Wednesday, September 28, 2011

92% of FA voters support strike authorization

Most of you will already have heard the news. Here's the official announcement from Randy Hughes, President of the Faculty Association:

Dear Colleagues,

The strike authorization vote by Faculty Association members has been completed. Eighty-eight percent (88%) of the voting members of the Faculty Association participated in the balloting. Of those voting, ninety-two percent (92%) voted yes to authorize the Departmental Representative Council (DRC) of the SIUC Faculty Association to initiate a strike.

It is my hope that the results of this vote will stimulate productive negotiations and that the SIUC Administration will address the issues at stake in a spirit of mutual give and take instead of unilateral imposition. Our goal, and the best outcome for our university, will be a collective bargaining agreement that is ratified because it meets the interests of both the faculty and the Board of Trustees.

In solidarity,
Randy Hughes

This is obviously a very strong showing, and evidence of very robust support for the bargaining team and FA leadership from the membership as a whole. As many will no doubt ask, I won't be coy about the absolute numbers. FA membership is currently at 250. The size of the bargaining unit is somewhere between 600-650 (it has been fluctuating, in a downward trend, of late).* One can quarrel about how many members the FA has--though my understanding is that our membership, compared to other universities at which faculty can choose to belong (and pay dues) or not belong, but still be represented, is quite solid. But that's not tonight's news. Tonight's news is that the overwhelming majority of those who have joined the FA support the leadership's position that it is time for the administration to get serious at the bargaining table, and that the issues at stake are grave enough to justify a strike if the administration fails to get serious.

Let's all hope, in keeping with the wishes expressed by Randy in his very moderate and mild message, that the administration does start to engage in genuine negotiation, and that preparation for a strike is as close as we will need to get to a strike. 

* Update (11:00 pm). A Southern Illinoisan article on the vote gives the number of the bargaining unit as 694 in July. That's probably too high, but my range may be too low. It is surprisingly hard to get an accurate count, given part-time appointments, switches between administration and A/P, departures, etc.  


  1. Now is the time to join. Send them a message that they need to negotiate.

    TT FA

    NTT FA



  2. Absolutely disgusting. I am truly ashamed to be part of SIU where the greed and arrogance of groups like yours and the other iea "unions" truly knows no bounds.

    As an employee of this university (for the moment) I will proudly be the first person to work on any day your groups do not show up and I will offer my services to fill in for others where needed to do my best to ensure the students do not have to suffer due to your shameful behavior.

  3. Why join now? The horse has left the gate. If you haven't found a reason until now, then the incentive to join is . . . ?

    I hope this ends quickly because the students (remember them?) will go home on break and they aren't happy (although the DE seems to only print the pro-union students -- from a certain department in CoLA that has only one faculty member in the FA!)

  4. I'm not a fan of the FA and there is no way that I will leave my students high and dry and honor this strike. However, I am growing more frustrated and insulted by the chancellor's comments about this impasse. This whole debacle has me really wondering if SIUC is the right place for me. Maybe the FA and administration could co-author a book titled "How to destroy a university"? I hope I'm gone before it is published...

  5. The incentive to join is that there is strength in numbers. The administration is more likely to bargain in earnest the stronger the unions are.

    Strikes are terrible things and we all want to avoid one. Any strike imposes burdens on people not directly involved. An auto strikes affects parts suppliers. A truck driver strike affects many other industries. But democratic countries allow the right to strike in most cases. We condemn societies that repress this right. So, I don't see the moral argument that it should never be exercised.

    We faculty are a community. Communities that pull together do better than those where each individual merely calculates their own advantage. The imposed terms are abominable. I don't agree with all of the FA's proposals and I use my membership rights to argue for finding a middle ground. But the other side has to negotiate in earnest for this to happen.

  6. I did not want to vote yes today. But I also did not come into academia for standard tenure protections to be replaced by a RIF clause that allows for me to be laid off with only thirty days' notice. Now, Chancellor Cheng may claim that it is not her intent to do this; she even may point to one or more BOT policies that support her claim. BOT policy can be changed at the whim of administrators; witness the alteration last fall of the policy that allowed suddenly for furloughs. What guarantee do I and other faculty members have, other than what is contained in a mutually-agreed-upon contract.

