Mission Statement


The purpose of this blog is to deconstruct the rhetoric and strategies of faculty union advocates at the University of Illinois. A consequential decision like this must be based on facts, not spin. Right now only one side of the argument is being presented to faculty. This blog represents the other side of the argument.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

WHEN A FLOOR BECOMES A CEILING

NUMBER THIRTY-ONE IN AN ONGOING SERIES

Union advocates on this campus want to represent themselves as the tireless advocates for faculty salary improvement.

But let’s look at the facts.

For the past three years, our campus has exceeded the university-wide minimum for salary increases. This came as a result of close collaboration between senate leaders and administrators within the shared governance framework, not as a result of collective bargaining.

These increases surpassed what the UIC faculty union negotiated, retroactively, after two years of acrimonious fighting, a strike – and a threatened, even bigger, second strike.

In fact, the UIC union used Urbana’s higher increases as the benchmark for what they tried to get – unsuccessfully.

If you subtract union dues, the net salary increase for the Chicago faculty comes off even worse.

This year our campus increment was the same as was negotiated by the union at UIC: a 2.5% base increase, and an additional 1% for “compression, merit, equity, and retention” (CMER).

The CFA praised this increase, somehow thinking that we should give the UIC union credit for our increase on this campus. But, in fact, making our salary increments the same as those specified in UIC’s contract HURTS our faculty, because our salary increases have actually been better than UIC’s over the past several years.

Apparently it is more important for the CFA to support their union colleagues at UIC than to advocate strongly for faculty interests here.

Meanwhile, the Compensation Review Committee created by last summer’s Senate Task Force, which the CFA opposed, issued a carefully detailed and data-driven analysis of where our campus salaries need to be enhanced.

The CRC showed that on average our campus salaries are almost 3% behind those of our peers (and prime competitors) for faculty, and in some units as much as 10% behind. They call for a concerted plan to eliminate this gap, emphasizing especially those campus units that are furthest behind.

The Chancellor and Provost have publicly embraced the recommendations of the CRC report and are committed to addressing these problems.

But there is no way that the gaps between the salaries on our campus and on our peer campuses can be remedied if we follow the CFA’s apparent notion that we ought to match what we do on this campus to equal the increases provided on the other U of I campuses.

In effect, what was negotiated by the union at UIC as a salary floor has become a salary ceiling for all the campuses. This may be represented by the CFA as a victory for solidarity, but it is not good for our faculty.

Meanwhile, the Senate’s Compensation Review Committee also strongly endorsed the development of a supplementary retirement program for faculty, a topic on which the CFA has been virtually silent.

On our campus, it is the Senate and its committees who are pushing to improve faculty salaries and retirement options, and are committed to continuing to do so: the CRC report recommends formalizing the ad hoc committee, and producing an annual report on how well we are doing to address salary concerns and doing an in-depth analysis of the competitiveness of our total compensation package every three years.

The perpetual promise that some day, somehow, faculty unionization will remedy campus salary deficiencies needs to be matched against the actual progress that shared governance – faculty working collaboratively with the administration – has achieved for our campus.

This belies the repeated CFA claim that the Senate is powerless to do anything to improve salaries.

And, unlike a union, the Senate does not tax the faculty at the level of 1% or more of their salary every year.

***This blog is a jointly authored project by two people who believe that the campaign for tenure-track faculty unionization has damaged morale and divided our campus, and that a faculty union, if ever established, would erode academic quality and undermine our highly successful system of campus shared governance, which has earned nationwide praise. 

We speak for ourselves. We have no organization behind us, we don’t ask for funding, we don’t pay national hired guns to come in and make the case for us. 

We want to start a different campus conversation about faculty unionization, which we believe will be more thoughtful and substantive when people have all the facts. 

We welcome and will consider postings from others expressing issues and concerns about faculty unionization. We know that many faculty are very upset about the possibility of working on a unionized campus. 

If you see any information here that is inaccurate, please tell us and we will correct it. 

If you share our concerns and want to help, please forward these postings to your friends and colleagues, and urge them to do the same.***

Monday, June 2, 2014

TRANSPARENCY FOR THEE, BUT NOT FOR ME

NUMBER THIRTY IN AN ONGOING SERIES

On May 14, the CFA announced on its website that a petition had been presented to the Illinois Labor Board to form a collective bargaining unit of non-tenure-track (“specialized”) faculty members on the Urbana campus. We were surprised by this news because, on April 7, we had been told by union organizers at a campus meeting that no card campaign had begun and that, while representatives of the national organization had flown in to spend some time on campus, it was only to gauge the degree of interest in forming a bargaining unit. We were disconcerted when we later read that “the card drive began shortly after the conclusion of spring break.” 

