Whose University?

We’re getting closer, minute by minute, hour by hour, to a fair settlement. Here’s the message Randy Hughes, FA president, sent out this morning as an update:

Progress to date. November 9, 2011

Today, Wednesday, November 9th, we’re still on strike. But there is good news, too. In twelve hours of negotiations, our bargaining team made progress on a number of fronts. We are near agreement on language that will ensure that we retain our right to pursue our Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge concerning the unilateral imposition of furlough days last spring. And there was also some progress on countering the inflammatory and disrespectful language in the BOT back to work proposal. But at 9:00 pm the two bargaining teams mutually agreed to break off work for the night and return to the bargaining table at 9:30 am on Wednesday.

Slow progress, while better than no progress at all, is frustrating. And we all want to be in the classroom rather than on the picket line. But it’s important to remember everything that our hard work and resolve has enabled us to achieve so far. We’ve protected tenure. We’ve ensured that administrators cannot force faculty to teach distance education against our own academic judgement. We’ve strengthened shared governance by strengthening the faculty’s ability to control their own operating papers. We’ve reached a workable compromise on overload pay. And we’ve established a schedule for dealing with procedures concerning Conflict of Interest and Sexual Harassment.

Most heartening of all may well be the incredible support we’ve received from SIUC students. Their support has not only helped us achieve progress at the bargaining table, but is a victory in itself – a victory for our university, its students, and the bond between faculty and students on campus.

While we’ve made much progress, several important issues remain. The BOT proposal on furloughs, while it has been improved since the terms imposed on us in the spring, still fails to provide adequate transparency and accountability. Their back to work proposal would not provide for the make up days we would like to offer to students whose classes have been covered by unqualified substitutes. While it contains new language protecting actions taken in support of the strike, it still gives the false impression that faculty have engaged in misconduct and threats. And the administration is still unwilling to offer us the same chance for securing fair share that it has offered other locals.

These issues are worth fighting for. And if we remain united in our commitment to securing a fair agreement, we have every reason to believe that we can reach one sooner rather than later.

On top of this, there were victories in Ohio as union-busting legislation was soundly defeated.

Unfortunately, we will probably have a real fight on our hands in Illinois. The IEA reports that SB512 — which would cut pension benefits for ACTIVE EMPLOYEES — moved out of committee yesterday. The pension systems for public employees are their retirement funds — they’re not eligible for social security (even if they paid into the system at another job). This came about because of a state failure to pay its bills — so why is the state trying to unconstitutionally punish employees for it’s own failures? Way to create jobs in OTHER states. I finish my degree in 2013. I don’t know where I’ll end up. I’m sorry to say this — because I really love Illinois, it’s my home — but I won’t be applying for jobs here thanks to the mess the state has made.

Finally, join us today at the Stone Center at 3pm. We want to let the Board of Trustees know whose university SIUC really is.

Pensions

I realize it’s hard to think about anything beyond the immediate situation here at SIUC, but things are happening legislatively with pensions. I just received this information from the IEA:

ISSUE – This afternoon, a legislative committee is expected to hear the new amendment to the pension cutting bill (SB 512) 

The amendment to Senate Bill 512 was filed yesterday. It deals with the specifics of the pension bill and addresses the problems in the original proposal that would have made the bill a disaster for the pension systems and Illinois taxpayers had it passed in its original form last spring.

 Among the key provisions of the revised bill:

§  The employee contribution for TRS members who elect to stay in Tier 1 would increase to 13.77% of salary (from 9.4% of salary currently) beginning July 1, 2013 until June 30, 2016.  Beginning on July 1, 2016 the contribution could only increase an additional 2% to a maximum of 15.77% of salary.  The amendment also increases the contribution rates for those in SURS to 15.31% of salary during the same period (currently, 8% of salary).  The final increase in contributions for SURS would put the member’s contribution at 17.31% of salary beginning in July 1, 2016.  It is understood that after the first three years of the contribution increase, that the recalculation, as required by the amendment, will force member’s contributions up to the maximum increase of 2% whether they are in TRS or SURS.

§  The amendment changes the timeline for election and when it would apply to current member benefits.  All benefits earned after July 1, 2013 would be impacted by either the new Tier 1 contribution level, participation in Tier 2 or participation in the DC plan.

§  The increase in employee contribution cannot be used for the purpose of calculating the money purchase plan under the act.  This is a clear decrease in an existing benefit.

§  In school districts where the employee contribution is currently being paid by the employer the additional contribution required under the legislation would have to be renegotiated.  This changes the terms of existing contracts.  This is a new provision of the legislation.

PLEASE SHARE THIS INFORMATION WITH YOUR COLLEAGUES AND ALL MEMBERS WITH WHOM YOU HAVE CONTACT

IEA members are encouraged to contact legislators about SB 512:

Message – IEA opposes SB 512 because:

It is an unconstitutional diminishment of pension benefits
As teachers cannot receive full social security benefits, even when they qualify through other employment,  their pensions are their life savings
Our members have always paid their retirement costs; it is the state that has not kept its part of the bargain
Reasonable retirement benefits allow public education to attract the teachers and staff our students deserve
 
Actions

IEA members are urged to contact state legislators immediately.
Call 888/412-6570 and follow the prompts to be connected to your legislator . Use the above talking points, or
Go to the IEA website, click on the pension tab at the top of the page and you will see a link that will let you easily send an e-mail to your legislators.
Tell lawmakers to oppose SB 512 for for the reasons cited above
More information is available on the IEA website
 

DAYS WITHOUT A CONTRACT: 463

There’s another call to action around pension reform going out through the IEA as they gear up for what’s likely to be a very interesting veto session in a few weeks. You can read the flier that came through here.

