For your enjoyment, my love song to the New Faculty Majority, where the academic labor movement meets evangelical Christianity in "Jesus Never Got Tenure"
Jesus never got tenure
Jesus never got tenure. Jesus didn't need a PhD to help him piss off the Pharisees.
Jesus was an itinerant teacher, a wandering adjunct rabbi who never found a temple for permanent teaching.
Jesus never got tenure, & it's not because he was unwilling to serve on committees. Jesus called a meeting wherever he went & chaired it with wisdom, wit, & grace.
Christ wouldn't care if you gave pizza or donuts to your students or be surprised if they multiplied like loaves & fishes in the open-minded love we like to call critical thinking. Christ's colleagues challenged him for eating with the wrong people & for forgetting to wash up before eating.
Jesus remained unpublished in his day, but his bestsellers since include the peer-reviewed canonical core & so much more-available everywhere for speculation, scholarship, & salvation.
Jesus didn't need a PhD to cast out demons, demand honesty, or damn hypocrisy.
Jesus called the contingent faculty in the universal university to practice what they preach outside the institutions of academy & religion as he invoked a global revolution of healing, forgiveness, & love.
Jesus never got tenure-but not because he failed to do service. Jesus served like a servant & shamed those who only serviced their reputations.
Jesus never got tenure. He has no hunger for the carrot & refused the idolatry of the stick.
Jesus never got tenure. There's a deeper meaning to what the people thought were magic tricks.
Jesus never got tenure. We killed him first. But now He teaches us about an eternal tenure that we're everyday undermining with posture & profit as we deny tenure to poets & prophets.
Jesus never got tenure. Jesus didn't need a PhD. But that didn't stop him from loving you, loving me, even the tax-collectors & prostitutes, the Son shining on the wicked as on the good.
-Andrew William Smith worked a temporary faculty member for 10 years & is now a tenured teacher, amateur preacher, & always poet living, loving, & working in Tennessee. December 2011
Another version of "Why God never got tenure": http://www.yorku.ca/hjackman/Mis/god.html
[A good radical article on the occasion of 100 years since the successful Lawrence textile strike, of mostly very contingent women workers. Lots of lessons for us here.]
One hundred years ago, in the dead of a New England winter, 25,000 textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts walked off their jobs in the great Bread and Roses Strike. Accounts differ as to whether a woman striker actually held a sign that read "We Want Bread and We Want Roses, Too." No matter. It's a wonderful phrase, as appropriate for the Lawrence strikers as for any group at any time: the notion that, in addition to the necessities for survival, people should have "a sharing of life's glories," as James Oppenheim put it in his poem "Bread and Roses."
Though 100 years have passed, the Lawrence strike resonates as one of the most important in the history of the United States. Like many labor conflicts of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the strike was marked by obscene disparities in wealth and power, open collusion between the state and business owners, large scale violence against unarmed strikers, and great ingenuity and solidarity on the part of workers. In important ways, though, the strike was also unique. It was the first large-scale industrial strike, the overwhelming majority of the strikers were immigrants, most were women and children, and the strike was guided in large part by the revolutionary strategy and vision of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
Beyond its historical significance, elements of this massive textile strike may be instructive to building a radical working class movement today. It is noteworthy that the Occupy movement shares many philosophical and strategic characteristics with the Lawrence strike-direct action, the prominent role of women, the centrality of class, participatory decision-making, egalitarianism, an authentic belief in the Wobbly principle that We Are All Leaders-to name just a few. During the two months of the strike, the best parts of the revolutionary movement the IWW aspired to build were expressed. The Occupy movement carries that tradition forward, and as the attempts at a general strike and the shutting of the ports in Oakland as well as solidarity events such as in New York for striking Teamsters indicate, many in Occupy understand that the working class is uniquely positioned to challenge corporate power. While we deepen our understanding of what that means and work to make it happen, there is much of value we can learn from what happened inLawrence a century ago.
