I’ve been riding my bike to school lately (and I will be until the weather gets nasty) because there’s been a lot of road construction around campus, it’s impossible to park at the beginning of the semester, and– oh yeah– I live less than a mile and a half from my office. Anyway, I rode in today for an afternoon EMU-AAUP “Support Rally,” and I was struck by what a great day it was for a protest, perfectly sunny, a light breeze, that mix between summer and fall. Really, a beautiful day.
The rally was good too– not really “beautiful,” but a good showing of around 300 or so faculty. Pretty well organized and a good “photo-op” for the media. I stood there with my sign, half-listening to the speeches (it was hard to hear) and mingling with colleagues, using the sign to shade the sun. Standing by Welch Hall, which is the administrative building, were some “suits” keeping an eye on things. Kinda interesting.
After an afternoon that actually involved doing some work, I went to yet another union meeting so we could take a vote to authorize a strike. We rehashed the issues, found out what had changed or not changed, etc., and after some other discussion (which I’ll get to in a bit), we voted to strike. And the weather was still really nice when I rode home.
A few thoughts on all of this (and a few other things beyond the meetings):
* My gut feeling, even after the vote to authorize a strike, is that the bargaining team is going to get a deal. I don’t know, maybe that is being overly optimistic, but it just seems to me that the faculty and the administration are actually pretty close. I mean, we might technically be on strike for a while this evening, when the contract ends at midnight, but I still think this is ultimately going to work out.
* The issues? Pretty much the same: hiring back more faculty, money, and continuing education. Insurance used to be a problem, but the administration backed down on forcing faculty into one plan. The continuing education is a relatively minor one to be honest, so I expect that one to drop away soon.
So, we’re left with hiring back faculty and money. Now, money-wise, the administration was offering a 2.6-2.3% raise for 2 years (I might have those numbers mixed up), and we were asking for 3.75% or so. Even the chief negotiator for the union doesn’t think we’re going to get 3.75% (at least that’s what the Ann Arbor News reported), so we’re probably talking about a 3% across the board raise for two years. That seems pretty straight-forward to me.
Faculty-wise, it’s a little more complicated. Basically, since the previous and infamous president was hired, EMU has hired a lot more administrators and non-tenure-track sorts of teachers (part-time and full-time lecturers), and we’ve hired a lot fewer faculty. At the meeting today, it sounds like we are getting somewhere with language where the administration commits to hiring a lot more faculty, but at the same time, the administration doesn’t really want to write this into the contract forever.
* One of the things I’m concerned about here are our priorities. The bargaining team says that the most important issue is hiring back more faculty, but what I’m worried about is the administration will offer us a 3% pay raise, do nothing about hiring back more faculty, and that’s the deal we’ll take. Personally, I think that’s kind of backwards.
* The controversy at the strike meeting– if it could really be called a “controversy”– was over how it was we were going to vote for a strike, with a paper ballot or a voice vote. I supported a paper and secret ballot and had big problems with a voice vote, basically because I thought this was too important to be one big “rah-rah” yell of yes.
Personally, I registered my vote to strike as “abstain.” I didn’t want to put my voice to a yes or a no, and I also don’t really know exactly how I feel about it all. Yeah, there are some issues left on the table, but going on strike is no fun, and if there isn’t much on the table, well…
* I do know this: I don’t know if we’re going on strike or not, but if the bargaining unit does call a strike, the administration is kidding themselves if they think that we’re either bluffing or if faculty split over this. Take me, for example: as unenthusiastic as I am about striking, there is no freakin’ way I’d cross a picket line. My guess is that this is true for about 630 or so of my colleagues.
Oh well. I’ll know by tomorrow morning. I just saw EMU’s “PR Tool” Pam Young on one of the channels out of Detroit, and I have to say that if this is the language that they want to use about what the faculty is doing, I suspect we might be starting classes a couple days late this year…