The Strike of 2006: A few Sunday morning links

A couple of people have mentioned to me this already, but I hadn’t read this Eastern Echo editioral, “Faculty union has right to strike,” until this morning. Wow, great great job. Please read it all; here’s an example of what you’ll find:

With the fourth-highest paid administrators in Michigan’s public higher education system, and a history of fiscal debacles regarding the laughably inept handling of Kirkpatrick’s departure (the blame for which must be shared by the regents and the administration), the whining over paying faculty more could not be more self-serving. Instead of investing in capital improvements like an unnecessary new union, or the boondoggle of the presidential mansion, the administration should have been preparing to support the faculty that differentiate this institution from community colleges, and even going further in attempting to recruit more top quality faculty. With their treatment of the strikers, EMU’s administration is hurting the ability of future students to receive the best education possible.

It is also good to remember that while a strong program taught by passionate, intelligent and well-compensated faculty can attract students that will reflect well both on this institution and on the rest of the student body, no one has ever chosen a college on the strength of their bureaucracy. Administrators exist to serve the students and the faculty, not the students and the administration, nor just the administration. Rather than carping about the illegality of the strike and sending passive-aggressive mass e-mails that minimize the responsibility of the administration, perhaps some time reconsidering the central missions of the university would be a better use of their time. As long as the strike continues, we imagine that all of us in the EMU community will have some to spare.

Then there’s articles like this one in the Detroit News correction:Free Press, “Strike puts EMU students in middle.” This piece is a really good example of how the administration’s PR team is getting its message in the press and why the folks in the EMU-AAUP need to take up the offer of some help getting their message out. I’m doing what I can here. But, as I think is really obvious with what I’ve been writing and what people have been posting here, EVERYONE feels stuck in the middle.

If the administration isn’t willing to come back to the table, I still think the best solution is the fact finding mission offer. I still don’t completely understand the legal issues involved here (what is fact finding? what is the real difference between fact finding and binding arbitration, other than “binding” part? how long would this take? what are the possible outcomes? etc., etc.), but at face-value, it seems like a reasonable and face-saving compromise. I did find this pdf file at the American Arbritation Association that sort of explains the way that this organization facilitates fact finding. And again, if there are any labor-type lawyers out there who want to chime in on this, feel free.

Finally, while looking for something else, I came across this rather interesting/amusing site, “Ten Warning Signs of a Toxic Boss,” which is on monster.com. I don’t really consider Fallon et al my bosses per se– the relationship between tenured faculty like me at the upper administration is much more complicated than that, I think– but I do find it a bit creepy to think about some of these signs. You’ll have to look at the link, but a few of the signs here include:

  • Disrespectful Behavior
  • Bad Attitude
  • Distrust of Others
  • Fear Used as a Motivator
  • Word Choice
  • Extreme Friendliness
  • Self-Absorption

I think about those last three with the email messages that Fallon has sent out….

The Strike of 2006: Isn't this a lockout?

After I got home from a fine and fun evening not at all related to the strike (well, maybe sort of related to it), I was reading through some email and responding to some comments, thinking about how the main reason we aren’t in the classroom right now is, basically, because the administration left the table and won’t talk to us anymore.

That got me thinking: isn’t that a “lockout?”

I am far from a lawyer or labor specialist; so, lacking any expertise, I did what lots of people do. I went to wikipedia and typed in “lockout.” The entry is here, but this is a quote from what it says:

A lockout is a work stoppage in which an employer prevents employees from working. This is differentiated from a strike, in which employees refuse to work. Sometimes, a lockout happens when only part of a trade union votes to strike. In such a scenario, the purpose of a lockout is to put pressure on a union by reducing the number of members who are able to work. For example, if part of the workers strike so that the work of the rest becomes impossible or less productive, the employer may declare a lockout until the workers end the strike.

Other times, particularly in the United States, a lockout occurs when union membership rejects the company’s last, best and final offer at negotiations and offers to return to work under the same conditions of employment as existed under the now expired contract. In such a case, the lockout is designed to pressure the workers into accepting the terms of the company’s last offer.

