ACsE signs tentative agreement

At approximately 2:45 a.m., the Association of Civil Service Employees at SIUC signed a tentative agreement. ACsE employees will not be going on strike.

The ACsE tentative agreement resolves issues surrounding job protection, unpaid closure, personal days and summer insurance for less than 12-month employees. The deal also includes a parking permit installment plan.

The GAU and NTT FA await language that may lead those locals to tentative agreements.

The coffee machine is out of coffee.

 

Designated hitter number 2 says did the Cards win? I don’t know I’ve been bargaining

This post is from AJ Stoner, president of the NTT FA. I was on the bargaining team and then was elected president, so I am juggling many roles. Tonight (or, this morning) I am keeping a promise to Kristi.

Here’s some of today’s Coalition news as reported to me.

The Coalition is hosting an Open House at the Strike Headquarters, located in the old Carbondale High School, Friday from 4:30-7.


 
Looking for Volunteers:

  • Facilities management needs one or two folks to help clean up a couple rooms at the Strike HQ. Contact your local facilities committee member or Dave at fada169(at)yahoo(dot)com.
  • We have several volunteers already and still need several more to become Squad Leaders. Squad Leaders can attend either of two one-hour training sessions at the Strike HQ, Saturday at 1 and Tuesday at 6 p.m. Contact George georgerbricker(at)yahoo(dot)com if you can help.
  • There also are some “low profile opportunities” for volunteers who consider themselves more vulnerable for whatever reason. Contact your local president for more information.

Upcoming events

Oh and I almost forgot, a little red bird told me that the World Series was rained out.

Setting the Date

DAYS WITHOUT A CONTRACT: 477

Sorry about the lack of a post yesterday. I was feeling a little under the weather (which I blame on the bad weather) so I didn’t manage to get it done!

But there’s news today: Unions start talking strike date [The Southern]

Wee have to move forward. Voting to authorize a strike pushed us forward and gave us some movement — or at least real discussions at the tables — but the feeling is if we really want to finish this we need to take the next step. What’s the best way to get results? Putting a deadline.

I fully admit that part of the reason why the contract has been expired for 477 days without a new one is our fault. All four unions were hesitant to do what we knew we needed to do to get bargaining moving — organize toward a strike. So we dragged our heels, telling ourselves “Well, maybe the next meeting will be better.” But it’s been 477 days. 16 months since the contract expired — and about 19 months since we’ve been bargaining. The next meeting isn’t getting better and we’ve dragged our heels long enough. It’s time to get a fair contract closed for all four unions.

That’s what setting a date will do.

In other news, the IEA has a couple of announcements:
IEA urges lawmakers to evaluate pension bills before voting on them
IEA shows Civic Committee pension plan would have cost taxpayers $34 billion

The deadline for submitting nominations for IEA representative assembly delegates is also coming up. The RA is the policy-making body of the IEA which meets in March (I believe in 2012 it’ll be over SIUC’s spring break) for three days to vote on things like the IEA’s budget, our legislative platform, our dues, and other organizational matters. The nomination forms are due to the Carterville office on the 28th; you can get a copy of the form from the IEA office or your local president.

As always, if you haven’t let these folks know how you feel, give them a call or send them an email:

Ms. Misty Whittington
Executive Secretary of the Board
Office of the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees
(618) 536-3357

Rita Cheng: rcheng@siu.edu
SIUC Chancellor
(618) 453-2341

Glenn Poshard: poshard@siu.edu
SIU President
(618) 536-3357

Upcoming Events:
Monday October 24, 6-7pm, Student Center Ballroom C: GAU Open Meeting for a Bargaining Update and Setting a Strike Date

Competing Ideologies

DAYS WITHOUT A CONTRACT: 474

The Southern has another news article on on the late payments from the state and SIU’s budget problems. It really feels like the administration is trying to emphasize “we’re poor” so they can continue not to negotiate with the unions for a fair contract. They either believe that we think this is all about the money or they are trying to confuse the issue. It’s not about the money — it is about the way we do our work, saving jobs, and having access to quality health care. For us, it is about standing up for a better SIUC and ensuring fairness through a good contract.