    But all of this is silly really. Instead of playing a game of Kabuki theater, it is my earnest hope that Chancellor Cheng, President Poshard, and the BOT will now realize that cooperating with faculty and the other constituency groups on campus, rather than antagonizing us, is the best way forward for our students, and for this university.

  7. After listening to Pres. Poshard today on NPR I became more nervous about layoffs. Early in the interview he addressed the possibility of the state rescinding the $90 million still owed from last year. Later he assures the interviewer that layoffs are unlikely. We just got through the toughest time, he said, with no a
    layoffs. However, he added that the university should not commit to a no layoff provision in case of something like a drastic $100 million cut in funding. The two discussions were not connected but he earlier mentioned this possibility with the state rescinding funds. That is why I fear for my hard earned (and contually justified through hard work) tenure.

  8. Poshard has been talking about the possibility of huge state cuts for a long time. It's not that such cuts aren't possible, only that one ought not to assume that he has some inside channel that gives him knowledge of such things in advance. And of course it serves the administrative bargaining position to talk up cuts right now.

    If SIUC were to suffer a huge hit to state funding, there might well need to be painful cuts on campus. The question before us is whether such cuts should be made in accordance with procedures agreed to with campus unions--respecting tenure rights, seniority for NTTs, etc.--or following raw administrative fiat. No one denies that NTT, tenure-track, and even tenured faculty can be laid off in a truly dire crisis. But how such a crisis would be declared, and how such layoffs would be implemented--that's one of the most pressing questions before us. Heavy-handed and arbitrary cuts imposed from on high would exacerbate such a crisis, making it one of morale and morality, not just of finances. The attempt to lay off 93 NTT last December is a prelude of what could come if the administration manages to crush the unions.

    The administration wants us to believe that SIUC could only meet such cuts if they have carte blanche to cut what they want cut, without interference from union contracts, shared governance procedures, etc. I believe that SIUC could best meet such cuts if were prepared to make and implement such tough decisions together, following agreed upon principles and processes.

    It's too bad that we have to force the administration to allow us to work together with them. University leaders with foresight would not have needed a strike threat to give their faculty and staff the partnership role they deserve. They would have worked to build consensus rather than attempting to monopolize and centralize power. At a university, truly effective administrators, I believe, are those with faculty and staff behind them, not the ones who try to push faculty and staff around.

  9. Well said, Dave. (Both in the OP and the comment above.)

    Poshard made much (in a vaguely threatening and overly patronizing way) of the fact that no T/TT faculty were laid off in these most unprecedented economic times. Perhaps because under the previous contract that would require making a case for the financial exignency; maybe because doing so under the current imposed "contract" would demonstrate precisely our legitimate concerns about the tenure-busting RIF article.

    I remain hopeful that these strong union votes will motivate the Administration to negotiate in earnest at the table rather than continue the spin machine in the media -- not that these are mutually exclusive options, necessarily.

  10. I still find it curious that the IEA will not release actual numbers regarding union membership, turnout and yes and no votes. What are they trying to hide? They accuse the administration of not being transparent. Seems the shoe is on the other foot now.

  11. "Maybe the FA and administration could co-author a book titled "How to destroy a university"? I hope I'm gone before it is published..."

    + 1

  12. Using: 250 FA members, *0.88 voting *0.92 affirmative, gives 202 votes for as strike = 29% of faculty supporting a strike. (202/694). Hardly overwhelming support.

    Its a sad, sad day for SIU.

  13. "Maybe the FA and administration could co-author a book titled "How to destroy a university"? I hope I'm gone before it is published..."

    Two faculty (I presume) made that point above. Now imagine how much easier it is for students to leave. . .

  14. 9:11

    How do you know that the 444 non-members do not support a strike? This is missing data and you seem to be imputing a certain response when most researchers would take a more reasonable response for estimating values in missing data.

    I am not saying you are wrong but couldn't we just as easily say that 93% supported a strike (everyone who was not a member plus 92 percent of members) or 92% supported a strike (taking the FA vote and applying it to all faculty)? That is not likely the case but my point is we simply do not know.