If ”shortly” is to be understood as within a week, the card campaign had in fact begun when we were being assured that it had not.

No law requires union organizers to announce when they have begun a card campaign. And it was in their interest not to announce the beginning of the card campaign, as the AAUP organizing manual makes clear: “Organizing campaigns often begin slowly and only go public’ when the organizers (the OC) are confident that they have majority support.”

But we have to ask, Is this the way to make fundamental policy decisions affecting faculty on this campus?

Being the optimists that we are, we like to think that people try to act on the principles that they espouse. The CFA has regularly lambasted “The Administration” and their own campus Senate for what it considers breaches of the commitment to transparency -- most recently here. We don’t think it is unreasonable to expect that faculty colleagues would be shown the respect and courtesy of being informed when such a crucial initiative had begun, after two years of public controversy over the matter, particularly when it was spearheaded by an organization whose mission statement claims that it will work for transparency in all . . decision-making.” 

Apparently the CFA is committed to pressing for other people’s transparency; but their own is a different matter.

More specifically, at the February 10 meeting of the campus senate, three questions were posed to campus Senators who were CFA members:

1. Has the card campaign begun? If not, upon what is the estimate of near-majority support based?

2. Does CFA estimate that they have majority support of tenure track faculty and also of non-tenure-track faculty – or have they combined the two groups in estimating their support? If the latter, are they aware of recent court ruling in UIC case that this was not legal?

3. Why have union organizers chosen to conduct a door-to-door signature campaign instead of having an open election?

After a conspicuous silence, one member of the CFA’s union organizing committee stood up and promised to bring answers to the next Senate meeting. In a follow-up email, she repeated that commitment. The Senate met again on March 10, and the questions went unanswered. On April 14, when the card campaign had in fact begun, there was an excellent opportunity for the CFA to announce that fact at that day’s Senate meeting, which ended with ample time to spare. Silence. By May 5, when the Senate held its last meeting of the 2013-14 academic year, and when union organizers were intensely engaged in a no-holds-barred attempt to persuade specialized faculty to sign union cards, once again no mention was made of the card campaign. Nine days later, we read that the card campaign was over and that the petition had been filed with the Illinois Labor Board.

We have repeatedly called for the CFA to live up to its stated commitments to transparency and democratic processes and to have a public debate and vote on unionization that is open, truly democratic, and participatory for all those affected by a possible union decision. 

Instead, they have opted for a process that is begun in secret, carried out in secret, in which only those in favor of a union get to vote, and which is only announced publicly once the decision is already made. We won’t speak for non-tenure-track faculty, but tenure-track faculty members will be justifiably furious if that ploy is used again.

We would expect our CFA colleagues to be outraged if any administrator were to undertake a major campus transformation and only tell the faculty about it after it was implemented. Why is a decision to unionize non-tenure-track or tenure-track faculty different?

Here is one difference: an administrative policy can usually be reversed. But Illinois labor law makes a decision to unionize very difficult to change. . . which helps to explain the strategy of only announcing a vote once it is a fait accompli.

***This blog is a jointly authored project by two people who believe that the campaign for tenure-track faculty unionization has damaged morale and divided our campus, and that a faculty union, if ever established, would erode academic quality and undermine our highly successful system of campus shared governance, which has earned nationwide praise. 

We speak for ourselves. We have no organization behind us, we don’t ask for funding, we don’t pay national hired guns to come in and make the case for us. 

We want to start a different campus conversation about faculty unionization, which we believe will be more thoughtful and substantive when people have all the facts. 

We welcome and will consider postings from others expressing issues and concerns about faculty unionization. We know that many faculty are very upset about the possibility of working on a unionized campus. 

If you see any information here that is inaccurate, please tell us and we will correct it. 