As always, if you haven’t let these folks know how you feel, give them a call or send them an email:

Ms. Misty Whittington
Executive Secretary of the Board
Office of the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees
(618) 536-3357

Rita Cheng: rcheng@siu.edu
SIUC Chancellor
(618) 453-2341

Glenn Poshard: poshard@siu.edu
SIU President
(618) 536-3357

Upcoming Events:
Wednesday October 19, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon at SIU, Lawson 161, 6:30-8:30

Collective Action Will Get Us A Contract

DAYS WITHOUT A CONTRACT: 450

We hit a milestone today. 450 days without a contract. Even longer since we started bargaining. GAU requested to begin bargaining in March 2010 and we had our first bargaining session with the administration’s team in April 2010. We managed to make some progress on minor issues but by October 2010, negotiations were mostly stalled. In March 2011, a federal mediator came in for two sessions before (as the mediator told us), the administration’s team had said there was nothing else to talk about. After we wrote a letter that appeared in the Southern, within a day a representative of the Board’s team had reached out to us to say “Oh, the mediator was wrong! We never meant to cut off negotiations!” and we went back to mostly unproductive sessions. Over the summer, we managed to clear out most of the minor issues we had on the table, leaving us with two major issues left: fees and health care.

When we conducted our multiple surveys, one-on-one conversations, and small focus groups, fees were the number one concern of graduate assistants on campus. Of our annual salary, the average PhD student working 20 hours a week (which is, of course, on the higher end of the stipend pay scale) pays 20 percent of their salary back to the university in fees. For many people, that amounts to two months of pay. GAs would need approximately a 12 percent stipend increase in a four-year contract to break even with the fees at the current level and this would not help us with future fees.

GAU proposed a fee freeze to try to minimize the damage fees are doing to the meager stipend we receive. The university administration said no and gave no alternate solution. We proposed a higher stipend to reduce the deterioration of our stipends. The university countered with an offer: the Board allocates raises at the rate of non-union employees. This would take wages completely out of our hands and still does not address the issue of fees. At our last bargaining session (September 15, 2011), the university’s bargaining team told us they had an economic offer which they even admitted we wouldn’t like. While we have yet to see that offer, I believe their team will be right: any economic package that does not address where 20% of our stipend goes is one that is not good enough.

Our other issue, health care, has reached even more ridiculous heights. What do you call you a health plan that offers no coverage for vision, dental, partners/dependents, no prescription drug coverage, no coverage for pre-existing conditions for a year (industry standard in the private sector is only six months, by the way), has a $1000 maximum-out-of-pocket for a low wage population, only covers 85% of your expenses, which you cannot completely opt-out of even if you have access to a better plan, is not comparable with similar plans accross the state, and costs you a miminum of $430 annually? Here at SIUC, we call it our student health care plan.

The DE actually has a fairly good article, Students speak out about university insurance policy, which focuses on that lack of coverage. What you may not realize is that the university has total control over that health care plan. They can change it any time — but don’t.

Worse, we asked for information from the university’s team about health care in June. We don’t have that information (and at our bargaining session last week we were told they didn’t even have a guess on when it might be available) — but at least one of the figures we asked for showed up in that article.

There’s also a nicely written plea in the DE from an undergraduate student to the faculty: Think of the students before a strike. This is, of course, hard to read. On one hand, as a student I understand completely what this letter means. On the other, it feels like the administration has forced us so our backs are to the wall and other collective actions we have done have produced no movement. That’s what the vote will hopefully do; just because we vote to authorize a strike doesn’t mean we may actually go on strike. I hope that the message we send by voting yes is more than enough to produce the movement and productivity, overcome the walls of “no” and roadblocks of delays, and net us a fair contract.

Finally (because I’ve rambled enough), ACsE has announced their vote as well: Tuesday September 27, 11:30-1, 4-5:30, Student Center Ballroom A: Association of Civil Service Employees Vote. We’ll also be having informational tabling in the student center (by the escalators), from 10-2 today, Monday, and Tuesday. If you have questions, concerns, comments — stop by and talk to us!

Upcoming Events:
Friday September 23, 10-2: Informational Tabling in the Student Center
Monday September 26, 10-2: Informational Tabling in the Student Center
Tuesday September 27, 10-2: Informational Tabling in the Student Center
Tuesday September 27, 11:30-1, 4-5:30, Student Center Ballroom A: Association of Civil Service Employees Vote
Wednesday September 28: Faculty Association Strike Authorization Vote
Friday September 30: GA United Strike Authorization Vote
Wednesday October 5, 5pm: Informational Meeting for Students About Striking

Bargaining & Pensions

DAYS WITHOUT A CONTRACT: 448

Every time I update my ‘days without a contract’ counter I get angry. There’s no reason this should have last 448 days. 448 days. It wasn’t that any of the bargaining teams were inflexible; the one thing I keep hearing from ACsEs, the NTTs, the FA — and from my experience bargaining with GAU — is that we’re the ones bringing multiple proposals to the table. The administration teams have not. And despite Cheng’s misinformation in the DE’s otherwise fairly mild and informative article on the state of unions on campus and nationally, there were bargaining meetings over the summer. She mentions “four meetings,” which is just strange. I assume she’s thinking of one particular bargaining unit… but it certainly wasn’t GAU. We met: May 24th, June 1st, June 14th, July 13th (a long break necessitated mostly by the schedules of the administration’s team), and August 2nd. After August 2nd, we had another long break (again, mostly necessary because of administrative schedules); our most recent meeting was last Friday.

