Saturday, September 17, 2011

On Students and Striking

Some comments have raised the issue of the potential harm a strike would do to students, and I think that topic deserves a separate post. It seems to me that there are two particularly pressing forms of this argument.

1.  Striking would harm students. Therefore faculty should never go on strike. 

2.  Striking would harm students. Therefore faculty should only go on strike when they are convinced that truly serious issues are at stake.  

After the break I'll consider each in turn.

1.  Striking would harm students. Therefore faculty should never go on strike. 

This argument leads to two different practical conclusions. Either there should be no faculty union, or that union should lack the power to go on strike.

The first is a decertification argument. As I've granted before, there's nothing irrational about arguing for decertification--I just believe that doing so would be a colossal mistake. My point here is that we shouldn't mistake an argument against the existence of a faculty union for a mere argument against the current tactics of this faculty union.

The second approach would be to deny the union the power to go on strike, but somehow retain a union. The union could, like the police union, have an automatic binding arbitration clause in lieu of the legal ability to strike. But I rather doubt that that is in the cards (to the best of my knowledge, no such clause is in place for other teachers' unions, and when the FA has proposed arbitration in the past, the administration has always declined). A union without the power to press for a resolution to a contract dispute either through a strike or through arbitration isn't going to have much power. Welcome to Wisconsin.

So if the argument begins "I've got nothing against a faculty union" but ends with "but I just can't hurt my students by going on strike," then there is a contradiction in the middle, to my mind.

2.  Striking would harm students. Therefore faculty should only go on strike when they are convinced that truly serious issues are at stake.

This argument makes good sense to me, though of course people can argue about the amount of harm a number of cancelled classes would do and what counts as a very serious issue. The union does believe that very serious issues are involved. You may well disagree about the importance of these issues, but you'd have to be pretty cynical to believe that union members don't believe their own rhetoric. As an author of a good part of that rhetoric, I will assure you that we do believe it--and, come to think of it, you should indeed have better things to do than to read this blog if you think that all I'm doing here is blowing smoke. Unless, perhaps, you are on the administrative payroll and doing reconnaissance by reading this blog and doing psych ops by writing anti-union comments (bring 'em on); in which case I'd still hope your intelligence work is good enough to demonstrate to you that we do believe what we're saying.

At any rate, my conclusion is this. We don't want to cancel classes. If a faculty strike cancels classes, the union will argue that upon faculty members' return to work they should be required to supervise makeup work with their students to catch them up (and catch faculty up on lost salaries). How that works, or doesn't, would be decided in negotiations with the administration. But there are some things that we fear more than the disruption a strike could cause, and there are some things important enough to fight for, even at this cost.


  1. This seems to me to be a moral question and individuals will have to make a choice dictated by their own conscience. As for myself, I cannot imagine that a year or two from now, when tempers and passions have cooled, I will be able to look back with much self-respect if a walk out on my students now.

    The argument would be much easier if there were no self-interest involved. If this were entirely about issues of pedagology, shared governance and the right direction for the future of higher education, that would be one thing, but that is not the case. Mixed in with serious questions about those issues are questions about money into or out of my own pocket. How much of my position, or yours, related to questions about distance education, the role of faculty in university governance, misplaced emphasis on athletics or aversion to new logos; is tied up with self-interest related to personal income security or even just simply the issue of when will I/we next get a raise and how much will it be?

    Can I (or you) say that I/you would still be willing to strike, and do the harm that that action will do to current students and the future of the university, if money issues that affect me directly were not in play?

    Personally I am not convinced that the FA has managed this well. From my perspective what I see is union and administrative leadership that are so mistrustful of each other that nothing can be achieved. Read some of what is posted here. (paraphrasing) “we cannot trust the chancellor”. “Poshard is a plagiarizing SOB”, “Nicklow is an unqualified lacky”, “Everything must be in the contract because the administration just screw us if it is not”. “Without provisions protecting tenure in a contract there is no tenure”. The administration has been largely silent thus far but it is a safe bet that they would have similar feelings about the FA, its leadership and its bargaining team. There is no progress because neither side respects or trust the other – and IMO *both* are to blame.

    Why is the environment so toxic. I am sure that some readers are already chorusing – because of Cheng and Poshard and the “silent majority” and… all of the scapegoats and boogy men(women) that are always thrown out. But is all the blame really all on one side? Randy Hughes has stated publicly and explicitly that it is, but is that fact or propaganda? Has the FA really done all it could to maintain an atmosphere of trust and respect that would have been conducive to better progress? I cannot honestly say that I believe so. I see many many wrongs on both sides and that being the case I cannot in good conscience walk out on my students and harm them. The fault is ours, the faculty and the administration, and the students should not suffer for our failures.

    When did we sink this low? We have gone through multiple rounds of contracts without needing any of that and without the vitriolic rhetoric directed at individual administrators and even faculty not in agreement with the FA. What has changed? I recently had occasion to want to reread the “silent majority” letter. I had misplaced my copy and knowing that it had been published in the Southern Illinoisan I did a quick search of their web site and clicked the first link that came up. I quickly realized that something was wrong. What I was reading was unfamiliar. People were discussing the letter, and the threat of a strike, with respect and civility that I have not heard around campus. Then I realized that this report was written in 2003, when we were in this situation last. Its worth reading. What a different climate!!


