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Vol. 29, No.2 February 26, 2006
PSC ACTIVISTS TO MEMBERS:
As our last newsletter noted, a Feb. 16th "Contract Update" from PSC president "Battlin' Barb" Bowen reached a stunning realization. "Collective bargaining for public employees," the Dear Leader revealed, "is a political process---it's about power." Given that it took the Dear Leader six years to figure out this basic law of politics, The Patriot Returns supposes it would be too much to expect her to act upon her newfound recognition. It's so much easier, after all, to rally outside the Chancellor's apartment, or hold teach-ins against the war in Iraq, or preach to the choir at the Cooper Union.
And so, the message of PSC activists to the CUNY faculty is: a good contract will come only when the Dear Leader realizes her political and international goals. Recently on the UFS list-serve, a member had the audacity to suggest that "complaining about what CUNY 'management' has or does not have, or what they will or will not do is actually silly. They do not have the money; the State and City have the money. To get this money requires real cooperation between the Union and CUNY management, as well as political action by the Union . . . The diversion of the Union to other issues (Does the PSC really need to have a foreign policy?) has been very unfortunate . . . Having a film series or art shows about heroic labor struggles of the real working class are besides the point. Nor does the global analysis of crisis help."
In other words, we need real political action, understanding that union leaders sometimes must compromise on unrelated ideological goals in order to secure their members' financial well-being.
This challenge to the party line generated a frantic response from the Dear Leader's militant minions. "It seems clear to me," lectured one, "that the national attacks on a single-payer health plan, guaranteed employee pension, social security, a livable minimum wage, and the global proliferation of subcontracted, benefitless work, and the US farflung military/corporate hubris have all redounded in multiple ways on our own union contract negotiations."
Reality Check No.1 for West 43rd Street : Whether Hillary Clinton or John McCain is elected in 2008, we're still going to have huge defense budgets and economic globalization and still not going to have single-payer health care. We need a union that can get us a good contract despite such conditions, not complain that we can't have a good contract until such conditions cease to exist.
Another respondent dismissed the possibility of influencing the political process at all. Instead, CUNY professors "need a long term willingness to organize for a strike, preferably in conjunction with all the other city workers forced to accept concessionary contracts." The always-entertaining New Caucasian Lorraine Cohen added, "In the context of the neo-liberal agenda, management has become management, not a friend of the workers whether they are higher education workers or factory workers." Since CUNY professors are now "higher education workers" with no more rights a toiler in a plastics factory, hard-line confrontation is the only option we can consider.
Reality Check No. 2 for West 43rd Street : Were you unconscious during the TWU strike? If we can't expect a good contract until the UFT, DC-37, and the PBA are willing to break the law and join New Caucus in an illegal strike, then we're going to be waiting for a long, long time.
So, the New Caucus' basic message: until all city unions are willing to go out on strike, until the U.S. government dramatically cuts defense spending and embraces economic protectionism, the Dear Leader and her krazy kontract komrades are powerless. How reassuring.
GOD AND MAN---AND GRIEVANCE COUNSELOR---
What makes a good grievance counselor? An understanding of legal nuance. An ability to empathize with all faculty, regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, or creed. A skill at framing arguments judiciously, to persuade an arbitrator or management's attorneys. A willingness to fight as hard as necessary to uphold faculty rights. In its own guidelines, the AAUP also cautions against appointing grievance counselors with "an apparent conflict of interest," such as someone who has, in his words or actions, denounced a large segment of the college community.
Given these requirements, what can we make of the PSC's Feb. 2nd e-mail, announcing that Brooklyn College 's new grievance counselor is none other than Timothy (Übermensch) Shortell? Shortell, the disgraced would-be Sociology chair, wrote that all religious people are "moral retards"; compared Karl Rove to Joseph Goebbels; and celebrated the political effects of older citizens dying. (Imagine the appropriate outrage if the Dear Leader had named a grievance counselor who labeled all backers of affirmative action "moral retards," or who compared Howard Dean to a Nazi war criminal.) After BC president Kimmich declined to forward his appointment as department chair, the Übermensch responded not by filing a grievance but by petulantly withdrawing his candidacy through an e-mail containing scurrilous unsubstantiated allegations against department colleagues. If he wasn't even willing to fight for his own rights, why should anyone believe that he will stand up to the Brooklyn administration to protect the rights of other professors?
Once again, the Dear Leader has put her own ideological agenda ahead of her members' interests. Shortell is a crony of Battlin' Barb; he recently denounced Mayor Bloomberg as an "anti-union bastard" and bizarrely recommended an illegal one-day general strike. Such comments earn the Dear Leader's patronage: in this case, a couple of courses off each year, courtesy of our dues payments. But what about those Brooklyn profs who believe in a divine being; or are political moderates or conservatives; or are over the age of 50? The Shortell appointment communicates a clear message: they have no place in the Dear Leader's PSC.
PAGING SCOTT McCLELLAN?
White House press secretary Scott McClellan has taken to a new art form the process of shamelessly blaming critics of the administration for its shortcomings, whether in Iraq or in the aftermath of Katrina. It seems that the Dear Leader's similarly shameless acolytes have decided to imitate McClellan's strategy.
Trying to explain away the Dear Leader's struggles to close a contract deal, one New Caucasian recently wondered in print whether it was "possible that the city and state continue to throw obstacles in the path of CUNY contract negotiations with the knowledge that this spring a new, more accommodating slate will be running for union office."
As we've said before, we know little of the newly announced opposition slate, the CUNY Alliance, but our position on the coming election is "ABB": Anybody But Bowen. Unlike the Dear Leader, we learn from past mistakes---in this case, our 2000 endorsement of Battlin' Barb and the New Caucus. But the current New Caucus position is remarkable: the Dear Leader's incompetence in negotiating a contract has helped generate an opposition slate---and so the existence of that opposition slate can serve as the excuse for the Dear Leader's incompetence? That logic would make even Scott McClellan proud.
THE RUMOR COLUMN: