Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Weekly Digest

Most of your strike news from the last week in easy to digest bite-sized tidbits.

Nice to see you using your time productively, L-Boogie.

Day 13 - update 25

The Lance interviews Dr. Allan Bonner, MA, MSc, LLM from Allan Bonner Communications Management Inc. to help make sense of labour disputes.

Bonner discusses what happens when one side takes out an ad and the impact it plays during negotiations, why either side would be interested in discussing their issues with the public, and how persuasion from the public at large can affect a union's vote to ratify a contract offer.

Click here to continue

Lance: What kind of a role can the public's opinion play in negotiating a deal between two parties.
Bonner: Oh, huge. I refer to a whole series and list of what I call non-table participants. So if you've got a faculty association, and you've got the administration, that's great, and they're at the table and they're talking away. But who is severely affected by this, or who may want to have an affect on this? Students, donors, neighbours, Joe Citizen, legislators, ministry of ed., there's all kinds of people, so to think that there's just the two of them at the table, is not a great idea.

L: How is it to either of their advantage to appeal to the public?

B: Because if you can create a non-table participant who is what I would call the 'Hammer' or the 'Sword of Damacles,' where the Minister of Education says, stands up and says, "Look I've had 47 letters on this this morning and phone calls, and if these people can't get their act together, then I'm going to intervene or I'm going to withhold funding."

Or maybe you get, Bobby Kennedy Jr. has spoken once or twice in Ontario. Maybe he says, 'I'm not going into a university campus where there's a labour dispute, they've got to fix it. Maybe Jack Layton says the same thing. Maybe donors, maybe T. Boon Pickens, you know, the University of Guelph is being funded by NASA, and some other things, interesting high tech, I don't know who's funding the University of Windsor research, but maybe they say, 'Look, I'm going to suspend donations until they get their act together.'

And don't forget, the bargaining committee of the union and the management reps, they have to go back and sell the package to their constituents, too. They're at the table and they've got to go back and sell it to their members, and it's like concentric circles, there are stakeholders farther away from the table.

L: So is there a direct relationship between a picketer perhaps preventing another employee from crossing a picket line to go to work, and actually resolving a contract?

B: Well, it's conceivable. You've described an isolated incident. The picketer is probably, you're allowed to have an information picket, at least you always were, and then picketing is governed under labour relations legislation, I think you can require people who want to cross the line to have a management escort, all that sort of stuff.

L: I understand that in terms of educational disputes, the provincial government, it would take a serious step for them to interfere with someone's legal right to strike. Has this happened before in your experience? What would have to happen for the provincial government to interfere with someone's right to strike?

B: Well, it depends on how you define 'interfere,' but in the papal visit in 1984, or '85, you could look it up, I believe the provincial government passed pre facto legislation preventing a TTC strike. In America, you just can't strike if you're at the post office, it's considered an essential service. Ronald Reagan fired all the air traffic controllers when they struck, early in his tenure. Sometimes labour strikes are ended through legislation, sometimes they're prevented by legislation. Sometimes they're prevented forever, and you may never strike, sometimes they are prevented for a limited amount of time.

That's all very unusual. The pre facto prevention was unusual. Post facto isn't all that unusual. I think legislating postal workers when they struck, and TTC, they had to go back to work eventually. Mandating arbitration or mediation, not all that unusual.

L: One of the parties took out an ad, and advertised how much they offered. How can that affect negotiations, when you take out an ad and you try to appeal to the public?

B: Negotiations don't occur in a vaccuum. All the members of the union and the management of the university all belong to families and clubs from walking down the street, and go shopping and what have you. And people are continually saying, 'What's this all about?' They have to have a response. Now, there are some aspects of labour relations that are very difficult to explain easily in the super market aisle when a neighbour runs into you. You know, carrage rights, pension calculations and the ability to take pension benefits when you retire, the affect of benefits on your family, this can get very complex.

You add up all that kind of stuff and one side may say, the union is being offered 'x.' Every union member is getting 'x' extra dollars a year onto this settlement. Well, the other side may say, 'No, it's 'y' number of dollars and it's 'z' amount of benefits.' Quantifying the benefits is difficult because you haven't used the benefits. You don't know if you're going to need eye glasses in the next year. There are a lot of different ways to shave any kind of statistic.

When you communicate the larger public about it, obviously people are talking about it in coffee shops and ... saying, 'Why don't these people get offered more? What is the matter with management? Aren't they stingey! How on earth can a university professor live on that, and why aren't they treated better?'

OR if they're saying, 'Wholly molly, I had no idea these guys were teaching 12 hours a week, and they're making $90 grand a year and they still want more, get a life!" Now that's going to have an affect on the vote that's eventually taken by union members and whether they're going to accept and ratify the contract. It's going to have an affect on how bold the negotiating team is because they read the paper and they listen to the radio and they watch the tv. When you walk into the room when you're being lampooned in public on radio, tv and print, and you walk into the room, maybe the other side ... well, it puts you in a bad position.

L: In your experience, when one side takes an ad out and goes public with the negotiation terms because they've hit a stalemate and expose what the other side turned down, how does that affect relations between the two, and what is that generally a sign of in terms of negotiations.

B: Depending on how the ad is worded, it can signal a new level of animosity, it can be muscle flexing. Maybe one side, for example, has more money and resources to take out ads, and it's considered dirty pool, or unfair, or unlevel playing field. It can cause a hardening of positions, let's say.

If it's phrased nicely, 'We just wanted you to know...' and all that nice, namby pamby language, maybe it is viewed as an information piece.

L: One of the concerns, chiefly, is that one side has been saying, 'It's not all about money. There are other concessions that we're looking for, that we're trying to get.' The ad itself said, 'We offered this much of a raise,' and it takes the idea that this wasn't all about money, then shows the money figures, to make people believe that it is about money. It derails the direction that everyone was moving in.

B: A very, very common tactic. You don't usually want to say it's about money, although if you're way behind, there would be occassions where you might.

Then Allan Bonner referred me to an interview he'd done called 'Transit Pie.'

I forget, if you look at that, you can see that the TTC took out a $100,000 ad, and I didn't understand what they're point was. I'm sort of, I was interviewed and asked if this was a good idea. I said, 'Maybe, but what are they trying to tell me? What is the issue here? I couldn't get it for the life of me.' Often the union feels it needs to create some communication to shore up its position with its members, but for the general public it's incomprehensible. That's another problem.

A Brief Respite

Nothing new on the outskirts to report, aside from classes canceled tomorrow and Gordo producing a couple of anonymous sources whose views on the strike likely mirror Henderson's own, I'd wager. Funny how that works out, innit? Not that I'm suggesting anything.

If Rogers has anything, he's playing it close to the chest right now, likely overseeing the mothership's update, so I'll take this opportunity to throw up a stupid video.

Dude, church has gotten awesome since I was a teenager.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Day 13 - Update 24: Talks to Resume?

The Star is currently reporting that the provincial mediator is returning to the city today in an effort to bring WUFA and the UWindsor admin back to the table.

No one knows exactly what the mediator, one Greg Long [add him to the list of Dramatis Personae] will be doing once he gets here, but UWindsor rep Lori Lewis confirmed he would be meeting with the administration.

