Friday, December 9, 2011

Unions and Unity

The following post is by Dan Nickrent, Professor of Plant Biology. 

Unions and Unity

Today in my SIUC email I received yet another communication from Mike Eichholz (copied below).  And as usual, it appears that the FSN is not only naïve but complacent about transpired history and the messages that history conveys.  The email states that 162 signatures were collected from those who “have supported us to this point.”  If I recall correctly, turning in the signature cards was SUPPOSED TO BE only an indication of interest in calling an election, with support of the FSN’s position (decertification) as only one of three options. But as I suspected, the FSN used the fact that a card was turned in as evidence of support, and that was exactly why I didn’t do it. 

But what is most disconcerting is the statement that they intend to continue their activities during the last year of the current contract.  To me, this reflects complete inflexibility, i.e. “we are against the Faculty Association now and will always be against it, no matter who represents that group or what its future positions may be”.  As previously articulated by Dave Johnson during the post-strike WSIU interview and on this blog, the FSN and other non-union faculty who disagree with particular policies should consider joining the FA to make their voices heard.  It is a democratic association that represents nearly half the faculty.  We are all at the same university and part of the richness of this institution is the diversity of opinions that can collectively contribute to solving myriad problems. If you want to change the system, become engaged and your power to do so increases. 

Above I said the FSN is naïve, so let me explain.  They believed (hoped?) that more than 50% of the faculty were dissatisfied with the FA and that these people would turn out in sufficient numbers to vote on decertification.  As it turned out, only about 25% of the faculty returned the cards, and we cannot assume that all of them are against the FA.  Let’s consider the population of people who have not yet joined the union.  I suspect a large fraction of them are faculty who are used to having their own opinions about any issue and do not feel comfortable having any organization represent them.  I know this is the reason for low union representation in several departments of the College of Science.  But ironically it was exactly this cohort of people that the FSN hoped to sway towards – yes, joining their organization.  In my opinion, that just won’t happen, in 2011 or in 2014.  And even if the FSN could assemble all of the non-union faculty and become the group representing them, this group would likely be even more politically heterogeneous than the current FA membership. And with no membership fees, etc., all the current FA members would then be able to participate, thus contributing even more towards diversity of opinions.

So my message to Mike Eichholz and others in the FSN is to give up this quixotic quest and face reality.  At least consider the option of joining the FA as a means to effect change on this campus, that is, if they in fact acknowledge the need for change as opposed to the absence of collective bargaining and a complete acceptance top-down policies imposed by the Administration.

Dan Nickrent, Professor of Plant Biology

Email from Mike Eichholz:

December 9, 2011 8:52:52 AM CST


We would like to thank those of you that have supported us to this point.  One hundred and sixty two signatures of the approximately 200 necessary for a vote were collected. Unfortunately, with the ratification of the new contract, our effort must be suspended.  State regulations limit petitioning for decertification or replacement of the representation agent to a period from January 15 – March 1 of the last year of a contract.  Additionally signatures are only valid for six months, thus we will be unable to use signatures collected to this point.  Unless you notify us indicating you would like your signature card returned, signature cards will be shredded by the end of next week.  We intend to continue this effort and plan to again attempt to acquire the necessary number of signatures for petitioning a vote of decertification or replacement during the last year of the new contract.  If you would like to provide input and help develop the new effort, please contact one of the executive committee members.




  1. 162/200 sounds impressive, but, lets remember, it should be 162/650 (approx number of Faculty at SIUC) who support the FSN, which is about 25%,
    .............. this is much less that the 43% who are currently members of the FA. (The number of supporters of the FA is greater than 43%). So, the FSNers have a long way to go, and a long wait also.

  2. The FSN was unsuccessful because (1) most people don't care enough about these issues to take action and (2) the required timing meant speaking out against the FA at a time when many faculty are unhappy with the administration (including many FSN members even though commenters here will call us "Rita's pets"). The FSN is clearly a threat to the FA or we would not have received so much attention on this blog (even though Randy Hughes arrogantly shrugged us off as a "little annoyance").

    To the previous anonymous, 162 is far more than the number of faculty that chose to strike. Let's not use different criteria for measuring faculty activity on these two related issues.

    To Dan Nickrent, there are a few errors in your post.

    (1) Mike Eichholz's message did not say that the signatories supported decertification, only that they support the FSNs efforts to bring about a vote.

    (2) The FA doesn't represent most faculty. Even though the FA membership is a minority, it represents all of the faculty. This is why the FSN was calling for a vote on our representation.

    I can't understand why so many here are opposed to a faculty vote to establish representation. If the majority of the faculty voted to retain the FA, the FSN would have to concede that they were wrong all along about what the faculty wanted. If not, the FA would be asking to lead a constituency that doesn't want their leadership. Perhaps in a couple of years, when the there is another strike, more faculty will understand why the FA no longer serves the best interest of our faculty and institution. Meanwhile, the IEA is counting the money and planning the continued strife that will help to maintain their existence on this campus.

  3. It seems to me that Dan Nickrent comes from other planet, and have no clue what is going on. Don't waste your time to read his comments.

  4. Dear Ask the Faculty,

    162 is pretty close to 146, the last number of strikers that I've seen from the administration. The administration had an interest in minimizing numbers presented to the public and took some time to figure out who was on strike. Their numbers went up as the strike progressed, so I wouldn't be surprised if the final number of strike participants exceeds 162.

