Friday, November 11, 2011

Sign the petition, sign up to prolong the crisis

Jon Bean has posted an interesting exchange between Mike Eichholz, founder of the FSN, and Deborah Seltzer-Kelly, who is no fan of the FA but also opposes the FSN petition in its current form. Eichholz here more clearly explains himself than he has done elsewhere, which I find helpful. I think Seltzer-Kelly also hits on the main problem with the FSN approach: Eichholz is effectively asking faculty to sign a petition in favor of an option that no one can understand at this point, because it is an imaginary construct--and may in fact prove to be an impossibility.

Eichholz's explanation is that he cannot work out the details of his Faculty Senate approach because doing so would require the assistance of the administration--which would invalidate his petition drive, something he is understandably unwilling to do. Eichholz complains that the law is set up to favor unions, and blames the law for his inability to develop his proposal any more clearly at this point. I don't know the legislative history here, and whether unions were driving the show. But it seems to me that the law's two main hurdles for the FSN have rational bases.  The restriction as to when one can petition to decertify or replace one union with another is clearly enough designed to prevent workplaces from constant fighting over representation.  And petitions that come from the employees must be just that: they cannot be management initiatives in disguise.

The essential problem with the Faculty Senate approach, to my view, remains that the Faculty Senate is dependent on administrative (employer) support: a body whose operating paper is subject to employer approval cannot claim to represent employees. Eichholz has not, to the best of my knowledge, made any attempt to explain how he would thread that needle, and in the absence of any such explanation he is indeed asking faculty to vote for an unknown quantity. He's running up against the law, in other words, not because it is pro-union (as it may or may not be) but because he's trying to convert an employer-employee hybrid (the FS) into a employee only union.

I personally am open to any move that would unify and empower the faculty. But I think the FSN proposal would do neither of these two things--rather the opposite, in both cases. Imagine the chaos, should the FSN manage to get their 30%, of trying to negotiate a faculty senate plan, a plan which could only come to fruition after a subsequent vote by the faculty (or two votes, if a run-off is required). This would require massive revisions to the FS operating paper, coordinated with the administration, which would presumably have to agree to sever all formal ties with the FS in order to make it a legally viable "exclusive bargaining agent".  It would take months, I think, months of contentious and no doubt often heated debate. It would effectively prolong the current crisis for a long time to come.

After working closely with a number of IEA staffers, I've become rather fond of the organization. But as I've argued elsewhere, the IEA doesn't drive things around here: the members of the FA do. So the central question is really whether the faculty want a union or not.  If we want a union we are going to have to pay dues; if we choose not to belong to an outside organization, we might get to pay less (as we'd not have to support IEA lobbying in Springfield and NEA lobbying in Washington--though to my mind supporting education lobbyists is a necessary investment these days).  But we would have to work a lot harder on our own to provide not only leadership but logistical support, choose our own outside legal help, etc. An independent local couldn't rely on experienced professionals who could come in to assist us in a crisis. Eichholz's legal problems explain why he hasn't been able to coordinate with the current Faculty Senate, but don't explain why he thinks he can offer a solution with all of the benefits and none of the costs of a union. Does he, for example, believe that a faculty union should surrender the right to go on strike? Doing so might save a good amount in dues (one hardly needs a strike fund in that event), but of course it also vastly reduces one's leverage, a la Wisconsin.

Jon Bean's own suggestion, that those critical of the FA leadership join and run for FA office (or at least vote for those they find sympathetic), is far preferable. FA officers have just two year terms, and I believe that elections are due in time to elect new officers for the fall semester of next year. It seems to me that those who want a union on campus should participate in that election, by joining the FA. FA offices are hardly glamorous: they require a huge time commitment and burden one with a good deal of responsibility. And they are entirely voluntary jobs taken with no release from other duties and for absolutely no compensation.

My own belief is that our current leaders have done a fine job (myself excepted . . . ). But many in the leadership are eager to pass on the torch in any event. I hope that numerous people interested in these offices come forward to be considered for them. 


  1. Good points, Dave. If you could find out when the next elections are held, that would be grand.

    Re: the FSN drive - the labor unions clearly tied the process in knots so that people like Mike have to use language that is inherently confusing News Speak (X = X but really means Y, see obscure IELRB regulation). It's really not his fault - it's the system.

    But election will come so I can think of people who would be good officers and I would vote for them, if they chose to run.

    And don't be modest: you did a fine job as the PR man for FA. Who knows you may even take over your department and become management. Ha, ha.

  2. I admit that when the FSN card campaign started, I thought it had a 50/50 chance of suceeeding (i.e. reaching threshold); however, after reading all of that, now think it was doomed to fail and it is almost a miracle that it has done as well as it has.

    While the card campaign may well go down then, I don't think FAers should see that as a ringing endorsement. Dave rightfully points out that the FSN options are hardly fleshed out (and may even be unfeasible). However, reading the situation another way, one could say that 150-200 of our collegues have just signed their name to prefering the vacuum of space over the current (FA) representation.

    I hope that in the weeks/months to come, the FA membership takes this information as an indication that perhaps things could be improved with respect to faculty relations, broadening representation, and polling their interests (but it sounds like Dave agrees with that).

    I would also point out that *any* effort to find out what the faculty actually want, *will* serve to "empower the faculty". Again, now that it looks like the FA's existence is not at stake, perhaps the FA would be more interested in supporting a polling of the faculty (say, a year from now, after things have cooled down).