But the point hasn’t been the number of sessions. The way it stands, we could meet 8 hours a day, every day, and still see no progress. The university administration wants a very specific contract deal that really guts the employee voice and control over terms of employment and haven’t authorized bargaining teams to sign off on anything but that. It’s become a zero-sum game for Chancellor Cheng — if anyone makes a gain, she loses. So she has to win and we have to lose. Bargaining shouldn’t be a zero-sum game; it should be about mutual problem solving. They have a problem with X, we have a problem with Y, let’s put our heads together and find a solution that benefits both of us.

That hasn’t been happening. We’re at least 365 (if not the full 448) days past that kind of bargaining. Unfortunately, it means we need to start playing the same kind of game the administration has played all along — power politics. Right now, they believe we have no power. Strike authorization votes by each local — saying we understand nothing is going to change without collective action — is a power move. It sends the strong message that we’re tired of this dragging on, we’re tired of top-down imposition, we want our contracts settled. That’s a powerful message — and one the administration needs to hear.

All right! Moving off the soapbox and into political news: the IEA reports that pension meetings started up this week. It looks like SB512, which lobbying in the spring stopped from coming to a full vote will be back in some form. Worse, people advocating benefit cuts are also targeting active members in the pension for benefit cuts — not just increased contributions. The veto session starts October 25th so you might want to start calling your legislators now and let them know where you stand.

Upcoming Events:
Friday September 23, 10-2: Informational Tabling in the Student Center
Monday September 26, 10-2: Informational Tabling in the Student Center
Tuesday September 27, 10-2: Informational Tabling in the Student Center
Wednesday September 28: Faculty Association Strike Authorization Vote
Friday September 30: GA United Strike Authorization Vote
Wednesday October 5, 5pm: Informational Meeting for Students About Striking

Strike Warning

DAYS WITHOUT A CONTRACT: 446

Those of who reading this blog who are faculty, staff, and graduate assistants may have noticed over the past eight or nine weeks the unions have put out information under the header of “strike watches.” We choose that term to deliberately reference “watches” and “warnings” for the weather. In weather terms, a watch is:

“A watch means severe weather is possible during the next few hours, while a warning means that severe weather has been observed, or is expected soon.” [National Weather Service]

In my update to the graduate assistants today, I upgraded from a “watch” to a “warning.”

Like the FA, GAU has a date of September 30th for our strike authorization vote. It wasn’t an easy decision for us to come to — or any of the unions, for that matter — but we all realized two things:

1. Nothing was happening in bargaining. The university administration was content to delay meetings, not deliver promised information and language in a timely manner, and continue to impose what they want and veto everything we suggested. They were waiting for us to fold up and go away — completely.

2. We are stronger together. If GAs want the fees that degrade the value of the stipend we have to live on — we have to fight for it. If the tenured/tenure-track faculty want to protect tenure and academic freedom — they have to fight for it. If the non-tenure track faculty and civil service employees want real job security — they have to fight for it. But we’re not fighting alone, we’re all fighting together for those goals. If a strike happens, you would be walking the picket line with everyone in your department: faculty, staff, graduate assistants. We have nothing to be afraid of when we stand together.

I am not afraid. Are you?

In the news:
Unions to ask members for strike authorization [Daily Egyptian]
Faculty Association to vote on strike authorization [Daily Egyptian]
Strike authorization vote ahead at SIU [The Southern]
SIU faculty to vote Sept. 28 over whether a walkout is an option in ongoing contract talks [Chicago Tribune]
SIU faculty to vote on potential strike Sept. 28 [WPSD Local 6]
SIUC Faculty Union To Hold Strike Authorization Vote [Progress Illinois]
SIU Faculty to Vote on Possible Strike [WSIL TV]
SIU faculty to vote Sept. 28 on possible strike [Carbondale Times]

Upcoming Events:
Wednesday September 28: Faculty Association Strike Authorization Vote
Friday September 30: GA United Strike Authorization Vote