I am up early and off to a committee meeting (The Sustainability Council). I would prefer to hibernate or just go in to teach today, but I take my work very seriously and I know it extends well beyond the classroom.
After the break, I'll offer a few post-strike observations. I am sure the days and weeks to come will provide continued opportunities to hash and rehash what we did or didn't accomplish with this labor action. I have no illusions that our most fervent critics will ever grant us any accomplishments. Nonetheless, I return to my regular work both weary and energized -- and I know I am not alone.
First, let me clear something up: I did not expect to be paid for the days I was on strike, although I knew it was something to negotiate in a back to work agreement. My union did not mislead me on this point. That said, I don't think I have ever worked harder for this University than I did in the last week. I taught on that picket line, literally and metaphorically. And I put into practice much of what I teach and research. I still believe if anyone needs to be disciplined for this strike, it is an Administration that let it happened, that continues to act like it was no big deal.
At union headquarters last night, we entertained briefly the idea that we might drop the Unfair Labor Practices appeal from last spring in return for the Administration not docking our pay. As some have pointed out here, there are no assurances we will win that appeal, although given how hard the BOT team fought to make us give it up, I think we can see their (lack of) confidence in their position. In the end, for several reasons, we decided not to go that route. Doing so would throw our non-union and non-striking colleagues under the proverbial bus. And last spring's ULP is less about getting those furlough dollars back than setting a precedent of limits on how easily the Administration can impose such terms. Yet again, we chose the principle of shared governance, putting checks on Administrative power-grabs, and the good of the entire bargaining unit (the entire campus!) over our own, individual financial concerns. Yet again, we prove that we are not greedy and selfish, but principled and concerned for the integrity of the entire system.
The Administration continues to offer our ability to strike as the accountability factor in checking their decisions. Their language in the back to work agreement seems strategically intent on making sure that mechanism of accountability is rarely (if ever) deployed -- in effect, that they suffer no accountability for their future actions. They continue to downplay the effect of the strike and treat it as a numbers game played with crafty and disingenuous accounting. But they and the community know that the strike was more than disruptive and that it was not "business as usual" on this campus for the past week. Everyone one knows that in almost every case the Chancellor was unable to put qualified substitute instructors in the empty classrooms, and in far too many cases there were no substitute instructors in the classrooms. I don't think the Administration will ever so cavalierly play a game of chicken with a strike again.
The Administration spent quite a lot of treasure trying to bust the unions in the past two years; it is an investment that bore no fruit. The unions emerge from this strike stronger than ever and unlikely to go away any time soon. We currently have (to all intents and purposes) a referendum on the FA circulating in the form of the FSN's petition. Maybe, if they can get something like 15% more of us to sign those cards, it will go to a vote. That gives a very vocal minority who would prefer no negotiation and nothing like collective bargaining a strong incentive to downplay the FA's accomplishments with this strike; likewise the anonymous administrators who like to comment here. Consider their arguments, but know their motives. Do the side-by-side comparison of where we were with a contract a month ago, a week ago, and now and make your own assessment. I, for one (for many!), cannot fathom how anyone would prefer those contracts to what we ended up with.
But maybe the best result of the strike is not in clauses and provisions, but in the intangibles. We've seen the lengths the Administration is willing to go to to centralize and cling to power. We've seen its heavy hand censoring community voices and telling, as one active GAU member put it yesterday, repeated "lies of convenience." We've seen material evidence of its pettiness and petulance. And we've seen a community across the campus come together, stand up to its "leadership" and demand better. We've seen where so many in the community place their trust, and it is not with the Administration.