Category Archives: Labor

BC Teachers’ Strike: Analyzing the government’s bargaining strategy & its “affordability” trope

Published in Rabble.ca on Friday, September 12, 2014 as:

B.C. schools could be open Monday, if the government wanted

Public schools in British Columbia could be open Monday, if the government wanted.

On Wednesday, in nearly unanimous fashion, members of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation voted to walk from the picket lines into their classrooms, if the B.C. Liberal government would agree to binding arbitration on all issues, except the most contentious, class size and composition, which is currently before the courts.

Prior to the teachers’ vote government rejected the idea, twice. Education Minister Peter Fassbender called the teachers’ effort to get the schools open by going to binding arbitration, “absolutely silly” and “a ploy.”  The former advertising salesman who has been the face of a formidable government PR campaign seemed uncharacteristically perturbed.

In recent weeks, the government’s strategy has become increasingly transparent. Forcing teachers to choose between financial hardship, perhaps ruin, or protecting court victories over a government that stripped class size and composition language from their contract 12 years ago.

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that the provincial government infringed on teachers’ Charter rights when it stripped class size and composition language from their contract in 2002. Justice Susan Griffin gave the government a year to solve the problem.

In 2012, the legislature enacted new legislation that had same effect as the old and, in January 2012, Justice Griffin’s ruled in favor of the teachers again.

Former crown prosecutor Sandy Garossino told Global TV,

“Over and over and over again, [Justice Griffin] goes through a litany of examples of where the government really never intended to negotiate in good faith with the union at all. It’s very hard to get past that ruling, and it really does in my view cast a completely different view on the nature of the negotiations that are going on now. The credibility of the government is certainly in question.”

Government is appealing Justice Griffin’s decision and it is scheduled to be heard next month by the B.C. Court of Appeals.

Meantime, government wants to negotiate its way out of court losses by insisting teachers accept a contract clause, known as E80, which the union and legal experts say abrogates teachers’ court victories requiring government to restore class size and composition language to teachers’ contracts. E80 is a poison pill the union refuses to swallow.

Throughout negotiations government has argued that B.C. teachers’ demands are unaffordable. It would be more accurate to say that the B.C. Liberals have prioritized cutting taxes for the rich and corporations over providing adequate funding for public services such as education and child welfare.

The key factors in affordability are size of the economy and tax rates.

B.C. Liberals waltzed into the legislature in 2001 and started an unprecedented program of inequitable tax cuts. As a result, B.C. now has a regressive tax system. A Broadbent Institute report released this week points out that in the B.C. the poor are now paying more in all taxes as a percentage of income than the rich.

B.C. Liberals’ tax cuts over the past 10 years have benefited the richest 1 per cent of British Columbians to the tune of $41,000 per year, while the bottom 40 per cent have benefited by an average of $200 per year.

Both the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Conference Board of Canada agree that despite the elimination of the provincial deficit and the recently announced $353 million surplus, overall spending as a share of the provincial GDP is shrinking and will reach a record low in 2017.

In August, the Conference Board report “British Columbia Fiscal Snapshot: Back on Solid Groupnd” said the B.C. government will have to spend $1.6 billion more than it has budgeted on education to maintain a constant level of spending over the next three years.

With the B.C. near the bottom in provincial per student education funding and B.C. teachers near the bottom in average salary, government has budgeted 0.6 per cent increases for K-12 education the next three years. That’s not a typo.

While the provincial budget conservatively projects revenue increases at 8 percent annually, it has budgeted less than a one per cent annual increase in the budget for B.C. schools.

The current B.C. budget projects the economy to grow by almost 20 per cent over the next five years, before inflation. And the government estimates teachers’ demands for wages, class size and composition funding would add up to nearly 15 per cent over same period.

What Minister Fassbender really means when he says the province cannot afford teachers’ demands is that government has not budgeted enough to education to meet teachers’ demands.

The funding model for public education in B.C. reflects the ideological principle that more of the public’s collective wealth should be devoted to maximizing private profits rather than serving public needs.

The teachers have proven they’re serious about getting back to work. The B.C. Liberals remained intractable in their devotion to an ideology that is fundamentally anti-social.

Cultural Logic Releases Three Volumes of Critical Scholarship In One Day

Cultural Logic has just announced an epic launch of three volumes of critical scholarship addressing a wide range of issues.