The second paragraph here seems to match the situation we’re in now pretty closely. They’ve given us what they have labled the “last, best, and final offer,” they have said that the only way they’ll talk is if we give up the strike, and it is a move to pressure workers to accept the last offer.

So, isn’t that a lockout after a fashion?

Is that legal? Is there any kind of action the union can take on this, if it is a lockout? Why aren’t we as a union calling it a lockout?

The Strike of 2006: Fallon writes back

I only have a moment to post this now, so I’ll have to kind of let this speak for itself: I sent a copy of the letter I sent to the VP of Academic Affairs to President Fallon the other day, and I received a response from him today. Let me preface my inclusion of that letter here by saying that Fallon is obviously a public figure at the heart of this whole mess, he didn’t suggest this was confidential correspondence, and email sent to me becomes mine, ultimately. Be assured though that I don’t normally post these sorts of things without permission.

Anyway, here’s what he wrote:

Thanks Steve. I appreciate your communication. And I apologize for not responding sooner. I attempt to respond to every single email I receive as soon as possible with a clear and abiding priority on student and faculty email. On this day, I find myself with a fairly significant backlog of correspondence that will take weeks, perhaps even months, to address. Nonetheless, I intend to do this…somehow. This, in a way not unlike how I approach other aspects of my personal life, is rooted in my commitment to principle, respect, integrity, altruism and basic human courtesy.
Much of the email I get includes thoughtful reflections and questions. These, in particular, require more than casual responses. Some, of course, are for a different purpose…less honorable and difficult to respond to.
Again, thanks. All the best.

John Fallon

Here’s what I wrote back:

President Fallon–

Thanks for your reply. I appreciate the fact that you feel that responding to all of the correspondence is demonstrable evidence that you do indeed “care.” But to be honest, I don’t think you have time to answer email right now.

If you really feel strongly about respect, integrity, and human courtesy, and assuming you think that faculty are humans who deserve these things, please return to the table. I’m one of literally thousands of people caught in the middle here, and you are one of a handful of people who actually could do something about this. So please, let me appeal to your humanity, and please return to the bargaining table.

Thanks,

–Steve

Steven D. Krause
Associate Professor
Writing Program Coordinator/Interim Director of First Year Writing
Department of English Language and Literature
Eastern Michigan University | Ypsilanti, MI 48197
734-487-1363 | http://www.stevendkrause.com

Besides the fact that his response was kind of generic, it seems kind of a problem to me that his idea of treating people “humanely” is to simply respond to email. Deep deep sigh….

The Strike of 2006: Day 9 (sort of)

I’m actually writing this post a bit earlier than when it will be posted; in fact, I’ll probably be playing golf when this gets posted. You can’t be on the picket line everday, and the union has called for a break from picketing today anyway. Is that enough of a break to restart talks? Maybe?

Anyway, I just wanted to post about three things.

First, don’t forget about being at the university house on Sunday at 1 pm. I know that will be the photo-op to beat all photo-ops of this strike so far. To me, faculty picketing around that house, the most expensive piece of property in Washtenaw county and the nexus of all that is wrong with this administration, wraps a rather pretty bow around the differences between the two sides. And I also think it lays blame where it belongs, which is on the doorstep of the guy who lives in this house, John Fallon.

But it would figure that the one rally/picket that I think should have happened a while ago and that I really wanted to see (well, before I witnessed that infamous and bizarre Tuesday night walkout by the administration) is scheduled at the EXACT same time as my son’s birthday party. Despite what some of my colleagues have said, I’m not going to miss my son’s ninth birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese and go picketing instead, and I hope the reasons for that are obvious. But please, if you know you’re going to go and you are going to bring a camera, let me know. I’d really like to know what happens at this event.

Second, if you haven’t done so already, please please please write to Fallon, Valvo, and the rest of the Board of Regents. We need to urge them to get back to the table and we need to do that before this stupid-assed pissing match starts doing permanent damage to the institution. Check out this EMU-AAUP web site that lists email addresses and such of Fallon, Valvo, and other members of the board of regents. I will be happy to add the names people have sent me about my letter and forward those to the powers that be. But my sense is that the best way to get the upper administration’s attention– especially Fallon’s attention– is to send him oodles of email. I think it’s probably quanity versus quality. In fact, what I’d really like to see is Fallon get so much email about all of this that his account closes down. That might give him a clue what’s going on with ICT, too.