  2. Thanks, persnickety. One difference: we didn't have blog comments last time.

    I'll let you in on a dirty little secret. I don't think that there is any way in hell that a strike is going to benefit my financial bottom line in the short or medium run. I'll lose money in lost pay (which I may well never get back, though of course the union will try). Even a relatively short strike, after all, would soon cost me more than the furlough days did. Maybe, maybe, over the long run, the result of a strike (or a good contract offer coming through a credible strike offer) would be a stronger union able to ensure we get paid as much as our peers, and I'll come out ahead.

    But from a strictly financial point of view, this is a no-brainer. It's a classic free rider opportunity. The smart play is to hope the union gets a good contract while one keeps working and keeps getting paid. I'm not saying that all who don't strike are free-riders, by the way. But some are.

    So, no, I don't worry that self-interest means I'm selling my students out.

    (I also don't believe that arguments opposing altruism to self-interest are sound moral philosophy--in keeping with ancient ethical theory, which I study, I'm an eudaimonist--it's one sort of virtue ethics. But that's another matter--for a more leisurely discussion at another time.)

  3. Interesting points. Your arguments aside (and I accept some!), just curious: don't you have qualms about crossing a picket line? Many of us grew up in pretty moderate political settings, but crossing a picket line was and remains a major thing. Not cool. (But I know you'll just say this is industrial-era nostalgia on my part). I am not going to "hold a grudge" against people who do this. I believe civility is paramount. But it's not just a small matter either. Does crossing a line (even due to a self-proclaimed virtuous stance toward one's students) come with no moral qualms?? I just don't get it. These are deeply meaningful acts about your views of workers, labor, sacrifice, and your more specific views of democracy in higher ed. Is it is just so very easy for you? Granted, if this were to be some wildcat strike by some crazy brigands (no, don't say it), fine. But this is decidedly not the case!

  4. By the way, 6:09 post refers to Persnickety's views. Not Johnson's...

  5. Dave wrote:

    "It's a classic free rider opportunity."

    If you believe the minority of faculty in the FA represent all faculty. If 40% of faculty are members (I am one) and 60% vote to strike, then that is 24% imposing their right to strike on others. That's lawful but we shouldn't consider those who either vote "no" or are not members to be free riders. I know you were careful not to make that assumption but unions get ugly when strikes happen and just a warning to all to not judge others during a strike because you don't know their situation.

    As an aside, it's a coincidence that I am reading a collection of essays from abolitionists onward (libertarians and anarchists) on the "right not to vote" and the myth of majority rule. Yeah, yeah, it's all moot since the Wagner Act (1935) and the NLRB but the debate is still alive. I'm using this book in my honors course on Classical Liberalism. The two editors have never voted in their lives - on principle! Interesting read:

  6. PS: If people vote "no" or are non members during a strike, perhaps they should have buttons that read "I Voted NO!" At least they are being consistent with their actions before the strike.

  7. At the beginning of the semester, I informed all my students briefly that were there a strike there would be no classes. I also expressed my hope that there would be no strike. However, students have the option of demanding their money back for missed days should they choose to do this. Yes, the atmosphere is different from 2003. But now we have a new Chancellor who is little better than a dictator with her lackeys who, though using polite language, betray their colleagues by agreeing to the loss of tenure and instant dismissal in the imposed contract. Those who cross the picket line in any future strike are little better than scabs and I would recommend Cheng's supporters read Jack London's essay "The Scab" that appears in his 1905 collection of essays THE WAR OF THE CLASSES where he expresses his contempt for this species much better than I can.The world of genteel ivory tower discourse is now an anachronism and irrelevant to the situation we face today in SIUC.

  8. Students will be inconvenienced by a strike, but I don't think they will be hurt. We can make up classes later.

  9. If the FA strikes, students will leave in droves. This will lead to greater financial difficulty, more tough decisions, and further strife between the FA and the administration. To describe a strike as a mere inconvenience to our students is terribly naive.

  10. Anonymous 6:09

    To answer your question: Yes and No.

    I have some misgivings about crossing a picket line. First, I read comments like Anonymous 6:56 and I foresee trouble - I would rather not get knee-capped in a dark parking lot! And comments like 6:56 have not been in short supply on this blog. While I acknowledge most FA supporters seem to be more reasonable, there is, apparently at least, a fringe element that is somewhat out of control - and that is cause for concern.

    But on a more philosophical level. This decision is simpler for me than other strikes I have seen in the past. Most strikes separate workers and objects, (something that is made), and impact profits. In this case, a picket will be a line between me and my students, and impacts something I create (or try to) I will have much less trouble crossing in that circumstance.


  11. Persnickety: I would not go on strike if the FA and the BOT were at an impasse over salary issues. I am going to go on strike because the imposed terms eviscerate tenure rights at SIUC, threaten my academic freedom, and will mark the end of collective bargaining rights on this campus. The imposed terms are radical and threaten to fundamentally alter the nature of the institution.

    Tenure rights, academic freedom, and collective bargaining are things I value, and I intend to fight for them. I am not walking out--and leaving the students who I love and care for--over a raise dispute, I assure you.