Cultural Logic, which has been on-line since 1997, is a open access, non-profit, peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal that publishes essays, interviews, poetry, reviews (books, films, other media), etc. by writers working within the Marxist tradition.

Volumes 2011 and 2012 were edited by David Siar.

Volume 2013 is the open access version the Education for Revolution issue that was published by Works & Days in December 2013, which I co-edited with Rich Gibson. Thanks to everyone for your contributions, to David Downing and his team for publishing the issue in Works & Days, to David Siar for his editorial and site management, and to Joe Ramsey for suggesting the WD/CL collaboration for the Education for Revolution issue.

Below are the Contents for Volumes 2011, 2012, and 2013

Cultural Logic, Volume 2011
Articles
Mathias Dapprich
“A Contribution Towards a Critical Theory of School Shootings”

Jerry Leonard
“Reading Notes on Sangeeta Ray’s Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak: Polemic with Digressions on a Theory of Irreducibility”

Ronald Paul
“The Politics of the Personal in Edward Upward’s The Spiral Ascent”

Spyros Sakellaropoulos
“On the Causes of the Civil War in Nepal and the Role of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)”

Larry Schwartz
“Apocalypse Then: Philip Roth’s Indignation”

Daniel Silvermintz
“Enlightenment in the Shopping Mall”

Response and Counter-Response
Mike Jones
“Some Comments on Sven-Eric Holmström’s ‘New Evidence’ Concerning the Hotel Bristol in the First Moscow Trial of 1936”

Sven-Eric Holmström
“Reply to Mike Jones”

Poetry
Christopher Barnes
(From) The Electric Chair Poems

Cultural Logic, Volume 2012
Articles
Julianne Buchsbaum
“Alienation, Reification, and Narrativity in Russell Banks’ Affliction”

Alzo David-West
“North Korea and the Theory of the Deformed Workers’ State: Definitions and First Principles of a Fourth International Theory”

Haidar Eid
“White Noise: Representations of (Post)modern Intelligentsia”

Doug Enaa Greene
“Leninism and Blanquism”

Desmond Peeples
“Toward an Anarcho-Empiricism: Integrating Precedent, Theory, and Impetus in the Anarchist Project”

E. San Juan, Jr.
“In Lieu of Saussure: A Prologue to Charles Sanders Peirce’s Theory of Signs”

Huei-ju Wang
“Becoming ‘Migrant John’: John Steinbeck and His Migrants and His (Un)conscious turn to Marx”

Poetry
George Snedeker
Selected Poems

Cultural Logic, Education for Revolution, Volume 2013
Preface
E. Wayne Ross & Rich Gibson
“Education for Revolution”

Foreword
David B. Downing, Nicholas P. Katsiadas, Tracy J. Lassiter & Reza Parchizadeh
“Forward to the Revolution” (Forward to the Works & Days Edition)

Articles
Rich Gibson
“Barbarism Rising: Detroit, Michigan and the International War of the Rich on the Poor”

E. Wayne Ross & Kevin D. Vinson
“Resisting Neoliberal Education Reform: Insurrectionist Pedagogies and the Pursuit of Dangerous Citizenry”

Julie A. Gorlewski & Brad J. Porfilio
“Reimaging Solidarity: Hip-Hop as Revolutionary Pedagogy”

Timothy Patrick Shannon & Patrick Shannon
“Learning to Be Fast Capitalists on a Flat World”

Brian D. Lozenski, Zachary A. Casey & Shannon K. McManimon
“Contesting Production: Youth Participatory Action Research in the Struggle to Produce Knowledge”

Mike Cole
“Schooling for Capitalism or Education for Twenty-First Century Socialism?”

Curry Stephenson Malott
“Class Consciousness and Teacher Education: The Socialist Challenge and the Historical Context”

Deborah P. Kelsh
“The Pedagogy of Excess”

John Maerhofer
“Undermining Capitalist Pedagogy: Takiji Kobayashi’s Toseikatsusha and the Ideology of the World Literature Paradigm”

Grant Banfield
“Marxist Sociology of Education and the Problem of Naturalism: An Historical Sketch”

David J. Blacker
“The Illegitimacy of Student Debt”

Alan J. Singer
“Hacking Away at the Corporate Octopus”

Richard A. Brosio
“A Tale of Two Cities —— and States”

Alan Spector
“SDS, the 1960s, and Education for Revolution”

Does size matter when it comes to public school classes?