  3. Jon, I don't deny that the law makes it hard to run decertification campaigns. But the inherent problem with the FSN proposal lies in its attempt to transform a purely advisory body that is ultimately subservient to the administration (I don't mean 'servile', just that the FS's operating paper is subject to administrative approval) into an independent organization able to bargain with the administration rather than simply to advise it. Had Eichholz suggested some sort of independent local separate from the FS and without affiliation to any other national organization, he would have avoided this problem. That proposal (which you once mooted) has its own flaws (above all, it would be much harder for faculty to organize and run a union without any organizational support), but it doesn't suffer from the structural contradictions inherent in the FSN plan. A straight up or down decertification vote would also have provided a clear choice.

    Let's see whether the FSN petition drive succeeds or fails and take it from there. Given the problems with what the FSN is proposing, I think success on their part would hinder an open conversation about where the faculty want to go from here rather than help it; that's why I've been so vehement in my opposition to their drive.

  4. Dave,

    "Had Eichholz suggested some sort of independent local separate from the FS and without affiliation to any other national organization, he would have avoided this problem."

    Here's the problem: you can't have a "straight up and down vote" here in Illinois, best I can tell. Look, the FSN wants a vote on FA or no FA but the law doesn't allow that and no AAUP (or other union) is asking to be in. Besides, that is not what FSN wants. They want no FA or they want a vote to determine how much support the FA really has on campus. Blame the NEA- AFT duopoly for foreclosing the straight up-and-down choice. Kind of like the Dem-GOP duopoly - harder than heck for us third-party sympathizers to even get on the ballot while the duopoly gets a pass. And they even get to teach my children (in government school) that we have a "two-party system"!

    But I digress . . . The petition process is crazy but the labor law in Illinois helps explain why it is one of the few states where public sector unions can strike. Trust me, NRTWLDF would be working to deauthorize (straight up and down) if it were possible. It ain't (according to my best understanding after calls, reading and headaches from reading the union-friendly regulations).

    But time to move on. Beautiful Saturday and having lunch with one of my most brilliant students ever (he took 30 credits hours in a single semester - including really rigorous courses - and aced them all). He has spent last few years raising big $$$ for Democratic candidates from Jewish millionaires and billionaires in the Chicago area (my alumnus-friend is Jewish). Always good to have those students who keep you going when some days you wonder if SIUC is admitting others with 8th grade educations! LOL

  5. Not that I believe in elitism, merit and all those bourgeois social constructs. But, hey, I do! lol

    God loves all his children but some of them just work harder than the rest and deserve all the success they get. . .

  6. Thanks to Jon for sharing this exchange. This is the sort of open conversation I had hoped the FSN would provide on an open web or listserve forum. I am glad that it is at least happening on the extant blogs.

    I also find Mike Eichholz's seeming exasperation at the end of the exchange a little revealing. Compared with some of longer comments here, I didn't find those emails long at all. I found them quite informative, and I also learned a bit more of the burden FSN is operating under. I would think in the interest of sensible reform of our current bargaining unit representation, he would be willing to converse until all questions were answered.

  7. Dave,

    If people sign up to join the FA now will they be able to vote on the contract?

    People can join here:

    I'd also point out to people that many departments don't have DRC reps, so if you are in such a dept and join you could be on the DRC almost right away. Dave is there a link to the list of DRC members and their departments? I believe there are several openings in COS.

  8. It would be good to have Johnny Gray back in charge of this blog, I think. His postings were outstanding and intellectually more exciting. They didn't tend to ramble and waffle and plus importantly there was no "fence sitting".

    Also, I do not understand why if the posting that some people (including Dave) said they found offensive was removed--other postings that referred to that posting and also quoted the "offensive" parts from it were not also removed. Why is Dave censoring people's speech selectively--or better still why is he censoring at all--considering what he had to say in the media about the censorship by the administration of students' postings on the SIUC facebook?

  9. @ Anon 12:56

    Well, in this case Dave is more than welcome to delete *my* posts that referred to the offensive subject--I already almost got called a racist once because someone misunderstood what was going on, and don't need to have it again...

    It is appropriate for a moderator to delete posts that are offensive according to certain categories (and I think we all know what they are...)

  10. Thanks, Anon 12:56, for the vote of confidence. I, for one, am eager to have Dave's voice and analysis back. I'll help out where I can; we all should.

    And thank-you, Deo Volente readership, for never putting me in the position of needing to cut a comment during the heated days prior to and during the strike. We had some very pointed disagreements and debates, but we never crossed that particular line in our discourse.

  11. Frankly, after the FA's response to the censorship by the administration of comments posted on their Facebook, I think it would be better not to censor anyone's posting on this blog even if it is perceived as being offensive to some or many. A better strategy would be to use that as a teaching/learning moment and address what is problematic about that posting rather than deleting it.

  12. 2:50 PM,

    I disagree. Removing patently offensive comments is appropriate. View point censorship is not. A person whose comment is removed can come back and post a new comment that makes their point in a civil manner. If you were leading your class in a discussion you would cut people off who were being rude and encourage them to debate constructively, correct?

  13. People can join the FA now to vote for (or against) the upcoming tentative agreement.

    Jon, my understanding (which agrees with that expressed by Mike Eichholz) is that the FSN could have called for an up or down vote on the FA in the guise of a decertification vote. It's true that any vote to change unions must include not only the incumbent and rival but decertification (which appears, I'll point out, to be an item designed to protect anti-union workers, so not exactly evidence of union control over the legislation). Again, the point I'm trying to make is that the FSN is all tied up in knots for a good reason: their proposal is knotty, as the faculty senate is not a plausible candidate for an "exclusive bargaining agent".