    As Mike Eichholz clearly informed people, signing the signature card could be done confidentially and required no one to speak out against anyone. If people were dissatisfied with the FA, all they had to do was sign a card to bring the question to a vote. They didn't have to lose any pay or make themselves known.

    At least 146 people were dissatisfied enough with the administration's actions to risk (and eventually take) a loss in pay to send a message to the administration that gutting tenure and and insulting faculty were unacceptable.

  5. The FSN got 162 votes at a time when disapproval of The FA was likely at its height, given the general stress of a strike and a general reluctance of many to engage in one. The FSN got 162 votes even after repeatedly cajoling that signing the petition was not support for the FSN or decertification but merely a "sensible" call for a fully democratic referendum on how we should be represented in contract negotiations. The FSN got 162 votes when it cost nothing (no dues, no public statement, etc.) to vote. The FSN got 162 votes after nearly 2 weeks of polling, emails, and providing a very simple way to respond (so easy, in fact, that some of those 162 votes may not be from the bargaining unit since those cards were distributed indiscriminately).

    They got 162 votes, which is significant but does not crack the 30% they needed. Nor does it represent a majority opinion (forgetting for the moment that the petition itself offered multiple opinions).

    So don't kid yourself. The FSN petition was a vote. And we learned something from it. And it didn't work. Period.

    Now, moving on... (which, yes, can mean so many things).

    1. Jonny Gray, It will work sooner or later. Period.

  6. Yes Jonny, but disapproval of the administration was also at its peak and likely a stronger sentiment among many faculty that are otherwise unhappy with the FA. Given that you are a vocal FA member, I wouldn't expect you to welcome the FSN petition with open arms.

  7. In my department, FA acts completely like mafia. When someone does not share their position, the FA members use all possible tactics to against him/her. FA won't last long if they do business as usual.

    Yes! FSN will move on. If you view your FSN colleagues as enemy instead of partner in dealing with campus issues, you will fail definitely. Obviously the FA leaders are in this silly position.

  8. I am FSN fans. So what!!!

  9. If one is interested in numbers, the FA has now received a list from the administration of those they intend to dock pay for striking, and it includes 180 names. The FA will look it over and work with anyone who believes they are on it in error or on it for too many days (if they joined the strike in progress, were at a conference for the first couple of days of the strike, etc.) and attempt to make sure that no one loses pay for days they were not on strike.

    The FSN was/is clearly a threat to the FA--it would be foolish to deny that, and I never think that I did so. (I did deny that their positive proposal, the Faculty Senate option, was coherent--but that's a different matter.) The FSN failed this time around, at least if their goal was to get to 30%, and not merely to weaken the FA's bargaining position (which they *may* have succeeded in doing--it is possible that the FSN allowed the administration to maintain a harder line in negotiation than they would have otherwise). "Ask the Faculty" is right that faculty apathy was a major obstacle to the FSN's petition drive--as also to the FA's efforts to recruit more members.

    Going forward, the faculty does need to discuss how best to pull together and work together toward our shared goals--and we have a lot of shared goals, though some issues also divide us. The FA will need to be active this spring (among other things, we have to help departments get workload provisions into their operating papers), and will need to reach out to non-members to do so. We need to talk to people about how we can better represent them. The result, we hope, will be increased membership. But of course we'll be fighting against apathy after the crisis.

    10:38 am, if the FA acts like a mafia in your department, you should complain and seek redress. The question is whom to complain to, I suppose. The answer to that question would depend in part on what you mean by mafia-style tactics.

  10. Yes, Dave. The FSN did allow the administration to take a harder line than they would ordinarily have done so. But this is waht "scabs" do in any labor dispute. Just ask a labor historian. So you need not be surprised. Neither should they be in terms of the contempt they have evoked. As for the FA as mafia. this is again another fantasy dreamed up by "Rita's pets" similar to the kneecapping threats in the SIUC car park. Perhaps these pathetic people should go to the Murdale CD store and get that DIE HARD DVD box set before it is too late? Then they can identify with anti-union, right winger Bruce Willis.

  11. to Ask the Faculty 6.24am

    The current number of Faculty which went on strike is about 182, this is on the `official' list from the admin. This number is about 20 more than 162, not `far less' as you stated in your post. These are facts, unlike the fake numbers in your post. It would be good if you got your numbers correct before posting.....goodnight.

  12. You sure are going to bed early for a Saturday night! :)

  13. There is an official list? Do we need to file a FOIA request to see it?

  14. Patrick, I don't know when or if the list will be publicly released--there may well be privacy issues involved. My understanding is that the FA got a copy early on (meaning Randy Hughes and Jim Clark--I haven't seen it) to enable us to spot problems and help faculty who believe they would be docked for days they weren't on strike.

    At some point in the not too distant future individual faculty members should be informed of their own number of dock days, but I'm not sure when that will happen or just how it will happen. Given that the FA and administration still have to work out the details of the pay deduction process, and the looming holidays, it seems to me that we will likely not get any deductions until the February 1 paycheck. My understanding is that the docked days will be spread over at least two pay checks to lessen the blow somewhat.


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