Thursday, September 15, 2011

FA General Membership Meeting

General Membership Meeting of the FA: 
Today (Thursday 9/15) 5:00-6:30 
in Lawson 171. 

This crucial meeting will discuss the lack of progress on key issues at the bargaining table, and preparation and planning for a possible strike. As important as getting information to members will be getting questions and concerns from members. If you are a member (or wish to become one: there will be membership forms at the door), and there's any way you can make the meeting, do make every effort to attend. 

See you there.  



  1. Hint: the strikeometer moved forward about four minutes. More details to follow.

  2. The IEA organizer had to get back to me on what limitations are attached to zero percent loans for health insurance and lost pay. I suspect that those on strike will discover how subsidized our insurance is at SIUC (not that I'm complaining). Given what I read about a couple of other strikes, and the current hard ball of admin team, I'd expect them to say "good luck with health insurance...." COBRA, yeah, yeah, but you pay it all.

    Also found Illinois labor law FAQ: no unemployment compensation. So that leaves loans from the IEA. Is it discretionary (up to the IEA) how much or even whether they make loans?

    Calculate salary for a month, add total cost of health insurance = financial commitment to strike.

    I'll report back what I hear from IEA on loans. If you find out, please post for "inquiring minds."

  3. I believe the loans only kick in after two weeks in most cases. The unions would of course try to bargain to get the pay back, presumably by having faculty schedule makeup work or makeup assignments for students who missed classes, and be compensated for doing so. If this seems unlikely, consider the alternative: that some students will get course credit for doing more work, others for less. (Of course in the event a union strike goes down in flames, I suppose the administration could demand that we teach make up classes for no compensation--while jumping on one leg and singing the alma mater.)

    For some help on COBRA see the "Strike FAQ" over on Unions United.

  4. I read the FAQ earlier but it's all up to admin. reaction and CMS. But for readers interested in a direct link, here it is:

    BTW, are "sick outs" a legal action in Illinois? Just curious.

  5. Admittedly, I had to leave early to go attend to my duties as faculty advisor for a student organization in my department. So, I missed the last forty minutes or so. But what I did hear did not convince me (yet) of the need to go on strike this moment. Furthermore, I would still like to hear what the bargaining team countered with when presented by the 0,0,0.5, and 1 offer from the BOT.

  6. Anonymous 11:34: My understanding is that the administration did not formally offer the 0/0/.5/1.0 figures, but allowed as how "the Chancellor was working hard" to get raises that high. The FA team responded informally to this informal offer, by suggesting that the Chancellor work a bit harder. The formal FA salary offer remains to tie salary increases to SIUC's finances, so that increases in the overall SIUC budget result in proportionate raises for SIUC faculty.

    What would convince you of the need to go on strike?

  7. Dave,

    If the FA proposal re salaries is to tie them to the university budget, what will happen if the budget is cut? Will we have to take a pay CUT if the state cuts the budget, which it has done frequently and which it is likely to do again given the states budget situation?

    Also, does the bargaining position position differentiate between capital $ (say for building projects), Grants $, etc, that cannot be used for salaries, and operating budget $ ?? It does not seem reasonable to argue that if we, for example, got a big appropriation to say build a new building or replace one that was damaged in a fire or something like that, that we would all get pay increases. Am I misunderstanding something???

  8. Should I assume from the exchange above that the information that was posted in an earlier thread that health insurance was not an issue for those that go on strike, was incorrect? What are the FACTS?

  9. To 6:36 AM. The FA's position can be found in article 14 of the FA "supposal" for mediation last spring. Here's my understanding (without further studying that document right now). The FA does call for tying raises to the total budget (out of a concern that otherwise money that could be spent on academics might be moved to another budget category). The article 14 proposal itself does not call for reductions if the overall budget declines, but the FA "reduction in force" and "temporary wage adjustment" proposals do provide mechanisms for cutting faculty pay (or even faculty jobs) in the event of a genuine short term (wage adjustment) or long term (job cuts) situation. These documents are easiest to access on the old website under "bargaining information".

    These are bargaining positions. If the administration were willing to clearly define capital spending or emergency spending of the sort you outline, I'm pretty sure we could work this out in fairly short order. But keep in mind that much spending on construction on campus comes from funds that could have been used otherwise (as Saluki Way out of student feeds). Direct state appropriations for buildings (like the transportation center via the RAMP process, on my understanding) presumably should not be part of the budgetary "pie" salaries could be tied to.

