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Who Exactly are Our Unions Representing
Source Barbara MacLean, CSU worker
Date 09/07/15/01:14

Who Exactly are Our Unions Representing: Which Side Are You On? CSU Worker Speaks Out
by Barbara MacLean
July 10, 2009

Who Exactly are Our Unions Representing: Which Side Are You On?

In the past few months and weeks as we’ve watched the state of California implode, those of us who are education workers in the CSU system have watched our union leaders parroting everything the chancellor tells them it needs them to do. We’ve been rushed into voting on making decisions about our future and the education of the students we serve. We’ve had almost no opportunity to ask questions or dialog about these decisions and their ramifications or make proposals about what should be done as we’ve been pushed into voting. In some cases, when we’ve asked questions, we’ve been told that our union officials are not available to answer them. So far, the only union we have heard giving voice to all our criticisms and what we perceive as attacks on workers has been the CFA (California Faculty Association). We’ve heard not-so veiled threats from the rest of our unions that if we don’t vote for furloughs we will be facing layoffs, the possible closing of campuses, further enrollment caps, accelerated application deadlines and worse. As it is, without waiting to find out if the unions will agree to furloughs, a few days ago the CSU Board of Trustees announced that campuses will be closed for spring 2010 enrollment and will close winter 2010 admissions. This is democratic governance?

However, we have heard nothing – nothing – from the chancellor or the board as to what plan they have for surviving this crisis beyond furloughs. Since we are educational workers and do the bulk of the work, it would be intelligent to ask us what kind of a plan might be made. Clearly, furloughs alone are not going to recover the necessary costs, but the chancellor remains mum about other ideas or plans. Neither have we received reassurances that, if we accept the furloughs, we will not face layoffs. The chancellor’s office has unequivocally said they cannot promise that. And yet – our union officials are pushing us to go along with this. Instead of working to protect us – they seem to be working to protect the chancellor. A furlough represents about a 10% pay cut, and while the unions and the chancellor keeps assuring us this will not effect our retirement or benefits, the percentage is actually higher than that when we factor in increases agreed to previously but never realized, freezing of contracts, etc. It amounts to closer to a 15% pay cut. And, of course, we have all seen consistent cases of pay cuts in the form of furloughs or any other reduction is a step towards permanent pay cuts that are rarely, if ever, recovered from.

At our campus mass email rights have been suspended for a union member who was trying to ask other members and their stewards legitimate questions about the forloughs. They have been told that “The use of Massmail for discussion of any subject matter is a violation of campus policy”. While other kinds of “discussion” go on all the time through mass email, to our knowledge this is the first time an employee’s rights have been suspended. There is also nothing in the policy about any kind of “administrative action”.

Among the items of discussion among the members are the following

§ Hiring freezes that have been in effect for months – therefore fewer people are doing more work
§ Continuation of contracts with no raise in pay
§ The highly touted “Management Furloughs” for those who make much higher salaries than the rest of us and who will be allowed to use vacation time to keep their paychecks whole
§ The continued use of “consultants”, temporary and p/t workers

Workers are angry. They are starting to take their conversation off-line and organize in the rank and file even in the face of union leadership telling them to “be patient”. The “conversation” is growing daily. In the absence of real leadership from our unions to protect us from the growing attacks, it is only making the rank and file stronger. Clearly, it’s time to take care of ourselves.

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