Fingers crossed, Windsor.

Day 13 - udpate 23

Contact: Spencer Dingle
Communications Coordinator
University of Windsor Students’ Alliance
(519) 253-3000 Ext. 4401

University of Windsor Students’ Assemble to Mourn the Loss of their Education

WINDSOR – The University of Windsor Students’ Alliance (UWSA) is hosting a student rally to protest the current strike. The assembly will take the form of a memorial service for the lost education at the University of Windsor on Monday, September 29th at 2:30pm in front of the CAW Student Centre.

This student protest will have no affiliation with WUFA or with the administration. It is strictly to foster student unity and support and show BOTH SIDES that students are gravely concerned with the future of their education at the University of Windsor. Students who attend are encouraged to wear all black to correspond with the memorial service theme.

The event will consist of a student procession on campus, speeches, and the launch of a student petition to the government to intervene and get students back into the classroom.

As the previous UWSA rally last Tuesday was scheduled to coincide with a board of governors meeting, this protest is meant to backpack onto a presidential address by Dr. Wildeman to each of the student councils of UWSA, OPUS, and GSS.

After the address, UWSA members will be available in the pub in order to allow students to pose their member questions regarding the briefing and situation.

- 30 -

For more information regarding this issue, contact Spencer Dingle at (519) 253-3000 Ext. 4401 or You may also visit for new developments on this and may other issues affecting University of Windsor students.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Day 12 - update 22

WUFA strike update:

Not too much in terms of updates over the weekends.

The faculty strike is now affecting the world of the Toronto Maple Leafs, so to speak. The Windsor Star reported on Saturday that former head coach Paul Maurice has been traveling to UWindsor to finish a degree, but hasn't been in town due to the strike.

"Every time I get fired, I like to take a few courses," Maurice told "I commute from Toronto and take a few classes down there. Although, last week, the faculty went on strike and that put a bit of a fly in the ointment."

- The Windsor Star

Don Lajoie also reported yesterday that the faculty association is interested in pursuing legal action over the administration's advertisement last week which revealed some details of their negotiations.

The union representing striking University of Windsor faculty and librarians said Friday it may pursue bad-faith bargaining charges against the school's administration.

Brian Brown, president of the Windsor University Faculty Association, said the union is looking at its legal options after the administration and the university board of governors released details to the media Tuesday of the employer's final contract offer, put on the table before 1,000 professors and librarians walked off the job Sept. 17.

"Lawyers for the Canadian Association of University Teachers have been looking at it," said Brown. "They've been going for a while to see if there's a case to bring to the labour ministry."

- The Windsor Star

The University of Windsor has updated its strike information page, with an explanation of why they ran the ad in the Windsor Star last week.

The University took the step of publishing a general explanation of its pre-strike financial offer for one purpose, and one purpose only – to demonstrate to the broader community that our offer was an attempt to balance the need to be fair to our employees with the need to avoid eroding the long-term economic position and academic quality of the University of Windsor. Some have criticized the attempt to be transparent. Others believe that the amount offered was excessively generous for a variety of reasons.
- the administration
You can read more at the link:

WUFA has responded to the ad on their website, as well.

"Contrary to the University’s misleading full-page ad earlier in the week, academic salaries at Windsor will be below the provincial average were the University’s offer to be accepted. Pay for part-time faculty would be the lowest in the province, and the salary structure for full-time faculty would be the most unattractive in Ontario."

- James L. Turk
Executive Director
of the Canadian Association
of University Teachers (CAUT)

You can read more about their stance on the issue at

I promise we'll have lots more interesting material, including a media conference with the administration where they've promised to not leave until every question is answered.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Day 10 - update 21

WUFA strike update
Mediator may call the two sides back to the table 
.Latest Updates - Faculty Negotiations

Friday morning, September 26, 2008

Strike mediator calls on both sides to review positions

Greg Long, a meditator from the Ontario Ministry of Labour, issued a report Wednesday explaining his decision to adjourn exploratory discussions with each side in the labour dispute between the University of Windsor and its Faculty Association.

In a short letter to the negotiating teams, he asked both sides to "carefully review their respective positions."

"It is the assessment of the mediator that there is currently no reasonable prospect of resolving the key issues in this dispute," Long wrote.

He added he may call the parties back to bargaining if he determines there is a reasonable prospect of successful negotiations, and refused further comment.

Day 10 - update 21

Here's what the blogosphere has to say about the strike. While I've been perusing through the blogs and vids around the net, I just haven't posted any of the comments yet - so: here goes.

Leftnews: –They are on strike and under increasingly hostile public action from the employer.

Democracy of Hipocrisy: I and many others are growing tired of this dispute and it looks as though most of the picketers are as well. They look so disillusioned, dejected and tired. They are not out in droves as they should be and when they are out, they are sitting down, on the grass, crossing their own picket lines. To me, this is not helpful, it is more hurtful than anything and conveys a message of defeat. Now, I was also hoping to hear from students on this issue but the facebook group seems to be the place to be. I know I am posting a lot in there. It's too bad though because I would like to hear what people really think, anonymously or not, I don't mind.

Bea's Hive
: Some interesting ideas came to light, we found out that yesterday that the WUFA heads and the mediator waited for 8 hours for the admin to show up and go back into talks and no one showed up. Wildeman keeps on saying that they want to be in talks, but at this point the mediator has returned to Guelph because of the unco-operativeness of the admin.

Prez Gooch: [N]othing could have possibly prepared me for this catastrophe. What's worse is the fact that what is going on is so completely out of my control. It doesn't matter what I do, how many hours I put in (9am-1am), or how hard I work: This strike will continue until the Administration and WUFA reach an agreement.

Let me answer your question with a question: DEAR IDIOTS who keep driving by in their cars and yelling "Get back to work!" at us: SHUT UP. Do you honestly think that, if ending the strike was as simple as going back to the classrooms and teaching, we'd still be standing here A WEEK LATER? Yeah, that's right. So shut up and just keep driving. None of these faculty who have been scraping by on strike pay and picketing for hours need to hear you being a loudmouth idiot.

the doctor is in
: One thing I will say to my students is this - do not fear that you will come back and have to turn in assignments and be ready to discuss multiple days of material all at once. I am not going to do that , and I doubt very seriously that any return-to-work protocol that is negotiated will allow any faculty member to make unreasonable demands of students after a week or more on strike. Just please be patient, get info from multiple sources, and do not give in to the rumor mill. WUFA is providing info via its site at, and I believe there is something in the works to provide more systematic info to students and parents (but don't quote me on that). If and when I have more info I will post it. I'll post some pictures tomorrow from today's rally outside the Board of Governors meeting.

:I know lots of people have gone home, since they don't see a point waiting around in Windsor without classes; others still are playing the waiting game, trying to do readings and be caught up for the eventual thrust back into academic life.

Some students are also angry that professors have chosen this time to strike, commenting that they should have been on strike in the summer, to limit the impact on students' education for the big fall semester return to school.

uppityundergrad: For those of you who may not be aware at this moment the faculty association at the University of Windsor has been on strike for one week. The issues of this strike go well beyond the cliché issues of wage increases and working environment -- the faculty is fighting the administration back on things that, from what I gather, are happening at many schools in North America.