If you share our concerns and want to help, please forward these postings to your friends and colleagues, and urge them to do the same.***

Friday, May 16, 2014

HOT HEADS

NUMBER TWENTY-NINE IN AN ONGOING SERIES

We have frequently expressed concern here about the intemperate rhetoric used in public statements by some campus advocates of faculty unionization, a rhetoric that assumes an adversarial division between The Faculty and The Administration. Repeatedly, university leadership is portrayed as a clueless, insensitive, untrustworthy entity that cannot understand, much less support, the rights of faculty. Hence faculty need a union that will “fight” the evil administrators to protect them; an independent voice” to protest their inevitable ill-treatment at the hands of the bosses.

There is always a need to question and to hold leaders accountable – and no one knows this better than we do. But this dichotomous Us/Them picture of the university is inaccurate and unfair. Even more than that, it is self-perpetuating: it actually creates a hostile, suspicious campus climate, by encouraging knee-jerk reactions based on the assumption that the motives of administrators are base and self-serving, and those of their faculty critics pure and selfless.

How anyone could claim that this attitude is compatible with “shared governance” is a mystery. You can’t share responsibility with people you fundamentally despise and mistrust – and you can’t expect people you speak about that way to be willing to share responsibility with you.

The latest example of this tendency is the CFAs all-out, ad hominem assault on the arrogant, ignorant, narrow-minded, authoritarian chairman of our Board of Trustees, Mr. Christopher Kennedy,” including a declaration in the CFA spinoff blog “Learning and Labor” that he is Unfit for Office.”

And just in case that is too subtle, this slander is reinforced by a cartoonish CFA-authored caricature of a monster who doesn’t care about “shared governance, due process, or academic freedom.” (None of which Kennedy ever said.)

It is entirely legitimate to correct misstatements and to challenge positions that one finds objectionable. But the venomous hatred expressed in these portrayals suggests something more than simply a desire to correct misstatements, representing them not as mistakes to be corrected but as evidence of a fundamental ignorance about the university and of hostility toward faculty (especially non-tenure-track faculty), which no one who has actually interacted with Chris Kennedy could ever imagine to be true.

Apparently, it is easy to forget that it was this same Chris Kennedy who recently pointed out the dire circumstances of many non-tenure-track faculty and the need to remedy them. No recognition is given of any achievements of the current Board, and its Chair, nor of its laudable overall record (especially compared with some predecessors) for integrity and aggressive advocacy for the university.

There is always room for fair criticism and disagreement. But when you look at the tone and hostility in this latest round of CFA comments, you have to wonder what a campus would look like in which these people were the main spokespeople and representatives of the faculty in regularly dealing with the administration.

CFA representatives keep saying they don’t desire or expect that unionization would create an adversarial relationship between faculty and administrators. And they keep proving that untrue.

***This blog is a jointly authored project by two people who believe that the campaign for tenure-track faculty unionization has damaged morale and divided our campus, and that a faculty union, if ever established, would erode academic quality and undermine our highly successful system of campus shared governance, which has earned nationwide praise. 

We speak for ourselves. We have no organization behind us, we don’t ask for funding, we don’t pay national hired guns to come in and make the case for us. 

We want to start a different campus conversation about faculty unionization, which we believe will be more thoughtful and substantive when people have all the facts. 

We welcome and will consider postings from others expressing issues and concerns about faculty unionization. We know that many faculty are very upset about the possibility of working on a unionized campus. 

If you see any information here that is inaccurate, please tell us and we will correct it. 

If you share our concerns and want to help, please forward these postings to your friends and colleagues, and urge them to do the same.***

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A DEAFENING SILENCE

NUMBER TWENTY-EIGHT IN AN ONGOING SERIES 

On April 26, when the approved UIC faculty union contracts were finally released, the CFA promised “summaries of the UIC contracts with comment later today.”



Though they had some immediate positive things to say about the non-tenure track faculty contract, we heard nothing from them about the tenure-track contract. 

This silence is hardly surprising, since a simple comparison between what the union has secured for faculty at UIC, and what has been achieved on this campus without a union, is not very helpful for their case.

First, the UIC contract provides back pay for faculty during the two years that negotiations dragged on: 2.5% for 2012-13, and 3.25% for 2013-14, with an additional 1% for compression and equity raises (total: 6.75% over two years). During this same two-year period, faculty on this campus received 4.3% and 4.16% increases, a total of almost 8.5%, paid in full and on time in the normal salary cycle. (In fact, the UIC union used Urbana’s higher salaries as the benchmark for their salary demands.)

