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September 08, 2006

On Strike for Labor Day (Part 9)

Another day with no negotiations and no word from the administration about resuming contract talks. Still, it was a very busy day around the office.

back to the table to negotiate 

Much of what we're doing now revolves around multiple levels of strategy. Obviously much of this can't be disclosed here, but there are many short-term and longer terms (days ahead) to deal with. Most immediately is getting information produced: deciding on information for the daily flyers, and getting the paper, refreshments, and stickes (I Support My Faculty) up to compus in the right places.

When students moved in, we distributed thousands of flyers to get information to them early. We're still working on that, but fighting the problem that students go to EMU's website for information, because that's where they get email, register, etc. The administration also has access to listserves that we don't. We do get CCed on some very funny emails from students pushing back:

EMU can go piss up a rope with that "illegal strike" stuff, and ought better do some things at the bargaining table to reach an agreement with the professors, in order that the AAUP leadership may have a package worthy of recommending to their membership It's called "good faith bargaining", and that's what it takes to avoid labor disputes.  (I note EMU's record along these lines in past contracts is at best middling, often poor.) 

Your sending out an email of such tone to students like me serves no good purpose.  Be assured I'm never to show up for classes being run by rat instructors.  There are plenty of others like me too .... this is Michigan, and we're freedom-loving folks who believe in a fair day's pay for our work.  Get with what matters !  Helps reach an agreement, and enough with the mass Emails ....   

[Clarification: a sharp former student and now lecturer took the 'rat' comment to be bashing lecturers and adjuncts, and thus anti-feminist because women are more likely to hold those positions than tenure-track or tenured jobs. I'm not sure what the student meant, but I certainly don't regard the lecturers, grad students or contingent labor who taught to be rats or scabs; that term would be reserved for anyone who took the jobs or did the work of striking faculty and thus undermined the strike.]

And another (with a reference to a strike by public employees is prohibited under Michigan law):

The right to assemble and unionize is a civil right and a human right. It is Michigan's law that is illegal under US Constitutional law. Shame on you for sending these ridiculous emails. Stop sending propaganda and get back to the bargaining table with EMU-AAUP.
Well said. Thanks.

student rally to support striking faculty 

Obviously the larger issues deal with the strategy of getting back to the table to finish negotiating. We're exploring a number of avenues here that we'll talk about at the all faculty meeting later today. We're also trying to map out a range of options they might pursue, and developing our responses so we're ready to go. I realize that sounds vague and I apologize, but I think you can understand.

Part of what I can say is that our offer of binding arbitration was rejected, but they returned to offer fact-finding (which we knew was coming). To enter fact-finding, we would need to call off the strike, then the recommendation is advisory. So fact-finding would likely entail: calling off the strike, months of hearings, a recommendation the university would likely ignore or adopt small parts while they try to get us to accept the offer they had on the table last week. Returning to strike in December isn't really an option, so guess what happens?

We're returning an offer of binding fact-finding, which is also available under the state's labor law. We're willing to submit this to a binding decision by a neutral third party. Do you think they are? 

More generally, we are in touch with the lawyers, and frequent communication with the national AAUP. They have been amazingly supportive. There are not too many strikes in higher education, and the kind of walk out done here is unusal, although not unheard of). They're keeping a close on us and obviously want to make sure this doesn't become a trend.

I've heard a few comments from faculty about the involvement of the national AAUP. Let's be clear that they are giving advice and are very respcectful that it's ultimately our choice about what to do with it. They don't have a vote and would go withdraw if we wanted, but they have given great advice and we would be in a much more dire situation if it were not for their help.  

Some faculty are understandably nervous about being out on strike and rumors of the dire consequences circulate. But all the worst case scenarios are far-fetched. The practical impediments are great, and we have a number of promises of support in the unlikely case they materialize. Many of these would also make the university look bad, would hurt recruiting of new faculty and risk inflaming more people than they frighten.

Off to strategize and meet with faculty.  

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