Search Windsor Essex
: The strike affected the U of W students’ Shinerama fundraiser for the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Saturday. Many students were gone this weekend, said co-ordinator Merisa Miladinovic. Still, about 125 people turned out for the event and helped raise about $3,000 and counting.

Day 10 - update 20

WUFA strike update:

Here's a round up of the latest information on everything - although the only news that matters, really, is that the strike is still on.

The Windsor Star released an editorial - meaning they're stating their opinion on the matter, in their latest column.
[W]e do believe U of W president Alan Wildeman did the community a great service this week by publicly releasing the university's last offer, and putting the dispute into perspective.


While we applaud the university for releasing its offer, the numbers also highlight the central problem in these negotiations -- and it applies to both sides -- a complete failure to recognize the difficult economic times this community faces and the tough realities that exist in the private-sector workplace.


The view of Brian Brown, WUFA president, that other universities are providing increases of between 3.75 per cent and 4.25 per cent annually -- above the U of W offer -- shows a disregard for the impact of the economic downturn on the average family in this area.

As well, the university's argument that the school needs competitive salaries in the median range of Ontario universities is outdated and irrelevant. The lower cost-of-living here, the quality of life in this area and teaching and research opportunities at the U of W should be key selling points used in attracting talented faculty members.
- The Windsor Star
Of course there's much more to read at the above link. So that's where they stand.

Students plea for strike resolution
, from Don Lajoie, outlines the very predicament students are stuck in. The reality is, they are basically powerless in this fight, though they are struggling to find some way, if any way, to implore their captors to resolve this issue. Or at least get back to work while negotiating. The big story is that the administration's representation that was expected to answer questions of the student body canceled at the last minute, giving everyone a sour taste in their mouth. The word "coward" comes up a lot in the reader comments.

Many of the Windsor Star's letters to the editor were featured regarding the strike. One of which is here, and you can surely find the rest if you browse around the site.

But the comments don't really favour the faculty, either, as they've been obstructing work crews trying to do their own jobs. Faculty picket lines halt campus construction outlines the absence of support the public has for WUFA interfering in other people's business. I was once told by one of my professors to take a course in logical thinking (it was response to a weak argument and flow in one of my essays). Well, many years later: How does standing in front of my car help you get a contract signed? Discuss.

While yesterday we linked a Globe and Mail article, Maclean's is now getting on board. In talks with Kevin Doyle a few days ago, he was a bit surprised that his "alma madder' hadn't caught up yet. University reporter, and former Canadian University Press president, Erin Millar highlights the impact that the administration has had when they took out the full-page ad on the negotiations.

And that ad that outlined some of the details of the negotiations warranted a response from the WUFA, which is here. And of course you can read the entire transcript of their statement here.

This story is growing to the national stage. For example, the strike has appeared in The Muse out Memorial University in Newfoundland. [Thanks Lindsey]

And the national exposure might grow even more as the faculty association at Wilfrid Laurier University are struggling to reach an agreement with their administration, as well. The article describes how both the administration and faculty find it difficult to balance negotiating with teaching classes, but they're finding a way to get by, like using a 'bargaining protocol.' Their contract also ended in June.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Day 08 - update 19

WUFA strike update:

1) The UWSA open council meeting with the administration has been cancelled. Dr. Wildeman's secretary has indicated that he is in meetings and has had to cancel all of his appointments for the day.

Could this mean that they are back at the bargaining table?

Other updates:

2) Rumours surfaced last week that some 155 employees of the University of Windsor were laid off due to the strike. Lori Lewis (nee Koutros), manager of news services at Public Affairs and Communications, has said this is FALSE.

"No. I think you’re talking about food services workers. All those people are being paid and they’re working their regular hours. Nobody was laid off," says Lewis.

3) The meeting at the Caboto Club on Sunday for the public, parents of students and students being hosted by the Windsor University Faculty Association is in the Canada Hall between 2 and 4 p.m. Everyone is welcome.

4) For some reason the Mike Gasher shows from Dr. Winter have been taken down, but replaced with the identical Mike "Dasher" series. The difference is in name only, and one can only speculate why they have been removed, at this time. I saw James Winter the other day, but didn't know that there had been difficulties with the videos, else I would have asked. Sorry folks.

They can be found at:
and if you miss them.

5) The Globe and Mail have taken notice of the strike, and you can read 'University of Windsor Strike Gets Personal,' by Elizabeth Church. If you pick up the hardcopy edition today, and flip to page A4, check out the photo credit ;)

6) A transcript from the meeting that the WUFA set up yesterday in response to the administration's decision to go public in the Windsor Star with their offer that WUFA turned down.

Brian E. Brown: president of the Windsor University Faculty Association.

Brown: On my right is Mr. Peter Simpson from the Canadian Association of University Teachers.

First I wanted to announce to you, that on Sunday between 2 and 4 p.m. at the Caboto Club, we’ll be having an information meeting for the students, parents and the public where we will answer questions that they might have. That’s Sunday, 2-4 at the Caboto Club.

As I said last night, I was not sure why the administration and Board of Governors decided to go public with their best offer. And I don’t understand why they want to negotiate in the media. And as I said last night, WUFA … will not negotiate in the media. We’re here today to give you some information in terms of explaining some of the proposals that are being put forward in terms of what they mean, such as promotions, tenure and renewal, and Mr. Simpson will deliver that message to you, and we will an explanation of that for you at the end of this conference.

Peter Simpson, negotiator for WUFA and secretary of the Canadian Association of University Teachers Defense Fund.

Peter Simpson:
Thank you. One of the features of the position that the administration has taken in the media is their representation of what they’re calling a fair and equitable salary offer. There’s a component of that offer that is difficult to understand for people who don’t work in the university sector. The reason is because it’s a feature of the university employment sector that is unique to that sector. No other employment sector has this feature. You’ll see the university referring to a certain percentage scale increase on something that they’ve called an adjustment, which has a value of a thousand dollars. I want to explain to you what that feature really is, and give you a sense of how it works in the university sector.
The university sector employs a deferred salary mechanism, which is to say, like a pension plan, part of your money is put away for later. It’s parallel to a pension plan, but it’s actually something that functions in the following way.

If the average salary over 30 years of a university professor or librarian, worth $92 – 93 thousand dollars. The way the system works is you start at $52, and over the 30 years you progress towards the ceiling, so you end up, at say $132. So the average salary of someone who works in a unionized workplace with a job rate, gets $28.75 an hour, and that’s their job rate, people who do their job get paid this. The university sector works differently. You take a greatly reduced salary to start and work you way back to the ceiling. The mechanism is called a ‘progress through the ranks’ increment. It’s a built-in feature of the system. The promise is you start low because you’re going to be moved back towards the top. What the university is calling a $1,000 adjustment, is actually (and this in my opinion, and I am not speaking for the union at this point, this is my analysis) a deliberate calculated misrepresentation of the PTR system. They’re treating it as some kind of bonus, it’s actually a promised built-in structure to the salary system.

