Thank you to all have written in support of our strike. We went back to work three weeks ago after agreeing to some principles that will be part of a contract not yet written. The board of trustees has ratified the principles, but we have not gotten a full contract to vote on yet. The strike itself was in response to a contract that represented more union busting than dealing with our financial issues. The key sticking point was that they wanted us to give up the right to bargain over healthcare and workload. So, in that sense we won. However, we will each be paying about $3000 more per year in healthcare costs (distributed more to the sick through deductibles and those who are paid less, through a reduction in the income levels that determine premiums) and face “cost-savings days” (furlough days, in which they acknowledge that we still have to do all the work). We retain bumping rights for summer classes, but had to accept a 20% pay cut for summer. We retained retrenchment language (did not give up tenure) and our unparalleled job security protections for non-tenure track faculty and our workload agreement.
We expected the central administration to act like we could be easily replaced and to ignore all work done outside the classroom; what we did not expect is the degree to which department chairs would be complicit with this:
* hiring unqualified replacements (our favorite examples being using the University lawyer with a Chinese last name to stand in front of a graduate level Chinese Foreign Policy course and the CEO of an affiliated Real Estate company that has been draining funds from the University and whose salary is on WSU’s payroll to mask that it is loosing money was filling in for Ethics in the Public Sector)
* harassing faculty (a professor who was presenting at a conference during the strike as an independent scholar was told that she is crossing the picket line and would be required to show up to work on Monday.)
* There were a lot of typical strike breaking threats of legal action that were inconsistent with the law.
In the end, the department chairs converted a lot of classes to a B term (2nd half of the semester in which the same material would be presented in ˝ the time) signaling to faculty and students that they don’t care if the students get what they paid for.
We also did not expect them to threaten the students who supported us. Not only did the President refuse to speak to them, they threatened to have students who participated in a sit-in with expulsion and arrest. In some classes, students were given extra-credit to organize opposition to faculty and others were expected to perform their grad assistant work making pro-admin buttons. I was told that the scab for my lower division class should teach the first class after the strike (to smooth the transition) which turned out to mean spending an hour and twenty minutes ranting against the strike. I was also told that the grad students would be better off having no class for three weeks than having me return to the classroom.
After additional struggle (because they wanted to take 10% of our salary based on only working during the semester) rather than the idea of a 9 month salary, we got them to concede to only dock our pay by 7%. We are accepting donations to a strike fund to help support my colleagues who live closer to the edge. It was those who earn less that went on strike (the College of Business mostly did not, about half of economics, but almost all of liberal arts).
We continue to struggle against neoliberalism and for public higher education. On the one hand, it is nice to be with others willing to resist. On the other hand, what was theoretical before has become personal as our livelihoods are threatened. It has also been heartening to see how much the students value the faculty (as opposed to just wanting the piece of paper.)
Shortly after the strike we found out that a consultant has been hired to survey students about a new recreation center/student union renovation that will cost students $260/semester at a commuter school. Students are pretty disgusted.
“We can disagree and still love each other, unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” – James Baldwin
Barbara Hopkins, Ph.D.
Wright State University
3640 Col. Glenn Hwy
Dayton, OH 45435
office: 937 775-2080
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