On Love – Unrequited, Political and Otherwise … Encore: Leonard Cohen and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn Dance to the Rhythm of Abolition Democracy

The GAU website and newsletter platform provide individuals the opportunity to engage in incisive argument, advocacy, deliberation and dialogue regarding a wide array of topics potentially of interest to readers. The views expressed in this essay do not necessarily reflect the views of Graduate Assistants United. Some of the perspectives and analyses featured in the following article almost certainly do not reflect all the diverse views of the many Graduate Assistants who are represented by the union at SIUC, nor do the opinions and anecdotes advanced below represent the positions of any other members of GAUnited.

By James Anderson

Since the last time I penned another piece in my ongoing series of Valentine’s Day confessionals, Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen died.

Cohen, posthumously deemed the “poet laureate of the lack,” was 82. An accomplished poet and novelist at an early age, he did not start seriously performing music until his early 30s. Entering the music scene with a maturity and lyrical sophistication few ever develop, he was renowned for seamlessly fusing allusions to the divine with innuendos apropos of sexual euphoria in his lyrics.

Perhaps his most famous song, “Hallelujah,” illustrates that theme. “I remember when I moved in you,” he sings in a version of the song performed live in London, “and the holy dove, she was moving too / And every single breath that we drew was Hallelujah.” The song moves rhythmically back and forth between spiritual intimations and insinuations of ecstatic intercourse. The song evokes the procession of prayer while simultaneously progressing toward climax and release, reflecting the sexual experience. However, “Hallelujah,” is also about the glory of romantic intimacy even when it exists only as memory, long after the rhythms of two bodies moving together has fallen off beat – or, as with some of us, when the ecstatic awkwardness has returned to a solo and (quite literally) single-handed affair aided only by the painful memory of previous bodily interactions.

It is that embodied, sensuous and super-sexual, yet simultaneously transcendent, power of love –unrequited, political and otherwise – Cohen’s lyrics alert us to.

“There’s a crack, a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in,” Cohen reminds us in the song, “Anthem,” which is quoted at the beginning of the PhD dissertation I defended last May, despite there being no love lost between me and most of the professorial class in the college at SIUC I then belonged to.

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Bargaining Update

Your GAU bargaining team is negotiating for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement – which covers all GA working conditions at SIU.  The team has been bargaining for quite for close three years, unfortunately due to the state budget crisis we have been in a bit of a holding pattern.

The bargaining team has been working and had some successes.  We have agreed with the university to including non-discrimination language in the contract.  We have clarified how vacation works – giving everyone on a yearlong appointment 12 days – allowing international students or those with families far from Illinois the ability to go for a visit.  We have created new language to protect letters offered to incoming GAs offering multiple years of funding.  We also are fairly close on an agreement to be able finish the contract but then be to bargain for salaries if the state gives a budget to the university.

We are still bargaining on other matters.  The biggest issues remains fees – we have gone back and forth with the administration many times, but they argue against doing anything about them, especially given the budget.  We are also working on GAs having work more hours than for which they paid, the number of credit hours you have to work to be eligible to be a GA, and having departments determine GA’s eligibility for assistantship rather than the central administration.

We are hoping we can wrap up bargaining this semester.

Bargaining a contract is important to GA working conditions.  The union’s recent success in bringing back 75% appointments in large part to the efforts of previous bargaining teams which gave us good language to grieve.

If you want more information about bargaining or want to come observe a bargaining session, please let us know.  Or you can come see us during a happy hour.

GAU Reaches two settlements

Graduate Assists United (GAU) has reached two settlements to grievances what we wish to share with you.

The first concerns a rule put in place by the administration that restricted GAs from holding appointments greater than 50% (0.50FTE – 20 hours a week). This violated the GAU contract, specifically section 5.3, and the union grieved. Shortly before arbitration of the grievance, the administration agreed to eliminate the rule, and go back to the old system of GAs being able to have up to 75% appointments.As part of this settlement, a GA from the College of Liberal Arts was paid for a semester 25% appointment.

The second settlement concerns a GA in the College of Education who was told he had a summer appointment and started working at the beginning of the summer. He was told he would be given a contract to sign shortly, however, after working for nine days he was told to stop working.  A few days later the department told him it had made a mistake and he would not be employed during the summer. GAU grieved and signed settlement where the GA was paid for the nine days and guaranteed a 50% appointment in the Spring semester (he did not have an appointment for Spring).

For those of you who heard a reports of a new university fee, GAU was monitoring this. The fee, intended to support the construction of new residence halls, would not apply to all GAs; only those in university housing would be affected. As the plan for the construction of new residence halls was tabled at the Board of Trustees meeting December 8, the fee will not be applied until the plan is approved. The plan, and the fee attached to it, may be taken back up in February.

Election results and Happy Hour

GAUnited would like to announce the results of our Officer Elections that we held at the end of last week.