So it’s very important that people understand, that they [the admin] know this, they’re not stupid. They may not be telling the truth, but they’re not stupid. They’re actually trying here, in my opinion, to create confusion in a way that harms the union, and in a way that harms the image of university professors.

No person in any other employment sector would take a 50 per cent reduction in their salary rates if they weren’t going to get it back over time. That’s the way it works.

There’s a second feature of their $1,000 adjustment that’s important. The number of steps that it takes to get from this reduced salary up to the ceiling, is fixed. It’s between 30 and 40 [steps]. That means that the value of each step as you go back is relatively fixed and typically in collective bargaining in the university sector, it is adjusted for inflation, so the value of each step as you work your way back up, is adjusted by inflation in bargaining. No other university has ever insisted in cutting in half the size of the step as a condition for a collective agreement. [Cutting it from $2,200 to $1,000] And I’m not talking about Ontario, I’m talking national. This is unprecedented in this sector and constitutes a breach of an undertaking that gave people the incentive to take the reduced salary in the first place. That’s the first thing. The second thing is, last year the value was $2,200 for this increment. They’re cutting it in half. Now, instead of in 20 years and getting to that $132 number, I’ll be lucky to get back to that 92, which ought to have been my average over my career.

It’s extremely important for people to understand, that they have harmed people who are working on this system, and in good faith came in with a progress through the ranks mechanism in play. Those people are being harmed because it’s a breach of an undertaking made by the parties when they started. I would add further that the PTR, the university is saying that the union’s proposal would cost them millions of dollars and create a deficit. It’s important to understand that at least the $2,200 set value from last year, if it were repeated this year, would not be an increased cost to the university. It’s a fixed amount, it’s the way the salary system works. That would be like saying that the university would have an increased cost of paying members their salaries next year. That’s not an increased cost, people earn their salaries each year, they ought to be budgeting for it. Again, this is a misrepresentation that cuts to the heart of the salary system in the university sector and the difficulty that is being exploited in my opinion, is the difficulty of explaining to people, in any other employment sector, why people with PhDs would accept making $40,000 less at the beginnings of their career, in order to make $40,000 more at the end. It’s a difficult system to understand, it’s a difficult system to explain.

At the heart of the university’s so-called best offer, is a gutting of the salary system people accepted in good faith when they came to this university.

I want to say something else, every other university has it. Every other university in Canada has it. The 2200 step value here is among the lowest, so the union’s position is actually lower than contracts that are being settled right now in other universities in Ontario. The union’s proposal is competitive with those, in fact we would find our self behind some of them. What they’re doing is trying to twist this, and trying to create, in my opinion, a confusion of what the system even how it works. One of the consequences of the move they’re making is that’s it’s going to be incredibly difficult to attract new faculty when it will take them more than twice as long to get to their average salary at Windsor, than it would at Carleton, or Ottawa, or Queen’s, or Toronto, or Guelph, or Laurier. It’s going to be really hard to compete for new faculty if the people re going to take twice as long to get the same salary.

That point and other shave been made to no avail. But it’s extremely important that the people of Windsor understand what the impact would be on this university of this so-called best offer.

Apart from creating confusion, why would the university do this?

In my opinion, the university is trying to save money to correct financial management errors that it has made, not the union, the university administration has made, and they’re trying to do it by clawing money out of the salary system. And what people need to understand, is people are looking at this $1,000 adjustment and thinking it’s some kind of bonus. It’s actually less than 50 per cent of the step value they’re entitled to. It would be good to ask Dr. Wildeman, or Mr. Cook, why they’re doing this. I have no idea. What I do know, they understand the way the system works.

How much would they save under this new system?

Well, on the face of it, the existing step value is $2,200, and remember this is the step that returns you to the average salary, they’re going to by their proposal, by next year, they’re going to save $1,200 per full-time academic staff member, and there are over 500 of them. This is literally asking members to pay for the financial management mistakes of the administration. To not just take it out of their salaries, but to take it out of the salary structure. It’s one thing to say ‘we can’t give you as much of a percentage increase this year, for a variety of reasons we can’t do that, but this is gutting a system that’s a deferred salary system. It’s effectively the same as saying we’ve decided we’re going to give you half as much pension, we know you’ve been putting money away, but we’ve decided it’s a little rich for our blood, and so we’re going to give you half as much pension. It’s not a one-year thing they’re doing, they’re fundamentally altering the entire system in a way that betrays the good faith of those who entered it. It affects people who are junior faculty members disproportionately, but it affects everybody.

I think they’re quite candid about their budgetary problem. It’s certainly not mistakes anyone else made. We have neither the privilege nor the responsibility of directing the university’s finances.

They’re facing a $5 million deficit. If they accept this unions’ contract, that will be doubled. Where will they stand?

The university has decisions to make and they will make those decisions. I’m trying to explain here, where they’re taking that money not just out of the salaries of individual faculty members, but out of the system itself. And it’s important that you understand, it’s one thing to say to people, you have to take less of a scale increase this year because we have to save money. It’s something else to take this deferred salary system and now claw it back. That’s the point, and I think those are distinct issues. It’s one thing to come to the table and say ‘There are tough times, we’re going to have to do this thing this year, and hopefully we can correct it down the road.’ But they’re betraying a deferred salary system, that is saying, I spent years at $40,000 less on the understanding that I’ll be working back up, and now you’re telling me, oh sorry, we changed our minds. That’s the part that’s particularly galling. And that’s the thing that’s really done a lot to mobilize the faculty.

This is not about money, this is about quality in education, all of a sudden it’s about money?

This is not the place to identify or remunerate or articulate bargaining proposals, there are several bargaining proposals outstanding. I’m here to explain to you of the things they’re claiming, they’re claiming it’s all about money, it’s not, there’s lots of things outstanding, but I’m here to clarify in particular detail, this element of what they’re presenting to the public. They claim it’s all about money, but within their claim that it’s all about money, there is what I think a deliberate misrepresentation, so I’m here to clarify that misrepresentation.

Brown: It’s not all about money, it’s about the quality of education that we deliver to our students, its’ about the research that we do, it’s about academic freedom, its’ about the collective agreement, the protection that’s there for our membership. There are many outstanding issues that are contained within the administration’s best offer that are just not acceptable as a package in its entirety at this point. The university administration, can if they want to, repackage that money. We have tried. We have a proposal, that we have tried to deliver to the university negotiating team. We have not been able to get them to the table so that we can present that proposal to them. I do not know why they are not coming to the table. The board of Governor’s met yesterday, I thought after that meeting that they would have returned, however, it is my understanding, that they’re still not at the table, and I’m still hoping that the mediator will get both sides back to the table, so that we, the Windsor University Faculty Association negotiating team, can present our proposal to the administration.

I don’t know what it’s going to take there was a student rally yesterday, there were faculty out there, librarians, ancillary academic staff, sessional members of WUFA who were there, to try and send a message to the board of governors when they went into that building to say get back to that table, that’s what I thought the message would be when they left that room. However, the message was entirely different. They decided to go public in the paper with language on salary, they left out an awful lot. That is just a little bit of what we are negotiating at this point, a very little bit.

We are ready to go to the table.

