Friday, June 26, 2015

Status update

Well, it seems mostly settled that I'm not in the bargaining unit after all. I recently rescinded my membership in the union, and when I did so was informed that I was not a member of the unit in the first place. (Still, the leadership promised to honor my request to leave the union and promised to return the card I had signed.)

On one level, this news is a bit disturbing. I had been told much earlier that I was a member of the bargaining unit. I participated in the two-day strike because I thought I was a member of the unit. If I understand correctly, someone who walks off the job in a labor dispute and who is not a member of the bargaining unit can be fired. It's also disturbing because I was allowed to vote on the contract. Finally, it could mean that I was inadvertently lying when I claimed to be a member of the bargaining unit.

On another level, it's not quite as disturbing as it seems. Dues have never been deducted from my paycheck, so I haven't had to pay. Also, I do believe that those who told me I was a member of the bargaining unit did so in good faith. I am in a marginal position.  By marginal I don't mean "marginalized" (being full time, I'm definitely better advantaged than many NTT's), but I mean "on the margin between member and non-member of the bargaining unit." It's likely that the question of whether the small number of people like me are in the bargaining unit has been a point of interpretation. It's also possible that I was in the bargaining unit at the time of the strike and at the time the contract was voted on, but wasn't when my contract was removed.

I may still comment from time to time on UIC United Faculty matters. One reason is that as a citizen, I'm interested in how things turn out. Another reason is that whether or not I'm a member of the bargaining unit, I am still affected by what the union does, for good and for ill. When my contract was renewed last year, I got a pay increase. It's possible that increase was a result of the fact that a union is on campus. However, my usual fears about the union making it more expensive to hire people and making it more difficult (albeit perhaps only marginally more difficult, given other non-union challenges to the university's budget) for me to keep my job remain. For example, as I noted in a prior post, visiting appointments like mine seem disfavored by the contract:

The contract [p. 10] says all visiting appointments are to be for one year and appointments for greater than one year (which I assume includes also visiting "re-appointments") "should be utilized to meet unpredicted or unexpected staffing needs."

When that provision was announced at the informational meeting, several members cheered and clapped.  If you had asked them why, I assume each would have said that this provision prevents the university from simply reappointing someone to "visiting" positions and thereby forgoing its responsibility to make a long-term commitment to its employees.  But I suggest that they're also cheering a policy, the practical result of which might be the discharge of at least a few people currently in "visiting" positions.
As I've said before, if this situation is unfair, it's not peculiarly unfair, and I've gotten my share of advantages from the way things work. That said, I believe I'm correct to say that on balance, the union does not represent my immediate interests. For that reason and for reasons stated elsewhere on this blog, from other observations I have not noted, and from a private conversation with one other union member, I decline to support the union.

Therefore, I have done the following:
  1. I have changed the blog lede from "a voice of loyal opposition" to "a voice of opposition."
  2. I have rescinded my signed support for the union. I decided on this even before I found out I was no longer a member of the bargaining unit.
  3. I have unsubscribed myself from the online forum on which union matters are discussed. I actually did this several months ago. And I did so because I did not want to risk learning something confidential and inadvertently blogging about it.
  4. For similar reasons, I have decided to no longer go to union meetings, not that I can, not being a member of the bargaining unit. Occasionally I must attend faulty meetings at which union matters are discussed. In those cases, I probably will not absent myself from that part of those meetings.
I do believe that those who support the UICUF sincerely believe it's a good thing. I disagree and believe they are mistaken. But I wish them no ill-will.

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