Saturday, September 17, 2011

Southern Story on Strike Authorization Vote

[Update: A quick story credited to the AP also ran in the Chicago Tribune.]

A quick link to the Southern's story on the strike authorization vote.  The story implies (apparently following Chancellor Cheng's lead) that faculty weren't willing to meet with the administration over the summer.  This is false.  From what I've heard, the administration team vetoed more summer dates than the FA team did.  But Randy Hughes makes the essential point: there have been enough meetings, just not enough genuine give & take.

By the way, anyone wondering if the Southern is going to freeload on our outside marketing firm and switch it's brand from "the Southern" to "the SI"?


  1. Don't expect positive media coverage. The FA's target audience has to be members and non-members + students. Randy Auxier brought up an issue that is important to students but never adopted here by the administration (it would require campuswide contract, I think?):

    Textbook rentals.

    I just went to SEMO on a campus visit for my daughter. She is interested in speech pathology and won't take many liberal arts courses. That means, like 90% of majors, nearly all her classes are covered by the textbook rental program: $25 per course (!!). $250/year

    Heck, she just took a French course at John A. Logan (she's a junior in H.S.) and the textbook was $130 used + $60 online language lab. $190 for intro. French!

    Obviously, the argument could go, the administration doesn't have the interests of faculty OR students at heart. At least that would be my "spin."

  2. Personally, I think its very obvious this administration does not have the best interests of the students at heart. Look at the millions spent on a logo, administrative raises, a basketball coach and stadiums. Think how much good that money could have done if spent on students. SIUs priorities have to change.

  3. Are the other unions taking strike authorization votes?

  4. The NTT have voted to hold such a vote 'as soon as is practicable'. I'm pretty sure that the grad students and AcSES (civil service) unions are also on this same track.

  5. The secretaries (civil service?) hold the REAL power. : - )

  6. I am leaning toward voting no on the 28th. Here is why. I just don't think we are strong enough. None of the unions have over 50% membership of their bargaining units. In 2003 I voted for a strike. We had a membership drive and our numbers were better. If I do vote no it will not be a vote for the admin's proposed contract or against the union. It will be a vote for a membership drive. Perhaps a strike in the Winter will be feasible. What do others think?


  7. Hi Mike, Thanks for your honesty. I hear you, I really do. I think there are others who feel the way that you do. Here's my answer to you: if you object to the Administration's imposed terms (as it sounds like you do), then vote "yes" on September 8th for strike authorization. A collective response--and specifically a credible strike threat--is our only chance in this situation. If we don't respond, we will be seen as acquiescing to the imposed terms. Those terms become the new status quo ante; that means we're working in an institution that has departed in certain radical ways from norms (such as tenure protection) that we associate with research universities.

    Here's the thing: the authorization vote on Sept 28 does not call for a strike on a certain date. If a strike is authorized, we will have much organizing work to do. We will all have to work very hard, in fact. Voting yes on striking does not necessarily mean we will walk out immediately. We will walk out when we are confident that a strike will succeed. It is also very possible that we will be walking out with the other three locals (civil servants, NTTs, GAs). You are right that there membership numbers are lower than they should be, but all four locals together will have a tactical advantage in a strike situation that no single local would.

    In the meantime, talk to everyone you know and encourage them to join the FA. New members are joining up every day. And thanks again for your honesty.

  8. Thanks Natasha. If I vote no (I am still undecided), but the majority votes to strike & the DRC then calls a strike, I will strike.

    But I do think we need a coordinated membership drive.


  9. Thank you Mike for expressing your comments. I wasn't on campus yet in 2003, but like you am undecided right now on the strike authorization vote. If I vote to authorize the DRC to call a strike, I want to make sure we're striking with the best potential of success; with our membership where it is, I am not convinced (yet).

    Joe (Anonymous 11:34 from the other day's posts).

  10. Mike and Joe: I agree with you both 100% about the membership drive. We need to build our membership, and it's happening as I write. I think we've gained quite a bit in membership in just the last two weeks, and the other locals are growing, as well.

    Just a word about the strike vote as you consider the decision: if we lose the vote, it's all over. Our bargaining team will have zero power to bargain, our union will be toothless, and the imposed terms will become the status quo ante (bye, bye tenure rights!).

    If we win the vote, we're in another territory altogether. At that point, you make sure to voice all of your concerns about striking to your DRC rep, we all work our asses off, and we go on strike when we are ready to win.

    But hopefully, by that point, the BOT team will realize we're not a paper tiger, and we'll actually get a settlement. Either of you should feel free to email me ( if you want to continue to dialogue about all of this.

    In Solidarity,

  11. Great comments and explanations on this thread, Natasha. I have a concern - who determines "when we are ready to win" and thus able to set a strike date (if necessary)? My sense is that the leadership of the FA envisions a strike during this semester, though not too late in the term. What if this timetable is too soon for the fine efforts that you are advocating to grow appropriately? What can members who support the strike option but anticipate at least a couple of months of prep work do if the leadership takes a positive authorization vote as the basis for calling a strike 2, 3, or 4 weeks after the vote (which is likely too soon)?

    Natasha, you are the only one I've seen so far to address the fact that preparing for a strike requires immense labor and planning. I am afraid that too many others sounding the bell for a strike action are not nearly as thorough or even thoughtful about the preparations needed to be in a position for the threat of a strike or a strike to work. It seems that some folks forget that our real goal right now is to make a strike threat so threatening that a strike won't be necessary. Instead, they seem to think that we call a strike and two days later it's over and we win. Keep talking about this so that all of us will not forget that pre-strike work is vital to both avoiding a strike AND winning a strike!

  12. 4:46, the argument you made has indeed been made in union circles. This tactical decision is the sort of thing the DRC has and will continue to make, sometimes after rather heated discussions. These are hard issues, with no clear-cut answers. The problem as I see it is that we will never get ready to strike unless there is an imminent threat of a strike. For the only way to get the large majority of faculty to pay attention to these issues to precisely to threaten a strike. Wait for membership to pass some threshold, wait for every last bit of strike preparation to be finished, and you'll wait forever. After considerable debate, it was our judgement that 440 plus days was long enough to wait, bargaining wise, and that the best way to get faculty ready and willing to strike was precisely to ask them to vote to authorize a strike. And as you so rightly point out, the best way to avoid a strike (assuming a recalcitrant employer who will only move in response to threats) is to plan and prepare not only to go on strike but to go on strike with enough planning, organization, and commitment to prevail.


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