Peter Simpson: I would like to explain here a particular detail that is particularly galling for me as this goes on, it’s immensely frustrating. First of all, the reason they say it’s all about money in their media campaign, is because they don’t want to release the rest of the details. It would be extremely useful since they’re campaigning in the media, for them to show you the other things that we’re supposed to also accept, along with having the salary structure disfigured. You’ve proposed to someone the deformation of the salary structure, and put that in the media and say it’s all about money, well, there are a lot of other things that they proposed that are not acceptable that are not money things, that are actually in some cases just as egregious, and they’re putting that stuff out there as if it were just about money, they’re not showing you the other things, the other 20 things that were in their proposal.

The second thing is, the one thing you have to understand about the language of collective bargaining, when someone puts an offer on the table and says ‘this is our best offer,’ that means you have to accept that it will not get better. So your counter proposal is only intelligible to us to the extent that you’ve accepted the terms of our offer. Now you tell me, if someone said to you, my best offer is that I’m going to steal your car, and you come back with a counter-proposal, but remember, the offers not getting any better. You come back and say, ‘well, here’s $20.’ They say, no, no, no, you didn’t hear me, we’re not here to negotiate, we gave you a best offer. Coming back to the table’s great, we can all sit and get hotel tans till the end of time, negotiating is what has to happen. Being at the table is not sufficient. What’s necessary is for people to negotiate, and when people throw down a gauntlet and say, this is the best offer, it’s not getting better – oh, well, that leaves me a lot of room, let’s see, what does that leave, yes, or no?

Apparently not, that’s why it’s called a best offer. That’s why there’s elements of this campaign that are a fundamental misrepresentation. Hold on a sec, what’s the difference between a best offer and final offer. A best offer means, no offer could cost more than this one costs. It’s the richest offer we’re prepared to give you. We’re not prepared to move on the cost of the proposal, so what that means is, you accept that we’re gutting the deferred salary system, or else.

So, this is the difficulty people putting out a part of the story in the media, is that they conveniently forget to reiterate the details that make it difficult for the union to move. It’s fine for us, we have counter proposals on all outstanding items, but the employer has made it very clear that the terms of the intelligible or legible counter proposal in their eyes, till we satisfy the condition of the best offer business. It’s an artful dodge of the final offer, but not that artful. It’s pretty blunt when you get down to it, what that requires is not that we negotiate with them, it’s that we capitulate or reject. That’s why no one who’s interested in collective bargaining makes that kind of move, because things break down when you make that kind of move. It says, take it or leave it. Where’s the challenge of negotiating, where’s the actual, ‘Let’s try to solve problems constructively in a collaborative way.’ I do this for a living, I travel across the country. I do not see best offer practices, I hope I do not see it again soon.

How often do you see students left out in the middle like this?

That’s a complex question, let me just say this. The faculty association is absolutely open in trying to work with students in trying to figure out ways to deal with the circumstances. No term has ever been lost in any university in Canada because of a strike, it’s never happened. And there’s been some bad ones. And when this one is over, there will be accommodations made to ensure that people get hours taught and those kinds of things are part of any solution to the current problem. The concerns of students are relevant to the process in so far as any attempt to end the strike has to include ensuring that students get the contract hours and credits they need that they signed up for. No other university in Canada has lost a term.

Back to work protocol, it’s an extension of the collective bargaining process to cover how to deal with the issues arising from having to return to work after a strike. So people have to make up classes, the term gets delayed, there are a number of issues.

At some point, it’s conceivable that the province could be concerned enough to legislate people back to work, most places that I work in, that would be politically unacceptable to a government. I suspect Windsor might be an example of a place where it would be politically unacceptable to legislate people back to work. Generally people are permitted within the labour relations process to exercise their right, the right to strike is one, and to limit those rights is a very serious undertaking for a government.

What influence does the public have on the bargaining table?

First of all, the students, you have to understand these are professors who work very closely with students. This is not something that they like, this is not something that the professors want to do, the professors feel that they have no choice at this point. Influence the public has, they can tell Mr. Cook and Dr. Wildeman, that this kind of literally unprecedented attack on the salary system, is not the way to solve the deficit. There are ways to be fiscally responsible without going after this. I mean, ask, if you go to a press conference and you get a chance to talk to Dr. Wildeman or Mr. Cook, ask them why they want to gut a deferred salary system, instead of offering less money on a scale increase.

The employer of record in the university system, is not the government. Universities are individually chartered and legislated institutions created by acts of legislation in Queen’s Park, but the management of the university is at the mercy of a board of governors, mercy might be inappropriate, but nonetheless, the board of governors by the legislation, have the mandate to run the finances of the university. They have the legal authority to enter into agreements with legalized staff, there are ministerial or governmental appointees to boards, but they are not the majority, they’re supposed to be people drawn from the community. One of the things that people in the community need to hear is that no one’s going to come and work at this university if it takes them twice as long to get them back to the average salary. So the people who are supposed to be running university, the board of governors, the community really need to say to them, ‘Are you really sure that’s the best way to ensure the strength of this university? To make it fundamentally unattractive to people? To say ‘We’re going to play fast and loose with this whole deferred salary,’ every university’s got it, and one of the reasons that every universities got it, is that ensure the mobility of university professors from one institution to another. Everyone has to be on similar deferred salary system, or else you’d lose going from one place to another. So people are going to have to think twice as long to get to the same place that they would be at an other university. It’s tricky to explain, but in effect, it’s pretty simple, it’s takes you more than twice as long to get to the same place.

The View From the Outside Looking In

Random thoughts while sifting through the rapidly forming mountain of information that's been piling up as a result of the strike.

--A brief housekeeping note: Anonymous comments are still begrudgingly allowed, but no spam. Copying and pasting of the same [lengthy] comment on multiple posts will see them deleted.

--I don't know how you could think that the admin's decision to make public the offer WUFA rejected was anything other than an attempt to sway public opinion and present the faculty as a crew of money grubbers stubbornly putting their own interests ahead of students. It doesn't seem to have worked, and it'll be interesting to see if students call them on it at today's info session.

--At the same time, I find it curious that sessional instructors, initially presented as the educational equivalent of sweatshop workers, are now being embraced as brothers in arms, with WUFA president Brian Brown telling the Star they take issue with SI's at Windsor making less than half the amount per course that instructors at UofT make.

--I know I took a shot at Edy Haddad the other day [my distaste for inflexible politics on either side is no secret] but I'll give the guy credit for taking the unpopular position and saying what a lot of people might be trying to ignore: however just the cause, the strike is still taking money out of your pocket, Windsor. And whenever this gets resolved, you're gonna be the ones making up the difference on a shortened semester.

Rogers will surely have updates from the info session later tonight.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Day 07 - update 17 [Updated Thursday, 12.16 p.m.]

What you need to know:

Classes are already canceled for Thursday.

IMPORTANT EDIT: the 2 p.m. info session has been cancelled [8:36 p.m.]

