The dogs started in on it. I clicked off the computer screen and walked upstairs to answer the door. My wife was already on the stoop, talking to an earnest-looking couple. She had given them a dollar for a copy of The Militant, the small ‘paper associated with the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and was trying to answer their questions about the neighborhood.
They had been told that Marine Park, Brooklyn is a working-class neighborhood of people primarily of Irish and Italian descent (and I suspect they thought they would find Archie Bunker and Ralph Kramden here). It has changed, though, and they were clearly a little confused. Yes, there are plenty of Italians and Irish still here… along with the Orthodox Jews (probably the fastest growing group), the African-Americans, the Asians, the Russians and who knows who else. Yes, there are plenty of bus drivers, cops, firefighters, garbage collectors, roofers, plumbers… but I am not the only college professor in the neighborhood. I live here also along with teachers of all other stripes, and psychiatrists, physicians, librarians, veterinarians, retired folk, people on permanent disability, musicians and who knows what else. In fact, it is now a fair sampling of Americans–all except the 1% that constitutes the rich and the 15% called poor.
In a way, we now are the American working class, here, but we are a class nothing like the SWP probably imagines. We are a class defined not by the work we do or by our level of education–but (as my wife pointed out after the SWP people had left) by our income and, today, by our precarious perch on the edge of financial insolvency. Continue reading
Note: This was originally published on Raging Chicken Press earlier today.
I did my PhD work at Miami University. No, not in Florida – Miami University in Oxford, OH. There was a t-shirt in the bookstore that always provided a snarky retort to those who made the assumption that I was writing my dissertation in Florida: “Miami was a university, before Florida was a state.” Nope, I was far from Florida – a bike ride away from the Indiana border and about a half an hour from Cincinnati.
As a Central New York native, I had never heard of Miami University. This was before Ben Rothlesburger would help put Miami on the national map for Division I football and just about the time Wally Szczerbiak would lead the Redhawks to the Sweet Sixteen in the 1999 NCAA basketball tournament. I found out about Miami because two amazing mentors, Jim Zebroski and Nancy Mack, spent part of a spring break coming up with a list of PhD programs in composition and rhetoric that they thought I should apply to as I was nearing the end of my Masters degree at Syracuse. Miami had one of the top PhD programs in the country in composition and rhetoric and I still think my decision to go to Miami for my PhD was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Many of my fellow doctoral grad students have become leaders in the field – Scott Lyons, Malea Powell, Pegeen Reichert Powell, and Gwendolyn Pough just to name a few.
I loved my time at Miami. My education was stellar and the intellectual commitment of the people I studied with was unparalleled. That doesn’t mean that Miami was some kind of utopia. In 1998, for example, I was one of seven students arrested for protesting a series of racial hate-crimes on campus. I was the one grad student and the only white student arrested in the protest. On the way to jail, we heard police refer to us as the Miami 7. We took the name and used it to fight our arrest and draw further attention to long-standing, institutional racism at the university. We refused a plea bargain and demanded a jury trial. In the year leading up to our trial, the discussion about racism and racial intimidation became intensely complex and complicated, but that did not change our resolve. We fought and we won. We were acquitted of all charges (you can read Pegeen Reichert Powell’s critical reading of the context of the protests and the administration’s handling of the issue here). Continue reading
This originally appeared in Raging Chicken Press on October 21, 2013. It is a fairly long article detailing changes in Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) policies regarding new buildings and capital projects. The more I looked in the financial schemes at the system within which I work, the more it became clear that this story is not limited to PASSHE. So, while some of the specifics of this post may seem a bit parochial to some readers of this blog, I am hoping that some of it may be helpful for others in similar fights. I am including Part 1 of the article here with brief excerpts from other parts. To read the complete article, click “READ THE FULL ARTICLE” at the bottom of the post or go to the original right now by CLICKING HERE.
This past July, eight of the fourteen PA State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) universities sent letters to their faculty and staff warning of the possibility of deep cuts, layoffs, and program elimination (what they like to call “retrenchment”). University presidents at California, Cheney, Clarion, Edinboro, East Stroudsburg, Kutztown, Mansfield, and Slippery Rock all shouted “crisis” and warned that unless they resorted to strict austerity measures, the end, would indeed, be near. Continue reading
Why is it that we, the lucky ones, try so hard to divorce ourselves from those who have not had the same breaks? Why do we, the tenured ones, look away when we see adjuncts grading papers while sitting in a stairwell? Why do we, the lordly observers, think of ourselves as the master teachers when sitting in on the class of a part-timer who may be teaching at two other schools—and whose sense of our students is probably better than our own? Why do we, with our lovely PhDs, think of ourselves as having “earned” something those poor contingent hires could not—forgetting that our degrees are also a gift from those who financed our schooling and that quite a few of these others also have doctorates? Why do we forget what Phil Ochs tried to teach us so many years ago: “There but for fortune/Go you or I.” Continue reading
What follows is an appeal from a coalition of diverse, progressive groups that are coming together to march for meaningful, bipartisan immigration reform.