    The comment I removed (like the first one I removed) was likely more inept than deliberately offensive, as its traces in the record above will make clear. When we started this thing, we (Namdar and I) said we'd moderate comments for "nastiness" after the fact; if we aren't going to toss comments that appear to be racist, or appear to engage in sexual slurs, I don't see how we can claim to be doing any moderation at all. I think it is patently clear that neither I nor Jonny has been doing any viewpoint censorship.

  14. @ Dave, Re: FS "option"

    While I agree that the points you and others have brought up about a prospective FS option would indeed present problems that could keep it from working in actuality, I don't (yet) think such an option *must* be impossible (in an against-the-laws-of-physics sort of way or anything).

    I *freely* admit, as a non-union and non-FS faculty member, that I don't have a sure solution to answer Dave's critiques, and my ingnorance for how things can and do work allows me to only spit-ball at what a possible solution might look like. But I wouldn't say that just because I couldn't think of a way to thread that needle, it doesn't mean that someone else couldn't figure it out.

    On the other hand, another objection from FA members concerns the "teeth", or expected lack thereof, of an FS option. Calling a strike is effectively taking a nuclear option, and (not trying to debate the necessity or wisdom of the one recently called here), I would say that a strike should only be called under the most dire of circumstances (because of the concens for collateral damage). But I can't say that, for all eternity, one should *never* be called no matter what. Could an FS option call a strike in such a scenario? What other "teeth" are there? Those working to devise a viable FS option would have to consider what it would do it things ever turned south.

  15. Given that some faculty clearly want to keep their (current) union representation, and some clearly don't want that, I was wondering if someone could clarify something for me.

    Apparently, it is not possible for the current faculty to be divvied up into those who want to be in a collective bargaining unit, and those who don't. Yet, I think the law school and med school faculty do not belong to our bargaining unit. How did things get drawn up that way? Just for the sake of argument, why couldn't (say) a given college vote to opt out? Alternatively, if this has to do with how the FA was founded, could it be re-certified with a unit, college or other entity opting out? I guess it is helpful to know what truly can and cannot be done before trying to figure out what *should* be done.

  16. I believe that there should be a legal procedure to do so. Giving faculty members the option for choosing his/her own representative should be a reflection of academic freedom. Since the faculty in Med school and law school can have different options, why others can't?

  17. Beezer's question is rather beyond my pay grade. I know that some in the law school support joining the FA (though presumably not a majority), so I think they *could* join if they wished--which suggests there's some possibility for flexibility here. At UIC both TT and NTT are in the same union--so the bargaining units can be defined differently. I believe that the law school and the medical school were left out because they are "professional schools"--and didn't think they needed a union. I don't know the legalities here, but multiplying bargaining units (and perhaps multiplying non-bargaining units) strikes me as (a) likely to produce even more of a confusing mess than we already have and (b) a nice example of divide et impera .

  18. beezer said...

    "Just for the sake of argument, why couldn't (say) a given college vote to opt out?"

    Short answer: no. The ILRA makes no provision for subdivisions, etc., based on organizational structure when a decertification process occurs.

    And not directed to breezer in particular but to many other posters here – doesn’t anyone care to familiarize themselves with the statutes and board rulings rather than trying to intuit them? It’s not that complicated.

  19. @ Mister X:

    Sorry I should have been clearer with my verb tenses in my last post.

    What I'm really trying to understand is the current structure of our bargaining unit (how it got to be the way it is, and is it the only way it could have been). I do understand that *at this stage* a unit can't "opt out" of its current representation any more than I can. But my question is a bit more specific to the idiosyncrasies of SIUC than what would be found in ILRB documentation (e.g. -- btw while I agree that the parts most relevant to my question aren't rocket science, the document itself is not exactly "frog and toad are friends" either...)

    So I guess what I'm asking (purely hypothetically for now) is, if the union were decertified and then subsequently recertified, would the bargaining unit have to look the same? Or, could some units / colleges / whathaveyou "opt out" while others (as Dave suggests) might have the choice to "opt in"?

    @ Dave, thanks -- and I do understand that having even more "official" divisions than we already have is not necessarily a good thing. But long-standing unofficial divisions are present concerning this issue, and at least in principle such disperate (but later desperate?) representive groups might be more "representative" of what the faculty want than what we have now. On the other hand, as long as individuals cannot choose for themselves how they are to be represented, the problem will persist (and redrawing bargaining-unit lines even along departments won't completely fix that). But of course, at least people would be able to vote in such a de/re-certification process (they may just not get what they want!).

  20. I'm chiming back in here to add some clarification to what I see as my major point vis-a-vis the FSN effort: a core group has already decided upon what they see as the best option. While I do think Mike is doing his very best to achieve some constructive change in a difficult situation, I find it unsettling that a relatively small group got together early on and decided what they thought would be best for everyone. You'll notice that during the period when there were "meet and greet" functions, the invitation was to come and hear about what the FSN folks had already decided to do--NOT to discuss ideas for how to create a new representative body.

    It's all very good and well to say, "Well, the larger group can decide what they want to do once we get the initiative passed," but the truth is that it is always harder to dislodge any status quo once it exists. The fact that the proposal that has been circulated is for a FS-related body could also lend the appearance that there is significant support for this version of the proposal, too, if someone wants to try to make that case later on.