Also from the IEA is a request to fill out a budget survey. This is one of your chances to let the big organization know where you’d like your dues dollars to go — so I urge IEA members to take the time!

The DE reports that recruitment hasn’t been hurt by the labor dispute, mostly because the recruiters haven’t actually been telling prospective students there’s a labor dispute. Seems like another tactic to show that the university is “business as usual.”

Frankly, the university hasn’t been running as “business as usual” since the university called an impasse in bargaining for ACsE, FA, and NTTFA and imposed their terms and conditions on those bargaining units. The only way to get the university back to “business as usual” — for real — is to settle the contracts.

Have you contacted the Board, the President, and the Chancellor yet?

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:
SIUC Tuesday Work-ins (GAs + Allies)
Wednesday October 12, 4:30pm, Anthony Hall: PROTEST & PRESS CONFERENCE: Student Solidarity with Faculty, GAs & Staff

Become Visible

DAYS WITHOUT A CONTRACT: 449

I’m not going to spend too much time discussing the Chancellor’s email from yesterday, especially since Dave Johnson tackles it ably at Deo volente. There’s two things I want to discuss:

1. Congratulations to the SEIU workers who did manage to settle a contract. While the rest of Cheng’s email is questionable, I was actually very pleased that at least one union was able to settle their contract and gain modest raises (which are, if I remember correctly, better than any of the administration proposed raises I’ve seen to the FA, the NTT, and the ACsE units). That’s all we want as well — a good, settled contract. So I really am glad to see one local achieve that.

2. While I’m glad that the Chancellor is finally addressing the labor unrest and seems to have remembered that unions actually exist, this letter was insult added to injury. Not for all the problems Dave points out but because she completely ignores the three other IEA-NEA unions and the issues we have on the table. Perhaps because she doesn’t think she can spin those issues of job security, adequate health care, and having a living wage away? Or maybe she honestly believes that the more she emphasizes the tenured/tenure-track faculty, the more likely our coalition solidarity is to break? Or as obvious as it is she has little respect for the faculty and the FA, she has even less respect for civil service employees, non-tenure track faculty, and graduate assistants? I can only guess the Chancellor’s reasoning (or her staff’s, depending on where this really comes from), but her silence on the issues effecting other unions — or that other unions even exist — is truly off-putting and makes her seem even more out-of-touch with what’s going on than she did before (a real accomplishment in my eyes).

In other pension news, IEA’s Government Relations head, Jim Reed, sat down for an interview yesterday about the pension meetings. Apparently, it’s going slowly but he does say that the votes in the general assembly haven’t changed since the spring session (and we may have gained votes). They do say to contact your legislators as education about pensions, talk to coworkers about getting involved (and talking to legislators), and be ready for the veto session in October.

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, Lawson 141, 3-7pm
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

DAYS WITHOUT A CONTRACT: 421

Lots of stuff going on in the news. I’m going to have to get a helper on this blog, sooner rather than later, now that classes have started and there’s actually a lot of SIU-specific news being reported! Anyone wanting to pitch in, email me directly at kabrown@gmail.com.

From the Daily Egyptian (both editorial):
New SIU logo hinders university image
Even the students don’t like the new logo, with specific critiques from an Art and Design student. He makes a good point though — how is the tacky logo going to reflect on programs like… oh, Marketing, Communications, or Art and Design that teach students how to do things like make logos? Probably not well.

Who’s the manager of the tightwad department?
A call for a “fiscal responsibility office” at SIUC, answerable only to Cheng and Poshard, to try and manage “doing more with less.” Interesting, of course, is that the “less” here is not less administration…

From the IEA:
Education quality is theme of IEA radio ad
The IEA’s radio campaign resumes, so you might hear teacher voices in the region soon.

Pension talks to resume in Springfield
It looks like the unions are invited to a sit-down in Springfield in September about pensions and pension reform. There are also “meetings scheduled” between September and October, of which some I really hope are open hearings for members to speak out.

Strike Watches and IEA News

DAYS WITHOUT A CONTRACT: 412
DAYS UNTIL THE START OF THE ACADEMIC YEAR: 5

As promised, I have created a page to “warehouse” all the strike watches our four unions our putting out. I’m missing a few at the moment but I will add new communications (and the old ones I don’t have) as soon as I get them.

Voice of the Reader 08-17-2011 [The Southern]
Scroll down to the second letter, “Following government’s example,” and get a laugh at a parody of the current political budget situation — written by someone who seems to be a member of ASFCME.

And in IEA news:
Pensions remain a hot topic in Springfield
The IEA has some information on their website about upcoming pension reform and how the IEA plans to handle it. You can also watch a brief video from the pension reform forum held last Friday in Springfield.

CORE Conference 2011
The IEA’s CORE conferences are ways members learn new skills and a great way to meet people from across the state, learn about things like grievances, bargaining, talking to members, and other fun things. The closest conference this year is in Springfield, September 30-October 1.