  15. The union will and should seek a financial exigency clause but if they insist on sharing the responsibility to declare a financial exigency, then management will NEVER agree to it. I hope the FA takes some financial exigency clause and not insist on some shared power to declare FE. Ain't going to happen.

    And the admin. is never going to give us the extraordinary no-layoff-even-during-FE from last contract.

    Take a FE clause, small raise, declare victory and go home.

  16. In response to Anonymous 9:11

    Many or most of the faculty who are not members of the Faculty Association are reluctant to join the union not because they are opposed to it but because of the amount involved in membership fees (600 dollars a year). This is a very high amount and this is what deters many or most from joining the union. Of course this is very selfish on their part as their colleagues who are dues paying members have been paying this amount for years. The IEA needs to think about reducing the amount that we have to pay in dues every year. 600 a year is too high even for the ones who are members. I have been paying my dues since the union was first formed and I have paid over 6,000 dollars to the IEA's coffer.

  17. I too would like to see lower dues. But I think the FA is needed. I've gained more than I lost especially because of the equity pay raise. People on the fence should join during bargaining years at least. So, now is a good time to join. Send a message.

    I know many non-members and only a few are "pro-administration."

  18. Strike Watch #1. (My allegorical view of SIU’s situation from the faculty perspective)

    The sergeants and corporals quietly moved among the men, gently rousing those that had dosed. None were truly sleeping. The barrage and counter-barrage had been going on for days and everyone on both sides knew the assault would come soon; although some tried to pretend that it wouldn’t. When it came, there would be no time for clear thought; battles are fought on raw emotion. A whistle would blow and the sound would sweep away all the careful preparations and planning. In battle, men scramble where they can to claw forward, or to drive back those that are trying to claw forward. Mostly, its chaos. The noise is terrific. Orders are pointless because few can hear them and fewer still give them any heed. Battles are fought on raw emotion.

    Some men looked up and prayed for rain. The smoke was so thick you couldn’t even tell if it was cloudy, but they looked up and prayed for rain anyway. Rain can delay a battle. It never made much difference to us. The trenches were always half filled with slimy mud anyway, but it made it hard for the generals to move around without soiling their uniforms and it would not do to be seen with mud spattered on their shiny brass buttons.

    Some men took a few swallows of rum; or whiskey; or whatever hard liquor they had managed to hide among their kit. The illusion of warmth in their gut was a distraction from the bone-chilling reality around them and it took the edge off their nerves. Bugles trumpeted occasionally. The sound always drifted over the battlefield with a certain irony. They were a rallying point and a call to battle, but everyone knew that they also heralded the opening of the proverbial Pearly Gates; or the Gates of Hell, it didn’t really matter which; either way, souls would soon be passing over.

    Men looked around them; the familiar muck was home for the moment. They looked at the ramparts they had built and rebuilt many times and wondered whether they would throw off the assault and sleep here again tonight, or would the assault drive them back to their secondary trenches a few hundred yards behind them? Not that they were much different, but it was good to wonder about such things because it kept them from thinking too much about the appalling carnage that was about to begin that would decide the question.

    Somewhere down the line a whistle blew. Or did it come from their lines? It made no difference, everyone swallowed a breath…

  19. Tom's piece would be better with rhyme. And if he thinks the leaders or rank and file of the FA don't know what they're fighting for, his error is more than poetical. He should also know that the FA has been in business for 15 years and never fought yet (if fighting means a strike). This blog--including not only my own contributions but the many lengthy comments and postings (earlier on) by others--is testimony to real grappling with the issues, from both sides.

    As I've said before, the best way to make the FA more representative of the whole faculty is to set up a fair share agreement, which would remove much of the financial disincentive keeping many faculty from joining. As I've also argued, while "fair share" is decidedly unpopular in many circles, its effect would likely be to make the union more "moderate"--though I also believe that standing up for tenure and trying to bargain salaries (rather than accepting zero percent wages with the administrative reserving the power to slash them further) aren't exactly radical positions.