    The thing is, this is essentially what the FA leadership did: figure out what they thought would be the best for everyone, on behalf of everyone! I'm just not in love with another round of a core leadership group making decisions for everyone--however preliminary they are supposed to be--in the absence of wider discussion.

  21. The solution to this is simple. As Mike Eichholz has explained many times, sign the petition then when the vote occurs vote for straight decertification! Once the FA is decertified we have a minimum one year hiatus before any new collective bargaining group can be put in place. That gives us a full year to work out the details and debate the options. To not sign the petition is in effect to recertify the FA and retain them for at least another three years! Given recent history and the inability of the FA leadership to see that they have done GREAT HARM to this university and its faculty (at least they deny it publicly), would simply compound the disaster. Of course, so many faculty, especially young faculty (including me), are looking for new positions at present that the question may be moot anyway.

  22. Thanks, Debbie, for sharing that original exchange and for posting here. You'll not be surprised to hear that I don't quite agree with your characterization of the FA--but I'll go this far: the people who have the most say in what the FA pushes are, unsurprisingly, those most active in the FA. That circle is of course limited not only to dues-paying members but to those willing to volunteer time & energy to the organization. Given these two filters (dues and voluntarism) the most active members are going to be people who believe very strongly in the positive potential of a union. While I don't believe that the leadership of the FA consists of a cadre of uncompromising radicals, I do agree that the union would be better off were more faculty involved. The problem there lies on both sides: i.e., it's not only up to the FA leadership to reach out, but for the FA membership (and the bargaining unit as a whole) to step up.

    In defense of the FSN, then, I'd say that similar constraints likely apply on their end of the spectrum. (That's right, I'm defending the FSN!) Plus, they are working under a time deadline. I suspect they genuinely tried to come up with a plan that would attract as many faculty as possible. They just made a mess of it (in my none too humble opinion), because they are trying to invent a novel form of "representation" that is half union, half traditional shared governance, likely illegal, and ultimately incoherent.

    One of the reasons I've supported fair share is that it would largely remove what I just called the "dues paying" filter. There would be little financial incentive to stay out of the FA. Membership would therefore rise, and votes would be far more representative of the faculty as a whole. I think that would be a plus for all concerned--but the administration is steadfast against fair share. They would not allow a faculty referendum on fair share (even after the FA gained 50% membership--the trigger for automatic fair share the administration gave to the other IEA unions).

    Even in the current situation, it's not like elections to FA offices are hotly contested affairs. Even in departments with pretty strong FA membership, if you join the union you'd be able to serve as your department's DRC rep via something like the principle of rotation (which de facto determines who serves--I did it last time, so it's your turn this time). And DRC meetings (like that which called off the strike) are open to all members, and any member present can speak. Any member can have a real say in what the FA does, or doesn't do.

    Another way to step up is to not only criticize the FA (which is of course fair enough) but to suggest positive alternatives. My guess is that most faculty support the goals the FA pursued in negotiations with the administration, but that many had problems with the means we employed in pursuit of those goals. The FSN, to their credit, have proposed an alternative means to empowering the faculty (albeit, to beat what I hope is a dead horse, an unworkable means). How should the FA work to defend tenure? How should we work to ensure that faculty retain control over how to teach their courses? We've used collective bargaining, backed up, ultimately, by collective action (the strike). Can our critics provide an alternative means of securing these goals?


    Try the same means that work without unions and campuses across the country. You dismiss the model proposed by the FSN as "unworkable" and "probably illegal", but it is based on successful models at other U.S. universities. The MOU model is used at multiple schools and colleges around the US very successfully. Your (highly self serving) argument that the only way to protect tenure and have your way with other issues is a union with the power to strike is simply ludicrous. That's not tunnel vision, its looking at the world through a straw!

    Striking was and is a nuclear option. The FA chose to use it (you were NOT forced to use it, it was your choice) and the FA is responsible for the collateral damage that has been done. There ARE better options. They are in place and working at the majority of other universities and colleges in the US (which are not unionized). And although you CHOOSE not to see them, they are real, they are viable for SIU and they are much better for us moving forward than continuing with the same old FA crap. (i.e, Blame the administration for everything and pick a fight) The only change I see is that the FA is trying to paint itself as kinder and gentler with respect to demonizing its opponents. (i.e. your decision to delete a post insulting to the FSN, rather than let the blog police itself). You can put lipstick on the pig if you wish but its still the same pig underneath.

  24. I think the FSN made a mistake is going for option 2 [See Mike Eichholz's 11/9/2011 8:13 PM message on Jon Bean's blog for the two options.] They should have just pushed for a straight decertification vote. If they lost that then if they really had the time and energy they could have organized a real alternative to the FA and pushed for that. This would take years of course, but you know what, it took years to get the FA authorized!

    Probably they realized that they could not get enough support for no representation and so added the ill thought out alternative representation option to broaden their support.

    I suspect the folks in the FSN don't have a lot of prior experience as political activists. It is hardly surprizing that they made a mistake or that they underestimated how much work it takes to change anything. I have been politically active off and on since my undergrad days and know what a grind it is.

    It would require much less work to join the FA and try to influence it than to organize another union - which would likely be dominated by the same people anyway.

    For example, some members have argued for graduated dues levels. Some leaders have argued against this. But this might be something we could get changed. How merit pay is done is another issue. While we had merit pay in the last contract, it was done department wise. The funds for merit within each department did not vary between stronger and weaker departments. That might be something the membership could be discussing for the next contract.

