Archive of COCAL Updates: March 2012

COCAL Updates: March 2, 2012

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Workers Strike a Deal to Try and Save Jobs at Serious Energy

The worker occupation of Serious Energy has ended and an agreement has been reached to keep the plant in operation for 90 days while union members and the company work together to find new ownership to keep the plant open. After 12 hours the occupation has ended with a hopeful workforce.

After being told by local management this morning that the Serious Energy window factory would close effective immediately, workers at the former Republic Windows and Doors plant had one demand: time to save these jobs by finding a buyer for the business. Local management refused and in response, workers voted to occupy for the second time with their union the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America, UE. In 2008, UE members at the same factory, then owned by Republic Windows and Doors, occupied and won $1.75 million in wages and benefits owed from Bank of America.

After the occupation began, Serious Energy's corporate leaders stepped in and immediately began talks to resolve the situation. Workers and the company were able to strike a deal in the early morning hours in Chicago.

"We started the morning with the plant closing and ended the day with work and a chance to save our jobs." said Armando Robles, President of UE Local 1110, "We are committed to finding a new buyer for the plant or if we can, buy the place ourselves and run it. Either way, we are hopeful".

March 1 Action in Chicago at East-West and Columbia

Looking forward to seeing some of you in Chicago! I wanted to thank you for your support for a day of action to support East-West and Columbia College in Chicago this Thursday, March 1st. The anti-union attacks and union busting tactics have been severe against these two institutions and it's leaders. I wanted to share a brief update from the executive committee of the Part-time faculty union (P-fac) that follows.

We are pleased to report the successful completion of trial before the National Labor Relations Board from February 7th through 9th, 2012. After three days of testimony, trial briefs are now being written, and we expect a ruling in three to five months. This complaint was issued by the NLRB after investigating ULP charges filed by Pfac alleging bad-faith bargaining and refusing to bargain, discrimination discouraging union and protected activity, unilateral changes in working conditions, and employer retaliation.

We cannot over-state the importance of skilled legal representation in all steps leading to this trial. Columbia College spent several hundred thousand dollars addressing this matter before the National Labor Relations Board, while it refuses either to bargain with Pfac, to settle disputes before the litigation stage, or to stop engaging in unfair labor practices that lead to new charges. Meanwhile, NLRB investigators are indicating their willingness to broaden two recently-filed charges in connection with a pattern of college anti-union conduct.

Timely legal services have played a key role in strengthening the Pfac local, and this remains a strategic resource. Columbia College is escalating its interference, surveillance, and harassment of Pfac members, representatives, and steering council spokespersons. These college actions include interfering with the grievance process, interfering with internal Union business, interfering with the exercise of protected activities - - including Weingarten rights - - monitoring and disrupting Pfac President Diana Vallera's movements, meetings, classes, and communications with Photography Department colleagues and students, and surveillance of Diana Vallera's personal residence on January 30th, 2012. According to Evanston Police Report 12-2282 the witness positively identified a member of Columbia College legal counsel as one of the individuals on that date taking photographs in the direction of Ms. Vallera's Evanston home where its residents include Ms. Vallera's five-year-old daughter. Additionally, Ms. Vallera's was informed that all communications in the Photography Department are now screened through an "Advisory Board," which forwards Diana Vallera's verbal and written communications to the Office of the General Counsel.

Columbia College has also failed to enforce its own policies prohibiting harassment and intimidation and regulating, without preference or discrimination, permitted uses of college intra-net resources. It failed to intervene and limit harm to Pfac President Diana Vallera, who was libeled in a December 8th, 2011 email that was circulated using college intra-net communications, and which was forwarded by department administrative personnel with College knowledge.

We regard the aggressive union-busting activities of Columbia College as part of a wide-reaching anti-labor movement in the United States that is currently targeting educators and public sector employees. The issues facing Pfac are national in scope, importance, and impact. The victory for labor that we anticipate will also be national in scope and significance and will benefit employers as well.

Pfac has been actively supporting coalition efforts with the Columbia College staff union, Columbia College student activists, Occupy Chicago labor activists, and many unions across the country. The college has reacted to this alliance with alarm, increasing its surveillance of student activities, using the student newspaper to deliver its message, and threatening staff activists with discipline or termination. Columbia College has no experience with union activism on behalf of members and its response to Pfac's appeals for a contract, due process, and fair treatment has consisted of a single theme - - dismantle Pfac at all costs. To that end, Columbia College has refused to bargain with Pfac since October 2011 and even threatened that Pfac "will be begging for the current contract before this is all over." They have fired the federal mediator, suspended face-to-face bargaining sessions, refused to set dates for resumed negotiations, abandoned the article-by-article format of negotiations - - including all "Not in Dispute" language - - and submitted a regressive proposal in December 2011. The college has rejected its legal obligation to bargain with the elected representative union. Columbia College has demonstrated that it will continue to violate labor law until Unfair Labor Practice charges are filed. IEA will file with the NLRB in the next few weeks.