Salaries for next year have not been set and were not addressed in this contract, so no comparison is possible. Nor have dues levels been settled yet – but everyone should remember that any salary increases need to be offset by dues payments that are deducted directly from people’s paychecks. Hence, the net salary increases at UIC are even further behind what faculty, without paying dues, have received here. (Update: dues were set on a sliding scale between .5 and 1%.)

Second, the threshold for promotion bonuses at UIC is set at 10% of salary. On this campus they are set at $7000 for promotion to Associate and $10,000 for promotion to Full, in addition to whatever raises faculty receive from their departments. Last year the average promotion bonus for faculty on this campus was over 14%.

Third, the UIC contract offers a “one-time, non-recurring reimbursement” of up to $1500 for research or professional development. On the Urbana campus, thanks to the Humanities and Arts Scholar Support program, faculty in those units received $1,000 for such purposes annually between 2008 and 2013, when the amount was raised to $1500. These funds recur every year. Many faculty receive more than this in research support from their departments, and all faculty have access to additional support from the Research Board.

Fourth, despite claims by the union that faculty governance needs “strengthening,” the contract leaves all statutory and existing governance structures in place: “Neither the University nor the Union intend that any of the terms of this Agreement abridge or diminish the roles of the faculty or the University as established in University Statutes . . . The parties to this Agreement recognize and support the role of the Faculty Senate as established by the University of Illinois Statutes.” We are encouraged by this recognition that shared governance is an effective and independent mechanism to express the voices and interests of the faculty, fully outside the control of the union.

Fifth, we note that a provision was included in the contract that would allow the union to collect “fair share dues” from faculty who are not members of the union, but only if more than half the faculty are fully dues-paying members. This is a fair and reasonable provision, since the moral justification for collecting fair share dues from everyone rests on the will of a democratic majority having committed themselves to the union.

This is the same provision, however, that was condemned by the union during negotiations as a “Scott Walker proposal” that was “anti-union, plain and simple.” Similarly, when we raised questions about possible fair share dues on this campus, the two of us were condemned by CFA members not only as “anti-union,” but as “right-to-work” shills in the service of the Koch Brothers. It is somewhat gratifying, therefore, to see that this particular “anti-union” provision was endorsed by 98% of the voting membership of the UIC union.

Finally, the contract outlines a grievance procedure that is no stronger in its protections for tenure-track faculty than the current provisions already in the Statutes, with the exception that it puts the final level of review in the hands of an outside arbitrator, not in the faculty or administrators of the campus. We leave it to you to judge whether that is a superior system.

The silence of local faculty union advocates on all these provisions is deafening.*

The achievements of faculty and administrators working together on this campus to improve the compensation and working conditions for faculty have been produced without a union, without charging faculty dues, without strikes and strike threats, and without the kind of animosity evidenced by the UIC negotiations.

*UPDATE: After we posted this, and after an editorial in the News Gazette, the CFA finally posted some comments on the UIC contracts. They do not address the comparative issues we raised, and they mostly focus on gains for non-tenure track faculty. But they are no longer silent.”

In a later posting, they challenge some of our comparative numbers on salary, and in the interests of fairness we feel obliged to include this information. But they ignore other issues we raise, and they deny that a comparison is even relevant (would they be saying that if the numbers were more favorable to the union argument?). Nor do they factor dues payments into their calculation of the net salary benefits for faculty. Still, its good to see that we have their attention.

***This blog is a jointly authored project by two people who believe that the campaign for tenure-track faculty unionization has damaged morale and divided our campus, and that a faculty union, if ever established, would erode academic quality and undermine our highly successful system of campus shared governance, which has earned nationwide praise. 

We speak for ourselves. We have no organization behind us, we don’t ask for funding, we don’t pay national hired guns to come in and make the case for us. 

We want to start a different campus conversation about faculty unionization, which we believe will be more thoughtful and substantive when people have all the facts. 

We welcome and will consider postings from others expressing issues and concerns about faculty unionization. We know that many faculty are very upset about the possibility of working on a unionized campus. 

If you see any information here that is inaccurate, please tell us and we will correct it. 