  25. Like Mike, I have had fairly extensive experience in political organizing, and was also a building rep for NEA in my public school district when I taught high school. The biggest barrier I'm seeing to membership for the FA here is the rather dramatic lack of return on the fairly pricey dues. Basically, I would argue that the vast majority of the monthly cost for our current FA could best be categorized as strike insurance. (This is affirmed by many comments here about how renting the strike headquarters and handling the organizational detail was covered by dues, rendering them worthwhile.)

    By contrast, a similar dues level for public school teachers who belong to NEA provides: 1) personal liability insurance; 2) access to teaching resources and networks; and 3) union training. As a new union member I attended workshops on topics ranging from changing demographics in the school district to building-level organizing to public relations--at no additional cost to me, beyond my dues. Our dues-paying membership in that district was, if I remember, somewhere around 60-65%. (We also had a no-strike rule, in return for binding arbitration.)

    Given all of this, it's hardly surprising that faculty who don't see striking as a good negotiation tactic are unwilling to pay the dues. Further, I think that many of us realize how very difficult it is to fundamentally change an existing organization structure with deeply embedded norms, attitudes, and practices.

  26. Debbie said: "(We also had a no-strike rule, in return for binding arbitration.)

    That doesn't seem to be an unreasonable compromise, to keep this from happening again.

    Also, if Debbie's way of thinking about the FA's current dues structure is valid, then it points to another (more hidden) problem with the "outside interference" of the IEA: the FA really only gets its "money's worth" when it strikes (strangely, providing the "absence of a dis-incentive" to the nuclear option).

    Perhaps if our representation were local, not only would dues be significantly lower (possibly with more control over the dues structure)--allowing representation to be broadened--but perhaps the odds of a strike would go down for other reasons as well (it would simply be harder to do).

  27. This is as good as time as any to give Dave props for his job as spokesman for the FA before and during the strike. Great job--better than the Chancellor did for the BOT, IMHO.

  28. 11:59, the MOU model the FSN sketches may work elsewhere--if I understand it aright, it is basically "shared governance plus", where the plus depends on the willingness of the administration to cooperate by coming to agreements in the form of memorandums of understanding. That model is however distinct from collective bargaining, where the administration does have to cooperate (at least it must bargain in good faith). My problem with the FSN approach remains that they seem to be confusing collective bargaining with robust shared governance. I don't think the shared governance plus model would be covered by the IELRA. The way to get there, I think, would be to decertify (i.e., do without any "exclusive bargaining agent") and see what we could achieve via shared governance alone. I don't think we'd get very far, and I think that in the current economic, political, and cultural climate unions are our best tool for protecting what once could be protected well enough via shared governance. That's why UIC just unionized, for example. But this (union or not) is a debate worth having--and a more coherent debate than that we'll be having if the FSN petition goes through.

    Debbie and beezer: If the administration would be willing to substitute binding arbitration for a no-strike clause, I'm pretty sure the FA would go along. That is, after all, what the FA wanted on tenure and furloughs and conflict of interest and sexual harassment procedures this time around, and in the past the FA has suggested it overall for contract disputes (only to have the administration take this as a sign of weakness--an unwillingness to strike--and promptly stop any further movement at the table). But submission to outside authority is anathema to the administrative point of view around here. They yielded on this only in the area of contact-hour credit-hour equivalencies, where an outside panel is now the ultimate decision maker if there's disagreement. Regarding tenure, they preferred allowing the FA to strike to allowing an outside arbitrator to rule on whether a financial exigency is legitimate.

    Debbie, thanks for sharing your IEA experiences at the high school level. The FA should look into ensuring that we get more bang for our IEA bucks, and work harder to make the union more than a negotiation/grievance/strike operation.

  29. "Regarding tenure, they preferred allowing the FA to strike...."

    Dave, let's get real on this. The FA is always "allowed" to strike. It's "allowed" to strike right now. But it chooses not to. So to say the administration allowed the FA to strike seems very disingenous...a union talking point....more union rhetoric. The FA decided to could have chosen not to. It not "forced" to anything.

    When FA decides to take responsibility for it's action and not blame someone else, it might gain some credibility.

  30. 1:00 PM,

    No. The contract will have a no strike clause, so the FA cannot strike any time it wants. The point Dave is making is that in the event of an FE declaration by the BOT the FA wanted to go to binding arbitration. The BOT said no, but offered instead that in the event of an FE declaration the no strike clause would be suspended.

    Regarding the recent strike, in the literal sense the FA was not forced to strike. It could have caved in at any time. In the context of a clear strike deadline, when the BOT walked out of talks and refused to negotiate for three and a half days it was clear they wanted the FA to strike probably to see how strong it was. Thus, one could say figuratively, that they forced the strike in the same way that someone under attack might feel forced to defend themselves. Whether this usage of the word force is correct is subjective but not invalid.

  31. Ridiculous! The FA walked in on the deadline with the same proposals that it had been insisting on for months. Different versions of the "in the event of an FE, the BOT has to give up its statutory right to oversee the fiscal management of the university" proposal. The same ideas that we have batted around here for months and the same proposals about which it had been said over and over and over, "the board will not do that. It can't". With the FA demanding that and refusing to give any ground there was nothing to talk about.

    The fact of the matter is this. The proposal that the FA accepted on Wednesday is the same as what was on the table on Monday. The FA leadership extended the strike for two days to try to get Donna Manering to engineer a board cave in at the BOT meeting on Wednesday. That did to work and and in fact the BOT meeting was pretty much a spanking for the FA. It was a tactical move by the FA leadership that cost everyone on strike two days pay. When it was clear that the BOT was going to support the administration and not come to the rescue, and when they understood that being out on Thursday also meant loosing pay on Friday, the FA caved and accepted the proposal on the table even without requiring a TA.

