American Re-Unions

February 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

I am blown away by the people of Wisconsin, by their strength and perseverance. They’ve touched off a labor movement. Along with the massive 100,000 person demonstrations in Madison, there were solidarity demonstrations in all other 49 states. There were demonstrations to protect Planned Parenthood from Repugnitan attacks on its funding and, you know, its existence. A new group, US Uncut (modeled on the British group UK Uncut) organized its first demonstrations intended to force corporate tax-delinquents to PAY UP before any social programs are cut.

Even our own little union at my university is revitalized by Wisconsin. The contract that we’ve been negotiating for the better part of three years is going to be up for vote soon. The union leadership says they won’t budge on preventing the administration from forcing a work increase and salary cut on our instructors.

Most of our non-tenured full-time instructors make between $30,000 and $33,000 a year. I make more, but I’m well under the average for my position and education.  Our university has the worst pay of all the Illinois state universities. Chicago is not a cheap city to live in. The president of the university gave herself a $43,000 raise a couple of years ago.  Her raise is higher than my salary, and I haven’t had so much as a cost-of-living increase since 2008.

We’ve had two demonstrations in the last week, and both of them have drawn over 250 staff, faculty, and students. This after two years of moribund union membership meetings. I love our students–smart, worldly, driven, diverse and just altogether awesome. They deserve better than having teachers and advisors forced to sacrifice ourselves just to do our work. The admins want us to sacrifice more.

Paul Krugman’s Feb 21 editorial outlines how shared sacrifice is a myth, and how the Rethugs don’t just want our little monies:

But Mr. Walker isn’t interested in making a deal. Partly that’s because he doesn’t want to share the sacrifice: even as he proclaims that Wisconsin faces a terrible fiscal crisis, he has been pushing through tax cuts that make the deficit worse. Mainly, however, he has made it clear that rather than bargaining with workers, he wants to end workers’ ability to bargain.

I like Fred Klonsky’s simple explanation of “shared sacrifice” even better.

Are those doing public service jobs responsible for the current crisis? Did we fail to meet our obligations?

A thief breaks into your home and steals all you own. The police catch the thief and find all your belongings in the thief’s garage. The police split the items between you and the thief.

“Shared sacrifice,” they explain.

Some of the administrators who used to talk to me avoid me now. Today at the rally I saw some of them standing around and glaring at us. This is not what I want because I don’t dislike them personally. It ain’t personal, except for the fact that it is personal for the instructors making $30,000 to our president’s $300,000.

“At least you have health insurance” people say.  “At least you have a job.”

“I wouldn’t have even that much without a union” I reply.

You should have a union too.


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