Third, and this might seem sort of out of place with everything else that’s happened this week, but I really like working for EMU. Seriously. I know it might not look like that with all this crazy strike/contract shit going on. But I have to tell everyone that I’ve found this a great place to be. Why? Well, because….

  • I have FANTASTIC (and, no kidding around here, I cannot emphasize this enough) great students here at EMU. I’m not going to pretend that they’re all excellent/fabulous/whatever. But the ones that are good are very good, and the ones that you help, you feel like you really help. And hey, do you think the U of M students would support their faculty on a strike like this?
  • I have GREAT colleagues in the Department of English Language and Literature in general and the Writing program in particular. English departments have a reputation for being mean mean places– the politics are so ugly because the stakes are so low, as they say. But for all kinds of reasons I won’t rehash now, I honestly think our department gets along better than just about any other English department in the country. Really.
  • There’s a tremendous amount of flexibility here for faculty to pursue different scholarly and creative outlets. I guess what I mean is EMU’s English department is a place where faculty members can do pretty much what they want and get rewarded for it. Very cool indeed.
  • Except for this contract negotiation bullshit every few years, you pretty much don’t have to deal with the upper administration of the place.
  • And I like living in this area– right next to Ann Arbor, within close proximity to Detroit and its many ‘burbs, close to Chicago, etc.

So, if you do apply for one of the jobs in writing that I hope we post this year, please apply. Really. Don’t let this contract stuff scare you off too much.

The Strike of 2006: What is Fallon Saying to Students, Anyway?

One of the things I’ve been curious about in this whole thing is just how is Fallon et al responding to students and other folks about the strike? I haven’t received a response to my letters to the administration, and I don’t expect to hear anything, either.

With this in mind, you can imagine how I was interested in receiving a completely unsolicited email from a student about his/her exchange with Fallon. Here’s the letter that he/she wrote (and I should point out that this person said it was okay for me to put it up on my web site):

Dr. Fallon,

I have been following the negotiations closely as the school year approaches. The more I watch, the more disappointed I become with the actions of the University. Outside of the strikeitselfand the motivations of each side to pursue said strike, the University is not acting appropriately with respect to the students. EMU’s website has subtly demonized the faculty by emphasizing that the strike is illegal, by calling the strike a “work stoppage,� and by stating that “EMU staff are committed…� implying that the faculty are not.

What the University has ostensibly failed to take into consideration is the fact that many students are close with their professors. As a senior, I spend a lot of time with my professors, working with them both in and out of class. I have been reading not just EMU’s take on the strike, but also the AAUP’s position, as well as the positions of individual faculty who have been keeping students updated. It’s not what they say that has swayed me to their side, it’s how they are saying it. Instead of attempting to make the University look bad, or even themselves look good, they stress the tension and difficulties on both sides of the strike without casting any direct barbs at the administration. The administration has not had the decorum to do likewise, and as a result, are insulting my professors, men and women with whom I have worked closely for years.

The actions of the University also insult me, because they assume that I am uninformed (by stressing that the strike is illegal – it’s Michigan, all strikes by teachers are illegal); already on their side (Why should I be? Most of my contact at the University is with faculty, not staff); and opposed to the strike and/or the reasons behind it (I agree completely with the faculty. The University’s offer is a pay cut, not a pay raise, full time faculty should be teaching more of the classes, and the conditions of many of the classrooms are not conducive to learning).

Villainizing the faculty will not make the administration and staff look any better, instead vice versa; and the University’s actions are an insult to the faculty and to the students.

Sincerely,

(student’s name here)

That’s pretty good, don’t you think? You can’t complain about this student not being able to write a sentence or anything like that, and he/she certainly focused in on an apsect of the discourse here, the problems of “villianizing” of faculty, why this person identifies with the faculty and not the administration, etc., etc. Good job.

Okie-dokie; so what did Fallon say? Well, according to the student who sent me this email, this:

Thanks so much studentnamehere. I appreciate the benefit of your perspectives and your willingness to share them.