    You won't find that on the FA web site and the FA leadership will not admit to the membership that that is what happened, but that is what happened.

  32. Anon 1:00

    I am wrapping my head around a lot of new information in the last month or so, but my understanding if that the FA cannot always strike whenever it wants to. A legal strike requires both certain conditions and certain procedural steps -- which the FA followed to a "T" in last week's strike. What the Administration has essentially stipulated to with FE is a procedure whereby a mid-contract strike would be a legal course of action (which otherwise it would not be).

    As an individual in the FA, I do not speak for the FA, so I cannot personally take responsibility for any of the FA's collective actions. I consider this latest labor action best understood as the Administration and FA calling each other on their perceived bluffs. The Administration acted as if a strike would be no big deal, that it would be "business as usual," and that they would be able to find qualified substitute instructors for all classes affected by the strike. When they clearly couldn't do any of that, they then proceeded to low-ball the number of classes affected, use shifty accounting of how many educators walked out to minimize the perceived impact, and boast (again without any verification) that "some" students petitioned to keep their substitutes. So yes, as a member of the FA, I take responsibility for my part in the intentional disruption to the "usual business" of this campus...and I await (without holding my breath) my Administration to admit its multiple bluffs were effectively revealed as bluffs.

    I do not wish to overstate what I think we got from this strike; I also do not wish to underplay its effectiveness. Given that our Administration has refused accountability through third party arbitration and stipulated only to a strike as the mode of accountability it will recognize in almost all cases, I hope it is sufficiently "schooled" in collective action such that it will never so cavalierly risk a strike again. And no, I don't think the DRC or the faculty who honored or participated on the picket line went into this strike cavalierly, despite how much others would like to believe so.

    We did a lot of prep work for the strike, building those "five pillars" to the best of our ability. That was never a zero-sum assessment; a strike always was and always will be risky. To read that five pillar labor advice as the necessary recipe for a successful strike is a gross misreading. Nor were the Administration's PR gaffs or the student uprising of support merely happy accidents that benefited a "poorly planned" strike. The former were symptomatic of the management paradigm we had been struggling with for nearly 500 days and therefore to be expected. The latter was predictable based on early support from Occupy Carbondale as well as the feedback we received from our information tabling (as we worked to build one of those pillars). The student support is, nonetheless, inspiring and confirming.

    If we really want to "get real," we should recognize that all of us, no matter what role we played in the disputes of this semester(Administration, striking FA, non-striking FA, non-FA, and FSN alike), have work to do rebuilding and thereby enhancing our credibility.

  33. "The FA walked in on the deadline with the same proposals that it had been insisting on for months."

    As did the other three unions, and yet the BOT team managed to find a way to either shift a little or a lot for them in order to peel them off from the general strike, thereby leaving the FA standing alone. Clever, that, but ultimately it didn't work. Nor does your attempt to blame the FA and only the FA for dragging out negotiations.

    The Administration did finally start bargaining again in good faith on Sunday after they saw the effectiveness of the strike. Pre-strike Wednesday evening's supposal and during-strike Monday evening's supposal are very different. So too are there significant differences between Monday's supposal and what we saw Wednesday night that led the DRC to vote to end the strike. I would have preferred more movement on furloughs between Tuesday and Wednesday, but we always knew we would have to end this thing with a compromise.

    Your presumption to know what was on the table more so than what the FA is telling us, Anon 3:10, makes me wonder who you are or what crystal ball you possess. The FA was in no way interested in prolonging negotiations and always hoped the BOT's impending arrival would give the Administration incentive to negotiate in good faith. The FA was not the one who dragged out the negotiations or the strike -- if the Administration didn't want the optics of a BOT Executive Committee trying to meet while protest shouts penetrated the walls of the Stone Center, they should have reconsidered all those breaks and foot dragging in the negotiations -- whether in the hours and days of the last week or the months and months of protracted negotiation they allowed to fester for all four unions before the strike.

  34. The way it seems to work at non-union tenured faculty shops like ISU, SIUE and UIUC is that the adminstration is so darned scared a union will organize that they simply cough up the money. It's just considered an expense of doing business, far cheaper than the hassle of negotiations, grievances, etc. Just the threat of a union is enough to make the thing work very favorably for the tenured faculty, and just for good measure, the faculty senate is always there waiting to pounce on any adminstrative miscalculation. ISU/UIUC/SIUE all got 3% this year thanks largely to the FA at SIUC!

  35. anon@3:10 has it exactly right. Everyone should go back and read that post.

    And please stop with, "the administration forced us to strike." You may not have liked what the administration did, but it did not "force" you to do anything. Just like they didn't force the FA to set a strike date, or force the FA to end the strike. The FA did all that on its own free will. I mean, why aren't you saying, "the administraiton forced us to come BACK to work." I mean that is the next logical conclusion. The administration offered something you could live with and thus "made" you go back to work.

    Playing it straight, Mr. Jonny, will gain you a lot of credibility.

    Playing word games makes you look, well, silly.

  36. Anon 3:50, it is not very credibility-enhancing to call for others to cease playing word games and then pull out your Handbook of Sophistry. My jaw literally aches from the words and arguments you are trying to stuff in my mouth. Read carefully what I wrote above and quote back to me where I said the Administration "forced" the FA to strike.

    I don't "play," and I am not "straight," Ms/Mr Anon 3:50 Silly.

