kicked off the official opening of Strike Headquarters this afternoon, the Chancellor sent around a new missive proclaiming "facts" about the history of these negotiations.  Was someone jealous there was a party that she was not invited to?  Here's the text of her recent email; I'll have comments for each of her "facts" after the break.

[Click Image to Enlarge.]

Fact #1

Chancellor Cheng, we have learned over these 480+ days to listen less to what you say than to what you leave out.  It's always those pesky little details that trip you up.  This case is no different.

Can you see what's missing, Chancellor?  Come on, you can say it.  Here, let me help.  The policy in the contract says: "...this Agreement shall remain in full force and effect until after the expiration date and until a new agreement is reached..."  Now Chancellor, are the current terms we are (er, were) working under an extension of the 2006-2010 Agreement?  Didn't you add something?  Didn't you modify that earlier agreement and impose new terms?

Why, yes.  Yes, you did.  Why is it so hard for you to say that part?  Why do you drop out that little detail?  It seems so important.

So let's add in the rest of the missing bits.  With all four unions, the Administration submitted to involving a federal mediator, stayed firmly resolute for the required time period until the mediator withdrew specifically because the Administration was unwilling to negotiate, and then imposed not an extension of the old contract but a new one.  Despite the four unions representing four very different bargaining units with very different issues of concern, the Administration's unilateral declaration of impasse for each is remarkably similar.  That's because it was following the same tried and (not so) true strategy of academic union-busting now known as "Impasse to Impose."

Fact #2

Yes, Chancellor Cheng, the unions followed the letter of the law in preparing for the strike.  That law requires them to indicate their refusal to abide by the terms of the "Agreement."  In fact, it requires them to call it an "Agreement."  The unions also followed the law when they filed an Unfair Labor Practices complaint because you, well, didn't follow the law when you imposed new contracts instead of extending the old ones.  Throughout this process, the unions have followed the law, while the Administration has hedged and hemmed and otherwise tried to get around such pesky details. 

It's a rather clever double bind you are trying to catch the unions in.  If they don't file a 10 day warning that they withdraw from the "Agreement," their strike is illegal.  If they do, you can play "gotcha" about their having been under an "Agreement."  But take it from a Speech guy: your Sophistry is WAAAAYYYY too transparent.

All four unions have protested ever calling what we've been under since March/April an "Agreement," which you very well know.  But, unfortunately for you, the unions are no fools.  They choose to keep their labor actions legal and endure your equivocations with terms.

Fact #3

This is true, each of the four unions did not have a general membership vote on the false dilemmas you offered them.  Their representative bodies reviewed the steaming pile of..."contract" you offered and chose not to honor such nonoptions with a vote.  There was no outrage among the membership.  There was no exodus of members, either (quite the opposite, actually).  Instead, all four unions declared quite legally their intent to strike; the unions also filed an Unfair Labor Practice complaint that is still pending.  Don't forget either of those pesky little details.

If you need reminding of votes, remember that one month ago all four unions voted with overwhelming majorities to authorize a strike.  If you or whomever you are trying to persuade with your Swiss cheese memory of our recent history needs confirmation that the unions are acting on the will of their members, look no further back than that.

But so, thank-you Chancellor Cheng for confirming why it is that the employees at this university cannot simply trust the Administration.  There is a strike fast approaching and it will likely do significant harm to this university.  The unions would like very much to avoid that.  But we cannot do so if you will not negotiate in good faith, if you will not put clear language in our contracts that allows transparency and accountability.  And we really cannot avoid a strike if, with less than a week to go, this is the best you've got as a defense for the Administration's deplorable and probably illegal bargaining tactics.


  1. Just like when Chancellor Cheng put her foot in big time last month leading up to the strike authorization vote, so too she is doing that again this evening. Very good post Jonny! I have had my differences with other bloggers and with yourself lately, but on this one I am about as outraged (disgusted is too lame a word here) as you are.

    Oh, and thank you Morteza for giving such a clear statement about exactly what remaining issues are left to be settled in the bargaining and what has been proposed back and forth. This was exactly what I was looking for the past month or so. If we are going on strike next Thursday, it is vital that a) we know exactly what we are striking for; and b) that those issues are "strikable." You convinced me tonight that they are in a way that I was not entirely so earlier on. Of course, I am hoping against hope that we can achieve a settlement without a strike.

    I was also encouraged by the turnout on a Friday evening, on very short notice. Good job!!