A town on the brink of labor unrest
The city of Lawrence was founded as a one-industry town along the Merrimack River in the 1840s by magnates looking to expand the local textile industry beyond the nearby city of Lowell. Immigrant labor was the bedrock of the city's development. Early on, French Canadians and Irish predominated. By 1912, when Lawrence was the textile capitol of the United States, its textile workforce was made up primarily of Southern and Eastern Europeans-Poles, Italians and Lithuanians were the largest groups, and there were also significant numbers of Russians, Portuguese, and Armenians. Smaller immigrant communities from beyond Europe had also been established, with Syrians being the largest. Though very small in number, a high percentage of the city's African-American population also labored in textile.
Mill workers experienced most of the horrors that characterized 19th century industrial labor. Six-day workweeks of 60 hours or more were the norm, workers were regularly killed on the job, and many grew sick and died slowly from breathing in toxic fibers and dust while others were maimed or crippled in the frequent accidents in the mills. Death and disability benefits were virtually nonexistent. Life expectancy for textile workers was far less than other members of the working class and 20 years shorter than the population as a whole. It was a work environment, in short, that poet William Blake, writing about similar hellholes in England, captured perfectly with the phrase "these dark Satanic mills."
Living conditions were similarly abominable: unsanitary drinking water, overcrowded apartments, malnutrition and disease were widespread. Thousands of children worked full time and were deprived of schooling and any semblance of childhood because families could not survive on the pay of two adult wage earners. Constituent unions of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) had no interest in organizing workers who were immigrants, "unskilled," and overwhelmingly women and children. The local of the United Textile Workers (UTW) had a small number of members drawn, true to the AFL's creed, exclusively from the higher-skilled, higher-paid segment of the workforce.
The IWW was also in Lawrence. The Wobblies led several job actions in 1911 and its radical philosophy resonated with mill hands far beyond the several hundred who were members. Faced with lives of squalor and brutally difficult work, despised by their employers, the political sub-class, the press, and mainstream labor, textile workers, once introduced to the IWW, came increasingly to see that militant direct action was both viable and necessary. Many had experience with militant working class traditions in their native lands-experience the IWW, in contrast to the AFL, not only respected but cultivated. Though there was an undeniable spontaneity to the Lawrence strike, the revolutionary seeds the IWW planted in the years before 1912 were also a catalyst.
Workers walk out on strike
The spark was lit on January 11, 1912, the first payday since a law reducing the maximum hours per week from 56 to 54 went into effect on January 1. Because mill owners speeded up the line to make up the difference, workers expected their pay would remain the same. Upon discovering that their pay had been reduced, a group of Polish women employed at the Everett Cotton Mill walked off the job. By the following morning, half of the city's 30,000 mill hands were on strike. On Monday, January 15, 20,000 workers were out on the picket line. Soon, every mill in town was closed and the number of strikers had swelled to 25,000, including virtually all of the less-skilled workers. The owners, contemptuous of the ability of uneducated, immigrant workers to do for themselves, did not bother to recruit scabs, certain they would prevail quickly. By the time they realized they had a fight on their hands, the strikers were so well-organized that importing scabs was a far more difficult proposition.
Several days after the strike began, workers in Lawrence contacted the IWW's national office for assistance, and Joe Ettor and Arturo Giovannitti were dispatched from New York to help organize the strike. Though Ettor would spend most of the two-month strike as well as the rest of 1912 in aLawrence prison, the work he did in the strike's early days was indispensable to victory. Radiating confidence and optimism, Smilin' Joe had the workers form nationality committees for every ethnic group in the workforce. The strike committee consisted of elected reps from each group, and meetings, printed strike updates and speeches were thereafter translated into all of the major languages.
In addition to the democratic nuts and bolts, Ettor brought an unshakable belief in the workers to the strike. The IWW had a faith in the working class that is markedly different from the often self-serving proclamations of union organizers of today who are mostly out to build their organizations. In contrast to the all too common practice of organizers "taking charge," Ettor displayed a fundamental belief in the ability of workers to do for themselves. He, Giovannitti, and, later, Bill Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, made every aspect of the strike a learning experience. As the strikers worked to achieve greater power in the short term by winning their demands, many came to see that the society could not function without workers and that there was no job or task that was beyond the collective skill of the working class.