Of course, I see things a little differently. Rather than argue with your contentions, I would simply say this: I have confidence in the systems and processes that are being deployed to resolve this matter and the people who are engaged in them. I have said here on this campus, and behaved to back this up with behavior on countless occasions, that our core business is teaching learning and students and faculty are the most important people who work here. I do not demonize of villainize our faculty, subtly or otherwise; rather, I feel the high privilege of working in their support…every day.

Again, thank you.

With appreciation,

John Fallon
President

I think this is probably a mix between “real writing” and “boilerplate” letter, but it does have a feel of actually being written by DA MAN.

In any event, I’m kind of biased, but I like the student’s email a whole lot better. Besides the complete bullshit about “supporting faculty” in Fallon’s letter, he doesn’t have an iota of support for his point.

What that means for me then is that the score is students 1, administration 0.

If anyone has anything else to send me along these lines, feel free.

The Strike of 2006: Day 8 (after the meeting)

Of course I went to the 2 pm meeting the EMU-AAUP called to talk about what’s up with the strike. I thought about taking my computer with me and actually “blogging live” while the meeting was going on, but I decided that there were too many logistical problems with that. I did take a lot of notes, and here’s (basically) what I wrote down:

  • Once again, Howard Bunsis repeated what I have to admit is for me the bottom line: the administration walked away from the table, the union is still at the table, and the union is willing to meet and talk with the administration’s team at any time and at any place. As I’ve mentioned here many times before, I have mixed and complex feelings about the union and I don’t agree with everything they’re asking for. But the basic principle is hard to dispute: we really can’t go back to work until the administration comes back to the negotiations. As came up at a couple of different times, if we were to give in to the administration demands on this one, then we’re asking for a super shitty contract the next time around and every other time from then on. Fallon and Valvo were basically trying to break the union; they managed to make it much much stronger.
  • I have to say that I am not entirely sure that I really understand the insurance issues as much as I thought I did. I was under the impression that I would be able to keep the insurance I have right now, but I’m not completely sure if that’s the case. But my misunderstanding about this is probably my fault. Anyway, the short version is it looks like the faculty and the administration are further apart on this than I thought.
  • Oh, and it doesn’t look like our insurance is going to be cut off anytime soon. Someone on the bargaining team told a story about how a child of his needed some urgent care this week and wanting to find out about the insurance issues. So he called over to HR and was told that the insurance was paid by the university a month in advance and there was not going to be any quick change in covering faculty because “nothing changes quickly at EMU.” Good news, I guess….
  • The cost of living stuff– things like projections for inflation and all of that– is all kind of murky to me. On the one hand, I think the union is making a reasonably good case, and in my own experiences, I can say pretty clearly that the meager raises we’ve always gotten at EMU ultimately mean that we slowly fall behind. When we were on strike in 2000, one of the big issues was money and how we were (on average) at the bottom of the MAC. Six years later, we’re still at the bottom of the MAC– or close to it. On the other hand, with the state of the Michigan economy, I think settling on a deal where we are not taking a pay cut because of insurance (this has ALWAYS been my personal bottom-line) is probably a more sane negotiation stand than inflation and cost of living.
  • Anyway, this is a good example of how the math between the administration and the faculty differs. The administration has been saying they’re offering us a 16% pay raise over 5 years; the union, figuring in things like COL and inflation, says we’re getting a 1.10% pay cut. I supsect the truth depends a lot on a wide variety of individual factors– how much you’re getting paid in the first place, what sort of expenses you have, etc., etc. These all seemed like issues that could have been worked out in negotiations– if the administration was willing to actually negotiate, of course.
  • One of the union negotiating team stories that I had heard elsewhere: there was a very stupid dispute about the correct time at around 10 pm on Tuesday night, where the lawyer for the administration said it was one time and where someone on the union side, who was referring to the time displayed on his cell phone, said it was about 10 minutes earlier than the administration said. Tell me that’s not childish– I dare you.
  • I don’t like at all the stuff that’s on the table about Continuing Education classes, I really don’t like the fact that it seems like the administration is proposing different rates for f2f classes and online classes, and I really REALLY don’t like that the online CE classes will pay less. I’m not sure how big of an issue this was for the union team, but it’s a big issue for me for all kinds of reasons I won’t go into now.
  • There was a very fired-up attorney from the firm that the union retains– maybe a little too fired up. Anyway, he basically rehashed some of the long-pressing legal issues and was there for some support. But not that informative.
  • One of my favorite Bunsis quotes: “If they (meaning the administration, of course) came back to the table tonight, we’d be back in the classroom on Monday.” That’s almost certainly true, IMO. Reason 1,342 as to why that infamous Fallon/Valvo letter was so stupid.
  • There was some talk about how this strike is a struggle for labor across America. Well…. sorta. It’s certainly not often that academic labor unions go on strike. But if it’s part of the national labor struggle, I think it’s worth remembering that a) labor is getting its ass handed to it (the Northwest Airlines mechanics union, for example), and b) faculty are kind of labor, kind of not.
  • There were some questions about the whole “fact finding” thing. I stood up and asked about it. By the way, since people in the back couldn’t hear me, I was told for the literally the first time in my life to speak up. Anyone who has heard me speak knows that’s true. Anyway, I said something like this: “I’m all for the union’s position that we are at the table and the administration needs to come back to the table. But suppose it comes to this fact finding thing. If the union is confident of its numbers and, after this fact finding mission, the administration still doesn’t want to give us a decent contract, why can’t we then go on strike?” This was met with a smattering of claps and some “rabble-rabble-rabble” sounds I had a hard time interpreting.