Pfac is a 1,300 member local; we comprise seventy seven percent of the total Columbia College faculty. Our members are active, interested, committed, and increasingly angry. We believe in a multi-level campaign that includes legal action, grass roots actions, pickets, and protests, coalition building, media outreach, and donor, alumni, and supporter outreach. Recently, we have received scholarly interest in the Pfac struggle as a case study. We have seen national media interest in the Pfac team leadership. What Pfac needs immediately is timely and accessible legal resources, which have the potential to impose penalties on the college, especially when we can demonstrate recidivist employer conduct. With your help and our efforts, we believe that Pfac and all faculty unions can be strengthened and that Columbia College can be rehabilitated.

In solidarity and friendship,

Steering Committee,
Part-Time Faculty Association at Columbia College Chicago

COCAL Updates: March 6, 2012

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Important Resources, Relocated

Dear Workplace Authors, Readers, and Support,
We have moved to a new site. Please bookmark and circulate for content, submissions, and correspondence.
Thank you for your extremely important, continued scholar-activism and support.

Institute for Critical Education Studies

Faculty of Education
University of British Columbia
2125 Main Mall
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4

Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor

From Barbara Wolf, film-maker of Degrees of Shame and A Simple Matter of Justice about contingent faculty, sends us this:
Meanwhile, I wanted you to know that I removed the glitched version of "Degrees of Shame" from Vimeo and have uploaded an unglitched version.
It can be found at: The old link is no longer usable. People are free to use this new clean version in any way that advances the struggle.

COCAL Updates: March 13, 2012

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CFT's Response to Falsehoods About the Millionaires Tax

Why do CTA's leaders oppose taxing millionaires to fund education and essential services?
CFT's response to falsehoods about the Millionaires Tax

We regret that the California Teachers Association (CTA) leadership has issued a flier filled with misinformation about the Millionaires Tax to its members and the public. This effort to confuse and mislead is a grave disservice to everyone seeking new revenues for schools and services. The flier is factually inaccurate, both about the Millionaires Tax and the governor's proposal. Here's the truth about just two falsehoods.

CTA flyer: Unintended Consequences

FALSEHOOD #1: In boldface, the CTA flier claims "This is direct text from the Millionaires Tax: "none of the funds can be used to support programs primarily funded by the state.""

THIS IS COMPLETELY UNTRUE. This quote appears nowhere in the initiative, and it runs completely counter to the purpose of the Millionaires Tax, which is to restore funding that has been cut from programs primarily funded by the state. Ask CTA's leaders where this "quote" came from.

FALSEHOOD #2: The CTA flier claims that the governor's tax will increase "Prop 98 funding by nearly $5 billion for the 2012-13 budget year."

THIS IS ALSO UNTRUE. The governor's own budget projects that his tax will bring in just half of that, $2.5 billion, to Prop. 98 [Governor's Budget Summary, 2012-1013, p. 136, "the funding levels above reflect a $2.5 billion increase in the Proposition 98 minimum guarantee in 2012-13 assuming passage of the governor's tax proposal."].

CTA Leadership Stands with Business Roundtable

The same day that the CTA leadership issued its flier, the California Business Roundtable, representing PG&E, Chevron and other large corporations, came out in opposition to the Millionaires Tax. It stopped short of endorsing Governor Brown's proposal, however. The reason? According to the Sacramento Bee (March 9), "Roundtable spokesman Kirk Clark said the business group was waiting to see whether Brown would come through with pension reductions as well as changing environmental laws and business regulations to make it easier for firms to operate in California."

The CTA leadership has now aligned itself with the most reactionary forces in California in opposition to the Millionaires Tax. CTA leaders are standing together with the 1%'s business lobby, which is actively working to undermine the hard-earned pension benefits of CTA's own members, and eeking the destruction of public employee pensions as a quid pro quo for their endorsement of the governor's tax.

Millionaires Tax: The Solution

The Millionaires Tax will bring in $6 billion to fund schools and services. It will tax only millionaires. It has just come out on top of the seventh straight poll assessing voter preferences for the three competing revenue measures. The newest poll also clearly demonstrates that in a multiple measure ballot scenario, the Millionaires Tax would win. A Public Policy Institute Poll released on March 8 shows the governor's sales tax and personal income tax increase at just 52% support. Do you want to put all your hopes for new funding on that one measure's uncertain chances?

