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Vol. 41, No.2 August 11, 2008
THE E-MAIL WAR ON
"VOTE NO" CONTINUES
In this issue, The Patriot Returns again presents e-mails that are representative of the exchange between activist adjuncts and the PSC management. The PSC under New Caucus management has always been more concerned with the problems of the world, while neglecting both the full time and part time members' cries for betterment of their lot. While we withhold names of adjunct e-mailers (by the indication "name/s withheld") we do display names of PSC officers. Some emails not accommodated on the pages of the Patriot are provided as links. We apologize in advance for any formatting errors that might have occurred during the transcription.
Barbara Bowen resurfaced very briefly (and then promptly disappeared again) with a single e-mail on August 5, right after our Patriot Returns issue of August 03, 2008 (Vol. 40, No.4) which asked "WHERE IN THE WORLD IS. . . BARBARA BOWEN?". In her message, she bestowed great praise on her vice president Steve London for following her rendition of "Democratic processes" in respect to discussion on ratification of the contract. In that e-mail she also authorized that:
The Patriot believes that the Dear Leader's illusion of democracy and free speech are just that: an illusion. Is this going to fool any one in the membership? Hell, No.
"Dream deferred" for Adjuncts
Are congratulations in order for us adjuncts? Or are we a "permanent underclass"?
While details are still forthcoming, it tentative settlement clearly perpetuates the two-tier labor system we are living under.
In some ways it would seem even to deepen it (more on this later). As for health insurance, the information is vague, saying only that progress was made. What does the tentative contract actually say about this?
The two-tier system weakens all of us, and the union as a whole.
A real, head-on struggle against inequality seems to be conceived of as a "dream" that can endlessly be "deferred."
What happens to a dream deferred?
Response to PSC Officers' Denial of Request for a Contract Discussion Bulletin
On Thursday July 24, an e-mail was sent to PSC Delegate Assembly members, signed by PSC First Vice President Steve London, together with Mike Fabricant, Treasurer, and Arthurine DeSola, Secretary, denying the request for a "contract discussion bulletin."
The call for a discussion bulletin on this enormously controversial proposed contract came after extensive debate on the request that the Clarion include a short statement from the group of "part-timers" who oppose the contract. When we were told this was out of the question, for policy as well as technical reasons, a proposal was made for an insert, which received support from many delegates but was also denied. Nonetheless, a special mailing to all members was then sent out with a letter from President Barbara Bowen "urging you to give [the contract] your support." This mailing could easily have included our statement, but did not.
On July 18, Stanley Aronowitz, a delegate and University-wide Officer of the union, proposed that the PSC "issue a special contract bulletin that would afford supporters and opponents a chance to provide their viewpoints." This bulletin would be coordinated by an "editorial committee, selected for diversity of viewpoint [and] constituencies."
Brother Aronowitz stressed: "If this proposal is to be implemented it requires prompt action." We and other PSC activists (including several who disagree with our position on the contract) indicated that this was the best alternative under the circumstances, and urged that the proposal be implemented. Sister (Name Withheld) pointed out that such a bulletin could easily be compiled on the basis of existing materials, and distributed electronically as well as in printed form.
Exercising union democracy and pursuing the vital debates that have begun in recent weeks, such a bulletin would be greatly beneficial to the union as a whole. In addition to the two collective statements from our group, it would include other viewpoints not only critical of the contract but favorable to it as well. It would help clarify issues raised by many members, including implications of the new Clinical Professor position, health care, the situation of Continuing Education and CLIP instructors, whether the proposed raises would be above or below inflation, crucial concerns of HEOs, and the workload problem.
Almost a week after the proposal was made, after insistent requests for a response, the July 24 e-mail was sent, stating: "As principal officers of the PSC, we believe using union resources to publish such comments at this time is ill-advised. The Delegate Assembly overwhelmingly recommended ratification of the contract (92 for and 13 against) after a thorough debate. The leadership and PSC staff are bound to follow the policy set by the DA. Given this democratically-arrived-at decision, the union must dedicate its resources to ratification of the contract."
