Busy Day for Labor (and Others)

DAYS WITHOUT A CONTRACT: 386
DAYS UNTIL THE START OF THE ACADEMIC YEAR: 29

Lots of things going on across the state today:

SIUC brings back ceremony to celebrate new students [Daily Egyptian]
SIUC is bringing back the student convocation or, in other words, is putting on a big ceremony to “induct” students into the university and impress them with how important the transition into college is. Cheng reports this move comes from survey results and is part of the retention efforts going on. Faculty (in regalia) and staff are invited to attend. I suspect this is one of those events that aren’t counted in any sort of “productivity measures” but still eat up faculty/staff time.

ISU budget allows for small salary increases [Daily Vidette]
The President at ISU must be doing something right — the budget there allows for a 3 percent salary increase. On top of that, the reports I hear from a union colleague who works at ISU say that the President (and the administration more generally) actually have a really good relationship with the unions on campus and work in partnership there.

Hospital employees accept a cut in pay [The Southern]
Union employees voted to take a 2 percent pay reduction at Franklin’s Hospital. I suspect if you read the comments there will be several remarks congratulating those union employees for “not being greedy.” This brings me to the biggest point of contention — at least as far as local media was concerned — about the SIUC labor crisis: the furlough days.

I honestly believe most people are decent. I also believe that, if two things had happened, union employees probably would have been happy to take furlough days in the 2010-2011 year:

1. SIUC had been open and transparent with its budget. Rather than simply saying “we must because we’re broke” over and over, SIUC had released their budget numbers to the unions and the public in a form that makes it easy to understand and showed people that they were broke. As it happens, there’s actually still dispute on whether the university had a surplus of funds or not. If the administration had been transparent in its dealings with the union, that might have been avoided.

2. The furlough policy was fair, flexible, and cut from the top. Let’s say it: the SIUC furlough policy makes absolutely no sense. In some instances, the policy actually damaged the running of the institution by imposing fixed furlough days. Let’s compare this to the basics of the University of Illinois interim furlough policy they used in their 2009-2010 furloughs:

  • “Executive group members,” which are basically high-level administrators like the president, provosts, chancellors, deans, and people making over $200,000, took 10 furlough days
  • Faculty and staff making more than $30,000 took 4 furlough days
  • Faculty and staff making less than $30,000 were exempt from furloughs
  • Furlough days were set by the employee’s immediate supervisor within a set pay period

At SIUC, everyone — regardless of how little or how much they were making — took four days. Cheng, after saying several tone deaf comments to the effect of “two days won’t make a difference” and being publicly called out for it, took six and the vice-chancellors agreed to take five. Furlough days were decided and instituted by the university administration and several of those days actually fell on reporting days, admissions deadlines, or days that effected the smooth operation of the university.

Putting those two things together, I find it pretty obvious that, despite the media smokescreen, the point of the exercise wasn’t really budget savings. It was to damage collective bargaining and assert power over the unions on campus. They wanted to impose terms and conditions on us and control all aspects of the workplace. When the employer dictates everything collective bargaining has broken down. That’s exactly what they did. Make no mistake here, I truly believe that the SIUC administration would be happy if the unions folded and went away permanently, losing us our seat at the table and ability to make our collective voices heard. This is an attack on collective bargaining and the unions and the longer we go without contracts the more fierce we are going to have to be to preserve our rights and settle our contracts.

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One thought on “Busy Day for Labor (and Others)

  1. Pingback: Debt, Debt, Debt, and More Debt « SIUC Unions United

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