Ettor, Haywood, and Flynn also provided a vision of workers managing society, underscoring that it was an achievable goal. Without ever downplaying the particularities of the strike or of the strikers' lives, they boldly proclaimed their opposition to the capitalist system and encouraged theLawrence workers to explore what that meant. In practice, the vision of a new world played out in the decision-making process, the support services the strikers established with the help of contributions from around the country (soup kitchens, food and fuel banks, medical clinics, free winter clothing and blankets) and in direct action on picket lines, in the courts, during the strike's many rallies and parades, and in the IWW's insistence that all negotiating be done directly by rank and filers.
Perhaps the most important of the IWW's contributions was its incessant emphasis on solidarity. The only way to victory, they emphasized, was unity and the only way to unity was to respect the language and culture of each nationality group. Ettor, Haywood and the other Wobblies understood that solidarity did not mean dissolving differences; it meant enriching the experience of all by creating space for each to participate in their own way. They encouraged the workers to view each other that way and emphasized again and again that the only people in Lawrence who were foreigners were the mill owners (none of whom lived in town). With each passing day, the strikers' solidarity increased. They came to understand that solidarity was not just the only way they could win the strike; it was also the only way to build a better world.
So inspired, the strikers rose to every challenge. They circumvented injunctions against plant-gate picketing with roaming lines of thousands that flowed through Lawrence's streets and turned away would-be scabs. After early incidents where some scabs were attacked, they embraced Ettor's emphasis on nonviolent direct action without ever diminishing their militancy. When Massachusetts Governor Eugene Foss-himself a mill owner-pleaded with them to return to work and accept arbitration, the workers refused, recognizing the offer as a ploy that would leave their demands unaddressed. Whenever strikers were arrested (as hundreds were), supporters descended en masse to Lawrence's courtroom to express their outrage.
The involvement of women was absolutely crucial to victory, beginning with the rejection of the self-destructive violence of some male strikers. Though the IWW's record on promoting female leadership was spotty at best, Ettor and the other Wobblies in Lawrence were sensible enough to let the women's initiative fly free. The presence of Flynn, the "Rebel Girl," was a factor, but the large-scale participation of women resulted overwhelmingly from the efforts of the women themselves. Knowing all too well that violence always reverberates hardest on those on society's lowest rungs, women strikers called the men on their beatings of scabs and their fights with police and militia. It was women who moved to the front of many of the marches in an effort to curtail state violence against the strike (though the police and militia proved not at all shy about beating women and children as well as men). It was also the women who led the way in the constant singing and spontaneous parading that was such a feature of the strike that Mary Heaton Vorse, Margaret Sanger and numerous others remarked at length about it in their accounts of Lawrence. And it was the women who made the decision to ship children out of town to supportive families so they would be better cared for. A common practice in Europe unknown in the United States, the transporting of children drew much attention to the strike, first because it revealed much to the world about living conditions in Lawrence and later because of the stark violence of the police who attacked a group of mothers attempting to put their children on an outbound train.
State violence was so extreme that it may actually have aided the strikers' cause, as there were outcries from around the country over the police killings of a young woman and a 16-year-old boy as well as the large-scale beating of women and children. There were also national howls of outrage when strikers were arrested for "possessing" dynamite in what turned out to be a crude frame (it was later determined that a prominent citizen close to the mill owners had planted it). Similarly, the Stalin-esque jailing of Ettor and Giovannitti without bail as "accessories before the act of murder" in the police killing of Annie LoPizzo, was widely criticized and served only to spur the strikers on.
In the end, in the face of the state militia, U.S. Marines, Pinkerton infiltrators and hundreds of local police, the strikers prevailed. They achieved a settlement close to their original demands, including significant pay raises and time-and-a-quarter for overtime, which previously had been paid at the straight hourly rate. Workers in Lowell and New Bedford struck successfully a short while later, and mill owners throughout New England soon granted significant pay raises rather than risk repeats of Lawrence. When the trials of Ettor, Giovannitti and a third defendant commenced in the fall, workers inLawrence's mills pulled a work stoppage to show that a miscarriage of justice would not be tolerated (the three were subsequently acquitted).
Longer-term, the strike focused national attention on workplace safety, minimum wage laws and child labor. Though change in these areas was still too slow in coming, it did come and it came much sooner because of Lawrence. Locally, patriotic forces campaigned vigorously against "outside agitators" in the years after the strike and IWW membership eventually slid back to pre-strike levels. Still, despite tremendous repression, the IWW maintained a solid local chapter in Lawrence until the state effectively destroyed the organization with a massive campaign of jailings, deportations, lynchings and other violence after U.S. entry into World War I.
