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Vol. 30, No.2 March 19, 2006
THE DEAR LEADER REDOES CAMP DAVID
Since assuming power, the New Caucus has boosted PSC spending on political and foreign policy issues unrelated to union activities from virtually nothing to several hundred thousand dollars. As soon as she got control of union coffers, PSC president "Battlin' Barb" Bowen couldn't resist the temptation to start spending our union dues on her latest global crusades.
In a different universe, where CUNY faculty were well-paid and all CUNY classes taught by full-time hires, having a union leadership that seemed mostly concerned with changing the world might be the way to go. And, of course, it's a lot more fun to debate contemporary foreign policy than to do the hard work of negotiating a contract.
Since the Dear Leader has made a heavy emphasis on global politics a key element of her tenure, it seems time to evaluate her performance on the issue. The record reveals a particularly troubling pattern: Battlin' Barb and her comrades have displayed a double standard on matters relating to Israel.
CUNY WAGES AND WORKLOAD: "CONNECTED" TO. . .
A recent Patriot Returns profiled the Dear Leader's "International Committee," (IC) which functions as the PSC's very own shadow State Department. The PSC is now using union dues to organize a conference on what is labeled the "global economic, political and military attack on labor." Conference planners contend that "economic attacks like those we face in contract bargaining (wages, workload, discipline, health benefits, pensions) are connected to . . . massive military aid to the Israeli and Egyptian regimes."
If the New Caucus' understanding of the politics of higher education is this poor, it is any wonder that CUNY faculty have been without a contract since 2002, and that all our readers at the top of their scales haven't seen a raise since 2001?
Since publishing this newsletter, e-mails from CUNY faculty have asked some pointed questions about the Dear Leader's priorities. One of our correspondents wondered, "In describing the Government of Israel as the 'Israeli regime,' did the International Committee mean to imply that the Government of Israel is somehow illegitimate?" As another put it, "Does Barbara Bowen really believe that if the United States eliminated all military aid to Israel, CUNY faculty would receive higher salaries or a lower workload?"
Battlin' Barb's committee has made the claim. So now it's time for her to present the evidence. The Patriot Returns asks the Dear Leader:
THE NEW CAUCUS, NYCLAW, AND
The IC's bizarre assertions reflect Battlin' Barb's approach toward Israel since she took over the PSC. In October 2001, the Dear Leader signed on as one of 12 "principal members" of NYCLAW, an organization created to oppose a U.S. military strike against the Taliban. (Bowen later would cast the only vote against the AFT's resolution supporting U.S. military action in Afghanistan, while the PSC's shadow Secretary of State, IC head Renate Bridenthal, was also an initial signatory to NYCLAW.) Among NYCLAW's founding principles: a claim that "the United States and its allies have already inflicted widespread suffering on innocent people in . . . Israel and the Occupied Territories."
In 2004, NYCLAW joined with Al-Awda, the Palestinian Right to Return Coalition, to found a new group called "Labor for Palestine." Michael Letwin, who had joined the Dear Leader as one of the 12 "principal members" of NYCLAW, was named as co-convener. Demanding that all unions divest from Israel, Letwin argued that "it's bad enough that our tax dollars are going to fund Israel, but our union dues---that's intolerable."
One month before Labor for Palestine was launched, the Dear Leader conferred upon Michael Letwin and NYCLAW a PSC "Friend of CUNY" award. Curiously, the PSC house organ, The Clarion, declined to mention Letwin's name. What was Battlin' Barb trying to hide?
Given these facts, The Patriot Returns asks the Dear Leader:
Given its extreme anti-Israel views, why did you designate NYCLAW a Friend of CUNY?
BATTLIN' BARB AND THE BOYCOTT OF ISRAELI ACADEMICS:
While Battlin' Barb and her cohort have gone out of their way to oppose Israel on a variety of matters seemingly unrelated to union business (again, does anyone really believe that Israel getting U.S. aid affects our salaries?), the PSC leadership has done virtually nothing on two major academic matters where Israeli academics were unfairly treated. What explains such silence from our Dear Leader, who is normally so eager to comment on international issues?
The first instance came in April 2005, when a faculty union in Britain passed a resolution boycotting two Israeli universities. As of May 3, 2005, according to one newspaper article, the PSC had no position on the boycott, and the Delegate Assembly never took a formal stance on the matter. The Dear Leader issued a public letter denying PSC silence, but her claims couldn't withstand scrutiny. First, she said there wasn't time for the PSC to act---yet the issue wasn't listed an agenda item for the May 2005 Delegate Assembly meeting (the boycott was still in effect at the time the agenda was prepared). Then, she held that the PSC didn't need to act independently, since it spoke through its national affiliates, the AFT and the AAUP. Yet the Dear Leader hasn't followed this policy regarding Colombia: even though the AFT criticized Colombia, the PSC, on its own, organized a protest outside the Colombian UN consulate. Maybe Battlin' Barb didn't consider the boycott of Israeli academics important enough for the PSC to take an independent stance?
The second occasion of the PSC's "double-standard silence" came a few months ago, when the AAUP organized a conference to discuss its anti-boycott resolution. The conference generated criticism when one-third of the invitations went to academics who backed the boycott of Israeli universities. (Imagine the AAUP sponsoring a conference on tenure, and then giving one-third of the slots to representatives of the University of Phoenix.) The conference ultimately had to be cancelled after the AAUP distributed material from a Holocaust denier as part of the pre-session reading material.
Since her 2005 open letter said that the Dear Leader handled Israeli academic issues through the PSC's national affiliates, surely she was an active force condemning the AAUP's mishandling of this matter? Not exactly. As with the original boycott itself, the only sound emanating from PSC headquarters on West 43rd Street has been deafening silence.
Accordingly, The Patriot Returns asks the Dear Leader:
What connection exists between your endorsement of NYCLAW, its backing of a boycott of Israel, and your silence regarding the boycott of Israeli academics?
So, we have a union leadership that:
Those are the results from the Dear Leader's decision to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of union dues on global matters?
Sharad Karkhanis, Ph.D.