    The basic answer was that if the faculty waited until after the fact finders came back with the facts (and the assumption was it wouldn’t be until December or something to get these “facts”) and if the university didn’t follow the recommendations of the fact finders, it would be unlikely that faculty really would go on strike. The theories offered as to why this would be the case? Basically, by December or so, faculty build relationships with their students and they wouldn’t be willing to walk out of teaching. Plus it’s really nasty weather in December, the kind not conducive for picketing.

    This is a long-standing debate about strike strategies in the union, and I know there are a variety of different opinions on this. While one of my senior colleagues suggested that our students were like puppies (once you have them for a couple of months, you don’t want to give them away), I think that we’re hurting our students right now. I think our students are like– oh, I don’t know– people. And if our students, as people, understand us while we’re on strike right now and they support us, I think they will in December too.

    And, as one of my other colleagues suggested to me on the phone, all we’d have to do is go back on strike at the beginning of the Winter term in January. It would be pretty much the same as going on strike now.

    As far as the weather stuff goes: well, I can get long underwear and everything. You live in Michigan long enough and you get used to being out in the cold.

    Personally, I have always thought that if we were to work without a contract until about Thanksgiving and then went out, the adminstration would be kind of screwed because of the pressure of the end of the semester. But maybe that’s just me.

    I would like to say that, besides all this stuff, it seems unlikely to me that the administration would agree to this fact finding option and then not agree to its recommendations. But given that the administration left the table, it’s hard to know what they’d do.

  • Again and again, folks asked (basically) who is really behind all this. Again and again, the union folks– Howard Bunsis et al, I mean– were fairly diplomatic in what they didn’t know. In other words, they said they really didn’t know who to blame for this mess. But at the same time, it seems to me as an observer that this is Fallon’s and Valvo’s fault.
  • Anyway, that was the major substance of it. I can’t think of the woman’s name, but someone told a rather inspiring story about how (rumor has it, of course) that a lot of the “in the trenches” administrators are as PO-ed about the Fallon/Valvo letter as the faculty. This does make a certain amount of sense; after all, while the Fallons of the institution are likely to be moving on to their next high-powered administrative gig in a few years, the vast majority of deans, associate deans, program folks, and department heads are like the majority of the faculty: EMU is their career. And, like the faculty, I am sure they resent that the president and the board of regents are in the process of screwing this place (and our students and our careers and our lives) up for the rest of us.
  • The point is this though (especially for any administrator-types who might be reading this) is there is absolutely no evidence that the faculty are even remotely split. If any of you folks were thinking that maybe the union was in the process of breaking, give it up. I cannot possibly emphasize enough how angry faculty are about all this and how clearly the faculty is united on this one. I think folks are more together on this– again, because the administration walked away– on almost any other than I have seen in my time at EMU. In my mind, the only thing that comes close to this vibe is when the faculty overthrew the old (and corrupt) guard of the union. Neither Fallon nor Valvo know anything about this, I am sure, but they ought to ask someone to find out how that turned out.
  • Of course, there’s lots of faculty– including me– that want the union to entertain some sort of alternative and creative solution to making a deal. But who knows how that will go?
  • One last important thing: the union is NOT going to be picketing tomorrow (maybe the adminstration can pretend we’re not on strike that day and go back to the table), but then on Sunday, there’s going to be a picket/rally in front of the “University House” at 1pm. This is where I think we should have been picketing/protesting from day one. But what bums me out about all this is I won’t be able to be there; we’re having a birthday party for my son then. Oh well.

