Governance, professors as workers, and solidarity

Faculty on Strike.” Lennard Davis & Walter Benn Michaels. Jacobin: a magazine of culture and polemic (Feb 14 2014): “On February 18, the tenure track and non-tenure track faculty who make up the University of Illinois-Chicago faculty union UICUF Local 6456 will walk out of the classroom and onto the picket line for a two-day strike.” Issues include salaries and governance:

To call shared governance real governance is like saying your dog has an equal say in how your household is run because sometimes when he whines he gets fed.

But are professors really workers?  When we were organizing, the administration kept telling us we weren’t — we were professionals. And, in fact, at UIC, we belong to the Illinois Federation of Teachers, which does indeed describe itself as a “Union of Professionals.” If you’ve done any work on the history of professionalization, you know that one of the original points of the whole concept of the professional — as it applied to ministers, doctors, lawyers and professors — was to distinguish them from workers….

But what we’ve all begun to realize is that, whatever it meant in the late 19th and early 20th century, in the 21st century that distinction is pure ideology. Professionals are workers — and professors are workers….

… the Administration has been helpful, treating us as badly at the bargaining table as they treat UIC’s other unions.

And the aside of the day award

goes to a union sister, also in negotiations: “The Employer seems still reluctant to get to the table. Feels like one of those bad boyfriend kind of things, you know, where you keep waiting for the guy to call or to show up, but he never does. Keep refreshing your lipstick from time to time, just in case but still, he doesn’t come.” Heh. That will really creep out our chief negotiator. Think I will message him now.


Comrade colleagues

Yes we are professors, researchers and librarians. And yes we are on strike. Do you have a problem with that?

Vignette: The picket captain who jammed the official picket-captain orange toque on top of his Tilley hat.
Vignette: The senior colleague with the bad leg who picketed from his lawn chair.
Vignette: The senior colleague with gout, gamely limping along the line.
Vignette: The group of students who showed up with protesting-snowman cookies.

Okay, so we’re not quite the Teamsters or the Longshoremen, but we have our own charm, no?

NDP leader Dominic Cardy

dog_with_attitudehas, with no doubt the best intentions in the world, called upon the Alward government to intervene in the labour dispute between AUNBT and UNB management. Using a colourful but somewhat unflattering metaphor, he comments on government underfunding of PSE:

“The government can’t nearly freeze funding to universities and then act surprised when the recruitment issue can’t be solved,” Cardy said. “You can’t take two dogs, not give them enough to eat, and then act surprised when they start to fight.”

At the risk of straining this conceit beyond the reader’s tolerance, I would add that if there are two dogs and one scuttles out of the room, nothing will get resolved either.

But — and I am speaking here as someone who lives with a dog — anyone who knows dogs knows that they instinctively understand how to work out things between themselves and are usually best left alone to do so. Not always pretty if you are squeamish about growling, but this method results in an outcome that both accept.

And it respects the dogs.

In case there is anyone here

who is not a regular reader of — which would be weird, but people contain multitudes — we have started a new page over there to focus on program prioritization. I know, it doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, does it? But that is the buzz phrase so there it is. “Program prioritization” is the rationalization of university programs and departments. It is widespread, it employs lots of expensive consultants, administrators love it because it uses simple metrics and many Powerpoint slides, and it is truly horrifying. On the plus side, as an issue it is extremely galvanizing to anyone who gives a fig about education. Interesting critiques are being produced and people are drawing together to defend universities as public institutions. Read Jon’s overview, follow some of the links, then meet me back here to strategize about what to do. Once this pesky bargaining round is resolved, I mean.

Any cooler and they’d freeze

martians attack

Striking UNBSJ professors in Saint John Harbour.

Just read the Daily Gleaner editorial of Nov. 25 called “A call for cool heads.” Apologies to non-subscribers (and a pledge! To never implement a paywall on ANY blogs, past, present, or future). Whoever wrote it seems strangely removed from the realities of unionized labour relations: here we are on the eve of a strike vote yet we are being advised to “choose [our] negotiators wisely.” Well for AUNBT’s part I am confident we did. More than a year ago. I am not mentioning this merely to quibble, but to illustrate a general lack of understanding, in the N.B. commercial media, of the purpose and value of unions, or even how they work. How else to explain the alarming language sprinkled throughout the editorial: “nervous”, “outrage”‘ “threat”, “anxious”, “lost”, “hotbed”, “animosity”, “hot tempers”, “inflexible mindsets”, “hammering”, “complications”, and “damaged.” I mean, the piece opens with “One headline has struck fear into the hearts of thousands of students and many others in this city: ‘UNB profs to consider strike.'”


What would they say if the Martians invaded?

Don’t know about you, dear reader, but my blood pressure spiked just reading it.

Never mind the negotiating table, let’s have cooler heads around editorial tables. Let’s all sit back with a cold compress and look at the facts. No Canadian student has ever lost a term because of a faculty strike or lockout. (With student strikes, your mileage may vary). Twelve of the last thirteen strike votes at Ontario post-secondary institutions preceded a settlement before strike or lockout action was taken. Those are good odds. Strikes and lockouts in the academic sector do not tend to last as long as they can in many other sectors. I don’t want to minimize the potential inconvenience, but let’s keep the apocalyptic language at a minimum. The world would not end. Every university in N.B. except UNB has had a strike or lockout, and they all weathered the storm. UNB would too. In fact it would probably come out better than ever, as the character of the university itself is what is at issue. Many of us think that is worth a risk.

When I was a girl

male academics wore corduroy trousers and had bird nests attached to their chins.


Participants of FNBFA’s 3rd annual Meet Your MLA lobby day pose in the Legislature with Minister Jody Carr, Nov. 13, 2013: Mary Lou Babineau (FAUST), Marie Noëlle Ryan (ABPPUM), Lloyd Waugh (AUNBT), Lacina Coulibaly (APPUMCE), Minister Jody Carr, Rick Hudson (MAFA), Jean Sauvageau (FAUST), Etienne Dako (ABPPUM), Matt Hiltz (AUNBT), Bonnie Huskins (FAUST), Miriam Jones (AUNBT), Samira Belyazed (APPUMCE)