Sunday, January 25, 2009

proud to be union,
plus, pain

Friday I cut class short, to drive us up to Sac ("The Town So Nice, They Named It Sac") for the CFA Joint Council meeting of the Lecturers and the Affirmative Action* councils. There was the usual dinner-n-speaker on Friday, then the all-day meeting of the Lecturers' Council on Saturday.

It wasn't a meeting chock full of epiphanies. For one thing, there's been a bit of turnover among the council personnel, which is good - new blood, even if it's not exactly young blood, is always a good thing. So some of the meeting's agenda was set with that in mind.

Plus, at this point, given the economic straits, given the impasse in the re-opener "negotiations" with the CSU on salaries (of which more in a sec), the proper focus is on technical matters of contract enforcement, and building the union's capacity. "Capacity building" is the new watchword, a broader notion than recruiting membership, because it involves recruiting activists, improving communications, creating political power - a large-scale, multi-layered, munificently-hyphenated effort.

I like it. I've been getting really upset about the coming economic apocalypse, and now I feel like I've got specific things to do. I'm starting with the spring. Actually, I'm starting this week.

So, okay. We came within a week of striking for the first time, but finally won the best contract in the history of CFA, two springs ago. We got raises that would give us salaries slightly more in keeping with other faculty in comparable institutions (and raises for the first time in years). Then the economy, predictably, tanked, and the CSU, predictably, re-opened the salary article in response. Their first offer was to eliminate the raises we bargained. Their last, best offer, tendered last week, was to eliminate the raises we bargained. That's CSU bargaining.

In any case, the CSU is saying that they have money, and could pay the raises, but there are "competing priorities" for spending the money. Which, I think, means "we could pay you the raises you bargained, but we're not gonna."

Now, I'm totally sympathetic to the needs of the staff, and the need to try to keep student fees lower. My problem with the CSU's move at this point is that once again, this public institution is refusing to be transparent, or even forthcoming, about its books. Someone this weekend put the absurdity and insult of it pretty well: not only is this a violation of the public trust, but it's also ignoring the presence, right here in the CSU, of expertise the CSU administration could consult about budget management. (Locally, the admin at Santa Claus is moving toward being more forthcoming, and relying on the expertise of a faculty-majority committee for budget advice.)

Anyway, back home Saturday night after a quick trip to a hoidy-toidy yarn store and the Sac IKEA, then off this afternoon for the Townsend Opera Players's production of The Magic Flute. Then back home, to grade papers. I'm pretty tired. And my wrist and little fingers on my left hand have hurt for three days. I think driving is aggravating my previous bout of carpal pain.

*"Affirmative Action" is not a legally recognized model for achieving diversity in public institutions in California, per a ballot initiative passed by voters many years ago. However, the CSU and CFA jointly put together a policy which continues to acknowledge affirmative action as an important value in hiring faculty and staff, and in enrolling students. I don't think CSU does a great job (and the numbers demonstrate that), but the population of CFA is sure getting more and more diverse and interesting.

1 comment:

Bobo the Wandering Pallbearer said...

No, no; you can't fool me. There IS no such thing asa Sanity Clause.