Most striking is the statement that "the union must dedicate its resources to ratification of the contract." The whole point of the ratification process is supposed to be that the union's members have the fullest opportunity to inform themselves of the issues, and then vote. The contract discussion bulletin is a manifestly reasonable means of furthering that goal. The July 24 message, however, identifies the position of the Executive Council, then approved by a majority of the DA, with the position of "the union." Yet the EC and DA can only recommend one or another position. The union as such does not have a position, until the membership has voted. In identifying a favorable recommendation with the position of "the union," the July 24 message preempts that process with a logic whose implications are dangerously undemocratic. The union is the members all of us!
The other arguments presented in the July 24 message are spurious as well.
Far from "thorough," debate at the DA meeting was truncated and rushed, under enormous pressure to get it over with, after an inordinate amount of time was taken up by officers praising the proposed contract. The unseemly and damaging haste to push this through is reflected in the officers saying "No," again and again, to reasonable requests for fuller discussion.
The "resources" involved in a contract bulletin would be minimal, while this contract's stakes for all PSC members are enormous. Moreover, the union's resources were used to send the special mailing with Sister Bowen's letter urging ratification. At the DA, approximately 20 percent voted against or abstained on the contract. The contract discussion bulletin would in fact entail only a fraction of 20 percent of the resources already spent on promoting a "Yes" vote on the contract.
Yet the July 24 message puts forward the position that 100 percent of published statements on the contract (not isolated quotations in a journalistic report) will be monopolized by the leadership's position, which it presents as the official "union" one.
The argument that the leadership would be responsible for choosing which criticisms to publish, and for "inaccuracies," is simply a straw man. As noted above, the editorial board would compile the bulletin; the author(s) of each contribution would be clearly identified; and a statement at the beginning could explain (in case anyone did not know this) that views expressed are the exclusive responsibility of the authors.
This contract affects us all. The union belongs to all of us. For a serious, organized discussion, for union democracy, for a contract discussion bulletin this is not only sensible and just, it is crucial for the entire membership of the PSC!
We call on Delegate Assembly members and all PSC sisters and brothers whether or not they concur with our specific viewpoint to support the call for a contract discussion bulletin. For our part, the refusal by PSC officers to accept this entirely reasonable request only strengthens our resolve in the campaign for a "No" vote on a contract (Emphasis supplied) that deepens CUNY's two-tier labor system and increases inequality. The time is now for all to "mobilize and get active" in the fight against inequality.
Concerned Adjuncts, "Part-Timers" and Graduate Students, 26 July 2008
As an Alternate Delegate, HEO, and PhD student at the GC, I fully support the call for the immediate coordination and distribution for a contract discussion bulletin.
If this is indeed the best contract we can achive for the entire membership, at this given political moment, why is the "leadership" avoiding a fuller, open discussion? (Emphasis supplied)
I urge all my fellow PSC members, delegates and non-delegates, to support the call for the bulletin.
LONDON RESPONDS TO CHARGES OF CENSORSHIP
(Name Withheld) continues to request that the union expend resources on a contract discussion bulletin that includes his and others perspectives. He legitimates his claim on union resources by asserting all views as official and unofficial have equal weight and says if his perspective is not supported by union funds it amounts to censorship. He says in his email to the DA list,
One side of the debate is being officially promoted in a string of official publications, using official union resources, while the other is being officially denied access and, (unofficially of course), in effect ... censored.
The union has a constitution that describes the democratic processes to be used in allocating union resources. The PSC Constitution says the Delegate Assembly is the "principal governing body" (Art. VIII, Section 1), and the D.A. has the power to "formulate and adopt policies and resolutions to govern the actions and positions of the union." (Art. VIII, Section 1(a)). In addition, the D.A. has the power to recommend to the members the terms of any proposed contract, prior to a ratification vote. (Art. VIII Section 1(j)). The contract is not ratified before the membership votes to ratify, but union policy urging its ratification can be established by the delegates prior to the membership vote.