The UWSA will be inviting students to their Council meeting at 4 p.m. on Thursday afternoon in the Ambassador Auditorium and all students are welcome. At the Council Meeting special guests
  • Dr. Clayton Smith, Vice-Provost, Students & Registrar
  • Stephen Willets, Vice-President, Administration & Finance
  • Dr. Alan Wildeman, President of the University of Windsor
  • Brian E. Brown, President of the Windsor University Faculty Association
  • Dr. Stephen Pender and
  • Dr. Anne Forrest are expected to be in attendance to answer questions.
PLEASE NOTE: It is to be noted that an open question and answer period will not be allowed. Students will be required to submit their questions before 3 p.m. to to have their questions asked. Only councilors have speaking privileges during the meeting.

The WUFA will be hosting a public information session at the Caboto Club on Sunday where the public are welcome to answer any question. If you have concerns and you'd like to have WUFA address them specifically, schedule some time this Sunday at 2.00 p.m.

Day 07 - update 16

WUFA strike Update

A memo from the WUFA:

Media Release,

Please be advise the Faculty Association of the University of Windsor will hold a news conference today (Wednesday Sept 24) @ 2:00 p.m. at the University Community Church, 2320 Wyandotte St. West.

All Media is invited

On behalf of the Faculty Association,

Jean Roath, Administrative Assistant
Faculty Association, University of Windsor (WUFA)
Kerr House, 366 Sunset Ave.
Windsor, Ont. N9B 3P4
(519) 253-3000 ext. 3366 Fax (519) 977-6154
And the University of Windsor appears to have taken an ad out in the Windsor Star regarding the details of their last offer to the WUFA.

I would imagine that the media release from WUFA will have something to do with the administration's latest coverage in the Star last night and today.

Day 07 - update 15

WUFA strike update:

From the rally that was mentioned in The Star's latest article, I have some pictures. They tell some of the story. (Sorry for everyone using dial-up.)

This was an established event put on by the UWSA.

The UWSA was providing bottles of water, and there was a BBQ as well. Tosin Bello, VP Finance & Administration, can be seen carting bottles of water around himself.

The chief idea was to have students sitting around studying. (Early plans called for hundreds of chairs to be set up for everyone to sit in while they read.) It was a demonstration of what impact the strike was having on students, on display for the Board of Governor's whom were assembled for their regular meeting.

Students also prepared a petition, and were intending on submitting a sheet that outlined how the strike was personally affecting them. Later on in the sit-in, students entered the Toldo Building and the Board of Governor's meeting to present their sheets. They were asked to leave, as the meeting wasn't made public.

Hundreds of other students just mashed themselves up against the entrance to the Toldo Building, waiting for the administration to join the meeting. One member, whom I couldn't identify, was using a folder to shield his face. Whether it was from the sun, or the faculty/students, I honestly cannot say.

There were at least a dozen photographers ranging from amateur, to expert, to professional. This is an experience that many members of the student community appear to be interested in capturing on film.

WUFA president Brian E. Brown (on the right) was making himself available for comment. He was message boxing as best as he could, indicating that the administration was yet to return to the bargaining table, and that the WUFA had organized another package for consideration. He wasn't sure why the admin hadn't returned to the table - but considered that perhaps they were waiting until after the Board of Governor's meeting before getting back to negotiations.

The faculty association lined up on the other side of the street in support of the students. They were of the understanding that the students were demonstrating to the Board of Governor's independently, so WUFA just watched on.

But then the picket captains geared them up to get rowdy and make noise, and boo as administration approached the building.

Then Liberal cast-out and social activist Edy Haddad appeared, and started to grill the professors for costing students money.

Who is Haddad? He called for a buoycott of the University of Ottawa for not offering free tuition, and declared himself interested in running as the Liberal candidate for the Windsor-Tecumseh riding back in November, 2007 - yet was overlooked by the Libs when they selected Larry Horowitz (Windsor West), Steve Mastroianni (Windsor-Tecumseh) and Susan Whelan (Essex).

What was he saying to the assembled faculty? You can find more at the Windsor Star's video of the event, here.

Day 07 - update 14

WUFA striek update:

The Lance's co-op student Carly Moulton interviews people around residence to see what's beeng going on:

Andrew Bell,
Second Year Business and member of the Windsor Inter-Residence Council

What have you been doing with your free time?
My free time, I’ve been trying to keep up with my work, but it’s hard to do.

How do you think the strike will be resolved?
I’m hoping it’s going to be resolved soon, again we stay kind of impartial to its deposition, but it’s really frustrating right now just waiting for them to argue it out. I don’t think the strikes very effective right now, I think they should have done this stuff earlier, you know what I mean? They could’ve started the negotiations in the summer. It’s kind of wasting my time.

Have you seen a lot of students in the halls?
No actually, the residences are empty. Everybody’s gone home. It’s very scary. It’s difficult to run programming around it too. We’re trying to keep people interested in actually being here but if the strike goes on much longer there’s really no reason for them to stick around. That’s why we’re here though.

If you were to guess how many people do you think are in res?
Well I’ve been given different figures for different buildings but we’re at less than half right now, they’re emptying out. We have all the international students still here, it’s kind of hard for them to go home for a couple weeks, but everyone else, anyone that lives close, I’ve been home two or three times already, I live in Chatham, so I may as well.

So is Vanier empty then too?
I haven’t been in Vanier much, I’m in Clark. But apparently it’s not a pretty sight. Campus has been pretty dead so I’m hoping they get back to doing what we pay them to do.

Megan Vereyaen
First Year, Mathematics

Are you living in res?
Yah, I’m in Laurier.

Has it been pretty empty?
Yah, there’s been a few people around.

How do you feel about the strike so far?
So far it’s been all right, I hope that they resolve it because I mean we’re paying tuition money to go to school so it’d be nice to go to school. I understand that they need to get their voice out but it shouldn’t really be at the expense of the student. I think there’s a lot of negotiating that could have been done prior to the school year.

What have you been doing in your free time?
Pretty well just been hanging out, been doing some studying but I mean you can only do so much. I went home a little bit too.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Day 06 - update 13

WUFA strike update.

The administration at the University of Windsor have broken their media silence, and addressed the Windsor Star's editorial board with some of the details of the CBA that was offered to WUFA, and was turned down, a week ago.

Bear in mind, since the strike, the two sides have yet to meet again.

'We can't be silent anymore,' by Don Lajoie.

You can read the article in its entirety, but there is an awful lot of rhetoric in there. I've tried to separate the facts from the war cries.

To recap what's in the article:

Details on the deal that was offered to WUFA
Wildeman presented a document that said "faculty wage increases of three per cent plus a $1,000 bonus the first year, three per cent plus $1,000 the second, and four per cent plus $1,750 the third. If the faculty had accepted the offer, by the end of the contract, the average professor would be making $150,046."

"average salaries would rise from $84,775 to $97,396 for assistant professors, from $106,168 to $121,000 for associate professors and from $132,493 to $150,046 for professors over the three years."

"The goal of the release ... is to put pressure on the union to come back to the table and to get the strike settled as soon as possible."

WUFA has attempted to return to bargaining, after contacting the provincial mediator involved in the talks and offering to table a counter proposal to administration.

"We're not supposed to negotiate in public or through the media," [Brian Brown, president of WUFA] said. "We would never describe our proposals in the media.... All I can say is that the faculty association wants this to end. We don't want to be out in the street. We want to teach and the students want us back."