If you share our concerns and want to help, please forward these postings to your friends and colleagues, and urge them to do the same.***

Saturday, May 3, 2014

THE SENATE WE NEED

NUMBER TWENTY-SEVEN IN AN ONGOING SERIES 

The Senate’s record of aggressive, effective representation of faculty concerns hardly needs to be rehearsed. Not too long ago, the Senate called for doing away with the Chief mascot, and though it took much too long, eventually the Board was forced to accede to faculty demands, over the objections of students and alums. (The NCAA helped.) The Senate challenged the $20 million Global Campus initiative, and it was dismantled. The Senate exposed the Academy on Capitalism and Limited Government, and it was booted off campus, and now is a mostly empty shell. The Senate demanded accountability from administrators over the admissions scandal, and a Chancellor and a President had to step down. More recently, another President resigned after the Senate made clear that it wouldn’t tolerate his disregard for faculty views and his antipathy toward shared governance processes. Last summer, a Senate task force developed a broad and ambitious set of proposals to improve the compensation and working conditions of faculty. The list could go on . . .

Repeatedly and forcefully, the campus Senate has used its processes to represent faculty interests and protect the integrity of the structures of shared governance. In all these instances, senators who happened to be CFA members and senators who were not worked together toward common goals. Most Senators neither knew nor cared who were CFA members and who were not, and CFA members of the Senate didn’t wear their affiliation across their chests. Longtime members of the UPE (the former name for the CFA), and later the CFA, worked within the Senate structures to effect positive changes on behalf of the faculty, their departmental constituencies, and the campus. No one worried about who got credit when the Senate was successful: the SENATE got credit.

Unfortunately, those days seem to be gone. CFA has stated its intention to focus its energies on organizing a faculty collective bargaining unit, and so it must justify the need for a union to represent the faculty’s voice and interests. To do so, it must portray the campus Senate as toothless, “merely advisory.” Shared governance, they say, is weak, and needs “strengthening” (by a faculty union). Even some CFA members who are members of the Senate have expressed scorn for its efficacy and its achievements.

And, when the Senate’s accomplishments become impossible to ignore, the CFA has been quick to take credit: the only possible motivation for changes beneficial to faculty is the threat of unionization. If administrators work with faculty leaders to respond to faculty concerns, it can’t be out of good will or an honest concern for the faculty – it must be out of fear of a union.

If you read the faculty testimonials on the CFA blog, what is most striking is that they make almost no mention of the traditional union issues of wages, hours, and working conditions. Instead, they say that faculty need a “voice,” that they need a way to influence campus policies, academic and otherwise, that they need to demand transparency from administrators and hold them accountable. Many of these testimonials seem to be premised on the assumption that there is no independent faculty voice. They say we need “shared governance,” a term that the union has tried to appropriate as theirs because they know it has positive resonance with faculty – a resonance that the Senate, through its effective advocacy for and defense of faculty rights, has created.

One would think, reading the testimonials’ repeated insistence on the need for “a strong faculty voice,” that the Senate had disappeared, or had suddenly become powerless and empty. One would think the colleagues writing those statements were unaware of the Senate’s history on our campus and its documented record in providing a democratically elected, strong faculty voice.

We don’t know what CFA representatives are saying to faculty members in their office visits to create such a deep misimpression. But here is the fact: We have an extremely strong and effective Senate, and we respect and acknowledge the contribution that all Senators have made to keeping it strong. The accomplishments of shared governance on this campus have been real and substantive – and clearly go far beyond the “merely advisory.”

It is sad that the CFA apparently has decided that they need to make the Senate appear weaker in order to make themselves appear stronger. The Senate and shared governance are not perfect; on the contrary, what has enabled the Senate to create the strong record it has is its constant practice of examining itself in order to improve the state of shared governance on our campus. The Senate recognizes the need to work continually at making itself more representative of, and responsive to, the voices of all faculty.

We also need to take the elements that make shared governance effective at the campus and university levels, and spread that culture of collegial, shared decision-making down to governance at the college and departmental levels. Senate leaders, and committees of the Senate, have publicly acknowledged this need, have moved to address it, and will not be satisfied until shared governance is consistently enacted across all our academic units.

But the tools and resources to strengthen shared governance already exist in the University Statutes, and in the structures of the Senate. Any attempt to draw authority away from those statutes and structures, or to denigrate them, will weaken shared governance, not strengthen it.

The Senate we need is one in which all faculty are committed to its value, its processes, and its tradition of advocacy for faculty concerns. Shared governance is strongest when we all support that commitment.

***This blog is a jointly authored project by two people who believe that the campaign for tenure-track faculty unionization has damaged morale and divided our campus, and that a faculty union, if ever established, would erode academic quality and undermine our highly successful system of campus shared governance, which has earned nationwide praise. 

