Thursday, June 9, 2011

Attack on tenure at Ohio University

Ohio University, a rather good public university that has sometimes been listed as one of our peers  (and, if I recall aright, it cleaned our clock by most measures) has instituted a new plan that looks like a pretty clear attack on tenure.  Or so at least is the argument presented by members of the local AAUP chapter. Ohio University has formally committed to hiring NTT rather than TT during the current crisis.

Such trends aren't limited to Ohio University, and should put us on guard.  Thus it is hardly an example of paranoia when the FA scrutinizes the new "imposed terms" and the threat they pose to tenure by making layoffs of tenured and tenure-track faculty far easier.

Support better healthcare for GAs on June 14

There will be a demonstration on Tuesday, June 14th, from 12:00-1:30 to support the efforts by GA United to secure better healthcare for GAs.  I pass on the following announcement from Natasha Zaretsky of the FA mobilization committee.  

The Graduate Assistants United (GAU) will be in bargaining on that day, and one of the main issues for them at the bargaining table concerns SIUC's current health insurance coverage. The current plan does not cover preexisting conditions for the first year, which means that an incoming student with a preexisting health condition must spend their first year at the university paying any expenses for that condition out-of-pocket. The plan also includes a $1000 annual maximum out-of-pocket, more than the average monthly salary for GAs. The plan does not include coverage for dependents, pre-natal, or pediatric care; nor does it include dental or vision coverage. The GAU is attempting to bargain a reduction in the maximum out-of-pocket amount, the honoring of pre-existing conditions, and a multi-tiered plan that will provide options for things like dental and vision coverage, as well as coverage for spouses/partners.

This coming Tuesday, we want to show our support for the GAU at the bargaining table. To that end, we will gather at noon and picket outside of Anthony Hall until approximately 1:30. To call attention to the specific issue of health care (and also to insert a dose of humor into a serious matter), we're encouraging people to don surgical scrubs and/or bring any medical paraphernalia you have on hand (stethoscopes, surgical masks, etc). 

AAUP President: organize & scrutinize the budget

Kriti Brown over at the Unions United blog notes that the Chronicle has a story on a speech by AAUP President Cary Nelson in which Nelson (who works at UIUC) calls for faculty to organize (forming unions if they can, AAUP chapters if they can't) and scrutinize university budgets as a way of meeting the wave of cuts to academic programs around the country. This is a pretty direct endorsement of what the FA has been trying to do—though perhaps more in the way of a membership drive would seem to be called for.  Again, the issues we are dealing with here are part of a national context. In some ways (already having a unionized campus, for example) we are better off than many of our colleagues elsewhere.  But we will only manage to flourish despite the current crisis if more faculty get involved.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Unions file Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge

The four IEA unions on campus have filed their long-awaited Unfair Labor Practice charges against the SIU Board of Trustees.  Their news release is embedded after the break.  Here's a link to the (brief) Southern Illinoisan story.  The fundamental charge shared by all the unions is that the Board failed to negotiate in good faith; the unions also charge that the Board's unilateral imposition of terms (including furloughs) was unlawful.

My understanding is that the imposition of terms is unlawful if there was no genuine legal impasse between the two sides, because exhaustive (my word) good-faith negotiations had not taken place. Thus the unions would need to show that the administration did not negotiate in good faith to substantiate their first charge; to prove the imposition of terms illegal, my understanding is that the unions would only need to show that whatever, if any, good-faith bargaining took place, it wasn't enough to justify the board's unilateral decision to impose its own terms.  The Board would claim in reply that it made a substantial effort to negotiate in good faith, but that given the stubborn refusal of the unions to budge, and the looming deadline of the end of the fiscal year, it was justified in imposing terms. So who's right?