At a moment when the students and families of California desperately need new revenues, it is astonishing the CTA leadership would attempt to create a political atmosphere charged with lies and confusion. All organizations that understand the need for revenues should be uniting around the ballot measure most likely to win. Poll after poll shows likely voters want to tax millionaires. President Obama has stated his support for taxing millionaires. CTA leaders, in their zeal for backdoor dealing and politics-as-usual in the service of the 1%, seem determined to poison the well and destroy the best opportunity for their members and the people of California to restore and refund our state.

For more answers to questions about the Millionaires Tax, click here for the "Rhetoric vs Reality" one pager.

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Scapegoating faculty for high tuition.

Sent to you by Vanessa via Google Reader, via More or Less Bunk by Jonathan Rees on 3/11/12.
Since I have a 2-and-a-half hour layover in the lovely Denver airport, I thought I'd quickly link two stories on my Google Reader feed that make sense together.

First, via Eric Rauchway, here's the Cornell Management Professor Robert Frank explaining why faculty salaries are the reason college costs so much:

College instruction more closely resembles a musical performance than an auto assembly line. Although information technologies have yielded some productivity growth in academia, instruction still takes place largely as it always has.

To recruit professors, universities must pay salaries roughly in line with those made possible by productivity growth in other sectors. So while rising salaries needn't lead to higher prices in many industries, they do in academia and many other service industries.

As I wrote at Eric's place, "The fact that 75% of faculty in American higher education are now poorly-paid adjuncts is all the proof I need to conclude that Robert Frank hasn't got the faintest idea what he's talking about."

Also on my Google Reader feed is a rather disturbing higher ed story at Colorado Pols coming out of a university in the same metro area as this lovely airport.

Apparently, CU-Boulder President Bruce Benson caused a stir by raising administrator's salaries by obscene amounts in this economy while at the same time raising tuition. What did he do to fix this PR nightmare? Blame faculty. Pols has the e-mail he sent all over campus:

Reality: We are in a market economy and are a people-intensive enterprise. Some three quarters of our expenditures are for people. Delivering a quality education at CU means investing in people. Additionally, our business has increased substantially during the recession, with an 11.5 percent increase in enrollment the past decade and record enrollment on our campuses. Degrees awarded over the same period increased 34 percent.

Top administrative raises accounted for a small percentage of the total salary pool. The vast majority went to faculty, who are critical to the quality of a CU education. More than 85 percent of those who received merit raises received less than $4,000.

Playing the workers against the customers. Just lovely. Apparently, Walmart management tactics have finally hit higher ed. hard. The only way to fight that is to do what Walter Reuther tried to do to General Motors in 1945 and demand that they open the books.

Every last one of them.

COCAL Updates: March 17, 2012

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COCAL Updates: March 20, 2012

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COCAL Updates: March 23, 2012

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A Sixteen-Point Proposal on China's Reform

A new internet-published proposal in China which gives current demands, especially regarding education, very much like that which we in the movement and unions have been fighting for here in the US. Reportedly, being widely discussed.

To give an indication of the mood, we publish below the 'People's Proposal on China's Development' as it appeared with a covering letter on the website 'Red China'. This proposal has emerged as the popular alternative to the proposals of privatisation emanating from the ruling class.

Dear all,

A few days ago, People's Daily published an editorial calling for further reform while acknowledging the potential oppositions. In the Chinese context, "further reform" in the mainstream media means neo-liberal reforms like privatization, marketization, etc. This article attracted lots of critique from Marxists and left wing in general, the scale of which is very unusual in the last 20 years. These discussions gave birth to a People's Proposal on China's future development. The first draft was written by a writer on one of the largest online forum in China. Red China website quickly edited them into a concise version. After that, people have been enthusiastically discussing the proposal all over the Internet and have been adding other things. We translate the Red China version into English to give you a sense of what the proposal looks like. This achievement is definitely a milestone in working class movement in China in that for the first time in recent three decades so many people are consciously questioning the whole program of the ruling class and begin discussing what they want. The proposal does not use any Marxist term, nor does it mention socialism, but everyone can see where it is going.

