Monday, December 15, 2008

Last 2008 Post

Seems like everything has gone into the deep freeze for Christmas, including contract negotiations at both York and U of T. So this will be my last post until January, unless events warrant.

If you're waiting for an email reply, I'll try to get caught up ...


neilshyminsky said...

Anonymous anti-union tenure-stream prof: What's your stake in all of this? I mean, you obviously feel as if the university has no responsibility to their students or to the maintenance of a healthy working relationship with contract TAs and lecturers. Because if you feel that they do, then you might be forced to admit that some of the blame - for the current strike at York, at least - lies with the administrators who show no respect for the bargaining process. York flipped the negotiation process a middle finger when they refused to negotiate and instead relied on the twin crutches of arbitration (which they knew 3903 would never accept) and back-to-work legislation (which would have been unprecedented in the post-secondary sector). And you might have noted that in the month since York and CUPE last bargained the mediator has asked them to revisit their positions and return to the table with new proposals - a step which CUPE has taken twice in an effort to restart talks. York? They haven't even issued responses to these proposals, much less drafted a proposal of their own.

I'd like to think that you're looking out for your students. But if you were, then you would probably feel compelled to note that coordinated bargaining (and, yes, the threat of a coordinated strike) is aimed at getting more funding from the province, since our most expensive bargaining proposals - the reduction of class sizes and increases in teaching support - are also the proposals that universities say they would love to meet if only they had more money from the province. These are also the proposals that would most directly benefit undergraduate students, since smaller tutorials and mid-size lectures where all of the teaching is done by one person, or large seminars where everything is done by one person, are never desirable situations for students who want good feedback and lots of face-time.

I'd like to think that you're trying to ensure survival of the university system - as if a mass strike might cause it to implode - but I wonder why that leads you to exclusively vilify other professors and teachers. Many of whom, I should add, are tenuous-stream rather than tenure-stream. (I won't make any specific accusations relating to that divide, but simply point out that it's suspect.)

I'd also like to think that you want to be taken seriously, and to engage in a healthy and critical discussion. But I wonder why someone who is so confident in their position on this matter and so assured of its correctness is also so cowardly as to shoot their arrows from the cover of anonymity. I walk on a picket line, being yelled at and having angry drivers inch toward me threateningly, enduring physical threats (okay, so by 'threats' I mean only two, explicitly - but that's still worthy of pluralization) in defense of my political position, but you can't even attach a name to your words. How can your position, ambiguous as it is, possibly inspire trust or respect? And how can a dialogue possibly come about when those things are so totally lacking?

CUPE Watch 2010 said...

Thanks for your comment. My motivation in publishing this blog is to bring attention to CUPE's coordinated bargaining strategy. Aside from that, I have no particular opinion about the York strike, or at least not one that is relevant. However, I do acknowledge the importance of collective bargaining and I hope for a fair and equitable settlement. You will note from this post that I oppose back-to-work legislation.

Generally, my stake is in preserving the integrity of the university system, which benefits everyone in the long run: students, professors, and the general public. In one of my first posts, I expressed cautious opposition to CUPE's plan: cautious because I support increased postsecondary funding, but opposition, because the drive for funding should involve all stakeholders. Although I'm not concerned about the immediate collapse of the university system in the event of a 2010 strike, I'm very concerned about CUPE's implicit desire to remake the university system in ways that are favorable to their members, and without apparently soliciting input from everyone else.

A university is not a high school. We enjoy independence from the government for the excellent reason that we, and we alone, are the experts and specialists who are qualified to oversee education at the highest level. Demanding the government's presence at the negotiating table erodes that independence. It's in nobody's interest to have an activist government making operational decisions at universities, yet I see no safeguards in CUPE's plan to prevent this. Indeed, CUPE spokespeople have made rather disturbing comments about encouraging the provincial government to seek "cost savings" in coordinated bargaining.

I also reject the idea that CUPE is seeking benefits for "all" university members. That is nonsense. CUPE is a private organization that answers only to its own membership, and the idea that they will represent my interests (and undergrads' interests, and the public's interest) in front of the government is intensely disingenuous. For example, at the negotiating table with the province, can you really imagine that CUPE would demand extra funding for undergraduate scholarships, if it knew that the funding for those scholarships would reduce their members' pay packages? Public-sector unions have a history of embracing mass movements in order to secure benefits for themselves (see, e.g., the 1983 BC general strike); given this history, CUPE has given me absolutely no reason to trust them, and every reason to be suspicious.

As for my own anonymity, my only objective here is to inform. Discussions are nice, but I'm not particularly concerned whether I'm respected by anyone or not. However, it's interesting that you should mention "threats", since I'm aware of a recent threatening email sent by an anonymous union member to York faculty who oppose the strike, and I'm not willing to expose myself to any potential retaliation for my views. If that means I'm dismissed, so be it. Nonetheless, it seems like the best way to have a rational and balanced discussion about union relations is to have identities concealed.