  12. Ahh, but can you assure me? Are you so certain that we would be in this same situation if the administration had, for example, offered 2%, 2% 3% and 3% raises over the next 4 years, but was holding their line on other issues? I suspect (and it is only my own supposition) that we would not be debating a strike if that were the case. I know its a hypothetical, but one worth thinking about (IMO)

  13. Honestly, persnickety, this is gettting a little silly. You are building an argument against the FA based on a counterfactual, while the actual predicament we're in is very serious. I can't say where we would be if these sorts of raises were proposed by the BOT team, because nothing remotely like that has happened at the bargaining table. The imposed terms gut tenure, threaten academic freedom, assert unilateral control over wages, and undermine the collective bargaining process altogether. If you want to spend your energy building a case against the FA based on the idea that its members are motivated only by mercenary concerns, you can do that. But I honestly think it's a colossal waste of time in light of the fight we're facing. This is a fight that the Administration brought to us. And if you have any doubt about that, just talk to the other three bargaining teams (NTTs, GAU, and ACSEs) all of whom have had EXACTLY the same experience at the bargaining table.

  14. Natasha,

    Sorry, but you have missed the point by a wide margin, so let me try to clarify what I was trying to do.

    We were discussing disentanglement of self-interest and general interests. A strike is gong to hurt students and more specifically it is going to cause faculty who walk (or respect the picket line) to hurt students. If I respect the picket then by doing so I am making a decision to hurt my students, and (speaking only for myself) I will not do that.

    For some, that argument is counter balanced by the argument that not respecting the picket is also hurting students or will hurt future students. Possibly, but my argument is that that claim is clouded by other considerations, including: Self interest; and the question of responsibility for how we have come to this point.

    If I strike, am I walking (or to what degree am I walking) out of self interest? (i.e. for the money I hope to get out of a better contract). Which roughly equates to how much am I willing to hurt my students to get more $ in my pocket?

    The hypothetical was an effort to try to crystallize thinking around that question. by asking, (i) if money were not an issue, would I still be willing to strike over the other issues and (ii) would we (faculty collectively) still be even considering that option? i.e. would we have gotten to this point at all?

    The first point speaks to the moral issue that I noted in my original post each faculty member is going to have to address according to the dictates of their own conscience. There is no right or wrong about that, there is only a personal decision to be made, (and hopefully respected, although based on Anon 6:56, I am not hopeful).

    The second question relates to the second argument I raised in my initial post - that the break down of bargaining is a result of the failure of both sides (FA and administration) to maintain an atmosphere in which progress is possible. My position is that both the FA and the administration have failed in that regard and that being the case, I cannot justify the harm a strike will do to my students because they are not responsible for our failures.

    Think about it this way. In the other thread running you argue that the strike authorization vote is essential because not authorizing the strike will weaken the FA's position. If that is true, (and let assume for a moment that it is), who is responsible for getting us to a position where a strike is necessary? The administration has some responsibility in this regard, but in my view, *so does the FA*. Are the students responsible? NOT AT ALL! So why should I harm them, because we (faculty and administration) were not able to work out our differences like adults, with respect and civility? Is it not more reasonable to argue that the failure to maintain an atmosphere is which progress is possible is our fault, and that, therefore, if we suffer some of the ills that you predict will befall us if a strike fails, then that is the consequence of our own failure? i.e. We suffer because we failed to make sure that progress towards a reasonable settlement is possible. A strike call in these circumstances, says to some degree, "we have failed and therefore students have to suffer to avert our further suffering", and that does not seem right to me.

    Sorry if the intent of the hypothetical was not made clearer. Yesterday was a long day (for unrelated reasons) and I was trying to get in a quick post before crashing.


  15. Persnickety, you are indeed living up to your name. Would you be willing to articulate imaginable circumstances in which you would be willing to go on strike? I'm trying, obviously, to catch you on the horns of the dilemma I articulated in my original post. For if you can't, you're arguing that we ought to move to Wisconsin.

    Here's another attempt to make you rethink your position (what else is debate for?): Just what actions would you like to have seen the FA take, or not take, so as to make bargaining more possible, and avoid getting us into this situation? And I call it no fair to cite nasty blog comments from anonymouses more vitriolic than persnickety. Who knows, maybe you will suggest something the FA could actually, and should actually, do.

  16. To Anonymous 8:26 - so contempt for those who support Cheng and her efforts to erode tenure and fire faculty will result in knee-capping in a dark parking lot? Haven't you been seeing too many Bruce Willis films and comparing those who wish to maintain the professional standards that most universities have as being equivalent to IRA thugs. Your post lacks logic and rationality as well as as revealing that you may not have the appropriate intellectual standards to consider the real issues of this conflict. Like the "silent majority" you are in denial and the phony eloquence of your posts (that also indulge in dark action movie Hollywood fantasies) reveals this.

  17. Anonymous 6:56 cited Jack London's "War of the Classes." Here is a relevant excerpt:

    London's ramblings on the "scab" are convoluted and stray off into international politics, "capitalist scabs," etc. He uses the phrase "tooth and nail" repeatedly. Indeed, London's views of competition between workers, races, nations are rooted (as far as he makes sense) on the "tooth and nail" of Nature.

    Anyway, his use of scab is interesting to read (if you can follow him). LOL

    PS: I added the LOL because our Ivory Tower blog hasn't seen much of it! Oh, heck, our campus hasn't seem much laughter either but that will probably get people going on the deviltry of the administration or the FA or Republicans in Wisconsin. (eye roll)

  18. There’s nothing moral about “teaching students” in the abstract, much less a short-sighted emphasis on the immediate gratification of the fall 2011 cohort of students. We teach a discipline, knowledge, a field, not just students. If I teach them to use the pathetic appeal imprecisely or uncritically parrot sentimentalized accounts of an occupation, that’s neither moral nor noble. What I teach them matters. Even the sentence structure tells us this. “I teach students” either conflates indirect and direct objects or, even worse, is a glaring redundancy. “I teach students poetry” is the proper form.