[Cross posted from Institute for Critical Education Studies blog]

Does size matter when it comes to public school classes?

This question was debated on CBC Radio’s The Current this morning. Burnaby, BC grade 4/5 teacher Jennifer Heighton, Russ Whitehurst of the Brookings Institution, and I weighed in on the question.

Important context is the ongoing BC teachers strike, where class size and composition are key elements of contract negotiations. The ruling BC Liberals stripped class size and composition rules from the BC teachers contract in 2002, a move that has twice been judged as illegal by BC courts.

I’ve written a brief summary of class size research, with key references, which you can find here.

You can read a very recent review of the research on class size here.

Last month, Global TV BC broadcast a “town hall” discussion on a wide variety of education issues related to education in BC and the ongoing dispute between teachers and government, including class size. You can watch that segment here.

Here’s a good background piece from The Tyee: Everything You Need to Know about BC Teacher Bargaining

Listen to The Current segment (21 minutes) on class size here.

BC Teachers Strike Debate on Global BC Morning News Show

This morning on the Global BC Morning News Show, Sophie Lui and Steve Darling interviewed a variety of people on key issues related to education in British Columbia, in the context of the current labour dispute between the teachers and the BC government.

Segment 1
Topic: Cost of education to both parents and teachers (for example, money spent on supplies, possibility of corporate sponsorships as possible solution to alleviate the funding problem?)
Guest 1: Lisa Cable (Parents for B.C. Founder)
Guest 2: Harman Pandher (Burnaby School Board Trustee, Surrey teacher & parent)

Segment 2
Peter Fassbender, BC Minister of Education

Segment 3
Jim Iker, President of British Columbia Teachers Federation

Segment 4
Topic: Class size & composition
Guest 1: E. Wayne Ross (UBC Professor, Faculty of Education)
Guest 2: Nick Milum (Vancouver School Board Student Trustee)

Segment 5
Topic: Future of education, fixing the system & avoiding future strikes?)
Guest 1: Charles Ungerleider (UBC Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Education)
Guest 2: Dan Laitsch (SFU Associate Professor, Faculty of Education)

CAUT Begins the Process Toward Censure of UBC re: Policy 81

The University of British Columbia Faculty Association announced today that,

At its meeting on March 14 & 15, the CAUT Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee considered UBC’s Policy 81 and all of the associated documentation. Following that consideration, the committee voted unanimously to recommend to the CAUT Executive that it bring a motion to CAUT Council in early May to begin the censure process of the UBC Administration. If they approve the recommendation, the Executive would bring a motion to Council that “CAUT will censure the UBC Administration at its November 2014 Council meeting unless the University ends the policy that the University may use, revise, and allow other UBC Instructors to use and revise a faculty member’s teaching materials, unless the faculty member specifically prohibits such use.”

CAUT’s procedures relating to censure are available here.

Organizing adjunct faculty: In whose interests?

In  2012, the Service Employees International Union announced a locally focused organizing strategy, aimed at adjunct faculty working in large metropolitan areas. The idea is that by unionizing as many institutions as possible in a metro area, market pressures will build for colleges and universities to improve adjuncts’ pay, benefits, and working conditions, creating new local benchmarks.

SEIU Local 500  has had success in Washington DC area organizing adjunct unions  at American University, George Washington University,  Georgetown University and Montgomery College in Maryland. And organizing efforts are progressing at other area institutions, such as the University of DC.

SEIU’s Adjunct Action effort has since spread to Boston (Tufts University, Northeastern University, Lesley, Bentley University), Los Angeles, (Whittier College, University of La Verne) and Seattle, (Pacific Lutheran University) and other US cities, including Philadelphia.

But now, a little over a year since the SEIU metro strategy was announced, the American Federation of Teachers have announced their own citywide adjunct organizing strategy in Philadelphia, where they’ll be in direct competition with SEIU’s efforts.

According to Inside Higher Ed, the AFT’s United Academics of Philadelphia has targeted adjuncts (and graduate employees) at a number of the City of Brotherly Love’s higher education institutions, including: Temple University, Moore College of Art and Design, University of Pennsylvania, Bryn Mawr College, Swarthmore College, Community College of Philadelphia, Villanova University, and St. Joseph’s University. United Academics’ aim is to “become a city-wide bargaining unit under a common contract onto which individual campuses could sign.”

