The Strike of 2006: Day 5, Part 3 (or, "Talk, Don't Walk!")

Okay, first a small preamble: thanks again to the kind words and thoughts from people who have been reading and posting here, and also telling me either in person or in email that they’ve appreciated what I’ve written. As of now, which as I type this phrase means 11:20 PM on Tuesday, I’ve had 218 page “visits” (which is defined, as I understand it, as someone spending some time and looking at a number of different entries on my site) and 486 page “views” (which is basically someone clicking to the site, probably from a search engine, and then leaving relatively quickly). It’s funny how these things work; for me, the strike is as much a “media event” as it is anything else, which I suppose is perfectly appropriate given my scholarship and writing.

Second, I also want to direct readers’ attentions to Paul Leighton’s Blog, “PaulsJusticeBlog.” Normally, Paul writes/thinks about issues of crime and criminology and stuff like that– from a lefty point of view– but he has been thinking/writing a lot about the strike lately, especially since he’s on the EMU-AAUP Executive Committee right now and hip-deep in the negotiations. So he’s POV is obviously pretty biased, but it’s also pretty informed. He talks a lot on his blog about the nitty-gritty of negotiations. Very useful.

Okay: So, here’s what happened tonight:

I created a podcast/audio file that pretty much captures the night experiences for me (I’ll explain the difference between audio files and podcasts later, or you can read my article in Computers and Composition Online about teaching online classes with blogs. But I digress…). It’s about 9:30 minutes long, it’s an MP3 file, and it’s about 10.9 MB, and it’s linked right here. Just click on the link, and your browser should just play it. Actually, I think it turned out pretty well because I was able to capture some good audio with just my iPod and a microphone attached to it, including the faculty chanting at the adminstration’s team and Howard talking to folks after they left. And, if I do say so myself, I think this file really captures the moment better than these words here. Trust me, it’s worth the download.

But in case you don’t want to/can’t listen to that file, here’s what I thought happened, more or less:

  • By the time I showed up at EMU around Boone Hall at about 9:30 or so, there was already about 100-150 faculty members hanging about with signs and the like– you know, the typical picket/protest.
  • A lot of my colleagues from the English department were there, which I guess proves that people in English studies are “night people.”
  • I actually thought there was a lot of “drama” out there tonight, but not a lot happened when you just boil it down to words– which again is why I hope folks take the time to listen to my podcast/audio file. But what it boiled down to for me is this: 10:00 PM hit and the administration walked away from the table. Simple as that. So one of my faculty colleagues who has remained nameless so far: it looks to me like you’re going to be picketing after all, right? : )
  • I guess the administration had to walk out after this boneheaded threat. But at the same time, I guess I sort of assumed that they would keep talking if we were close to a deal, and, if it is indeed true that the administration was offering us 3% over 5 years, then we probably really were close to a deal. The whole thing seems so SO stupid to me. But it is so clear to me that if there was anyone out there who thought that the faculty were the ones at fault here, that feeling pretty much left as the administrators made their “perp walk” from Boone to Welch. It seems to me that the administration has set themselves up to look pretty freakin’ bad and give the faculty a reason to hold out as long as they possibly can now.
  • And once again, thanks so much to the students who were out in support of the faculty cause. The new guy who is president of student council/senate was out there and told us that students are making signs that say “Student Support Faculty” (or something like that) and plan to be greeting John Fallon at his coffee and doughnuts sessions first thing tomorrow morning.
  • Oh, and channel 4 had a decent enough coverage on the scene, and they tied it to the Detroit teachers walking out and closing down the public schools. I saw the report on the 11pm news, but I can’t find any links on their web site on it.

So, as I always say, we’ll see. I am TOTALLY convinced that if the administration were to come back to the table, we’d have a deal in a matter of a few hours. The real kicker is going to be is if the administration is willing to come back to the table that quickly. Given the “I’ll turn this car around” mode of threats, I’m predicting court action. And I am also predicting that this goes badly for the administration, quite frankly.

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7 Responses to The Strike of 2006: Day 5, Part 3 (or, "Talk, Don't Walk!")

  1. Roseanne says:

    Steve,

    I am a student and found your blog yesterday. I find it very insightful and feel very strongly that the University is making a huge mistake by taking such a hard line approach to “negotiations”. I cannot beleive that they acutally walked away from the table last night. My probelm is that I am morally opposed to crossing a picket line. I will not be attending classes today, nor will I attend until the strike is over. My concern is with the one class I have which is not being taught by a professor. I assume that class will go on as scheduled today. I really don’t like missing class, but feel I have no choice. I have contacted all of my professors/instructors by email but am still concerned with what I may be missing. I hope the university and the union meet soon and settle this thing.

    Best of luck–Roseanne

  2. Steven D. Krause says:

    Roseanne, I can’t tell you that you shouldn’t go to class or you shouldn’t cross the picket line. I think that’s a personal decision that folks make for all kinds of different reasons, and the situation here– because some classes by lecturers, part-timers, and grad students will be going on– is confusing and complicated for students. So it’s up to you.