But just as it was never the IWW's objective to gain official recognition from employers, its accomplishments should not be measured by its membership rolls or the limited span of it organizational presence. The goal was to build a revolutionary movement of the working class and the Wobblies implemented the strategy for achieving that end in Lawrence. This is not to say the IWW was without weaknesses in building lasting organization; it was and there are lessons for Occupy and all future movements to learn from those weaknesses. However, the IWW's weaknesses are ones that virtually every radical group from the Knights of Labor to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) share. These weaknesses speak more to the difficulty of building a revolutionary movement than to specific organizational flaws. The fact that the Wobblies were not able to sustain the great work they did over a longer period does not detract from the thoroughgoing way they imbued the Bread and Roses strike with revolutionary values, strategy and vision.
Lessons from the Strike
There are several aspects of the Lawrence strike that may be helpful to building a radical working class movement today. One is the symbiotic relationship between the strikers and the IWW. Since at least the bureaucratization of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) 70 years ago, unions have approached organizing workers with the goal of building membership rolls, as opposed to building working-class power. The type of organization workers may want, not to mention what they may want beyond organization, has been largely irrelevant. The choices that workers are presented with are quite limited: join one or another top-down union, or else fight on alone. The best features of pre-union formations-direct democracy, easy recall of representatives, requirements that all officers remain in the workplace, widespread rank-and-file initiatives, and so forth-are almost always killed quickly after affiliation. Workers will reject top-down approaches and embrace unionism that speaks to their needs if they are given the chance. The fact that they are not presented such an option is neither accidental nor inevitable; it is because the union bureaucracy is as threatened by an independent rank and file as any employer.
Workers are not even really free to join the union of their choosing. Once an exclusive bargaining representative is chosen, no matter how that's determined, the affected workers cannot easily join any other labor organization and only do so at the risk of expulsion and loss of employment. The IWW, rather than seeking to ensure itself a steady flow of dues revenue, sought to challenge capitalism. Through direct action, particularly strikes, the working class would learn how to fight capital and in so doing would discover and develop its own potential until it was strong enough to wrest control of work away on a massive scale. That goal remains. To build such a movement today and on into the future, we will either have to do away with many of organized labor's entrenched ways or increasingly circumvent mainstream unions altogether, much as is happening so far with Occupy.
The flip side of the IWW/striker relationship in Lawrence is that the workers did not strike to gain unionization or even to get a contract. They struck over specific demands while understanding the need to change the balance of their relationship with mill owners. Early on, they sensed intuitively what they came to understand explicitly as the strike lengthened: that politicians and the courts were against them almost as completely as the bosses and Pinkertons were. When Governor Foss offered arbitration in an attempt to end the strike without addressing any of their demands, for example, the workers refused. Their distrust extended not just to the owners but to the machinery of the state, not to mention the top-down UTW-whose head attacked them relentlessly throughout and whose members scabbed from the outset. The strikers embraced the IWW philosophy of doing for themselves while utilizing its highly developed solidarity network because their experience showed them it was the only way they could win.
A second possible lesson from Lawrence is a feminist approach to organizing. Though the IWW too often adopted an approach premised on rugged (male) individualism that relegated women to secondary roles, that was not the case in Lawrence. Rather, its radical approach encouraged women strikers and supporters to act in highly creative ways. Whenever women workers in Lawrence struggled with the men for full participation, Flynn and the other Wobblies sided with them. It is impossible to imagine the strikers winning otherwise, and though Ettor, Haywood, and Flynn's efforts on this score were not insignificant, it was the tireless work of thousands of rank and filers that proved decisive
The degree to which women took to heart Ettor's declarations that striker violence would inevitably boomerang a hundredfold was also crucial. Few believed that a non-violent approach would cause the state to reciprocate, certainly not as the strike progressed and state violence escalated, nor did it necessarily mean that an absolute principle of nonviolence was appropriate in all situations. In Lawrence, however, it was clear early on that the strikers would lose if the physical confrontations that have been so prominent in the almost apocalyptic vision that many men through history have brought to the class struggle continued. The women, more than the men, understood that the complete withdrawal of their labor was the strongest blow the workers could strike. In the end, it was the ability to keep the mills almost completely non-functional for two months that won the strike.