  10. Anonymous 7:56 am

    Thanks for the link! I really appreciate the pointer, but frankly, the info there is about as clear as mud.

    If I translate the info, it boils down to ... "we don't know what will happen to health insurance during a strike, it hasn't been worked out yet". Admittedly, I am paraphrasing based of the "uncharted territory" remark and the fact that three distinct and independent possibilities are listed and described.

    This needs to be absolutely clear (!!!) before I would vote for a strike because health care costs can become catastrophic very quickly as anyone who has ever had a major illness/injury (or had a family member suffer the same) while uninsured knows. One slip or fall could cost far more than lost salary.

  11. Anonymous 11:34 replying now. To me, money has never been a good argument for the union to make; the State of Illinois is broke right now, having just had to increase our state income taxes in the past year to pay off prior bills. Springfield has also cut our state appropriation to the lowest level since over a decade ago. When members of the union leadership over a year ago started making arguments about how SIUC has this pot of money and that pot of money, I began to tune them out as being somewhat unrealistic.

    That being said, what is beginning to convince me of the need to strike are the following:

    1) Threat to tenure. As an assistant professor in my 5th year, I want to be reasonably assured that, should I achieve tenure next year, that it is actually meaningful. Chancellor Cheng's verbal assurances aren't satisfactory in the absence of clear contract language protecting this.

    2) Workload issues. Good people may disagree about distance learning but I feel it is an impingement on my academic freedom to be forced potentially to teach such courses. Furthermore, to give this authority to administrators who likely will not be in my field (or who may not be familiar with the pedagogical approaches that practitioners in my field commonly use) frightens me. Are they really the best people to make such decisions? I do not believe so.

    3) But basically, unless the BOT bargaining team suddenly reverses course and demonstrates a willingness to actually bargain rather than to dismiss the process, I am increasingly getting to a point where, as a member of the FA, I will vote yes on a strike vote. Process matters. And I am increasingly feeling offended that it is cavalierly being dismissed in the way it has been thus far.

  12. 11:12 AM: I've forwarded your question to our NEA contracts, who I hope will have an answer soon. It is an important question. I surfed to the Department of Labor's COBRA FAQ--and your question doesn't appear to be answered there.

  13. 11:34, thanks for your comment and thoughtful reply.

    The fundamental debate about money isn't about how much money SIUC has but how large (or small) a proportion of that is going to faculty salaries. State appropriations are indeed down, though not much this year (so far), but tuition and fee revenue is up. SIUC will have more revenue this year than last, then, unless the state cuts more. But it's planning to spend less money on faculty this year than last (thanks to past departures and what might be a wave of retirements this year). Last year the budget was worse, but the cuts to faculty spending (from departures and the furlough days) were far greater than the proportional hit to the SIUC budget. That's a problem.

    But I agree that for most of us other issues are more pressing, and you've formulated the issues well. SIUC needs a clear tenure policy in keeping with the traditional understanding of tenure as a solid protection of academic freedom and professorial job security, save in certain special and clearly defined circumstances (financial exigency & academically driven program elimination being the most important).

    So too the administration cannot expect us to allow them to give up our academic freedom & responsibility to determine how to teach our courses without a fight.

    You're absolutely right: process does matter. It's the way we protect our rights and our status as faculty (rather than hirelings). The FA has tried to offer multiple ways for the administration to set up processes that would protect the status of faculty on this campus while retaining adequate flexibility for the university. We offered to have workload issues resolved at the departmental level, so long as faculty are in charge of their own departmental operating papers (can veto administrative changes or override administrative vetoes with a 2/3 vote). We've offered to tie salaries to the objective condition of the university's finances. We've offered to establish a joint faculty-administrative team in times of financial crisis to allow for downward adjustment of faculty salaries.

    So far, no interest from the administration. If they don't show some interest in working with us at the bargaining table, soon, we'll need to press them to do so voting to strike and being prepared to follow through and strike if they do not respond to that threat.

  14. 11:34 replying again. Thanks for such a thoughtful consideration of my thoughts as I think through the pros and cons of the FA going on strike. I really do appreciate reading this blog because of the clarity with which you bring to a discussion of issues that are often somewhat murky, like the union's money and wage proposals.


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