    If anyone reading this is going to be there, has a camera, and wants to write about it/take pictures of it, I can make you a deal as a guest blogger. Just let me know.

  • Oh wait, yet another last thing! If you’re reading this and you want the administration to come back to the bargaining table, please please please email them. If you visit this EMU-AAUP web page, you can find the email addresses and phone numbers of the key players (Fallon, Valvo, etc.). Emailing/writing/calling them might be futile, this is all we’ve got at this stage.

Slight Update:
Howard Bunsis just sent around an email about today’s meeting. I include the text here for a couple of reasons, including the link to PDF file they used for their presentation today. Like I said, I thought the presentation was pretty good and worth a look. And, as I said earlier, it is very true that faculty are pretty much united about the need for the administration to come back to the table. Anyway, here’s what Howard said:

Earlier today, in an incredible demonstration of strength and solidarity, 389 members of our union met and reaffirmed your strong support of their strike. We presented the offers on the table from both sides, and it is clear that you remain determined to stay on strike until a fair contract is achieved.

The presentation from today’s session can be found at:
http://www.emu-aaup.org/files/Negotiation_Status_Report_to_Faculty_090806.pdf

In legal news, the EMU administration rejected the EMU-AAUP’s offers for both binding arbitration and binding fact-finding.

Rest assured that your negotiating team is going to examine every available avenue in order to find a way to encourage the administration to come back to the bargaining table. More than anything, we want to be in the classrooms with our students as soon as possible.

The Strike of 2006: Day 8 (before the meeting)

I’m not sure, but I think this might be the longest strike in EMU history at this point. I might have to check with some of the old hands later on today.

Anyway, I don’t have much to post right now, mainly because I haven’t been on campus yet and also because I want to see what happens at this union meeting this afternoon. I thought I’d mention two things though:

  • I thought the Eastern Echo had a pretty good article out today, at least in the online format, simply titled “The strike continues.” Granted, it probably takes the faculty side of things almost exclusively, but it does point out something that I don’t see being reported in things like the Ann Arbor News: classes really aren’t meeting, and this really could become a problem for upper-classmen, undergrads on the verge of graduation, and graduate students if this goes on too much longer.
  • I think everyone needs to kind of take a chill-pill here, at least for a bit. I don’t have any really inside info, but my hope is that there are people on both sides of the table who are working behind the scenes to get this mess settled. So, you know, let’s us in the middle give them the encouragement to do that. I guess we’ll find out at some point today if any of that is actually going on.

In the meantime, enjoy this picture of giant sunflowers I took while on a walk through the Washtenaw County Farm Park:

Pretty flowers

Sorry about the kind of crappy quality; it was my camera phone.

Okay, everybody breathe in…. now breathe out…. in…. out…. etc…..