"[M]ore than 500 students attended a rally on the campus as the University's board of directors met Tuesday afternoon. Hundreds of union members lined up across the street from the building where the meeting was held, carrying placards and yelling slogans in support."

"About 100 students ... made their way into the [Toldo] building and crowded into the ... boardroom, where they ... presented a 400-name petition calling for an end to the strike."

And, as usual with any Windsor Star article where comments are allowed, there are remarks that run the gamut.

I've got some pictures of the events from this afternoon.

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Day 06 - update 12

WUFA strike update:
Well, it's been a few days, and information is in short supply, mostly because nothing new has come of the strike.

Windsor University Faculty Association president Brian E. Brown and I had a brief conversation just now, and this is what came of it:

- The two sides have not returned to the bargaining table.
- WUFA has a proposal prepared for the administration to review
- the other side is called back to the negotiating table by the mediator
- the mediator is Greg Long, was appointed by the Ministry of Labour

The Board of Governor's Meeting is scheduled for 3:30 this afternoon, but it is expected to be entirely in camera. That means that only the Board of Governors are allowed in - or anyone whom is a special guest to the meeting.

The WUFA has a members-only meeting to be held tonight at 7:15 p.m. where they will convey the circumstances to their members.

Students are expected to be demonstrating by the Toldo building at 3 p.m. this afternoon.

The University of Windsor has released this list of items that students can do to stay up to date on their studies while class is out.

I'll tell you what, though, I guess I'm the last guy on campus to find out that the residences are all half empty, anyhow. According to a member of WIRC (Windsor Inter Residence Council) most students have said aloha for the strike. Except for the international students .

Brown said that after a tentative agreement, each department will have to find their own way to recoup the semester. So what's good for English won't necessarily be the same for Math & Stats, which won't be the same psychology. So you'll have to pay close attention after the strike, to what your department emails you to figure out how the rest of the semester is going to play out.

I've got some student testimonials from our co-op student Carly, and I'll get that posted to you sooner than later.

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A Word From Your Robot Overlords

Only Gord Henderson could fan the flames of class war during a labour dispute in a town as union friendly as Windsor.

I figured it was only a matter of time until he started griping about the WUFA strike, and he doesn't disappoint in today's edition, comparing the luxury living status of Windsor Faculty [even on strike pay] with the hard knock life of the city's rapidly declining industrial sector.

Even if I agree with the Hend-O-Tron 4000's larger point [my new theory on Gord is that he's become so bloated by his 'large fish/small pond' status that he's had robot duplicates of himself doing his columns. Look at the cold dead eyes of his staff photo and tell me I'm lying], which I do [it's probably time for unions to tighten the belt more than their willing to, there are bigger forces at work in the world at this particular moment], I love that the man, who is still holding a grudge at the university for kiboshing the downtown campus plan last year make no mistake, is chiding people with PhD's for the money they make.

You know Windsor, I'm well aware of my station in life, yet I feel no petty rage with someone at a university making $100,000 a year, because to my mind they earned it. Someone with less education taking a whopping pay cut down to $20.50 an hour? Open those jobs up, the factories won't have to outsource anywhere; there's plenty of discounted labour in this country that will gladly take it. Hmm, so maybe I'm fanning the class war now.

Talk about a cocoon.

Thoughts: Sigur Ros @ Massey Hall, 9.22.08

Surprise to no one, Massey Hall was packed to the rafters tonight with fans eager to welcome back dreamy Icelandic quartet Sigur Ros, currently touring in support of a record with a very long title I cannot pronounce.

Click for the rest of this post.

The nice thing about living in this city is that it allows me to get some culture whilst indulging in my laziness. No matter how much I loved the act, I could very rarely muster the energy to endure two border crossings, currency exchanges or [if the Palace is involved] an hour drive on American freeways. Hopping the Yonge line for fifteen minutes is much preferable.

The night started with fellow Icelanders Parachutes and honestly, the less said about them, the better. That's probably not fair, if I had seen them in any other context, I would likely have thought they were amazing. But the band is so clearly influenced by the act they're opening for, it just felt like Sigur Ros-lite. At one point I actually zoned out to the point where I was thinking about hamburgers. Not even because I wanted one, that's just what came to mind.

By 9.00 the main attraction had taken the stage, alone. One of the notable details about this particular outing is that Sigur Ros has been touring without any additional instrumentation. No string section, no horn section, just the band.

The decision to tour on their own means the setlist takes on a distinctly rockier, guitar-centric feel, spanning a decent selection of each of the band's four major-label albums [sorry diehards, I didn't catch any Von selections tonight]. Old favourites like Ny Batteri [with its percussion-controlled lighting rig] worked flawlessly with new songs like Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur, all tinkly piano and throbbing backbeat.

While I was enthralled for the entirety of the show, I didn't feel totally connected to it until the end portion. Saeglopur [from 2005's Takk] has long been my favourite song by the band, so to finally hear it start up live was enough to move me to tears. Surprisingly, the band then moved directly into Popplagid from (), which has been the show closer for years. After building the song's tension for over six minutes before bursting in a wash of feedback, the crowd didn't know what they could do for an encore. The answer, wisely, was to move in the totally opposite direction, bringing out the acoustic guitars for a two song encore of Illgresi and Gobbledigook, both from the new album.

The joyous rhythms of Gobbledigook, which brought Parachutes back to the stage playing marching drums, and the entire audience clapping along, was transcendent. By the time an unexpected cannon of confetti exploded over the unsuspecting Massey Hall crowd, it was impossible not to be amazed at how something as simple as a three minute song can totally transform you.

If you're catching the show tonight in Detroit, to say you'll enjoy it is a gross understatement.

Massey Hall security was running everyone amok for trying to film, so my videos, while sounding angelic, aren't much to look at. Bug me if you want one that bad, I'll throw it on YouTube until they take it down.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Strike Update: A Rebuttal

My, Rogers certainly is thorough, isn't he? Never say we don't keep you informed, Windsor.

Got an email today from one Chad Beharriell, a History and Distance Education Instructor at UWindsor.

Beharriell is a Sessional Instructor, which puts him at the centre of what seems to have become the flashpoint issue of this labour dispute; as one of those 'Maquiladora'-style instructors, so labeled by UWindsor Comm Studies prof James Winter both in print and in video [videos you in previous entries], his profession has attracted the ire of faculty and student alike.

Beharriell writes in response to an editorial by Winter published in the Windsor Star, after negotiations between faculty and admin first broke down. His response is presented here in its entirety.


James Winter is both an accomplished academic and passionate writer, as evidenced in his August 25th letter to the Windsor Star, 'Lowest Bidders Wanted'. Yet as a sessional instructor at the University of Windsor, I feel he misrepresents both my work and personal approach to teaching when he describes me as a "Maquiladora"-type Mexican worker to the public.

As an instructor in the History and Distance Education departments, I feel fortunate to come from a Northern Ontario village to share my approach to Canadian history with students. I would never compare such fortunate circumstances - receptive students, supportive faculty and administration and a vibrant city - to the lot of factory workers in the developing world.

I chose to accept my job and did not do so grudgingly. Mr. Winter might say that I lack the necessary 'class-consciousness' to see how mistreated I am but I am conscious enough to be grateful for decent employment when half the world, as I'm sure he is aware, lives on less than a dollar a day.