    So the choice isn’t between immoral self-interest and sentimentalized morality, but whether to cede the basic autonomy of the field and knowledge that we profess to a university that conceives itself as a centralized, uniform distribution mechanism and views professors as nothing more than content providers (think “lecture capture”). The administration cares about being able to transform a fundamentally devolved enterprise—teaching, scholarship, and research—with independent systems of evaluation into a centrally managed one: it cares about tenure and faculty governance only insofar as they help or hinder this process. There’s a logic to all of the changes implemented and imposed at SIUC since July 2010: you cannot be trusted to do your job or make pedagogical and research decisions within your field of expertise, despite the fact that you devoted your life to knowing and mastering this field.

    The problem with this logic isn’t that it’s insulting, or that it’s an assault on faculty governance or some such procedural issue, or that it reveals malign motives on the part of chancellors or presidents. It’s that it reveals an institution that is actively attempting to deprofessionalize and degrade the object that you’ve chosen to spend your life studying and teaching. Teaching then becomes an abstract service, one in which the content distributed has no bearing on the form of its distribution and the distributors of this content need not know the content itself (i.e., “customer service” isn’t a poor model for universities because corporations are evil succubi, but because it actively discourages precise attention to the idea or object under consideration in favor of abstract, dilettantish skills, like “critical thinking” or “communication”). This is what assessment, position control, distance education, First-Year Experience, University College, and Article 19 all mean. Defending the autonomy of one’s field of knowledge from such systematic depredations, defending the true, in short, that’s moral. Sentimentalizing the students one has in class during the fall 2011 term, that’s exploitation, an exploitation strikingly similar to that which cantankerous moralists decry.

  19. Ok, Fair challenge! My hands are a little tied because I was obviously not privy to much of the internal FA process, but here are a few suggestions…

    1. Engage the *entire* faculty early. There was no apparent effort to early in the process to find out what the faculty-at large wanted out of a new contract. It appears, at least from my experience, that the bargaining positions taken were decided entirely by the FA leadership (Don't know if they consulted the FA membership). The FA is a minority organization and its leadership is made up of a small group with a narrow (and possibly jaundiced) view of faculty-administration relations, which seems to have resulted in a lopsided approach to the negotiations from the outset. If you are going to represent all, then engage all.

    2. Maintain credibility. The fiasco over the FA reanalysis of the university’s budget made the entire organization look foolish. The State is swimming in red ink, the nation is in the midst of the great recession, 10% of the adult population of Illinois is out of work, universities all over the state and all over the country are reeling from fiscal crises, State appropriations are down and delayed by 6 months or more, and our enrollment is steadily falling, but a group of FA officers with no fiscal expertise between them looked at the numbers and decided SIU is flush with $ and has no problems? Come on. Most faculty (at least most faculty outside the FA) greeted those claims with a collective… “Huh, you’re kidding right?”

    3. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate! Early in the process, meeting weekly or thereabouts was OK, but as things got tense, the pace should have picked up. Thanksgiving, Winter break etc, negotiators should have been meeting every day, all day. Sessions should run until someone passes out, then everyone should get a few hours rest then be back at it. To hell with holidays and turkey dinners etc. It should be painful to be a negotiator (for either side)! Negotiations should continue until it hurts! It should hurt so much that everyone in that room has a personal vested interest in getting it done. If individuals are not willing to do that then get off the team. (Applies to both sides equally of course).

  20. 4. Maintain civility. You can’t have reasonable discussions, much less substantive negotiations, while calling each other names. On this point the FA is decidedly guilty. Published letters etc., accusing the administration (or individual administrators) of various types of malfeasance are not conducive to getting an agreement. Those that engage in such have no business on the negotiating team and should have been given the boot, instead they were encouraged.

    5. Recognize that not acceding to FA demands is not the same as bargaining in bad faith. That has been a constant cry from the FA, but the FA has offered little actual evidence that the administration was conniving (see 2 above). On the other hand the administration stated on day one that they needed to discuss furloughs and the FA team refused to discuss that issue until other issues were resolved, apparently trying to run out the clock. Bargaining tactic, perhaps, but it was carried on way too long and eventually created problems for all faculty.

    6. Change tactics!!! My entire time at SIU I have watched the FA practice a single operating strategy:
    Step 1. Challenge and Confront.
    Step 2. Attack (preferably without warning). If resistance is encountered use personal attacks, mockery, demonization and vilification to scapegoat opponent.
    Step 3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 as necessary until desired result is obtained. Honestly, the leadership of the FA just does not seem to know how to work WITH others who have a different perspective to get things done. They seem to me to be a classic "my way or the highway group". I have worked and still work with a variety of organizations (large and small) and I have never seen those tactics work out well and they are not working out well here. Evidence, low membership as faculty want to distance themselves from FA, failed negotiations this round etc. The FA needs a new culture that is less confrontational and more team player oriented. Most faculty I know would like to work with the administration to make SIU better for all and they are very tired of the endless battles. Find ways to work as part of a team that includes the administration and get rid of leadership that cannot do that.

    I do not expect that you (and others) will agree with all I have written above and of course I am speaking only for myself, relaying what I see from my perspective, but that is what I can think of on short notice that I would like to have seen done/approached differently.