The Strike of 2006: Student group gathers signatures to end strike

I got an email from a student (I think a student) I think has to do with the student protests urging what I think most faculty want at this point: get back to the table to talk. Here’s what Michael says to a mailing list of folks that are calling themselves “ESOFT” (Eastern Students, um, Faculty Talks? I’m not sure…):

Thanks for your support! If we keep this pressure on the administration, who is refusing to negotiate, perhaps they will have no other choice but to begin talks again. I feel as though both sides have been presenting counterposing data and “crunching numbers” – the faculty have generated numbers that now show the average EMU faculty salaries at all levels of professorship higher than the average for 11 other michigan schools (excluding UM, MSU, and WSU) numbers for which the exact source is unknown. We can waste are time negotiating this for the administration but what we want is the Administration to engage the AAUP in dialogue RIGHT NOW! That is our message. We want to make Eastern a better place. The Administration seems to want to use their levers of control in the media to spin this as if they have done all they can to meet faculty needs and end this strike, when in fact, they are on strike from the table! The union proposed binding arbitration, which the administration has refused. So, WE are going back to the tables tomorrow.

The table has collected around 1144 student signatures to a petition so far. They’re by the union, so if you get a chance to swing by there today and if you’re a student, go add your name. They are going to keep having protest marches around campus too, at 11 am and at 4 pm. Man, the young people have energy.

One more kind of interesting quote from this email I received that was sent out to students in this group:

We have had three rallies, one of which on tuesday night (#1) had students “storming the bastille” (Welch Hall) marching in with megaphone and 30-40 students chanting “ADMINISTRATION EMU – WE ARE HERE – WHERE ARE YOU???” Well, they were in their meeting rooms deciding how to diffuse this disturbance to their work. One officious looking lady was sent out of the meeting to send us back outside (which we respectfully did). Now, knowing the room in which they were meeting, we began with the full crowd of 50+ to chant event louder “FAIR DEAL–RIGHT NOW– FAIR DEAL RIGHT NOW — BACK TO THE TABLE — RIGHT NOW — BACK TO THE TABLE — RIGHT NOW” They were at the table speaking to themselves figuring out their next move. We chanted and marched around Welch Hall and the rest of campus for over an hour. As the rally died down, and after Howard Bunsis, AAUP Pres, spoke to us, we began to disperse. Jim Vick, VP Student Affairs, came out and invited 12 of us in to have a Q&A with Jim and his colleague, Sue Kaettelus, an administration negotiator. This was quite surreal and the whole time we were speaking, I was trying to process the numbers they were throwing at us. I was also thinking that if they can take the time to do this with us, then why not deal directly with the faculty?

Why indeed?

The Strike of 2006: "Fact Finding"

The news tonight: the administrations’ response to the union’s offer of to enter binding arbitration was, basically, no (the bad news), but what about an application for a fact-finding proceedure? That’s the good news. Here’s a link to the letter.

Again, IAMAL, but as I understand it, what this means is that a third party would be brought in, this person would look at the numbers and arguments, and write a report about what they think. The main difference between this and binding arbitration is it’s not binding– that is, either side could look at the report, decide that they don’t like what it says, and not change the offer. Though that would obviously have some consequences.

Now, once again in an effort to make sure everyone understands that this is still a battle for dominance, President Fallon’s letter calls for the faculty to first end its strike and then enter this fact finding mission. This might be legal semantics, but it sure sounds to me like an effort of getting the union to give in, even if just a little.

When is someone going to be a grown-up here?

The union has called a meeting at 2 pm tomorrow, and I am assuming that there will be talk about this. Hopefully some kind of vote. Personally, I think the union should welcome this as a positive step and I think the union ought to suggest two possible paths to resolving this mess:

  • Once again invite the administration back to the table for talks (remember, they left! not the union!) and see if we can’t take one more try at reaching an agreement. Hell, do it on Saturday– as it is, the union is calling for folks to take a day off from picketing then anyway. Let the administration claim we’re not on strike that day. Get these parties together and I bet we get a deal.
  • Or, if that’s not in the cards, let’s take the fact finding thing. If the union is confident in its numbers and was willing to call for binding arbitration, then the fact finder is not much different. I’d suggest that the union use the language of “suspending” instead of ending the strike until this is all resolved, but again, we would have done that with binding arbitration.

    To me, this is a win-win for the union. It’s highly unlikely that this fact finder would discover the administration was offering us too much. If the fact finding finds that the administration’s offer is about fair, okay, then let’s take it. If the fact finder finds that we really ought to be getting 4% or 5% a year for five years, well, that’d be better than great.

    Let’s get on with this, folks. I want this blog to be about computers and writing stuff again.