The union's position in this case was clearly set by the DA vote of 92 to recommend ratification to the membership and 13 opposed. For the officers to allocate union resources expressly in opposition to a policy set by the DA would be unconstitutional and undemocratic. (Name Withheld) , no doubt, believes that his views should be promoted through the use of union resources. But, he was unable to convince the vast majority of those at the DA that his views should become union policy.
I understand the desire by some on this list to promote debate. But, it is important to realize that there already have been many meetings on campuses across the university where all members have been welcomed, and they have expressed a range of views and concerns. I reiterate what I said in an earlier post. I believe it is unwise to ask the officers to ignore DA policy and to decide arbitrarily which of these views should be supported with union resources.
Dear sisters and brothers:
As more and more delegates and alternates sign on to the call for a contract discussion bulletin, I would like to respond to some of the latest changing arguments against it.
Three can be answered quite briefly. This is clearly not an issue of funds or resources. That might have appeared halfway tenable before a special "Vote yes" mailing went out, maybe even after only one went out, but now two such special "Vote yes" mailings have been sent (not counting the Clarion). At no point was the opportunity taken to include our one-page statement arguing the opposing view on the contract (which actually could have saved time as well as resources).
Bottom line: resources and funds continue to be expended to promote only one side in the debate. Yet those required for a contract discussion bulletin would be modest indeed.
Next: the PSC Constitution.
Nowhere does the PSC Constitution say or imply that the union cannot or should not permit divergent views on a proposed contract to be circulated by the union. As Brother (Name Withheld) pointed out the other day, the positions of all slates are published during elections; there is little logic in denying similar access to organized statements of position on an issue as crucial as the contract we all have to live under . And if there is logic to the claim that a majority vote by the DA precludes circulation of the views of the minority, it is a very bad logic indeed.
In his recent posting, Brother Steve London casts requests for a contract bulletin as if they were a personal demand from me to have "his perspective" (mine) on the contract circulated. I guess all is fair in love and contracts, but this rhetorical recourse doesn't work very well because everyone already knows that a) the request to circulate divergent views was repeatedly made by an organized group of "part-timers," not one individual; b) the views referred to are collective, not personal; c) the proposal for a contract discussion bulletin was made by Brother(Name Withheld); d) more and more delegates and alternates, of many opinions, are supporting this proposal. This seems a good place to mention that clarification is still forthcoming on what Brother London meant when he previously wrote: "Unfortunately, some participants on this list have used the list for their own political purposes."
More substantive points have to do with the larger implications of the proposal. As we have repeatedly noted, such a bulletin would greatly strengthen the PSC. It would be a vital exercise in union democracy, a powerful tool of education some might argue especially appropriate to a union representing university faculty and staff about what unions can and should stand for.
As we all know, adjuncts (57 percent of the faculty, according to a 2005 AAUP study) are often alienated from the union, precisely because of the terrible conditions they continue to work under. We have been vigorously fighting against those who want to capitalize on that discontent and turn it against the PSC. An organized group that speaks to the concerns of that sector, clearly has support from it and has continually demonstrated its deep-going commitment to the union has repeatedly asked to communicate with the whole of the membership. To prevent that kind of communication could aid anti-PSC forces and hurt the union as a whole. In other words, to wall off the membership from participation in what is obviously a hot discussion would be a disservice to everyone. Conversely, bringing the membership into the debate can contribute to more union participation and engagement by all. Crucially, many colleagues recognize that the fact adjuncts are rebelling within the framework of the PSC is a good thing that will help the union fight a formidable foe.
Yet questions, debates, and the need for more information on the contract come not just from adjuncts and grad students, but from full-time faculty, HEOs, CLTs, Continuing Ed and CLIP instructors, and others. In a previous posting I mentioned a few of those varied concerns, and will not repeat them here. This diversity of concerns, job titles and campuses is strikingly reflected on the growing list of names of delegates and alternates (28 at last count) supporting the call for a bulletin, and that is a very healthy sign for our union as a whole.
BROTHERS AND SISTERS, KEEP THOSE NAMES COMING:
Sign on to the call for a contract discussion bulletin!
Steve London, whats come over you? Why exaggerate your duties to CUNY and fears of PERB?