  2. Jonny:
    Another excellent posting. Keep up the good work.
    I think our colleagues in English need to derive a new definition of “facts.” A person who has a habit of intentionally concealing truth can never speak truth. You are expecting a wrong person to tell the truth. But I agree with you, Cheng cannot fool us. Apparently she does not understand the meaning of 92% yes vote for strike. It is a vote against her last offer, against her tactics, and against her leadership.
    When I read Cheng’s email, it appeared like a kid making a complaint to mom while crying after a fight with neighbor’s kid . She seems desperate to win the support of people. But she is underestimating the intelligence of SIUC’s employees and students, and Carbondale community.

  3. There was something curious about this latest e-mail from the Chancellor. It was not signed. The other emails were. This one seemed hastily put together. What does this mean?.........

  4. Jonny,

    Perhaps when disputing the "FACTS" you should check your own....

    Regarding FACT#1 - The Federal Mediator withdrew because because in his opinion, the Association(s)were not willing to move off of their initial demands, even though the University had made several concessions from its original position.

    The University only imposed terms on 3 of the 4 unions and only after it became clear that those unions were trying to stall discussions on furlough days until too late in the fiscal year to implement them. In fact,the unions indicated that they would rather have employees lose their jobs through layoffs than to accept four furlough days. In order to prevent mass layoffs of personnel, the University was forced to impose terms that allowed furloughs.

    FACT#2- The University did not break any law by imposing terms and conditions after the mediator withdrew, because BOTH sides had reached their final positions. The point in the bargaining process where both sides will not move any further is called impasse. The law is very clear that at that point, the employer may implement terms and conditions for one year. (By the way, the much of the imposed terms and conditions are remarkably similar to the 2006 - 2010 contract language...)

    FACT#3- Actually, there were unfair labor charges against filed against both sides (don't forget that little detail). And lets clarify the overwhelming vote to authorize a strike... when less than 30% of the people you represent vote to authorize a strike, that is far from an overwhelming majority. If I'm wrong, and 30% is an overwhelming majority, then the FSN are extremely close to having an overwhelming majority of Faculty that want to change their representation.

    If you/we truly want to help resolve this issue and prevent a strike, then perhaps less inflammatory rhetoric and more constructive information is in order.....

  5. It is very clear that Madam Cheng and Poshard do not want a contract to be achieved. They really do want a strike! They think that this will break the unions! Shame on Cheng and the rest of the administration for issuing that kind of e-mail to the members of this university. It just shows that that their priorities are not really with academics. They (Cheng and the administration) are destroying this institution. I was at a UN sponsored meeting in Spring 2011 at the Unitarian Fellowship. Madam Cheng was the guest speaker. One thing that stands out most in my mind is her slip of the tongue--by mistake she said University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee instead of Southern Illinois University--that was a freudian slip as it shows that her heart/mind is really in Mikwaukee, Wisconsin. yes, it would be better for all Salukis if Madam Cheng goes back to Wisconsin!
    Glenn Poshard can also soon follow in her footsteps. He may be from S.Illinois but I think he has forgotten what he owes to all the students and "workers" of this university!

  6. Anon. 1:31 AM:

    You got a couple things right. The imposition was only on 3 of the 4 unions.

    For your other statements, there are some problems.

    1a) "The Federal Mediator withdrew because because in his opinion, the Association(s)were not willing to move off of their initial demands, even though the University had made several concessions from its original position."

    Mediators protect the confidentiality of the parties involved and avoid favoritism. Neither you nor Jonny can say exactly why the mediator left. The mediator's services were moot once terms were imposed on the unions, so there was no reason for the mediator to stay.

    1b) "In fact,the unions indicated that they would rather have employees lose their jobs through layoffs than to accept four furlough days."

    The unions have never publicly made the statement that they would prefer layoffs to furlough days, nor has the administration even claimed that they have (at least not under a name other than anonymous). The proof that you can bring to that is that we had been told in the media by the chancellor that if there weren't furlough days, there would have to be layoffs. The university had money to spend on Lipman Hearne, so the university administration had other options besides furloughs and layoffs.

    2a) "The University did not break any law by imposing terms and conditions after the mediator withdrew, because BOTH sides had reached their final positions."

    The basis of the unions' ULPs was that there still was room to continue bargaining and that the had not reached an impasse with no further room for bargaining. If you agree with the chancellor that there really was no further room for bargaining, you can say that, but as Jonny and I believe the FA and not the chancellor, we would dispute your "fact".

    2b)"By the way, the much of the imposed terms and conditions are remarkably similar to the 2006 - 2010 contract language..."

