I’d much rather be discussing politics, or reading and writing about politics, than doing politics. But I’d also rather eat a good meal than brush my teeth.
(And, no, I don’t think discussing politics is necessarily a form of political activity, even if it may be “political” in a broad sense. More on that some other time.)
The California Faculty Association (CFA) explains:
Our last faculty contract ended June 30, 2010 and we have been at the table bargaining over a successor agreement for more than 18 months. When we first sat down with management, CFA’s Bargaining Team proposed that the current contract be extended and that we spend our time working together to fight for more money from Sacramento.
Management refused. Collaboration was not what they had in mind. Instead we got only proposals that harm the faculty in the form of takeaways from what is already in our contract.
A major issue is “the escalating shift to a “just in time” teaching force by making more and more faculty positions temporary and short term.”
It is shocking to realize that in California’s largest public university more than half of all teaching jobs—some 12,000 people—are temporary rather than regular, stable, permanent jobs.
Currently, Lecturers who have taught in the same department for six years and receive good evaluations can be offered a three-year contract by their department. The chancellor’s proposal would make the offer of multi-year contracts solely at the discretion of top executives on each campus. This change would mean a return to the exploitative practice of firing experienced teachers to hire new ones at lower pay and little or no benefits.
Other strike goals include ending the freeze on faculty salaries, reducing class size, and resisting the expansion of Extended Education/Continuing Education courses, as described in the recent CFA report. These courses cost students more and pay faculty less than for the same course taken normally.
More generally, as the saying goes, “Faculty working conditions are student learning conditions.” That’s a nice slogan, but it also happens to be true. Of course faculty would like more pay, but those who say it’s only about that haven’t been paying attention.
The usual critics will argue that faculty belong in the classroom, not on the street, and a strike will just hurt the students. But in the past, many students have supported faculty strikes. One student of mine, Justin F., recently sent me an email (he said I could share it), saying that one-day rolling strikes on different campuses are not enough:
Since beginning as a freshman in 2009 I have seen many negative changes to all programs and departments which have led to overcrowding of classes, loss of courses, condensed lesson plans, and increased levels of stress to both students and faculty . . . . I would imagine that a longer strike could lead to the possibility of students not being able to complete Spring ’12 semester which would lead to students requesting a refund of their semester fees. It’s quite possible this threat to a loss of funds would give faculty the leverage they need. . . . Good luck!
Going on strike is a big step, and contingent and non-tenured faculty may have good reason to avoid controversial political activity. Nobody wants to lose their job. But those of us with tenure don’t have that excuse. In fact, controversy is what tenure is for.