We are a professional staff congress struggling to build a powerful union! (Together, we are)
We have an independent right and responsibility to debate the contract terms so hastily arrived at, by all leadership accounts, and since the DA meeting was also rushed -- there was no chance even for a clear vote to postpone the decision, even by a week, and there was patently thoughtful and responsible opposition to some contract terms.
So why not build union strength by clear insightful discussion, in an orderly format, and let the members have an informed vote? This is democratic unionism.
Legalistic 'resource protection' is a throwback to the past we fought to overcome and won!
And even in the awesome event that 82% vote of the DA was rejected, the negotiators would, as you well know, look for mininmal financial rearrangements within the legislative packet that the State has passed. No one in this whole and healthy ferment has even hinted otherwise.
We have a learnable moment of participatory unionism! It augurs well for responsible leadership to show its ability to hold up its contractual and constitutional responsibilities, while giving the baby of a union across the tiers a chance to breathe, and feel the reality of the power of membership.
A one way communications street can lead to a dead end. Airing the pros and cons gives room for growth. Most members did not attend the campus meetings; they deserve clear and fair pro and con. This is indisputable.
2008-9 can be a year of change toward Nancy Romer's dreams; not an Atomic Bomb Manhattan Project, but a fulltimer partimer equity movement to grow a union, rather than the screened system of demoralizing dominance we inherited from the ancien regime.
I hope you can feel these words in a good way.
If you think adjuncts, Continuing Ed teachers and others left in the lurch yet again are "outraged," you're certainly right. Plenty feel kicked in the teeth, which might explain their silence on the DA list today.
After the overwhelming, hell-bent-for-leather vote to recommend a contract that makes it doubly difficult to organize adjuncts into the union (which we are fighting for every day, as hundreds of yellow cards attest), there is now a flurry of emails about how crucial it is to organize around adjunct issues.
Obviously, every positive move in this direction should be pushed to the maximum.
Meanwhile, as a great thinker used to say: Fine words butter no parsnips.
In a message sent out on this DA list, Anne Friedman has now written (see below) that she "is getting increasingly irritated by both the tone and content" of "all these missives from the adjunct complainers." She had hoped it had all "died down" by now. She asks if there are "any plans in the works" to do something about it.
Is that how we are spoken of in some circles? Is that your idea of solidarity?
You want the irritation to die down now, as if it were some kind of extraneous buzzing in people's ears?
This kind of disdain is why we keep getting kicked in the teeth, why contract after contract deepens inequality and reproduces the two-tier system.
It echoes our daily experience of CUNY treating us with contempt like invisible, disposable non-persons. To hear it from a union sister, purportedly reflecting some viewpoint shared with others, is a terrible thing.
"Complainers"? Are we being too uppity for your taste? Try living on what we make. Try begging for one more class so you don't lose health insurance. Try being thrown on the scrap heap after years of work, with no explanation due.
"Die down"? And people pretend we are not being told to shut up!
In fact, this underlines once again why we need to have our voice presented -- at least in a special insert to the paper -- as has now been suggested by (Names Withheld) and others.
That kind of language is also a huge favor to anti-union elements against whom we are arguing every single day, as we stress that whether they believe it or not, the full-timers are our union brothers and sisters.
Our struggle for dignity, for respect, for a living wage, for some movement towards job security, for health coverage for all -- these may irritate and inconvenience some, but they are integral what real labor unionism and real solidarity are all about. They are in the interest of everyone who works and studies at CUNY.
Die down? I don't think so. This is no "dream" you can defer eternally but a serious, organized, determined rebellion against CUNY's divide-and'conquer system. Believe it or not, we are fighting for you too, Anne, as we want the grave issue of workload seriously addressed.
I wish I could say I was shocked by what I read below. But the university's elitism keeps being reflected among some (some) of our colleagues.
How many? Let's see. The floor is yours, brothers and sisters.
For more E-mail responses Click Here
Sharad Karkhanis, Ph.D.
As you know, Susan O'Malley has sought to silence the Patriot by bringing a lawsuit which seeks to limit his free speech and financially bankrupt him. Interested colleagues have weighed in at