    By the way, the imposed terms slipped in a clause about the administration cutting faculty pay or laying off faculty whenever they feel it is necessary. That's not such a little thing, even if can be written in few words.

    3a) "... when less than 30% of the people you represent vote to authorize a strike, that is far from an overwhelming majority."

    As of Aug. 31, there were 664 people represented by the FA's bargaining unit. As of Oct. 13, the FA had 275 members. That's 41.1%. You got the part right that it's still not a majority, but 30% is way off the mark.

    An overwhelming majority of the FA members voted "yes" in the strike authorization vote. They apparently weren't upset that their representatives in the FA had rejected the imposed terms on their behalf. If the members found the imposed terms acceptable, they could have voted "no" and given their representatives in the FA a clear message that they found the imposed terms acceptable.

    3b) "FSN are extremely close to having an overwhelming majority of Faculty that want to change their representation."

    This is a prediction, not a fact. We'll see if the FSN can get 30% signatures in the next six months and a majority if a decertification vote happens. The number of supporters that Mike Eichholz last said that the FSN had was less than the number of FA members. There's still a large group of faculty who have done nothing to demonstrate support for either the FA or the FSN.

    3d) "If you/we truly want to help resolve this issue and prevent a strike, then perhaps less inflammatory rhetoric and more constructive information is in order..... "

    That's the other thing you got right. I'm scratching my head over why the chancellor took such a snarky tone in her email.

  7. If I could ask one question to every faculty, staff, and grad assistant, I would ask: What is your contract worth to you: One day, or two days, or long enough to keep what you deserve?

    This institution is one of the pillars of Southern Illinois and for the administration to try, once again, to rip out the basic rights we have fought for over decades of hard work and dedication to the students and this state, it is an outrage. I am so happy to everyone who is standing up and being counted. Especially those who are working to help others see how they deserve what the unions are fighting for and that now is the time to join for anyone who hasn't already. It makes me proud to be an alum.

  8. Anonymous 1:31--

    I dispute some of your corrections but appreciate your confirmation that Chancellor Cheng glossed over the imposition of terms in the "Agreement" we are currently under. Since that is her central argument in this inflammatory and inaccurate email, it is a pretty damning omission and supports my primary conclusion that we cannot simply trust the administration.

    The FSN should take note of that now agreed upon FACT. As for the FSN having the required 30% of faculty supporting a decertification petition, I find it very revealing that you (they?) are willing to make that claim before the petition has actually begun. That says much about about the FSN's own trustworthiness and commitments to open and transparent process.

  9. For those who were not able to attend last night's meeting, could the moderator (or another attendee) give a brief summary of the discussions by the 4 unions on the key outstanding issues? "Disgusted" was persuaded by this--could you say why?

  10. As someone outside of the any of the bargaining units (law school tenure/tenure track faculty), I have tried to follow the issues--reading this blog, the various union websites, etc. I have some rough ideas of issues that are still in controversy and are significant, although even with this effort, my understanding is fairly murky. My colleagues do not have much understanding of the issues at all. I don't think you are getting enough information to the public about what is at stake--so Gary Metro's focus on claims for salary increases is what people assume are the issues. One of the comments above says Morteza gave a good account of the issues at your meeting yesterday. I urge you to publicize that, write it in letters to the DE and the Southern, post it here and on union webpages, etc. The general public does not have enough information.

  11. I am working on a post today that summarizes where we are (to the best of my understanding) in negotiations. For the best summary of the issues with FA that proves we are not salary focused, I recommend listening to Dave Johnson on NPR earlier this week. I posted a link here 3 days ago.

    Please know, though, that the details of negotiation are not within my abilities to comment upon. Things seem to be moving fast. The Administration's tactic is to come to the table with packages, moving more toward the union with one issue but away with others, and demand acceptance or refusal of the entire package. This is exactly what the unions hoped to avoid by engaging in interest based bargaining. All four negotiation teams reported that the Administration is not interested in creative thinking to resolve problems.

    A few days ago the FA proposed 24/7 negotiation to reach an agreement. The Administration finally agreed to that yesterday.

  12. Jonny, nice work. I commented on this email as well over at Unions United; our pieces are rather similar, though I wrote without having read yours (honest!). I'm now going to get to work on putting out a written form of the bargaining report given by Morteza Daneshdoost, FA bargaining chair, at last night's meeting. That should reach faculty via an email from Randy Hughes before too long.