Finally, while I respect the research abilities of my university peers, Mr. Winter's logic is flawed to argue that conducting research equates directly to teaching ability. Students require instructors to clearly share ideas in a class setting - I am confident in my teaching skills to deliver quality education without a majority focus on my own research. Ask a student how they rate their instructors - that is the
final judgment on teaching.

I believe that the faculty union has the right to strike if they truly believe they are being hard done by - but I also have the right not to participate if I do not share that perspective on my situation as a sessional instructor.

Chad Beharriell
History and Distance Education Instructor
University of Windsor

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Day 04 - update 11

WUFA strike: Day 04 - update 11Len Wallace pulled a Bob Dylan and tried to inspire everyone around him with a bit of poetry. [Later he pulls a Woodie Guthrie.]

Len Wallace: An injury to one is an injury to all. Now sometimes in these struggles arises great art, great music and great poetry. On the other hand, there is this. I wrote this yesterday. How many people are on the flying squads? Okay, this is The Ballad of the Flying Squads:

We're members of the flying squads, a valiant band are we
We march around the campus to confound the enemy.

You'd best be ready and beware for we're that band
We'll assault you with a smile and thrust a leaflet in your hand.

Just point us to the battle, we'll be the first in line.
Our muscles taught as hardened steel from raising up our signs.

Our voices hoarse from shouting for a contract that is fair.
We've walked 10,000 weary miles around a 12-foot square.

We shall never cave to taunts and threats in this battle we are winnin',
Nor fear to eat a hot dog and wash down a brew from Tim.

We'll never shirk our duties, we shall picket every day.
With discipline we shall sign in to ensure we get strike pay.

We're the women and the men who teach here every day.
We're here on strike for dignity, for equity, fair pay

So listen up administrators, governors, by God
If they're messing with our union, you're messing with the flying squad.
He continued: This not a game, these people are not naive. We're getting emails of threats and intimidation. The new president acting as good cop, the old president acting as bad cop.

This is an old, old tactic. And don't forget the Board of Governors. The head of the Board of Governors, Dave Cook, not quite the friend of teachers, and his brother the lawyer, for the administration. They know what they're doing, let's do what we're doing. Let's stand together in solidarity. The new president of the uni said the first day of the strike was the worst day in his university career. At $315,000 a year, that comes down to $6,000 paid per week. For an administrator, about $2000 per week, for a sessional, $250 a week. And what is that? That's a shame.

We aren't going to back down to threats or intimidation. We're not going to turn on ourselves. We're going to stand united. Actually, I was given a new slogan. Something from the Cuban Revolution. "The faculty united, shall never be defeated."

Here's a little song, some of you heard it before, written by Woody Guthrie in the 1930s. The chorus goes, "You can't scare me. I'm sticking to the union till the day I die."

Then he sang Union Maid, while playing it on his accordion:
There once was a union maid, she never was afraid
Of goons and ginks and company finks and the deputy sheriffs who made the raid.
She went to the union hall when a meeting it was called,
And when the Legion boys come 'round
She always stood her ground.
Oh, you can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union,
I'm sticking to the union, I'm sticking to the union.
Oh, you can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union,
I'm sticking to the union 'til the day I die.

This union maid was wise to the tricks of company spies,
She couldn't be fooled by a company stool, she'd always organize the guys.
She always got her way when she struck for better pay.
She'd show her card to the National Guard
And this is what she'd say


You gals who want to be free, just take a tip from me;
Get you a man who's a union man and join the ladies' auxiliary.
Married life ain't hard when you got a union card,
A union man has a happy life when he's got a union wife.

[I couldn't find the lyrics for the last verse, and I swear, this is the best I could do to decipher what was actually sung. Sorry if it's off - I try my best.]

Oh, ladies if you want to be free, just take a little tip from me;
Just get yourself a union card, organize your liberty.
Ya gotta take a stand, with bolded beers in hand?
Just move your bones like union Jones. Show that union hand.
[There were dozens of cameras floating around capturing the entire event - and so it's with no small help from Eeland111 on Youtube, that we have the following clips of the song's performance: SOCAN, be advised.]

[The rally was then set up for another march around the university's perimetre by Dr. Stephen Pender]

Stephen Pender: I play chess. I cook my dinner. I teach English literature, I'm the research leadership chair, I am the head of the HRG, the Humanities Research Group, I do all these things. But today, I'm a member of my union. And what could I do as a member of my union? What could be better than to join with my brothers and sisters in other unions in a march around campus? This is what we're going to do, and if anyone asks, it wasn't my idea. Behind that sign, which is moving right now, a couple of our members will assemble that sign at the front of this group.

We will then do, as we did on Wednesday, with our members and supporters, we'll move from this space, down Sunset, along University, up Huron Church, along Wyandotte, back here, back to the WUFA Factuly Association for a ... something. Maybe a glass of water, a bad hot dog. Members of these unions are absolutely crucial to our support. Before you leave, we have two things;

One - for anyone who's been here today and who's been here all week - we've arranged drink specials in a local tavern for a strike social tonight. Just tell them you're a member of WUFA, and you all are, today. Dominion House Tavern, 7 p.m., be there or be there.

There is something very cool right here, right now. So don't put your cameras away, you'll want to catch it.


[then the University Players poured out from behind Chrysler Tower in costume - dancing around in a skit.]

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Next, The Lance had a chance to interview James Winter, the brain child behind the earlier posted videos, The Mike Gasher Show and No Maquiladora U!.

What were the intentions behind the videos?
Winter: It was just to draw some broader attention to what's happening here both on campus and off campus. Get some of the issues out and do it using humour, and clarity and satire and so forth.

Why'd you choose satire to make your points?
Winter: I think it works very well. People enjoy the humour, and they're willing to sit down and watch the piece, so we thought that might be an effective way. The students were fabulous. All of the animation was done by a graduate student in our program, Danielle Sabelli, she's a genius, as well as an original song was written and performed by another graduate student in our department, Travis Reitsma. All I did really, was to write the script on that animation, and they did everything else.

When did you decide these were something you wanted to do?

Winter: It was really as the strike was beginning to happen. It all took place within about a week. I know nothing about animation really, and people just said to me, 'How in the world did they do that in a single week?' And it's just because they worked so hard, it was something like 65 hours.

Now the other interview, we're recording another interview today. So there'll be more of those up, there will be a series of them.

Who are you interviewing next?
Winter: We're going to stick with Neil Gold for a little bit here, and then we're going to branch out from there and probably go to the president and some of the other characters involved.

It's going to be another interview-style video with Mike?
Mike Gasher, he's a free-lance journalist, does his own show.

How'd you meet Mike Gasher?
Uh, he did an interview with me a little while back. And I thought, here's a guy who asks penetrating questions, so enjoy his show.

What's the feedback been from people?
Oh, I can't believe it. Walking along the streets today, and of course there's a lot of people I don't know, and they say, "Saw your video, loved it." And of course the reaction online which has been fabulous and on Youtube.

- - - - - - - - -
And as promised, the latest installment of the Mike Gasher Show

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