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Vol. 31, No.3 April 03, 2006
WE CAN'T EAT UTOPIANISM
The Patriot Returns is on the mailing list of both the CUNY Alliance and the New Caucus. Setting aside all of the rhetoric, we've been struck by a fundamental difference between the two sides. The Alliance has promised to focus on bread-and-butter issues, notably salaries and health-care benefits, through traditional union negotiating. The NC has argued that CUNY faculty will receive a good contract only when the PSC's mobilization efforts have helped change global, national, and state political conditions along the lines laid out by our Dear Leader, President Barbara Bowen. Yes, this worker-friendly utopia might be thousands of protest rallies and picket lines away. But, after all, the Dear Leader arranged to use union dues to bump up her salary by $20,000-plus, so she will be financially positioned to lead the revolution when it comes.
As for the rest of us, we can take heart from a recent New Caucus mailing outlining the reasons to keep the Dear Leader in office. The ultimate reason: having overseen "a principled, energetic fight in this round of bargaining for a contract worthy of our members." The economic provisions in the contract are, apparently, irrelevant. All that matters is that the Dear Leader remained "principled" (linking the contract fight to her global crusades against countries like Colombia and Israel) and "energetic" (another round of picketing outside the Chancellor's residence, anyone?).
If only the city and state gave contracts on the basis of how many incompetent ideologues staff the upper ranks of a union, we'd all be wealthy.
SOLIDARITY FOR THEE,
As CUNY faculty have absorbed sacrifice over sacrifice over the past six years, one message from PSC headquarters has remained consistent: short-term setbacks are often necessary, to promote "union solidarity."
But it turns out that this solidarity is a one-way street. When the choice is between pragmatically promoting the economic interests of CUNY faculty and fidelity the Dear Leader's global and political agenda, the message is, "Solidarity Forever!" But when the choice involves protecting the Dear Leader's cronies, the message is, "Who Is Joe Hill?"
A case in point: the burgeoning scandal regarding the transfer of the Welfare Fund's prescription drug package to Medco, a mail-order firm. We all recall the reason: after Welfare Fund guru Steve "Foggy" London decided to cover adjuncts at $800/person even though the WF took in only $250/adjunct, he didn't reduce coverage for full-time faculty by an equivalent amount. When the WF started hemorrhaging cash, the search went out for cheaper alternatives. Enter Medco.
It seems that, for the Dear Leader, plugging the financial freefall caused by Foggy's mismanagement trumped union "solidarity." As a recent The Patriot Returns revealed, the company is threatening to lock out 500 of its workers in a labor dispute. Moreover, Medco was sued for fraud and violating its fiduciary obligation by the State Teachers Retirement Systems of Ohio. Last December, the Ohio academic union won a $7.8 millon dollar judgment against the company.
The Ohio union's allegations against Medco included:
The Executive Vice President and CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association said that the Ohio court ruling showed companies like Medco "cannot place their own corporate interests above those of the plan's beneficiaries," since the company's previous policies represented a true threat to our country's health care system."
Quite a company Foggy chose for us, don't you think? Let's not have union "solidarity"---much less common sense---stand in the way of trying to prevent the WF's collapse before the election.
Sharad Karkhanis, Ph.D.