So, I walked into campus once again for a little time on the picket line. Originally, I had signed up to picket from 10 am to noon, but when I showed up to my appointed place, there was no one there. Someone reminded me that there was an email to eveyrone that said we were now supposed to meet at 10:30 am at a parking lot on the other side of campus. Okay, fine….
Anyway, I went over there, only to find that the instructions the organizers were giving us were (basically) to go back to where I was before. And then there was also a lot of sort of “mixed messages” about what it is we were doing out there and trying to say to students. Throughout this talk and the rest of the picketing activities, there was a lot folks saying that we didn’t want to scare folks or make them feel uncomfortable and all of that.
Which brings up a tangent:
I appreciate the work that the picket organizers have done so far, though, as I have said in previous recent posts, I personally think that the focus should be on bigger events, as was the case today. But I don’t think you go on strike or picket to make people feel good or to make them feel comfortable.
Beyond that, it’s kind of hard to “organize” faculty members, who most often behave more like independent contractors than the kind of workers who tend to make up labor unions. And I also don’t think that a bunch of middle-aged and up folks carrying around signs are really all that intimidating to anyone.
Anyway, we (and by “we,” I mean me and about 75-80 other faculty, which is a pretty good showing for a Sunday morning on a holiday weekend before school has even begun) eventually got sort of organized and were at the doors of the field house when incoming students were leaving to go on to their next orientation activity. We passed out flyers and such for about 20 minutes. Most of the time, I was with my colleague Ian and his very large and very nice dog, Tucker. Actually, Tucker was a nice ice-breaker because a lot of the students said hi and wanted to pet the dog.
After the students moved from one building to another (and thus were out of sight for a while), we all ended up hanging around for an hour or so. There was chatting, gossiping, socializing, etc., but just about everyone there seemed pretty “gung ho” about the whole enterprise of being out on the picket line. Well, I suppose that’s to be expected– who the hell else would show up for a picket on the Sunday morning before Labor Day?
I did get a chance to talk with Howard Bunsis a bit. Mostly he told me the sort of thing he’s said a bunch of different times in emails and the press and everything else. I asked him what he thought about our chances of making a deal before classes began, and he said 50-50. Which, I don’t know, I guess is good.
Then we organized a sort of a stationery picket line overlooking where first year students were eating lunch. There was a big tent where they were serving up food, and supposedly, John Fallon was in there, meeting and greeting. I don’t know about that; he certainly never came out to say howdy to the faculty.
Bunsis did talk to us all a bit when we were done picketing at about 12:15 or so. There’s not going to be any picketing on campus tomorrow, but the EMU-AAUP has a spot in the Labor Day parade in Detroit. And then it’s back to the lines again on Tuesday– unless we’re settled, of course.
So, once again, we’ll see what happens.
Bunsis said that his impression is that the administration still thinks that faculty won’t respect the strike and will work on Wednesday. I really don’t know if this is what the thinking of the administration actually is, but I think that’s bizarre thinking indeed. There’s no question that faculty have a lot of mixed feelings about the union and about a strike and all of that, that there are plenty of faculty who won’t picket for good and bad reasons, and that there will certainly be some faculty who will cross the lines. But that doesn’t mean that classes will go off without a hitch. I would guess that out of the 680 or so faculty in the union, probably 600 of them won’t show up to teach if we’re still on strike. In my department, while I can think of lots of people who won’t picket for all kinds of different reasons, I can’t think of anybody who is likely to cross the picket line.
And this doesn’t even speak to all of the other things that faculty do besides teaching, things like leading orientation sessions, mentoring graduate assistants, helping students register and schedule, and so forth. And believe me: if classes really don’t start on time on Wednesday, I am pretty sure there will be more faculty on the picket line, not less.
I have to think that most of the administration knows this. I mean, every time seems to be pretty much the same thing; why is this supposedly different?
Anyway, the rest of my “Labor” day weekend is going to be on getting ready for school with the assumption that it will start eventually, and it will start before my first class meets, which is September 11. But my hope is that I’ll be able to be working in my office on September 6.
One more thing:
I forgot to mention this earlier. As the EMU-AAUP web site indicates, negotiations are supposed to resume at 6pm Sunday night. The problem is the mediator isn’t going to be there until Tuesday. So for us to get a deal before Tuesday morning would pretty much be a miracle at this stage.