We speak for ourselves. We have no organization behind us, we don’t ask for funding, we don’t pay national hired guns to come in and make the case for us. 

We want to start a different campus conversation about faculty unionization, which we believe will be more thoughtful and substantive when people have all the facts. 

We welcome and will consider postings from others expressing issues and concerns about faculty unionization. We know that many faculty are very upset about the possibility of working on a unionized campus. 

If you see any information here that is inaccurate, please tell us and we will correct it. 

If you share our concerns and want to help, please forward these postings to your friends and colleagues, and urge them to do the same.***

Thursday, April 17, 2014

CONTRACT SETTLEMENT REACHED AT UIC

Like everyone who cares about this university, we are relieved to see a settlement of the contract dispute at UIC with no further strikes.  

Since the details of the contract have not been made public, we will withhold any judgment on that.

But we will be particularly interested to see whether faculty at UIC will do better under their union contract than our faculty have done WITHOUT one.  Stay tuned!

UPDATE: Here is the UIC tenure-track contract.

Monday, April 14, 2014

THE DARK SIDE

NUMBER TWENTY-SIX IN AN ONGOING SERIES

When we decided to begin this blog, one thing was very clear to us: We would sign all posts with our real names. We committed ourselves not to post anything that we could not stand behind in public. We wanted to be scrupulous in our own factual claims, if we were going to call union organizers out for playing fast and loose with the facts. As we say in every blog post, our credibility is essential: if someone lets us know about errors in anything we post here, we will immediately remove or correct them.

We regard this basic commitment to intellectual honesty and fair play as integral to our identities as university professors, even when we are debating a basically political issue.

Recently, we’ve been made aware of a new blog (“Learning and Labor”) that provides an excellent illustration of what happens when these principles go awry.

The posts are anonymous. The blog both is, and is not, associated with the Campus Faculty Association. The “About” link says that the blog is written by a group of faculty members who support the CFA and its call for a faculty union:

Learning and Labor supports the efforts of the Campus Faculty Association to unionize both non-tenure-track and tenure-track faculty at UIUC. However, we think CFA does not always go far enough in calling out the “powers-that-be” and their minions. That’s our job!

Having declared their aim to support the CFA agenda and supplement CFA’s blog and Facebook page with harder-hitting material, they immediately relieve the CFA of any responsibility for what they write:

CFA has asked us to make it clear that we speak only for ourselves as individual bloggers, not for CFA or any other organization.

Yet there is clearly an association between these projects. The CFA Facebook page links to and endorses this blog (“Great new blog”).

Recent posts from Learning and Labor and from CFA deal with the same themes, sometimes using almost identical language. Here’s an example on the new campus policies on non-tenure-track faculty:


Here’s another example, on the campus’s plan to hire 500 new faculty:



There is clearly some coordination and overlap of themes. These are not separate or independent projects.

And, of course, the campus motto, “Learning and Labor,” has long been invoked by the CFA and featured on the header of its websites.

You can tell this is a very sensitive issue, because the Learning and Labor bloggers found it necessary to issue this vehement disclaimer:

Rumor has it that some disaffected faculty are blaming the Campus Faculty Association for the messages on this site. If you take the trouble to READ “About Learning and Labor” you will see that this site belongs to a group of individual faculty members who generally support, but do NOT in any way speak for CFA. This is not a CFA blog! Repeat: This is not a CFA blog! Got it?

Note to our colleagues: when you are a group of CFA members who echo the CFA party line and are endorsed by the CFA, its a CFA blog.

Methinks the blogger doth protest too much!

What this blog clearly represents is a venue for unnamed CFA members to issue harsh personal attacks without CFA being held responsible for them. This good cop/bad cop strategy is familiar from many activist movements over the years.

It allows the CFA to take the high road with postings about Martin Luther King and Gandhi (union supporters!), while maintaining deniability for the hostile rhetoric of Learning and Labor.

For example, one of the recent “Learning and Labor” posts consists of a diatribe against two conscientious faculty colleagues who went public with their concerns about their names being listed in a CFA brochure entitled, “We Support the Faculty Union” (neither does). In separate accounts, they explained how they were misled by organizers into signing a statement that never uses the phrase “faculty union,” and how dismayed they were to see their names used publicly when they explicitly asked organizers not to do so:



Both authors are quite consistent about what was said to them and what they themselves said, in independent accounts (reinforced by the way, by many more faculty who have had similar experiences).