    What I can tell you though is you might want to share these feelings with John Fallon and the members of the board of regents. The EMU-AAUP web site has some good information on this at their web site. The main page for the EMU-AAUP is at http://www.emu-aaup.org, a direct link to the email addresses and phone number of Fallon and of some of the board of regents is available here.

  3. Sally says:

    Steve,

    I’ve used an alias as I am an administrator and unlike you—I don’t have job security. But I do have my own opinion, not representing the University….

    As an administrator, I pay for parking (and have been paying since before it was required by other groups) AND in January, I will be paying for my healthcare. I make less money than you and have no opportunities to make more –like you by teaching CE and such. Your labor action puts my job and many others in the University at risk. In the past, keeping faculty harmless has cost our department many positions and we are having difficulties supporting the University needs on a skeleton crew. Let me re-iterate, for the sake of the faculty, many people have lost their jobs!!!! Families are hurting. A big payout for the faculty –will inevitably mean more job losses. The other staff groups in the University have made many sacrifices for the good of the student, support of faculty and the University as a whole. I hope that someday the faculty will recognize that.

    There are always two sides to every story. I would suggest getting the administration’s side of the story–from THEM and make up your own mind. For example, how would you consider severance, pay outs for sick and vacation-during a staff departure, pay differentials for working out of class, and pay for teaching courses (those that do this out of their normal line of duty)? Would you consider all that in the “bonusâ€� line item? Would you consider faculty ranks being the highest they have been in 10 years and cuts in all other groups as ‘non-supportive’ of faculty?

    There are two sides to every story –and we all know the truth is somewhere in the middle.

    I hope you the best in negotiations and that an agreement can be reached soon, but not at the cost of our students or the cost of putting more people out of work.

  4. Steve B. says:

    Sally,

    I’m not Steve Krause, but would just like to point out a few issues with your perspective here. While you set it up as if you’re speaking your own view, it does seem to come down pretty strongly, and emotionally for the administration–as if faculty should accept a contract of pay cuts, year-over-year, for five years, so that staff don’t lose their jobs? Who is feeding you this? How many staff jobs could have been saved if they didn’t blow 8 million on the president’s house? How many would have been saved by the $500,000 payout for him to keep his mouth shut when he left? How many would have been saved by not building a student center that the students themselves said wasn’t really needed–hardly a priority compared to other needs? Please don’t make this into the staff is sacrificing themselves to “keep faculty harmless” — what a nice way to address us. Last time I checked, it was the administration who sets the financial priorities and who fires people. We always want more support staff. And we are not trying to break any bank here–just break even. So please save the guilt trip you’re placing on us and look again at where it ought to go. The money that is spent on us is public knowledge and easy to point out–try looking at the rest of the spending priorities that are carefully hidden. We actually try, in contract negotiations, to get some of these issues more out in the open–but they fight that tooth and nail.

    This is, of course, only my point of view as well, and it is as biased as any–including yours. You doubtless lost friends and coworkers in layoffs, and I’m sorry for that. But if someone is telling you that is because faculty are being pacified–think about that again. And read Greg Barak’s piece in the Ann Arbor News for a little perspective:
    http://www.mlive.com/columns/aanews/index.ssf?/base/news-0/115735214478600.xml&coll=2

    Yours,
    Steve B.

  5. Sally says:

    Steve,

    I am a professional working for the same University as you. I have the same goals of making this good place a great place. I respectfully expressed to you another side of the story, and your response to me was condescending and disrespectful. I didn’t deserve to be treated like that.

    Like I said, before, I hope you the best in the negotiations.

  6. cheryl says:

    Well, tempers are certainly rising and the sides appear to be polarized. Like most everyone I have lots of conflicting feelings: on one hand, I really want to be teaching my students and doing all the stuff I planned on doing this term; yet, on the other hand, I’m aware that the administration and the regents did not have faculty or students in mind when they arrived at negotiations. As Steve B. so cogently put it: the administration/regents have put EMU’s money into a variety of self-serving or useless avenues. The last bit of info I heard from a reliable source is that the Student Union is millions of dollars over cost, and because of the cost overruns, the regents have to cut funding somewhere. Guess where?
    I must say, that the old song by the Who that runs, “meet the new boss, same as the old boss…” does ring true here. I think there will be long term fall out from this administration’s handling of the contract negotiations.

  7. Steven D. Krause says:

    I was trying post to this thread before, but my internet access on the picket line was limited to say the least.

    I guess I would say/add three things though:

    * I’d be happy to have our team talk to the administration, and it seems pretty clear to me that if talks had continued, faculty would be in the classroom today. But the fact is the administration delievered an ill-advised ultimatum and then walked away from talks. So really, we can’t listen to what it is they’ve said.

    * This is an issue beyond just faculty. If you are a staff person at EMU and you don’t make more money than me, then you almost certainly are in one of the other unions at EMU, the ones that deal with clerical workers and with “professional/technical” workers. Those folks WANT the faculty union to make a good deal because the faculty union is the only bargaining unit big enough on campus to really close the place down. It hasn’t always been the cae, but the better the deal the faculty get, usually the better the deal everyone else gets, too.

    * Don’t you think it’s kind of a problem that you’re afraid to use your real name here?

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