    OK, I showed you mine, now you show me yours (so to speak :-)). We are at impasse, working under imposed terms that few are fond of. Now you tell me what you think the FA has done poorly to bring us to this point, what it could have done differently and how the current situation could have been avoided. And I call no fair excluding discussion of this blog and the venom and vitriol spouted by FA supporters at faculty that do not share or support the FA position. (And obviously no fair saying that the administration could have just given in). Turnabout is fair play after all!

    Persnickety's last post for today, (other things to do!)

  21. 1) The FA surveyed the faculty before bargaining began. It was so long ago that hardly anyone remembers it, but it happened.

    2) The chancellors town hall remarks to sweep the FY 2010 surplus under the rug did much to diminish her credibility in my eyes.

    3) If you read Suzanne's post, you will see that the administration has been less flexible in its negotiation schedule than the FA and less flexible in its bargaining position.

  22. Does any one know if administration officials are legally allowed to answer questions from faculty to rebut or respond to FA positions?

    On Distance Learning: here the administration is NOT "centrally managing"; they are devolving far too much to the individual unit. Faculty cannot be expected to teach these courses (as I have done) and handle the web maintenance and mundane student support questions. Give me MORE central management of that issue. BUT ... faculty wanted credit, control, etc. and YOU GOT IT. "Beware of what you ask for because you might get it."

  23. To Jonathan B, taking the last comment first.

    Chancellor Cheng rebutted FA stuff at her town hall meetings at some length. Click on the ostrich picture up top (upper right) for some details. There's no reason she shouldn't respond to us, by the way: that's what she should be doing.

    I find it decidedly curious that the administration has been so silent of late, but then the Chancellor appears to have departed for some undisclosed location for the past week. No one else appears to have the authority to speak on the record (here we do have centralization in a big way). Presumably there will be some sort of administrative counteroffensive during the next week in the lead up to the 9/28 vote.

  24. To Anonymous, 1.7 - The FA were willing to negotiate and even meet frequently during summer. The administration were not. Terms were imposed virtually abolishing tenure, removing course control from faculty, and forcing them into online teaching whether they liked it or not. SIUC administration has a very long histrory of treating faculty like dirt and this is the latest example. If you think some of us are going to submit and lose our jobs for arbitrary reasons you have another think coming!

  25. Dave, Maybe she has gone to foreign shores to install distance learning centres very much like UK call centers which are located in Pakistan, India etc? Then when she returns she will fire faculty and make SIUC a virtual global university? This is quite possible.

  26. A fairly quick (and therefore likely to be unpersnickety) reponse to persnickety's (= anonymous 12::44) numbered points--only adding items to the excellent points made by 1:07.

    2. As lead author of the of the FA analysis of the budget you'll find me unlikely to cede you this point. The fact that the state budget is dismal doesn't in itself prove that SIUC's budget is dismal. One has to engage with the details, as we tried to do. My own last major take on this can be found here.(It's a document the FA decided was too detailed and dull to be released as an official document, so this blog is its only home. But now TMI doesn't seem to be our problem.)

    3. The FA has offered at least as many meeting times as the administration (despite Cheng's implying otherwise in the Southern recently). We haven't challenged the willingness of the administration team to meet. Meeting isn't the problem, negotiation is. If you meet and only one side is prepared to bargain, you're wasting your name (see 5 below).

    4. Civility is an old theme on this blog. There have indeed been numerous internal FA debates about how and whether to maintain civility. In my view both sides have crossed the line here on occasion. That's one reason why the ostrich is featured prominently up top.

    5. The FA has a furlough proposal on the table, and has had it on the table forever, so your facts are wrong here. We said we'd do furloughs if the administration gave us the chance to help determine whether the financial situation justified furloughs, and proposed a mechanism for this. They just said no. They demand the flexibility to impose furloughs whenever there is "a need" they determine unilaterally. Negotiation would mean, for example, suggesting an alternative process for allowing faculty input into making mid-term changes in our salaries. If they think the faculty would never agree to furloughs, for example, then propose some tie-breaking mechanism for our proposed committee structure. Furloughs aren't just a matter of money, but of principle: if a union isn't allowed to bargain salaries, it's been deprived of its right to bargain. Claiming the power to unilaterally change salaries deprives the union of that right.

    6. Give me a specific example where the FA has badgered the administration into doing something. Be careful, as if you can find one, we might actually try that strategy in the future.

  27. The Chancellor has gone to her son or daughters (I do not remember which) wedding

  28. Anonymous 1:07 here again. To add to Dave's addition to my response to anonymous 1-7:

    4) The Unfair Labor Practices (ULP) complaint lays out in detail the particular malfeasance that the FA leadership believes was engaged in during the past year. To say that those who claim malfeasance on the administration side have no business leading the FA implies that the FA should never file a ULP. Even if the administration does something illegal, the FA should not respond. Maybe the ULP is not what you meant, but your statement, "Those that engage in such have no business on the negotiating team and should have been given the boot" suggests that's exactly what you meant. (If all you meant was that Randy Auxier's letters were inappropriate, you could have said exactly that.)

    6) The tone of your #6 crosses a line into mildly uncivil by accusing the FA of ALWAYS using the same tactic. I get irked by incivility of the comments on this blog that say the administration is ALWAYS awful too. Your incivility was so mild that I wouldn't comment on it, except you were harping on civility in #4.

