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August 30, 2006

On Strike for Labor Day? (Part I)

In an earlier posting, I mentioned being on the negotiating team that is working on a new contract for the 667 faculty members here. With a little more than 30 hours before the contract expires, the sides are miles worlds apart. So it's likely there will be a strike that will continue through the Labor Day weekend. Being on strike and picketing is somewhat unusual, both because of declining participation in labor unions and for folks in white collar jobs.

So, I'll be using this blog to discuss the experience as it unfolds over the next few days.. or as long as it takes to resolve the issues. I'll be talking about the process and general issues; many of the specifics are available through detailed proposals at the union's website.  

picketing-notwalmart

 
As background, I've been on strike twice before in my nine years here. In 2000, I was starting my third year when we had a ten day strike. I wrote part of my third year review for tenure while out on strike and remember feeling very uncomfortable from the vulnerability of being untenured and on strike. As it turned out, part of resolving the strike was a provision in the contract guaranteeing all pay, no retailiation and requiring a plan from us to make up for the missed classes.

Two years ago, I was on the negotiating team when we struck. Negotiations start with the other side in June and as the contract approaches, the negotiations get intense and much longer. On the final day (August 31), we started  at 3pm and negotiated through the night. At midnight we called a strike and faculty members started picketing to turn away deliveries (since must drivers are unionized and will not cross a picket line). By about 7:30 am we had a deal and classes started at 8.

This year, we again started in June and have been meeting twice a week since then. Progress has been slow to non-existent, especially on substantial issues: wages, health care, input into governance and the number of faculty/outsourcing our work. Today started mediation at 9am and we've been at it all day, except for a break for a rally (See pictures) and lunch. Although they had previously communicated that we could not picket on campus and they would have the campus police out there to enforce their twisted version of Free Speech, nothing happened. Oh, and faculty voted 311 to 14 to authorize a strike if the contract expires.

picketing outside admin building
 

Tomorrow looks like more of the same, although there's some questions of whether it is worth it. The administration has not moved from earlier positions and seems to have little interest in moving at all. For example, the health care proposal presented on June 8th (first day) is still the current offer. Their compensation package for Aug 21 - of 2% a year for the next 5 years - is still what they're offering.

I SHOULD MENTION THAT BECASUE THE HEALTH CARE PACKAGE ENTAILS HIGHER COSTS OUT OF OUR POCKETS, THE NET PACKAGE AMOUNTS TO NOTHING (0%) OR EVEN A PAY CUT FOR SOME FACULTY. AND THAT'S BEFORE INFLATION.

Negotiations alternate being quite intense and very boring at this stage. It's intense as you strategize and get a proposal ready, then anxiety and boredom while waiting for the other side to respond. You can guess where we're at in the cycle if I'm working on the blog.

Start: 8:30am

Finish: 7:30pm

 

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Paul

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