  13. Like the most recent Anonymous poster, I am fairly new to these issues, having come to them with the FSN news. I have taken it upon myself to look over the past blogs, the FA website, etc. I must say that I'm not sure why the FSN claims the FA supporters have brought a poisonous atmosphere to negotiations. With the exception of some predictably heated rhetoric on the blog, the FA statements and the general discussion have been reasonable, informative, and--though I don't agree with everything--well within the realm of civil discourse. I am not sure I want to entirely revive this, as we're focused on tangible issues issues, but I simply wanted to state that the IEA/NEA unions seem, at least from my limited perspective, to have worked well within the bounds of civil discourse. If we're going to replace the FA with something new, I want to be sure I understand where the FA and other other unions have violated some level of decorum expected in all democratic discourse--especially when dealing with such a heated issue.

  14. P.S. As the person who just posted, allow to clarify why I'm bringing up the FSN here. It was the interesting perspective of an outsider (from the LAW school) that prompted me to write as well. But please proceed with the bigger issues of where we stand now with bargaining. Thanks.

  15. Poisonous atmosphere? "Madam Cheng," certainly is race-based.

  16. Thank-you, Anon 9:52/9:50.

    It's important to remember the distinction between this open forum opinion blog and the more official union blogs. Here, we welcome and accept anonymous postings with all that that entails. The use of humor here can tread into dicey territory, but I retain my belief in the value of "kidding on the square."

    I think the similarities and differences between my and Dave Johnson's posts on Chancellor Cheng's Friday email demonstrate the distinction between this blog and an official IEA/NEA blog. As a blogger here, I am currently supportive of the FA and this strike, but my opinions and positions do not officially reflect the FA's or its members.

  17. 9:50/52. You cannot divorce the character of a group from the actions of its members/supporters. Your argument appears to be that the official statements of the FA are all that should be considered, but that is unreasonable. Would you consider the KKK to be a benign organization simply because its official statement deny involvement in lynchings and other atrocities? Nor could you validly argue that the red cross is not a worthy organization because it is its members/volunteers that donate money and do good works.

    Supporters and members of the FA have, for _many_ years engaged in personal attacks and vilification of members of successive administrations and attacks on faculty who do not support them. There is abundant documentation of this pattern of behavior. For example, do a google search of the term Walter Wendler images and select the images option, you will quickly find examples of images juxtaposing the former chancellor and Adolf Hitler. And you may recall, if you were present at the time, FA rallies were FA members wore "Wendler Wigs". Neither were officially condoned by the FA but it is not reasonable to claim that the since they were not official action of the FA, only actions by FA supporters, that they are not a reflection of the character of the organization.

    On this site and in other venues, this pattern of behavior has continued and strengthened in recent months. FA supporters have used a variety of insults and personal attacks on members of the administration and on bloggers expressing views contrary to the those of FA supporters. The new moderator has even accused another FA supporter who has posted his counter opinions of having mental defects.

    This pattern is long standing and unchanged except in that now that it has been raised as an issue, some are trying to pretend it does not exist. That, IMO, is revisionism.

  18. Where the threads of truth and logic run thin, through pokes propaganda, personal attacks and fear mongering.

  19. As the anonymous person who posted about the lack of a poisonous atmosphere, I wasn't endorsing language about "Madam Cheng, etc. I was simply saying that I don't have evidence that the FA, in pursuit of its legitimate interests, has stepped over the bounds. Yes, on an anonymous blog, people can spout off, but that's NOt the point. Groups are indeed responsible for the member they attract, but you truly seem to be ignorant of the heated rhetoric that has existed at many universities. "Nazi" language is inserted to almost every debate in American life, unfortunate as it is. My point is that the Union leadership and supporters seem to be out there clarifying points, engaging with REAL issues, and debate about deep issues that face the university. This is very different than the caricature of the union as some makeshift group of troublemakers. My point is that their leaders have dealt with issues with a clarity in my mind--in mind mind--that I simply had not expected based on this new FSN group. Anyway, I didn't really mean to change the subject.

  20. Is there a universal standard for civility? I think not! What may sound uncivil to one person may be perfectly civil to another. If someone is really concerned that the comments on this blog are "uncivil" then you are better off not viewing these postings on this site. Also, you should think twice before posting anything here as well for your postings may be regarded by others as uncivil as well!

  21. All this posting about civolity ranging from spurious politically correct comments about "racism" reminds me of Noel Coward's WW2 song (that was meant to be understood satirically, "Let's not be beastly to the Germans", a song written in full knowledge of British upper-class Fascist sympathies.