  29. Dear Persnickety,

    The FA’s legal role is to negotiate terms and conditions of employment, so any time the question of a strike would come up, it a faculty member’s decision on whether to strike or not would involve some degree of self interest. A pure decision involving no self-interest is impossible in a strike vote. If that is your standard, you would always vote no to a strike.

    I have self-interest in my belief that earning tenure should protect me from the administration just deciding that they don’t need me anymore and giving me thirty days notice that I will be laid off. I’ll admit outright that I’m planning to vote for a strike to protect tenure as my concrete working condition and not just some abstract concept for those who come after me.

    I hold this “toxic” distrust that the administration would use the imposed terms to do something like because of what the administration has done over the few months, not because of the FA rhetoric.

    In bargaining, the FA offered voluntary 9-month appointments for Library Affairs Faculty. Library Affairs Faculty could volunteer to give up thirteen weeks’ pay to get eight additional weeks of vacation. The dean of the Library Affairs would have the final say on who could be spared for the summer. (For details, see section 8.08 of the FA supposal for mediation If the administration were interested in working with Faculty to resolve the university’s financial problems, they should have jumped at the offer, but the administrative response to it was chilly last spring and has been even chillier this fall.

    When the imposed terms were implemented, all represented Faculty had to take their four days before the end of the semester. In Library Affairs, it was a struggle to keep the reference desks staffed during that month because everyone was taking off at the same time, which also was a busy time of the year for the library. Why was this necessary? The administration could have included a clause that allowed Faculty on 12-month appointments to take their days before the end of the fiscal year. Many library faculty would have waited until after the semester ended to take their days. It would have been better for the library faculty, the library and the university if it had worked out that way.

    My take-away message from the administration’s actions this spring is that they will do what they want to do and that my work isn’t important enough to matter to them.

  30. "Chancellor Cheng rebutted FA stuff"

    Correct me if I'm wrong but Cheng is not on the admin. bargaining team, right? It's Susan Logue, et al.? I'd be more interested in hearing from them. I'll approach and see if they will (or legally can) answer questions.

  31. Back to $ and job security (no-layoff clause) versus "this is not a strike about $." If the admin. reverted us to the 2006-2010 contract and gave us 1% raises, would you still strike?

    For the first 300 days after our last contract (July 1, 2010 to late March 2011), many of us asked and got little info. from the FA. But, to their credit, Randy and Jim Clark came to our History Department and said "don't worry, the 2006-2010 contract is the status quo ....." (I remember thinking "yeah, until it isn't"!). I didn't sense urgency on the part of FA and I base that on the little information we got back from querying and the "don't worry, be happy, we are in control" attitude to reassure us. Then - wham! - "worry, THEY are out to get you!" I know some posting here (not under names) felt the same way that first 300 days.

    So if the admin. returns back to that "don't worry" period and doesn't offer real $ (but does offer no-layoff in the 2006-2010 contract) would you strike? I know it's a hypothetical but people here have made the assertion that it is "not about the money." Will be interesting to see the administration "counteroffensive."

    BTW, is there any chance the Board team puts forth another last, best final offer before 9/28?

  32. Jonathan, Susan Logue is a stooge of Cheng. Everyone who is selected to be on the administration bargaining team is pro-administration otherwise they would not be on that team. Last time future Dean Gary Kolb (and future interim Dean of the College of Engineering) was on their team. As to whatever a new contract may involve, unless the erosion of tenure and the lack of control over courses are reversed, then a strike is necessary. The $ issue does not matter. Tenure does. Also, Cheng came here with a mandate to bust unions, erode tenure and, most likely, change this place into a for-profit, internet university. We all believed the university would honor the status quo. They did not so the FA should not be blamed for facing a Chancellor who is totally dishonest and ruthless.

  33. Jonathan--there's no legal reason Logue et al can't answer questions. Both sides talk about not "negotiating in the press". The limitations this poses aren't entirely clear to me. Usually it seems to be something the other side is doing, not your side. But obviously you don't want to insult people you have to meet for hours to get a common task done. Sometimes you share secrets with the other side, I think. E.g.: if we gave you X, what would you give in return? That's obviously not the sort of thing one wants spread near and wide (as the leak will make it sound like one side surrendered on X).

    That is essentially the sort of conversation you're asking us to have here, in public. We can and should debate about principle versus $$, but the little anecdote about the young US Grant comes to mind. His father sent him to buy a horse and told him he could spend $25. So he went to the horse-seller and told him "I'd like to buy your horse, but I'm not going to pay more than $25". Guess how much he paid? So here, Chancellor Cheng, is precisely what it would take to get me, DRC Chair, not to strike: $25. Oops.

    Tenure isn't a principle utterly divorced from bread and butter (as is clear already in the 1940 principles). And given that we've all chosen to enter a relatively low-paying field in which we thought tenure would provide us with great job security, I suspect you can readily answer your own question about the trade off between no layoffs and low raises (assuming one grants that finances demand one or the other).

    While horse-trading is difficult to predict in advance (unless one side approaches with the sophistication of the young US Grant), it is pretty easy to see what would leave the union happy on each of its major issues taken by itself. Tenure a la the AAUP (and past SIUC policy). Raises tied to SIUC's overall finances. No furloughs without faculty consent (as otherwise furloughs undermine collective bargaining). Faculty having the ability to make changes over administrative objections on their own operating papers (or block administrative changes) via super majority. Your chair can't assign you a distance learning class you don't want. Most of these concessions look fairly mild to me. At the very least it is possible to imagine what even the FA would have to characterize as genuine give and take on these issues: ok, we'll give you a role in deciding whether furloughs are necessary, but it will be a puny role. Hey, progress! I am frankly surprised the administration hasn't made at least some such effort, if only to attempt to divide and conquer.