Your new Officers for next year are:

President: John Flowers
VP Membership: Rory Leahy
VP Communications: Andrew Gillespie
Secretary / Treasurer:  Greg Carter
Grievance Officer: Linden Reid
Stewards Council Chair: Carlos Medina
Thanks to all of the Officers from 2015 – 2016 for your service and congratulations to all of you who are graduating!
But wait, there’s more!

We will be holding a final Happy Hour of the year tomorrow at Pinch Penny Pub.

GAUnited Happy Hour
Where: Pinch Penny Pub
When: Tuesday, May 03, 8 p.m. – 10 p.m.

Come out and meet the membership both old and new!!!

In Solidarity,
GAUnited

Non-Tenure Track Faculty at University of Illinois Strike to Stabilize Positions, Picket on Campus to End Precarious Employment

By James Anderson

In between late-night alcohol binges at Kam’s, visits to Papa Del’s for indelible slices of blended Sicilian and Chicago-style pizza, flâneur-like walks down the bustling semi-urban atmosphere of Green Street, and journeys east of campus to the Independent Media Center fashioned years ago out of an old post office for the purpose of empowering community members to communicate their own counter-power, undergraduates at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign might have encountered something a little out of the ordinary in April.

Students likely saw a strike.

Hundreds of non-tenure track faculty at UIUC walked out of their classrooms, vacated their labs and otherwise withheld their labor power on Tuesday, April 19, and Wednesday, April 20.

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Members of the Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition Local #6546 at U of I organized the two-day strike to put pressure on the university administration, which has thus far refused to negotiate key bargaining items the union considers essential. The NTFC Local #6546 – affiliate of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors – has been bargaining a contract, or trying to anyway, since October 2014, three months after the union was officially certified.

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‘Strike School’ in Session: California Faculty Association Prepares for April Strike

By James Anderson

The Board for the California Faculty Association, the union representing some 23,000 professors, lecturers and other educators across the California State University system, passed a resolution on February 5 to authorize a strike across all 23 CSU campuses on April 13-15 and April 18-19. To prepare to shut down school those five days this spring, the CFA held a ‘Strike School’ session on the California State University San Marcos campus in early February.

CFA Strike SchoolThe Strike School featured several CFA officers teaching and learning from their fellow faculty about what to expect should the five-day strike take place if the union and CSU management reach the end of the statutory process without an agreement. The Strike School is just one event in the union’s ongoing “Fight for Five” campaign that has been underway since last summer when the CSU management rejected the CFA’s proposals for a five percent raise for all faculty and for a 2.65 percent service salary increase for those eligible.

Darel Engen, the CFA chapter president at CSUSM, told Strike School students – some 50 plus faculty who crowded into CSUSM’s University Hall 440 February 9 – the five percent is actually “restoration of lost pay,” a recouping of the 11 percent raise faculty were unable to garner back in 2006.

The five day strike, he said, was chosen in lieu of withholding of labor indefinitely and instead of a strike specified for a shorter period of time, like one day or two, not only because it echoes the Fight for Five rallying cry. The choice was intended to be strategic, Engen explained, as the action should show the university the union is serious without derailing students’ plans to graduate in May. It also enables faculty to “keep something in reserve,” Engen added, so that another action could take place during the fall semester if necessary.

Salary negotiations – or, more accurately, lack thereof – have obliged the union to put such options on the table.

A series of studies conducted last year by the CFA, titled “Race to the Bottom,” show CSU faculty are paid less than their university peers throughout the state. The studies illustrate how both fees charged students and administrative salaries have increased while faculty pay has stagnated.

A FAQ sheet distributed during the Strike School on the San Marcos campus reiterated that the recession following the global financial crash of 2007-09 never ended for CSU faculty.

“Our salaries have been flat and have not kept up with inflation,” the sheet circulating among faculty stated. “When times were bad we tightened our belts, and now that times are good” – the university was recently in receipt of a $97 million budget augmentation – “we’re asked to continue to wait.”

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Update from Eastern Illinois University

We are now 8 ½ months into our fiscal year without any money from the state. In addition to not having our regular appropriation from the state, the University chose to fund the MAP awards which were promised to students, and the state hasn’t paid any of those costs, either. On top of those problems, several years of rapidly declining enrollment have exhausted most of our reserve funds.

As a result, EIU has been forced to give unpaid ‘furlough’ days to all administrative personnel, and to lay off 177 civil service workers from across campus. Almost all spending accounts have been frozen, and our remaining reserves are being drained. Despite all these drastic cuts, the administration still needs approximately $2 million to make it through the semester, and it has asked faculty to take a large voluntary pay cut (which might or might not be reimbursed, depending on the level of state funding that comes in the future). The results of that vote will be released on the 15th, although leaders of the faculty union have promised that if the proposal fails they will bring forward a new proposal of their own which will still provide the university with the needed $2 million under terms that are more equitable.

At this point, the harm to students has been minimized as much as possible, and many of the reductions can be reversed if a funding bill is passed. The President of the University has committed himself to keeping the university open not just for the rest of the year but for next year as well, although truly devastating cuts would be needed if no appropriations have been received by the Fall.

-Grant Sterling, VP of the EIU chapter of University Professionals of Illinois