Educating Against Rauner

Rally Against Proposed Budget Cuts Brings Calls for Critical Pedagogy

By James Anderson

Photo Credit: Stacy Calvert

6 May Rally

Photo Credit: Byron Hetzler, The Southern

Photo Credit: Stacy Calvert

The president of the Non-Tenure Track Faculty Association at Southern Illinois University Carbondale reminded those rallying against Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget cuts outside Morris Library on May 6 of their role as educators.

“It is time – that’s the message here today – for the educators to start educating,” said James Wall, the president of the NTTFA and a senior lecturer in the college of mass communication and media arts at SIUC.

Wall told the multiple media outlets and more than one hundred people gathered Wednesday afternoon for the event outside Morris Library on SIUC campus that the persons in positions of power need to be educated about the impact of their political decisions.

In their new book, “Disposable Futures: The Seduction of Violence in the Age of Spectacle,” apropos for understanding the way power functions and possibilities for struggling against it, Brad Evans and Henry Giroux argue “violence appears so arbitrary and thoughtless” in the present age of austerity, at a time when support for public services recedes with startling rapidity, “that it lacks the need for any justification, let alone claims to justice and accountability.”

An attempted critical pedagogy, aimed at exposing the governor’s intended austerity measures as forms of far-reaching violence, union activists at the rally denounced the governor’s cuts as unjustified and unjust.

Wall called the governor’s proposed cuts, which would include slashing $44 million from SIUC, completely “unprecedented.”

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Remembering the History of May Day, Recovering the History of Struggle

By James Anderson

Recovering the history of May Day has relevance not just for scholarly historiography, nor merely for exciting the radical working class imaginary. The memory of May Day and evolution of labor struggles informs untapped potentials in the present. This essay tries to identify what lies latent and largely forgotten.

May Day, or International Workers’ Day, started in the United States. Ironic, then, that most working people in the US are unfamiliar with its origins.

The holiday commemorates the Haymarket Affair that occurred in Chicago in 1886, in the wake of a widespread workers’ movement for an eight-hour workday.

What few remember is that the actual Haymarket gathering was only indirectly related to the still-crucial struggle for a reduction in working hours without proportionate decrease in pay.

Yet the eight-hour campaign revivified the union movement and created the necessary preconditions for large-scale labor organizing as well as for something like Haymarket to happen.

While work hours had been appreciably reduced from the 14 or 15 hours per day common in the early part of the nineteenth century, the average work week for the 177,810 workers who engaged in strikes in 1886, Henry David documented, hovered around 61.81 hours, with a 10-hour day typical for most workers.

Economic expansion in the two decades following the Civil War, with accelerated industrialization and increased mechanization of production, contributed to a growing gulf between the rich and poor.

An industrial depression in 1882 led to a labor surplus – generating what Marx called “a disposable industrial reserve army,” a veritable “mass of human material always ready for exploitation by capital in the interest of capital’s own changing valorization requirements” – and depressed wages by 1883. Irregular employment around 1886 led to a greater drop in real wages. The hardship increased the effectiveness of employer disciplinary tactics like firing workers for being late, singing or talking – in addition to use of the “iron-clad oath” prohibiting collective action and black-lists used to keep away union activists – because reserves were also available to replace those who dared disobey.

The eight-hour movement gained traction among many reformists because shortening working hours for those already employed offered a means for hiring more hands and addressing the problem of chronic unemployment that can also incite revolt. But reformists generally advocated an eight-hour day with reduction in pay, protecting employer profits, instead of the notion eight hours of work should still be remunerated with what was previously received for 10 hours of toil.

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Sustainability Office Conducts Waste Audit

On April 16th, SIU’s Sustainability Office conducted a waste audit of the Student Center with the assistance of volunteers from the Registered Student Organizations SENSE and LOGIC, as well as volunteers from Saluki Service Days. Redirecting all waste normally sent to dumpsters, the volunteers sorted and measured GARBAGE, COMPOSTABLE WASTE, CARDBOARD, CLEAN PAPER, SOILED PAPER (paper that was soiled from being in the trash), ALUMINUM, GLASS, and PLASTICS.

students-waste-audit

Also calculated in the audit were the weights for the MISCELLANEOUS PLASTICS, LIQUIDS, LUMBER, REUSABLE ITEMS, and ELECTRONIC WASTE. A breakdown of the day’s percentages can be viewed in the graph below.

Overall, these results were positive with no glass at all found in the waste audit and an insignificant percentage of the waste coming from aluminum. Only 19% of the waste could have been recycled with current recycling practices on campus highlighting the achievements of the Sustainability Office and affiliated offices.

waste2

It is interesting to note that most of the waste analyzed could have been composted but perhaps unsurprising considering that the primary factor of compostable waste was likely generated from the food court; food that made its way into the trash as well as waste generated from preparation. What this suggests is that the introduction of a composting program for student waste would drastically change the outflow of waste that the Student Center produces. Such a shift in waste management could have resulted in the reduction and appropriation of waste resources to the amount of 214.75 pounds. The impact on the mass of waste alone would be remarkable not to mention the positive applications of a composting program. Compost could be used for soil, mulch, potting soil, worm beds that can be directed towards aquatic fisheries, and numerous other possibilities.

The result of the waste audit is revealing in that it shows how governing the in and outflow of resource on campus can lead to a more sustainable campus, not only ecologically but economically.