    You can game their side as well as I. I can see why they might throw out some concessions before 9/28, but I don't see why a last, best, final offer (LBFO) would be to their advantage before then. Right now it's basically an up or down vote about going on strike (authorizing a strike), which is scary, versus, well the equivalent of a generic administrative candidate, as the BOT team hasn't yet made a last offer. A LBFO reduces the vote to a choice between the union position and the administration position, which may increase votes for the union. Kinda like, Do you think Obama's doing a good job? versus, Do you really think Rick Perry would do a better job?

    But I would think they'd make some counteroffer, if not perhaps a LBFO, soon after the vote, assuming it is positive. At least assuming they'd prefer to avoid a strike, as I'd like to believe.

    Of course in the unlikely event the vote is negative, they could just use the imposed terms as their LBFO. That would get this whole little mess over in a hurry, and we could all go on to other tasks, like looking for other jobs. Blogging pays really well, right?

  34. "That is essentially the sort of conversation you're asking us to have here, in public."

    Dave, thanks for the lengthy response. I had no intention of asking dollar sign questions. My basic question -- the one I want answered -- is "does the BOT believe that last year's expired contract are the status quo? The "rules we live under"? Or have we reverted to the 2006-2010 contract as status quo except for money issues?"

    The FA says the administration takes the former position (last year's contract = status quo). Susan, is that true?

    I use the term "contract" because if I ask admin. about "imposed terms" that is a flag phrase that they do not accept, so forgive my use of "contract." : - )

  35. From reading the comments on this blog, it seems to me like FA negotiators/leadership have done a less than poor job of informing the rank and file. I notice the Strike FAQs are filled with errors. Be careful, the IEA/FA are steering many people down the wrong road.

    BTW, don't let anyone tell you that this thing is not about money. You can bet that money is the driving issue.

  36. Anonymous 10:43 AM:

    Unless you are willing to cite specific errors, I will assume that you are an administrator here to sow fear.

  37. Dave,

    I am disappointed! I rose to your challenge; are you not going to answer mine?


  38. Anonymous 10:43, the Strike FAQ has been thoroughly vetted by the IEA attorney. Considering our dues dollars pay her salary Im pretty sure she has our best interests at heart.

  39. Considering her salary is paid out of dues dollars, I am pretty sure she is most interested in making sure that the maximum number of dues dollars come in! That means doing all she can to maximize discord between faculty and the administration. I am sure she has the IEA's interests at heart not those of the SIU FA - she is FAR from objective. Considering that much of the current bruhaha is related to job security issues, I would think that the conflict of interest of all IEA direct reports should be apparent to all.

  40. To Anonymous 3:55 PM:

    The IEA lawyer an employee of the IEA. Her salary isn't directly tied to the amount of discord. If you want to say that discord somehow raises her pay because she'll get overtime or that discord brings in more dues you can, but that's really a stretch.

    If anything, hiring a lawyer just for bargaining, as the administration has done, would be the situation most likely to sow discord due to a conflict of interest. The lawyer brings in more billable hours as the bargaining drags on and as the situation gets worse.

  41. To Persnickety (1:53 PM),

    I’ll respond to your challenge. In retrospect, here are the FA errors that I can see.

    1) Insisting on Interest Based Bargaining (IBB) even after the administration refused to pay for IBB training. For the 2006-2010, the FA and the administration agreed to IBB and jointly paid to have both bargaining teams formally trained in that method. That contract came with little animosity between the FA and the administration. The FA hoped to replicate that success by using IBB again.

    The administration agreed to IBB but not to footing half of the bill for training again. The IBB method emphasizes presenting problems and jointly exploring options rather than having each side present their positions and work toward compromise from those positions.Only one member of the administration bargaining team had been on their team for the 2006 – 2010 contract, so their team members weren’t fully committed to IBB. The administration repeatedly and publicly aired their position of four furlough days. By trying to follow IBB, the FA couldn’t quickly articulate a counterposition because the FA was still willing to explore options.

    2) Glossing over members’ disunity regarding raises. Members who have worked for the university for a long time with their raises not keeping up with inflation want equity raises. Members who are approaching promotion want promotion raises. Members who believe they can easily meet their departments’ merit requirements want merit raises. Members in departments with low pay scales want salary minima. Members who believe in fairness want merit raises only to kick in after everyone has received a cost of living adjustment. New faculty (and some old faculty) would be willing to forgo raises if it prevented layoffs. The FA tried to make everyone happy by asking for what the different groups of members want. The administration was able to manipulate this and say, “Look how greedy the FA is with their demands for all these different types of raises.”

    3) Not making outreach and recruitment a continuous effort. The FA holds recruitment events for faculty and encourages the department representatives to recruit in their departments, but recruitment isn’t something it does well. FA activists are faculty, not salespeople. They are happy to present evidence and to try to persuade but not so comfortable pushing others into actions such as joining the FA. There certainly are many reasons that people don’t join the FA, but many faculty aren’t even asked. Again, the administration can manipulate this problem, to say, “Look how few people are members of the FA. That must mean that they don’t really represent the views of the faculty.”