Women were also at the heart of the singing and parading that characterized the Bread and Roses strike. Surrounded by enemies, with death a very real possibility, the Lawrence strikers, the women most of all (much like the black liberation activists in the Deep South in the early 1960s, also mostly women), sang to foster strength, courage and solidarity. Their songs and that tradition echo as loud and true as a drum circle through Occupy.
Lastly, Lawrence was the first major strike along industrial lines. Not only did the strike inspire other textile workers, it made real the IWW goal of organizing wall-to-wall. The violent suppression of the IWW forestalled capital's day of reckoning, but the seed had been planted. When industrial organizing exploded two decades later, it was thoroughly Wobbly-esque, especially in the sit-down strike with its explicit challenge to private ownership. Again, the degree to which Occupy implicitly understands the importance of such approaches is one of its great strengths. The massive withdrawal of labor, the large scale Occupation of workplaces-these are lessons of Lawrence, direct and indirect, that Occupy (as well as movements of the future) carry forward and do well to consider more deeply. In so doing, we can perhaps begin to create a world where everyone has both sufficient bread to eat and "life's glories" as vivid as the reddest roses.
Much has been written about the Lawrence strike. Here are just a few of the better accounts:
Versions of this article appeared in Z Magazine and the Industrial Worker
Andy Piascik is a long-time activist and award-winning author who has written about working-class issues for Z Magazine, The Indypendent, Union Democracy Review, Labor Notes and other publications.
In February of 2007, the same month that current president Sharon Hahs arrived at NEIU (Northeastern Illinois University), two students were arrested while peacefully protesting against CIA recruitment on campus. Various struggles for free speech and faculty governance have ensued. One such struggle is the subject of a federal lawsuit, Capeheart v. NEIU, et al.
This suit was filed in response to slanderous accusations made against me during a campus meeting to discuss student arrests. Then, Vice President Melvin Terrell claimed that I was being investigated by campus police for stalking a student. There is no truth to this statement. I attempted to have the statement withdrawn and to have the VP issue an apology. Stalking is a felony sex crime and a serious allegation. When made against a professor with claims of stalking a student, the accusation alone is damning.
Not only would the administration not retract the statement r offer an apology, I found that my career was in jeopardy. I was retaliated against in several ways including not being appointed to chair my department after being elected to do so. However, I was not alone in suffering for my speech. "Faculty expressed fear of losing their jobs or of diminished chances of retention or promotion if they were to voice their feelings" was one conclusion of the NEIU faculty senate input report (2010). The Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) found that NEIU scored significantly below other institutions with only 7.5% of faculty agreeing that "Administrators consider faculty concerns with making policy".
These findings are especially troubling when one considers NEIU. We are a highly diverse working class campus and one of the least expensive in the state of Illinois. NEIU is exactly the sort of place where those of us accustomed to being silenced gather in hopes of having access to the open debates that one expects at a university.
Rather than embrace free speech, the administration at NEIU prefers spending its students hard earned tuition dollars to squash free speech. Since Capeheart v. NEIU et al. was filed in 2008, years and an estimated hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent to keep the case from court.
The NEIU administration is relying on the Garcetti (2006) Supreme Court decision, which while it explicitly exempted educational institutions, has been applied. The decision states that an employee engaged in his/her duties does not have free speech protection. This in itself is disturbing. The court did recognize the unique position of faculty and noted that the decision should not be applied to us. However, Garcetti was used to dismiss my case.
We have appealed this dismissal to the 7th circuit court of appeals. A decision on the federal appeal is expected around April of this year. The AAUP (American Association of University Professors) provided an amicus brief for the appeal in which they wrote that the judge's ruling "is chilling and clear: university administrators need not tolerate outspoken faculty dissent on matters of broad public concern or on the university's institutional response to those concerns."
This is why the Supreme Court found that Garcetti should not be applied to faculty. It is often our duty to speak on issues of public and institutional concern. How do we carry out our duties if we have no protection of our speech? It seems the only answer in the administrations world is: you can speak as long as you agree, otherwise, shut up.