  37. I was not involved in the bargaining process. It is of course possible the FA team made mistakes, actually I wouldn't be surprised if in hindsight both teams took various missteps. However, I have yet to hear anyone come up with the ethical justification for the BOT team's refusal to negotiate for first three and a half days of the strike. I'd like to see the Illinois Senate Higher Education Committee look into to this.

  38. The point Jonny and I are trying to make is more limited than some are taking it to be, I think. It applies only to the day before the strike. On that day the FA walked into negotiations with major new concessions on furloughs, COI/Sexual harassment policies, and a novel proposal on salaries--an offer to take less than they were offering, so long as our salaries were tied to revenues (though the administration may not have viewed this as a concession, as they obviously believe that SIUC revenues will go up by more than the 0/0/1/2 they offered the unions, thus allowing them to shift funds from unionized staff to other priorities). The administration came to the table with absolutely nothing. Contrast their performance with the other unions. As of Wednesday, then, the administration had decided that it was better to have the FA strike than to make any further concessions. Trust me, when the administration didn't bargain with us at all on that day we were rather shocked. The administration wanted to shock & awe us, as it were, but soon found themselves with an insurrection they found it difficult to control (not perhaps the best analogy--red meat for the anonymouses!)

    This does not prove that the FA was in the right or the administration in the wrong. It does not show that our earlier moves, including setting teh strike deadline, were responsible, or forced upon us by the administration (clearly it would be difficult to argue that any particular deadline was forced upon us, though we have argued that 16 months was long enough to wait before setting a deadline). If you think that our proposals were radical nonsense, and that the union needed to be taught a lesson via a failed strike, then the administration's actions were perfectly reasonable & responsible. Hardball, but strikes are a serious conflict--and one can play hard while still playing fair. Unfortunately, from this perspective, the union did not fail.

  39. Dave said "they [the administration] obviously believe that SIUC revenues will go up by more than the 0/0/1/2 they offered the unions, thus allowing them to shift funds from unionized staff to other priorities."

    I am sorry , can you please explain how you know that that is what the administration believes, and why it is obvious? You are very quick to attribute motive, but what evidence do you have to back up that attribution? Could it be that you are back to the FA's old tactics of demonizing the administration (based on attacking motives that you attribute to them)?

    Is it not at least plausible to postulate that the administration may have been unwilling to tie faculty salaries to university revenues as the FA proposed because of flaws in the FA proposal? For example, flaws such as the facts that the FA's proposal only allowed for increases (not decreases if revenues fall) and because the FA proposal failed to fully differentiate operating revenues from other revenues properly and because the FA proposal did not take into consideration that other operating expenses also have to come out of the operating budget and that they may also increase. And could it not be that based on best available information on projected revenues, the maximum raises that can be accommodated by the projected budget are what they proposed? Could those not plausibly be the motives behind the BOT offer rather than the motives you attribute and declare are obvious?

    BTW, As the FA's accountant-general, what are the FA's budget projects for SIU's operating revenues in light of the strike? Are you projecting that the strike will increase revenues, decrease them or leave them stable? Its important because if they decrease significantly there is a strong possibility that the less senior NTT and CS staff may lose their jobs and they would like to know how that figured into your strike accounting.

  40. Blah! Blah! Blah!
    Yak! Yak! Yak!
    This and that!
    All this is boring stuff!
    But the most dangerous of all is the fence sitting
    and the deliberate attempt to befuddle!
    Blah! Blah! Blah!

  41. Anon 6:50, the FA tried not to separate temporary wage adjustments (furloughs) from salary increases. The one is meaningless if the other can be arbitrarily applied. But I believe the FA team's argument was that if the Administration wasn't going to give up its methods for salary reduction there was no need to propose an additional mechanism for that.

    Dave may not have a crystal ball that predicts revenue increases, but we are all too aware of the Administration's reluctance to be transparent about their accounting. As one GAU ally on the picket line asked of our Chancellor, "What kind of accountant doesn't want to show you the books?" That's not a rhetorical question; however, its answer adequately defines the management philosophy of our current Administration.

    You ask about our accounting and offer concern-troll tears for NTT and CS folks likely to be laid off if your crystal ball is the better model. I tell you the NTT and CS folks on the line with us were grateful for the contracts they were able to negotiate thanks to the coalition. They recognized what the the Administration was up to in singling out the FA, and they weren't happy about any of it. And if it comes down to layoffs while the Administration continues to increase its ranks, salary, and legacy projects, they won't be blaming the strike.

  42. My comment relied on no advanced accounting, just bargaining 101. Surely the administration wanted to avoid committing any more money to faculty than it had to (to preserve it for other things), so when we offered to tie salary increases to increases in revenue and forego the 0/1/1/2% if revenue increased at a rate below that, their response shows they were willing to bet revenues would be higher. 6:50 raises the issue of how revenues should be measured, and which funds should be counted--a good question, but as the administration never showed any real interest in bargaining along this line, it wasn't addressed at the bargaining table. In other words, the administration rejected the concept of tying our salaries to revenues, not just the particulars of our proposal.

    As to the last exchange, well, I'd put more credence in the happiness the NTT, ACsE, and GA United leaders had in the contracts they received than in an anonymous claim that we're preparing to throw them under the bus. It's a bit too late to try to break up a coalition which held even after the administration tried to split it by isolating the FA. Their contracts give them more protection in the event of a financial crisis than they've ever had before, and they know that the FA helped them get those contracts (just as their support helped us).