    All three of these things put the FA in a weaker position that gave the administration confidence that they could refuse to change their terms and impose them on the faculty without much consequence to them. Now the FA is challenging that confidence by threatening consequences.

    Now I have a challenge for you – which I also will take. What has the administration done to cause things to get to this point?

  42. Paranoid - In response to your #3, it could just be that the FA really does not represent the views of many faculty. I think that the various threads on this blog have demonstrated that there is more than a "silent majority" that are either dissatisfied with the FA specifically or would prefer not to be represented by a union at all. I was actually discouraged from joining the FA when I arrived at SIUC.

  43. The administration says that the thing they sent us in March is a contract. They have a legal theory--that negotiations were at an impasse- but I'm not quite sure, even if they are right that negotiations were at a bona fide impasse, that one can legitimately title something that only one side agrees to an "AGREEEMENT", which is what the administration titles the March thing (and what a contract would presumably mean). But if we were at a genuine impasse, then the administration's imposed terms have some sort of higher legal status. (Even if we weren't at legal impasse, they have *some* legal status: the administration can't legally violate those terms, I don't think.)

    The FA of course rejects the notion that bargaining was at an impasse, making fairly persuasive arguments, it seems to me (such as that many items had not even been discussed at the bargaining table, much less bargained exhaustively). But the FA agrees with the administration in the following limited sense: if the FA fails to oppose the imposed terms (as we call them), we can said to have acquiesced to them, giving the administration yet another legal argument to make. At a certain point, that is, if the union fails to resist, it can be taken to agree.

    As I've said before, this legalism probably won't end up mattering much--unless the administration chooses to implement more of the imposed terms before there is a genuine contract both sides sign off on. The union of course regards the furloughs last spring as illegal, but is de facto willing to bargain them--i.e., the fact that we had a 2% pay cut last year is one thing we take into consideration when bargaining going forward.

    Hope that helps.

  44. Paranoid,

    Am are wrong, or are the first two of your criticisms of the FA really criticisms? The first, at any rate, would show the FA at worst to be naive. The second shows it responsive to its members. As I read, I thought that you meant these two only as criticisms from what might consider a purely tactical (not to say cynical) perspective. The third is a more genuine problem, but compared to other unions at research universities, I'm told our membership is pretty good. It's hard to get faculty to join anything around here--and harder when they have to pay $600 for the privilege.

  45. Dave,

    I am writing my criticisms from a "hindsight is 20/20" perspective. The FA entered negotiations with a belief that the administration would be willing to move toward middle ground. It was slow to change its beliefs or actions as it became clear that the administration was interested in bargaining "my way or the highway," to put it in Persnickety's terms. Maybe bargaining tough would still have led us to the same spot (and given Persnikety more reason to make claim #6), but tactically, I would say you don't bring a knife to a gun fight.

    OK, enough cliches for one night. :)

  46. Hi Paranoid,

    In your post (6:11) you stated "If you want to say [...snip...]that discord brings in more dues you can, but that's really a stretch."

    Its not a stretch at all!. The IEA's only appreciable source of income is dues. What impetus would there be to pay dues to belong to the FA/IEA if the administration and the faculty were working together harmoniously? The IEA absolutely has a clear financial incentive to make sure there is as much trouble/tension between faculty and the administration as possible, and that is cause for legitimate concern among the faculty!

  47. During a previous contract negotiation period, the administration’s bargaining team member stated that the University would function just fine without the ACsE represented employees. Laughable as the statement was, the intent could have easily been interpreted as either an insult or outright threat. Such a threat affects more than just the ACsE ranks.

    ACsE represented positions are being eliminated or not filled when vacated. As these positions disappear, other ACsE employees are being made to take up the slack even if the work is outside or above their state sanctioned job qualifications. If this continues at the current rate, critical mass will be reached then it will fall onto those civil service employees outside ACsE representation, AP Staff, and Faculty to take up the slack.

    What does this have to do with the current blog thread? It explains the sense of fear and anger in the air…fear of job loss by those who can least rebound and anger at the degree of disregard shown to employees who’ve committed long years of service to the University.

    Some ACsE represented folks will not support the union for reasons as simple as they cannot afford it, their spouse dictates they shouldn’t, they don’t really understand their rights. But it’s not so much that the ACsE union hasn’t provided information and updates or proven their worth (as in the paste parity raises), some folks just have their reasons. Some will say that others are just imaging or inventing the turmoil or it’s being over stated. There are folks that play the “be lucky that you have a job” card or take the ol’, “America, love it or leave it stance” but these are the exact reasons for holding out for respect in the form of a reasonable contract and pursuing a union contract equal to the quality of work we are expected and want to radiate to students, parents, and tax paying public.

    Sometimes we have to choose between what it right and what is easy.

  48. Hi Anonymous 9:37 AM,

    I have two responses to you.

    First, there have been numerous anonymouses on the blog who have claimed exactly the opposite of you, that they will not join the FA because it refuses to work harmoniously with the administration. I think a convincing argument could be made in either direction about whether animosity brings in more dues or less.

    Second, my sentence was poorly constructed. What I wrote would have been clearer if I had written, "If you want to say that discord somehow raises her pay because she'll get overtime or A BIGGER SALARY BECAUSE discord brings in more dues you can, but that's really a stretch." Your snipping made the situation even worse. You eliminated the references to the lawyer's pay, which was the topic of my comment.


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