Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Sunday Cartoon

Another cartoon from our anonymous faculty cartoonist. 


  1. Nice!

    But I have a serious question:

    1) Let's assume on Wednesday that the FA membership votes yes to authorize the DRA to initiate a strike if or when they deem prudent. Then, let's also assume, pessimistically, that this doesn't amount to the pressure that the FA leadership probably is assuming it would, the administration doesn't really budge from their position, and a strike is called. For those of us who want to be loyal to our colleagues and honor the strike, what should we plan on being the financial cost of that decision? Would it be similar to the administrative closures we were all forced to take last spring, where 4 days of lost pay (less than a week) would already amount to 2% of lost wages for the year? Has the union actually thought this aspect through yet?

    Now I know the union would try very hard to get made up classes so that students can finish their semesters and we could get paid for our missed work. However, what makes people rest assured that the administration would assent to this, given how intransigent they have been at the bargaining table up to now? As somebody who a) is single and thus supports himself fully with what he earns teaching at SIUC; and b) as somebody who has only been out of grad school 5 years now and still has student loans to pay off; it would really be nice to know what the union's answers are to these real-life monetary concerns.

  2. Joe,

    Of course one cannot rule out the possibility that we (the unions) will lose. It is a risk. If we don't strike there is a risk of more furlough days, lay offs or partial lay offs in the coming years. There is a risk units will face closure if the don't go along will ill considered DL plans. Everyone needs to weigh the relative risks for themselves before they vote. Don't vote yes unless you are prepared to go on strike. It is not the time to bluff. I have decided to vote yes. I hope we don't have to strike, but I am ready to do so. I have a mortgage and I am making financial arrangements.

    My guess is if the admin holds out for a couple of months we will cave in and go crawling back with our tails between our legs. But I think it is more likely that after a week or two of howling parents and calls from pissed off legislatures the BOT will force Rita to bargain in earnest. We won't get everything we want, but the strike will end and with some compromise reached. It would be great if the BOT acted before a strike has to be called. But don't bet on it. If you vote yes, be ready. It is for real.

    I urge everyone, in and out of the union, to write to the BOT and your state legislators. Let's push the BOT to get negotiations going.

  3. Mike's point is excellent and probably one of the most persuasive arguments for voting yes to authorize a strike.

    I am a member of the FA although I do not and have not ever held an office in the union. I was here in 2003 when the FA considered the possibility of a strike. We were on our own then (no coalition) and the reasons offered for striking did not (for me) sufficiently satisfy a cost/benefit analysis. Plus, I felt at that time the union leadership was a bit too eager to strike for the sake of striking.

    My opinion of the current climate is that anything like exuberant eagerness to strike has been replaced with grim resolve. We have put off the "nuclear option" of striking for quite a long time (over 452 days and counting). We face not minor details but significant changes in the contract. We see evidence of the heavy hand of increasingly centralized administrative power in too many other aspects of our lives at SIUC. And most significantly, we are not alone in our difficulties getting the Administration to bargain in anything resembling good faith.

    No one in the union is telling us we will win -- to me that is an ironic comfort. This strike vote (and any resulting strike) is not saber-rattling or an exercise in hubris. We've seen what we will lose and we are fighting desperately to stop that loss. What we win (maybe, if we "win") is compromise. Somebody write the cheer that goes with that.

    So no, there are no assurances. There are risks and costs to striking. It will hurt everyone involved. But neither the FA nor any of the other unions in the Labor Coalition created the conditions that require a strike.

    We must continue to speak out wherever and whenever we can to try to convince the BOT and this Administration that we are serious, that we are not alone, and that we cannot tolerate the deep erosion of fundamental aspects of our labor. I deeply hope they will hear us and act accordingly before any picket line forms.

  4. Dear Mike and Jonathan Gray,

    I agree Mike makes some excellent points - as do you. I wanted to get the conversation started, because I suspect my concerns are ones that are shared by many. I am leaning yes on Wednesday, but I must say this decision is difficult. In one respect, I am glad it is; we should never go on strike just for the selfish gratification of shutting this place down.

  5. Joe, I know that you're struggling with this decision. As for the financial aspect, I think that, in the long run, the cost of not going on strike will far exceed the cost of going on strike (should it come to pass). If we don't fight back now, I believe that furloughs will become routine here. I believe that the ongoing labor dispute is the only reason furloughs weren't imposed this year. Recall that Cheng announced in the spring that she was planning for SIX furlough days this academic year. At some point over the summer, she changed her mind about that. I could be wrong, but I suspect that the change didn't have anything to do with SIU's finances.

    If you vote no on Wednesday, I think it's important to understand what you're voting for: essentially, the end of bargaining. The bargaining team will have no power at the table. It will be all over; the imposed terms will become the new status quo.

    Basically, there are no perfect choices in this situation. But voting "no" to strike authorization isn't simply about foreclosing the possibility of a strike; it will also effectively mean the end of bargaining. I think it's important for people to understand that.


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