  20. Careful, Dave. Keep pushing for fair share, and you may very well "moderate" the FA out of existence.

  21. The FA vote is a huge victory for all faculty on this campus. In the Spring, the Administration rushed to impasse and imposed terms that eviscerated our most cherished tenure and collective bargaining rights and undermined our academic freedom. Yesterday, many of us fought back with our votes. And there are many others still who will not cross a picket line should a strike come to pass.

    But today I am hopeful that it will not come to pass. The union can no longer be dismissed as a small, marginalized band of troublemakers. And the Administration and the Board of Trustees must now realize that it is time for a fair settlement that protects rather than undermines our basic rights.

  22. 11:30 AM,

    If the Admin thought that was true, they would have agreed to fair share long ago.

  23. Not-so-innocent bystanderSeptember 29, 2011 at 2:30 PM

    8:36 p.m. (comment #2)

    You can be anti-union if you want to, everyone is entitled to their opinions (as long as they are informed), but why the vitriol and what’s with the scare quotes around “union?” No faculty member that I have talked to is suffering from delusions of impoverishment. Or thinks their working conditions are equivalent to that of present-day coal miners, or auto workers from the 1930s, or any character in The Jungle. But that is not the standard we should use when judging our working conditions (or the actions of administration). The union has the federally protected right (and the duty, to its members) to bargain for fair working conditions within the context of the university. And this administration has been steadily chipping away at some of the most cherished cornerstones of what it means to be a professor (tenure and academic freedom). Sure, most of us would probably prefer working under the terms of the imposed contract if the choice was that or working fourteen hour shifts, doing physically exhaustive work, in dangerous and unhealthy conditions. But that is a false argument.

  24. Not-so-innocent bystanderSeptember 29, 2011 at 2:55 PM

    I chose the name “not-so-innocent bystander” because I prefer that to the more appropriate handle, “free-rider.” But, ashamed as I am to admit it, a free-rider is what I am. I have sat on the sidelines, enjoying the benefits provided by the faculty union, all the while pretending to myself that I would join later. Some day. Maybe after my kid was grown, or after I won the lottery, or after I got tenure, just not “this semester.” Part of it (my not joining) was the expense, probably the major part, but there was also some ambivalence about the need for a faculty union. I mean, we are all educated, reasonable people aren’t we? But over the past year, especially this semester, the need for a strong faculty union has become obvious. Sure, things are tough all over, and there are probably tensions between faculty and administration on most campuses around the country. But there comes a point, as is the case here, when a quantitative difference becomes so great that it turns into a qualitative difference. To those in the union – my apologies for my freeloading ways. And to those critics of the union – it is NOT accurate to assume that those of us not in the union, by default, support the administration.

    p.s. I recognize that my apology rings hollow, until such time as I put my money where my keyboard is, but until then, my actions will have to suffice.

  25. I'm not a dues-paying member, but I won't cross a picket line if that's what it comes to. The financial hit will definitely be felt, but it's worth it to me to stand with my fellow faculty members & take a stand for the right to bargain in a real & meaningful way.

    That said, the reason I'm not a dues paying member is because I genuinely can't afford it. I already pay an extra $2000/year for my same-sex spouse's health insurance in the form of additional taxes taken out of my paycheck. That, plus student loan payments & general living expenses keep my budget pretty tight. Is there any way to assess whether lowering dues would increase membership? I know in my case it would, and maybe with more members paying the lower dues the Union might not have to take a financial hit.

  26. For you "free riders,"

    Do what you can. Write the BOT. Write your legislators. Write a letter to the editor. Go to union events. Join us on the picket line if it comes to that. And yes, I think you should join, but that is up to you. As the song says, "I hope some day you'll join us."

  27. To Dani and the Not-So-Innocent Bystander: Thank you both so much for your honesty. You can help us now by doing everything that Mike describes above. And if we do go on strike, we will ask you to honor the picket line. We will need your support!

    As for joining the union, the monthly dues are cheap compared to the furloughs that will surely come if we lose this fight. Consider the $60/month the insurance that you pay for much steeper financial hits down the road. And if there were any lingering doubts about the need for a strong union on this campus, this Administration has laid them to rest through its unilateral attacks on job and wage security.

    Thanks again for your posts.


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.