On October 5, 2013 the broadest and most diverse movement, including our vast immigrant communities in America, as well as faith, labor, and civil rights groups, will join in marches and rallies in more than 60 cities across our nation. (A complete list, with local details, is available at: http://octoberimmigration.org/events/). Continue reading
The president of AAUP is also a very fine contract negotiator.
This is the article on the new contract written by Meagan Pant that appeared in the Dayton Daily News:
Nearly a year after voting to join a union, Wright State University full-time faculty not eligible for tenure have their first contract, which offers them raises, creates job security and sets typical workloads.
The American Association of University Professors announced Monday that the union and university had an agreement for the 180 faculty. Continue reading
This is a guest post by Rick Perloff, a professor in the communication department at Cleveland State University. His article, “Organizing Cleveland State,” appears in the newest issue of Academe and goes into greater detail about the unionization campaign at CSU.
It was the unlikeliest of stories at the most improbable of institutions. Cleveland State University, a bricks-and-mortar, urban state university bereft of much faculty culture (to say nothing of a faculty club, which, try as they might, faculty and administrators could never get off the ground), spawned an all-out grass roots effort to mobilize faculty in favor of AAUP unionization. It transfixed the university two decades ago. And the amazing thing is that the movement succeeded: Faculty voted to unionize, grievance procedures were implemented, gaping salary inequities were addressed, and the much-discussed dissolution of faculty-administration ties never materialized.
As a professor at Cleveland State in the early 1990s, when the union movement caught fire, I remember the battle for unionization well. Scrappy, at times scruffy, and emboldened by bright-eyed zeal, the union activists caught my eye and garnered respect. Few thought that a sometimes-ragtag band of bright, impassioned warriors could convince their Enlightenment-liberal colleagues to embrace unionization. But the campaign succeeded against striking odds for a host of reasons—self-interested, symbolic, and ideological. Continue reading
These are the Secretary of Labor’s prepared remarks. He apparently diverged in some instances from these prepared remarks in reaction to the very enthused response from the crowd at the convention.
Good morning, brothers and sisters! What a great honor to be here with this extraordinary gathering of dedicated and powerful champions for working men and women.
Rich, thank you so much for your gracious introduction, your strong support and your tireless leadership. Your relentless efforts on so many fronts have made an enormous difference in the lives of so many people who are trying to climb the ladder of opportunity.
Arlene, I’m sorry I missed this convention’s tribute to you yesterday, but let me express my deep gratitude for your decades of activism in the trenches — you will be missed.
To Liz Shuler and everyone in this room . . . thank you for the energy you bring to the struggle to advance the interests of the middle class and working families. Thank you everyone for your efforts to restore a fully functioning National Labor Relations Board. After 10 years, isn’t it about time?
President Obama is very sorry that he can’t be here with you in person. I know you understand that he needs to be in Washington to focus on the situation in Syria and to address the nation later today. I’m glad you were able to hear from him by video and in person from Valerie Jarrett, who has been such a great friend and strong ally in our efforts to build an opportunity society.
I always feel at home at a gathering of labor leaders and labor activists, because I share your values, hopes and aspirations. We are all a product of our life experiences, and I would like to share some of mine — because they have informed my approach to every job I have ever had . . . and because they will animate my work as U.S. Secretary of Labor. Continue reading
At the outset, I want to apologize if I have gotten any of the details of this story wrong. It’s very complex, and I have had to piece it together from a number of sources.
The Adjunct Faculty Association had not gone on strike since 1982. The Taylor Law makes public-employee strikes illegal in New York. So, in May, when the union authorized a strike, if necessary, and then went on strike this past Wednesday (September 11), the members knew that they would be breaking the law, which specifies that strikers be docked two days of pay for each day that they are on strike.
The college has about 24,000 students, the largest enrollment for a single community college campus in New York State. About 3,000 adjunct faculty teach about 53% of the classes offered at the college.
The union has been working without a contract since 2010. In the interim, the college’s administrators and full-time faculty and staff have all signed contracts that have included modest salary increases.
The college’s administration has asserted that it has no additional revenue to cover any raises for adjunct faculty retroactively or over most of the term of such a contract, but that it will agree to provide modest raises in the last few years of the contract if its financial situation improved. Continue reading
I received the following e-mail yesterday afternoon:
Martin, last night the NRA successfully recalled two Colorado state senators who had voted to pass good gun safety laws.
Democrats had more money and district demographics were in their favor. But the election came down to turnout and Republicans had more intensity and more reliable voters.
The biggest challenge facing us today isn’t ideology or public opinion—it’s that the emerging Democratic majority relies heavily on young voters, ethnic and racial minorities, and single women, all of whom are among the lowest performing voter groups. To make things worse, conservatives managed to eliminate vote-by-mail for this special election, creating further roadblocks to voter participation. Continue reading