  43. Dave wrote: (Re: the potential tying of future faculty raises to revenue streams):

    "...the administration never showed any real interest in bargaining along this line..."

    Good thing, too--I'm definitely glad the administration stuck to their guns on that one.

    Tying to *total* revenues is unworkable (as detailed elsewhere). On the other hand, I don't deny that it could be *possible* to engineer a way to contrive a similar approach that would be more feasible -- most simply, to tie our future salaries to those revenue streams from which our salaries are drawn (mostly state appropriations and tuition, I believe). However, if state appropriations go down (and who can imagine any other direction for them the way things are going), and if enrollment goes down (ditto) then everything is tied to tuition increases anyway. Comparitively large tuition increases are necessary to achieve even small increases in available funds for salary lines.

    While it may (or may not) be unfair to dismiss the tying of salaries to revenues as a mere gimmick, I just don't think it is practical. Even in a good year, it would really convolute planning for administrators (as well as those people who need to control budgets for grants and contracts). Put on top of that the uncertainty associated with the timing for arrival of funds from IL govt, the accounting necessary to determine raises could end up being creative (and subject to never-ending arguments, accusations, etc.) The way it was settled is just much simpler.

  44. An earlier poster mentioned the IEA dues level. I agree they are "pricey" however, I disagree we are not getting our money's worth except in strike situations.

    During the last two legislative sessions in Springfield the IEA successfully beat back two attempts to gut teachers pensions. THAT is where our dues dollars go and THAT is well worth it. Every faculty member at SIU should be paying dues simply for that reason alone.

  45. Jonny Gray said...

    "Your presumption to know what was on the table more so than what the FA is telling us, Anon 3:10, makes me wonder who you are or what crystal ball you possess."

    My thoughts also, Jonny. Anon 3:10 is obviously an upper level administrator, University counsel, or possibly a member of the admin bargaining team. Anon 3:10 was likely at the BoT meeting narrows the possibilities. They also know BoT bargaining strategies from an administrator's perspective. I'll make a guess - VP Paul Sarvela. He's in a position to know and he despises the unions. When he was ASA dean he made the remark in deans' council that he would "crush the NTT union” in his college. The NTTs found out about it because others present didn't like it and passed the remark on to the NTT leadership. Paul lost and now ASA has high membership – but hey – he did get the VP job out of it.

  46. Mike Eicholz is at it again--getting friends, neighbours, faculty in other departments who have offices in the same building as his to distribute the ballots to extinguish the FA union forever. He is getting quite obsessive. Mike Eicholz should quit all of this and join the FA union. Then he can try to wield his influences from within. it is pretty clear why he is so desperate--his real goal is to eliminate the Union. No doubt after that, just like Paul Sarvela, he will get a cushy job as an ADMOBINABLstrator!

  47. I think some folks like Mister X should be careful with tossing around names and making accusations. Perhaps the poster simply heard something by word of mouth...or perhaps reached a conclusion based on other information. To start making accusations about one thing or another right now is probably not a good least in the spirit of healing and all that. And geez...everyone had their own version of what might or might not happen. Maybe anon 3:10 just forumlated a scenario that turned out to be pretty accurate.

  48. Dave said :the administration never showed any real interest in bargaining along this line [tying salaries to revenues], it wasn't addressed at the bargaining table. In other words, the administration rejected the concept of tying our salaries to revenues, not just the particulars of our proposal.

    Since you started this blog you have offered some sound arguments and some poor arguments, but this is, bar none, the worst argument you have ever posted. It is not the BOT's job to bargain for the FA or to fix flaws in the FA's proposal! The FA team put a proposal on the table; it was unsound, for all the reasons that are listed above and which have been discussed here before; and so, the BOT team rejected it. If the FA team wanted to revise it to correct the deficiencies that caused the BOT team to rejected, they could have, but they did not. Don't cry foul that the BOT team was not interested in bargaining on this concept if you kept putting the same flawed plan back in front of them. It was well known that this proposal was flawed, so why was it still on the table? If the FA team knew (as they should have) that this proposal was not acceptable, why did they not fix it? Why keep putting it up?

  49. I agree that MisterX is going too far in speculating with names, but, I too am inclined to think that a comment left during the day on a weekday that names a Board member by name sounds a lot more like an administrator than like a faculty member.

  50. Anonymous 6:58: Wow, my worst argument ever--that's saying something.

    If the BOT had no interest in tying salaries to revenues, however calculated, if it rejected the concept, then the FA offer wasn't going anywhere (at least unless the administration was pressured to make a deal). That's my understanding (which I think you're willing to agree to). The FA then has every bit as much reason to change the concept behind its proposal on salaries as the BOT team does to change its concept (percentages)--and no more. There is no rational reason for the FA to tinker with its proposal, as far as I can see, to bargain against itself.

    As it turns out, the FA ended up with the same deal all the other unions got on salaries--not much of a deal, if revenues go up even by the low percentages of recent history. If revenues tank, however, the FA will at least have protected members against layoffs.

    You can argue, if you'd like, that the FA bargained itself into a box by taking the high ground on salaries--by arguing that it wasn't about money, and sticking to its offer to tie salaries to revenues. But it's pretty easy to predict the comments if the FA went on strike asking for, say, 0/2/3/4% instead of the administration's offer of 0/1/1/2%. Like it or not, the FA said it wasn't about money; the FA didn't get any money; and the FA's DRC just approved the tentative agreement by a vote of 30-0. The FA was consistent in prioritizing things other than salaries this time around.


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