A recent news report exposed that two VPs at NEIU are "double dipping" by taking six figure retirement incomes at the same time that they continue to work at NEIU earning six figures. Will faculty be allowed to speak against this perceived abuse of the retirement system, student resources, and state dollars? Or, will the university claim that such speech is our "official duty" and therefore punishable? The university is spending untold dollars to assure that they can impose the latter. Don't question, don't engage, just agree. We must fight these abuses and take back our rights to speak.
Teachers from all over the country are coming to Chicago this week -- to support P-fac and East-West University!
On Thursday, March 1, many active NEA educators are mobilizing for the NEA Higher Education Leadership Day. They are here to stand with us to build solidarity in support of a fair contract, secure quality education for our students, and confront anti-union tactics.
These teachers are revved up to rally and march. Let's show them we care! Join us for one of our many activities:
8:30 a.m. "The Higher Education Political Landscape: Identifying, Developing, and Mobilizing Active Members": Panel discussion with P-fac President Diana Vallera, East-West University union president and City Colleges of Chicago Adjunct Faculty Curtis Keyes (Palmer House)
10:00 a.m. Short break
10:15 a.m. Preparation for Organizing Activity: Sign-Making, Slogan Creating, Chant-Constructing (Palmer House)
11:00 a.m. Rally outside of Palmer House with speakers Curtis Keyes and a member of CACHE (Coalition Against Corporate Higher Education)
11:15 a.m. March across Loop campuses to East-West University and 600 S. Michigan, Columbia College Chicago
12:00 p.m. Rally with students from Occupy Columbia and CACHE (600 S. Michigan)
12:30 p.m. March to the Bowman Statue for a solidarity rally with CACHE (Congress & Michigan, Grant Park)
1:00 p.m. Solidarity rally with CACHE
P-fac functions as a representative democracy, much like our state and local governments. You vote for the Union Leaders who you think will best serve your needs, but like our state and local governments, your job doesn't end there. You stay informed on the issues, develop your own opinions, and air your concerns to your leaders to let your voice be heard. Likewise, your Union Leaders must share and distribute information, listen to and address your concerns by any means necessary, and act on behalf of all part-time faculty members' interests.
Your Union Leaders also appoint seats for committees and groups after posting calls for interested participants, but participation does not stop at the committees. We are always looking for members to join us in manifesting our mission to provide job security and protect workers' rights to maintain high-quality education for our students. You may join on many levels - from becoming a Department Representative to helping with our flyering crew. As Marc Bousquet wrote in How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation, "Your Problem Is My Problem." Let's work to solve it together. Stay informed. Talk to each other. Share your stories. Speak out. Join us at the next General Assembly in April. We'll be glad to see you there.
P-fac learned recently that an arbitrator ruled in favor of Columbia College on our grievance on behalf of an adjunct.
In this case, the adjunct was assigned to teach in the Humanities, History and Social Sciences Department in the fall 2010 semester as he had been for several semesters. When he went to the student book store in August to see that his books had been ordered, he was told by the store manager that his class had been canceled. The adjunct contacted his department's academic manager. That staff person told him Columbia had received a phone call from the adjunct saying he no longer wanted to teach at Columbia. Columbia never contacted the adjunct to verify the phone message or inform him in any way that Columbia believed he had resigned from his job.
However, the adjunct insisted he had never made the call. He produced phone records to prove his point. In addition, Columbia deleted the phone message. Meanwhile, the classes he once taught were given to another adjunct for the fall semester.
P-fac's steering committee decided to take the matter to a grievance and arbitration procedure because we determined that the adjunct's right to due process had been violated. We also wanted to fight on behalf of this adjunct in an effort to protect our membership since the school could claim at any time that any one of us has called the school and quit. One of the things we have been working for at the bargaining table is language in the contract that increases our job security in the Instructional Continuity article.
The lesson to take away from the loss of this arbitration case is how inadequate our present contract is. We need to negotiate a better one. That's why we're still at the table, more than two years after we first started bargaining a new contract.
Would you like to be let go for no real reason from one semester to the next? As you can see from the example above, you might be. Want more protection under your contract? Stand by your union!