    Anyway, when an oppressive person(s) is in power, they deserve all the verbal attacks they get. didn't Poshard "plagiarize" his dissertation ("inadvertent" or not}? Why didn't the then Faculty Senate and Graduate Council deliver a vote of no-confidence in him? They did not and we are now paying the price. Also, Cheng fired 71 low-paid civil service workers and attempted to do the same for 93 NTT faculty. From the latest bullying email she sent out, Madame (whether Mao or the Dowager Empress deserves everything she gets since she is acting in the same authoritarian manner as her illustrious predecessors.

  22. Madam Cheng? Quite sexist language for a group that says their ultimate goal is to work with the chancellor. If she were a man would the same innuendo be used? I doubt it.
    I think some people have forgotten that the point of the strike is to eventually bargain and reach an agreement.
    Both sides (chancellor/administration and unions) are spinning their own rhetoric. Unfortunately, only those on the outside can hear how ludicrous SIUC sounds because of it. Both sides leave a lot of information out of their "fact checks." Both sides are pointing fingers, and frankly, both sides are to blame (one finger pointing, four pointing back... seems appropriate). To outsiders it seems a big cat fight or pissing contest; take your pick.
    Perhaps if the sexist remarks and name-calling by each side were to cease, the two sides could actually talk like rational adults. Look at the example all of you, admin, Chancellor Cheng, NTT, FA, ACsE and GAU, are setting for students. There are students leaving in spring because of the childish games the adults at SIUC are playing.

  23. But does she wa nt to work with us, or anyone for that matter? Both she and Poshard are responsible for students leaving.

  24. Hey, not for nothing, but wouldn't knowing how the "unfair labor practice" charge is decided help make up a few minds or change a few opinions? While I expect heated rhetoric regardless of the decision made, I'm sure many people would be interested to know how that charge works its way through the courts and what decision they (whomever "they" are that decide such things)make. Granted, this is not a news blog per se, but I have not found any information on that aspect of the Strike Watch.

  25. 9:14 AM (Law School faculty member),

    Thanks for taking an interest in our issues. Hopefully Jonny's recent post addresses your questions. I just signed up to be on a picket squad. My squad leader is a civil service employee in the Law School. You might ask your civil service people about their issues.

  26. 10:50 AM,

    Get real. I found one photo juxtaposing WW and AH. I can't tell who put it out their or why. There are several photoshopped photo's satirizing WW in Dave Clark's "Litterbox," but he's not an FA member. So, is he representative of non FA faculty? How many people wore WW-wigs? One or two? And is that a personal attack?

    I am in the FA and talked with WW several as a Senator. I thought P was wrong to fire him. Is that view therefore representative of the FA?

    I agree that a number of FA supporters make needlessly rude comments here and I have criticized them more than once. I think civility is by far the better tactic for both ethical and pragmatic reasons. But it is important to keep things in prospective. People say dumb things on the internet or even in hallway venting sessions all the time. These are neither representative of te FA - or of SIUC faculty - and are likely just expressions of frustrations rather deeply held beliefs.

  27. Mike: 10:50 Now, Now, be nice Mike! and mind your language! It is extremely uncivil of you to characterize what others say on this blog as "dumb" and "rude"! That is so "rude" and uncivil of you to do that!

  28. Anon: 4:19. Poshard fired Wendler on the grounds that he did not get on with people. Argersinger was also fired since she was a "whistleblower" and did not suffer fools gladly. Cheng has annoyed virtually all sections of the campus community (except the FSN) and has done a far worse job that Wendler in creating a negative atmosphere on campus. Yet, Poshard has done nothing against her. So go figure - unless you've worked out the reason, namely that she is carrying out a mandate from Poshard and the BOT to undermine academic standards and security and make this place into a for-profit, virtual university and sports college.

  29. Yes, I was also suspicious about Cheng's latest email, I don't think it was from her directly ... hers are usually more patronising, this was almost childish in its simplicity; I reckon it was from one of her subordinates.

    Lets not worry too much about being civil/uncivil, this is a distraction from the main item which is to get a decent contract. Most people are pretty think skinned and can take (and give) a bit of stick. Sometimes the odd joke or two about an administrator (plaigerising Poshard) , an overbearing FA member or the FSN's soggy burgers lightens up the atmosphere....


    Mad scientist to creation: "Why don't you speak? You've got a civil tongue in your mouth. I know since I put it there in the first place!"


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.