1. That the personal and family wealth of all officials be publicized and their source clarified, and all "naked bureaucrats" be expelled from the Party and the government. ("Naked bureaucrats" refer to those officials whose family lives in developed countries and whose assets have been transferred abroad, leaving nothing but him/herself in China.)
2. That the National Congress concretely exercises its legislative and monitory function, comprehensively review the economic policies implemented by the state council, and defend our national economic security.
3. That the existing pension plans be consolidated and retirees be treated equally regardless of sector and rank.
4. That elementary and secondary education be provided free of charge throughout the country; compensation for rural teachers be substantially raised and educational resources be allocated on equal terms across urban and rural areas; and the state assume the responsibility of raising and educating vagrant youth...
5. That the charges of higher education be lowered, and public higher education gradually become fully public-funded and free of charge.
6. That the proportion of state expenditure on education be increased to and beyond international average level.
7. That the price and charge of basic and critical medicines and medical services be managed by the state in an open and planned manner; the price of all medical services and medicines should be determined and enforced by the state in view of social demand and actual cost of production.
8. That heavy progressive real estate taxes be levied on owners of two or more residential housings, so as to alleviate severe financial inequality and improve housing availability.
9. That a nationwide anti-corruption online platform be established, where all PRC citizens may file report or grievance on corruption or abuse instances; the state should investigate in openly accountable manner and promptly publicize the result.
10. That the state of national resources and environmental security be comprehensively assessed, exports of rare, strategic minerals be immediately cut down and soon stopped, and reserve of various strategic materials be established.
11. That we pursue a self-reliant approach to economic development; any policy that serves foreign capitalists at the cost of the interest of Chinese working class should be abolished.
12. That labour laws be concretely implemented, sweatshops be thoroughly investigated; enterprises with arrears of wage, illegal use of labour, or detrimental working conditions should be closed down if they fail to meet legal requirements even after lawfully limited term for self-correction...
13. That the coal industry be nationalized across the board, all coal mine workers receive the same level of compensation as state-owned enterprise mine workers do, and enjoy paid vacation and state-funded medical service. Personnel in state-owned enterprises be publicized; the compensation of such personnel should be determined by the corresponding level of people's congress.
15. That all governmental overhead expenses be restricted; purchase of automobiles with state funds be restricted; all unnecessary travelling in the name of "research abroad" be suspended.
16. That the losses of public assets during the "reforms" be thoroughly traced, responsible personnel be investigated, and those guilty of stealing public properties be apprehended and openly tried."

[ORIGINALLY PROPOSED BY Hanjiangchunmeng on


COCAL Updates: March 28, 2012

A great quote: "Capitalism teaches the people the moral conceptions of cannibalism are the strong devouring the weak; its theory of the world of men and women is that of a glorified pig-trough where the biggest swine gets the most swill." -James Connolly 1910.

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Open Letter to the Board of Trustees, the President and the President-Designate of the University of Illinois

As you know, on March 22, the Appellate Court took a position endorsing the Administration's view that the UIC United Faculty (UICUF) union should be organized as two bargaining units: tenure-track and non-tenure track. We believe this decision is a misreading of the law. More fundamentally, we believe that the effort to separate TT and NTT is a misreading both of the relations between the two groups and of the future of higher education. It's not for nothing that the description of NTT faculty as the New Faculty Majority has become commonplace, and it would make more sense for the University of Illinois to take a leadership position on this issue than to fight in the courts for the right to bury our heads in the sand.

Nevertheless, despite the issue's importance and despite the fact that our lawyers think we have a strong case, we do not wish to appeal the Court's decision. Instead, we write today to ask you to voluntarily recognize UICUF Local 6456 as a faculty union consisting of two separate bargaining units -- TT and NTT -- and to begin negotiating with us. Such recognition would be consistent with the Court's ruling and would immediately end the costly judicial process.

We take this step because, like you, we are concerned about the deteriorating relations between the Faculty and the Administration. Although the appeal process so far has only worsened those relations, we recognize and applaud the Board's acknowledgement that there is a problem and we are eager to join with President-Designate Easter in being part of the solution. We would rather work with you at the bargaining table than oppose you in the courtroom.

In urging you to begin negotiations with us as two bargaining units, we are, of course, only asking you to do what you have consistently said you wanted to do. As Provost Kaufman recently put it, the "University is not trying to deprive faculty of the right to organize for collective bargaining purposes" but only to make sure that we are organized in"separate bargaining units."Indeed, from the day we were first certified by the IELRB, the Administration has been clear that it was not opposed to the faculty's unionizing but only, in the words of our Chancellor, to the "effort to combine temporary faculty with tenure-system faculty in a single bargaining unit." And, most recently, in the brief that convinced the Appellate Court, the administration declared that "it is not attempting to deprive tenured system and non-tenure faculty of the right to create two separate and distinct bargaining units" and further argued that two separate and distinct units "would help foster a more stable collective bargaining relationship."

We ourselves are not convinced that two separate units is the best way to foster a better relationship between the faculty and the administration but, like the administration, we are very eager to make that relationship better. The events of the last few years, culminating in President Hogan's resignation, have made clear just how bad it has become. If you will join us -- on your terms -- at the bargaining table, the turnaround can begin today.

Joseph Persky,
President- UIC United Faculty
Local 6456

Press Contact: Walter Benn Michaels , UICUF Bargaining Committee Chair