Here, in its entirety, is the Learning and Labor response:

Professorial Reading Skills Questioned

So–two letters in the local newsrag from faculty who claim they were deceived–deceived!!– by union organizers into adding their names to the list of union supporters. They claim they thought signing only indicated an interest in “further discussion of the issue,” not any actual support for unionization. And they were shocked–shocked!!–to learn that their names had been included in a CFA publication called We Support the Faculty Union

Well, who knows what was going through the heads of these two individuals at the time they signed the CFA’s petition. But if they really thought that they were doing nothing more than expressing interest in “further discussion,” one does have to question their reading skills. The petition that I signed (and that presumably they also signed) consisted of the CFA mission statement (available here: http://cfaillinois.org/about/), followed by these words: 

“I support the Mission Statement of the Campus Faculty Association, including the pursuit of collective bargaining rights for UIUC faculty, and authorize the use of my name in support of this statement.” 

Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to sign anything without reading it first?

The bloggers insist that they are not speaking for the CFA while furiously defending the CFA when it is being criticized. And it is interesting to ask how a supposedly unaffiliated group got their hands on the exact language of the faculty union petition, which, to our knowledge, the CFA organizing committee has never made public.

Learning and Labor, while ostensibly serving the aim of unifying the faculty as part of an organized union, seems to see no contradiction in lashing out at faculty colleagues they perceive as threats.

One wouldn’t think that the CFA needed a new venue for blasting the “powers that be and their minions.” Recent examples from their own web sites include:




And the “minions,” apparently, include the two of us:

He Who Shall Not Be Named

A faculty member on this campus, who shall here remain nameless, is rabidly anti-union. The blog he publishes is (to say the least) bizarre, full of overheated rhetoric depicting pro-union faculty members as reptiles–slimy, secretive, deceitful vermin who worm (yes, I know worms aren’t reptiles, but the verb works . . .) their way into the confidence of innocent little professors and trick them into supporting unionization. He is not above using direct insults, as well as distortions, half-truths, and great big whoppers to attack those of us on the other side of the issue. . . . Now normally I don’t read this blog, because it makes me smoke at the ears. But my friends occasionally send me passages from it, attached to messages like “Is he insane?” . . .

We find it strange that this post ignores the explicit co-authorship of our blog, and all the postings on it. We DO put our names on what we write. It is fascinating that these anonymous bloggers erase our identities, turning our blog into one written by “He Who Shall Not Be Named.”

The irony of rewriting our project through their own rhetorical lens is striking. There is nothing even remotely approaching a reference in our blog to “slimy, secretive, deceitful vermin.” These are their terms, not ours. This is how THEY engage in debate: by comparing Nick Burbules to Voldemort, and, in case it's not enough to depict him as the embodiment of evil, calling him "insane" as well.

Nor do they give a single example of the “distortions, half-truths, and great big whoppers” we are supposedly promulgating. As we have said, we would correct them if we were.

The Learning and Labor entries are also full of references to “Our Beloved Chancellor,” “Our Beloved Provost,” and on and on. These are just samples of the level of discourse you will find on the “great new blog” that is being trumpeted on the CFA Facebook page. 

They say that it is bad strategy to link to and give extra air time to the views of your opponents. In this case we are happy to draw readers’ attention to this piece of work. Nothing more clearly shows the seamy underside of the faculty union drive on our campus and the sort of discursive climate they are creating here. 

We reject the cowardly attacks of Learning and Labor. The actions of its authors are unworthy of our profession, slandering their own colleagues under the protection of an “Invisibility Cloak.”

***This blog is a jointly authored project by two people who believe that the campaign for tenure-track faculty unionization has damaged morale and divided our campus, and that a faculty union, if ever established, would erode academic quality and undermine our highly successful system of campus shared governance, which has earned nationwide praise. 

We speak for ourselves. We have no organization behind us, we don’t ask for funding, we don’t pay national hired guns to come in and make the case for us. 

We want to start a different campus conversation about faculty unionization, which we believe will be more thoughtful and substantive when people have all the facts. 

We welcome and will consider postings from others expressing issues and concerns about faculty unionization. We know that many faculty are very upset about the possibility of working on a unionized campus. 

If you see any information here that is inaccurate, please tell us and we will correct it. 

If you share our concerns and want to help, please forward these postings to your friends and colleagues, and urge them to do the same.***