The Sustainability Office’s waste audit is timely not only because Earth Day was Wednesday, April 22 but also because current proposed budget cuts put many of the SIU resource centers at risk. Sustainability Office is faced with a potential budget cut while other sustainability/ecologically oriented centers such as Touch of Nature, Fisheries and Aquaculture, and Cooperative Wildlife Research face nearly one million dollars in potential cuts. Given that the Sustainability Office is relatively young and met with student support, budget cuts would be a step backwards.

On May 7, 2009 the SIU Board of Trustees unanimously passed the $10 per semester student Green Fee. Effective at the start of fall semester in 2009, the fee was projected to raise over $300,000 annually for sustainability projects and research as well as renewable energy and energy efficiency on campus.  Chancellor Sam Goldman then appointed the first SIU Sustainability Council to make campus-wide recommendations concerning sustainability and allocate revenue generated by the Green Fee.[1]

With student support, Chancellor approval, and the state of Illinois Sustainability University Compact encouraging universities and colleges to incorporate sustainability into campus operations, academic and research programs, student activities and community outreach, it would be an understatement to say there is support for the activities Sustainability Office makes available. As the waste audit shows, budget cuts are not a solution; SIU must work smarter in order to reduce costs. Clearly positive results have come from the SIU Sustainability and they have not gone unrecognized. The Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges: 2013 Edition featured SIU, recognizing it for demonstrating “a notable commitment to sustainability.”

Students interested in voicing their concerns regarding budget cuts for Sustainability Office or any green friendly program on SIU are encouraged to sign the moveon.org petition and/or submit comments to the chancellor at: http://chancellor.siu.edu/budget/ask-the-chancellor.html

[1] http://sustainability.siu.edu/about/history/index.html

What is ‘May Day’ and why should I care?

By Bob Velez

“On May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the United States walked off their jobs in the first May Day celebration in history. In Chicago, the epicenter for the 8-hour day agitators, 40,000 went out on strike”

http://www.iww.org/history/library/misc/origins_of_mayday

Those damn commies . . .

It is easy for us to forget that not too long ago working 16 hour days was the standard for many or even most American wage earners (or stipend earners, as it were).  The workplace for many used to be a dingy, dirty and dangerous factory with little to no attention paid to workplace safety.  No fire escapes; no sprinkler systems; heavy machinery operated by 12 year old children; exit doors that were locked to keep workers in place for their entire shift making them particularly vulnerable should any fire break out (a common occurrence in factories).  One particularly horrific example would be the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist fire in New York City that resulted in the deaths of 146 workers – 123 women and 23 men[1] – who were locked into the building while they worked.

You might say that since it was over one hundred years ago that such issues have been resolved and that few, if any, workers must endure such conditions in the modern world.  While that may be true in the United States, there are myriad examples of factory workers – particularly in developing countries – that remain working in such conditions for less-then-subsistence wages.  I encourage you to visit http://www.globallabourrights.org to get a glimpse at what many in the world still endure.

May Day is celebrated around the world to connote “the grand achievements of the workers of the world in making our world a far, far better place to live in.”  Thankfully, there WAS a labor movement that hit its stride during the Great Depression, organizing thousands of workers into unions that called for higher wages and benefits in exchange for their long hours.  Thankfully, that same labor movement involved itself in the quest for civil rights for African Americans (though organized labor has, admittedly, had a few black eyes in that regard).  The organized labor movement has recently been at the forefront of efforts to get large corporations to pay their employees a living wage, to stop school closures, and to prevent right-to-work laws (more properly named “right to work for less) from reducing the only collective clout that folks who work for a living have when interacting with their employers.

While the United States has its own ‘Labor Day’, May Day – which actually had its origins in the United States as noted in the above quote – is the internationally recognized day for commemorating workers who took action to demand improvements in working conditions and remuneration.  Perhaps those of us working in the university believe that those dark days are way behind us, but just one glance at the agenda of the current Governor of Illinois and his proposals to cut higher education funding and you can easily see that there remains much work to be done.  Get involved!

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triangle_Shirtwaist_Factory_fire

Unity in Union Diversity: John Flowers’ Ideas on Effecting Change

By James Anderson

Johnathan Flowers ran for president of Graduate Assistants United in 2014 and lost. He ran again in 2015 and won.

The union needs real diversity, Flowers said. As president of GAU, he said he has a responsibility to find out why the union is not protecting the needs of some graduate assistants who fall under its auspices, and to figure out how it can better fulfill that mission.

After losing his bid for GAU presidency in 2014, Flowers said he realized “value of an effective campaign,” which meant talking to more people, listening a lot, asking individuals what they wanted out of the union and dialoguing to discover how best to integrate their desires into his campaign and presidency.

“It’s necessary to have a core set of values and a plan to accomplish those core set of values,” he said. “It’s always necessary to go out and talk to the people that you’re supposed to be representing and find out ways you can align your vision of the union with their vision of the union.”

Unionism in the Family

Flowers, 30, grew up in Oak Park, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. He said his hometown celebrated diversity, but often in a “problematic” way.

“It tends toward the compositional – ‘look at all the people we have,’ versus the doing of diversity,” he said.

He said authentic diversity initiatives too often meet resistance in Oak Park.

“They’ll be opposed by some pretty conservative viewpoints that are cloaked in liberalism,” Flowers said.

Growing up in Oak Park, Flowers said he also received firsthand knowledge of the role organized labor can play in promoting diversity and building community because both his parents were union members.

“They didn’t just do things with regards to contract bargaining,” he said. “They went out and dealt with the concrete social issues they were facing there. … It was about ensuring that the people who were being protected by the contract felt they were part of a community and felt the union itself was part of the community. So that’s one of the things I’ve carried with me.”

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