Is there enough adjunct love to go around in Philly?

Is the competition between SEIU and AFT to represent Philadelphia adjuncts a good thing for their potential members?

What is happening in Philadelphia seems to be a burgeoning turf war between SEIU and AFT and the prize is dues money (and clout). The Philadelphia situation is nothing new, merely a variation on a long running theme of unions battling for (each others) members, something that has intensified as organized trade union membership in the US has continued its slide. Recent examples include: SEIU v National Union of Healthcare Workers (Kaiser Permanente in California); Transportation Workers Union v Teamsters (American Airlines mechanics); Teamsters v International Association of Machinist (US Airways); and SEIU (SPM) v Federacion de Maestros de Puerto Rico (FMPR), to name a few.

Certainly these situations are bad PR for unions (especially since nearly 90% of the workforce in the US is unorganized). It’s also true that union raiding and organizing battles contradict the notion of solidarity amongst all unions and workers. The fact is that union bosses pretty much operate on the mantra of “solidarity for never” (as Rich Gibson says). Examples: Lawsuits filed by the nurses union against SEIU or the TWU’s legal actions against the Teamsters. Ironically (or not) what fuels these intra-labor union wars, at least in part, are the concessions these same unions have bargained away (e.g., job cuts, two-tier wage scales, benefit givebacks, the right to strike, etc.) all in order to ensure the flow of dues money.

Unions ≠ Worker Solidarity

Solidarity is the power of labor, no doubt. But worker solidarity shouldn’t be conflated with trade unions and their bosses. From the examples above we can see the divisions union bosses often create among workers and between union members and other members of the working class, with whom they share collective interests. In short, workers need to cast a wary eye toward their own unions because the unity of interests often described between the rank-and-file workers and their unions is most often a chimera.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather be a union member than not and I support organizing of all academics because unions have the potential to improve workplace rights, working conditions, wages, benefits, etc. But organizing, followed by bargaining a contract is merely the first steps of building solidarity and there are serious limitations to the kind of “business unionism” contracts we see for teachers and academics in particular.

For example, teacher unions in the US have tied their interests to corporate education reform (note that not all teachers have, but the union leadership has). The solidarity offered by National Education Association and AFT is not with the source of real educator power—that is unity with poor and working class parents and students who have everything to gain from school. Some early teacher unionists, such as Margaret Haley (who worked in both the NEA and AFT in the early 1900s), led campaigns that drew on the powerful unity of interests among students, teachers, and parents around issues such as class size, freedom to control the local curriculum, and a more just tax system.

Unfortunately both NEA and AFT have abandoned the vision that would link the activities of school workers with students and parents. The most obvious example of this estrangement of interests is the 1968 Ocean Hill-Brownsville teacher strike, which pitted the New York City teachers union, led by the late, long-time AFT President Albert Shanker, against the African American community. The conflict centered on community control of public schools. The union won and community control was lost, establishing a labor-management model that mirrors private industry, one in which educational policy was determined in bilateral negotiations between a highly centralized school administration and highly centralized union. 

Neither of these unions, anywhere, has attained attractive and enforceable rules about class size. Neither union has fought hard against the shift of the tax burden onto poor and working people. Neither the NEA nor AFT has defended academic freedom from the onslaught of standardized test regulations, indeed they commonly support a mandated curriculum (e.g., NCLB, Common Core State Standards).

The good news is that workers and their unions are not synonymous and there are movements within (and outside) of unions led by workers to pursue real, collective solidarity that extends beyond narrow unions interests.

In a nutshell, criticizing the actions of labor unions is far from throwing the interests of rank-and-file workers (or the working class) under the bus, indeed it is one of the first things we have to do to protect ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New Academic Labor Market and Graduate Students

The Institute for Critical Education Studies at UBC is very pleased to announce the launch of a new issue of Workplace: Journal for Academic Labor: The New Academic Labor Market and Graduate Students.

Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor
No 22 (2013)

The New Academic Labor Market and Graduate Students
Special Issue Edited by Bradley J. Porfilio, Julie A. Gorlewski , & Shelley Pineo-Jensen

Table of Contents

The New Academic Labor Market and Graduate Students: Introduction to the Special Issue

Brad Porfilio, Julie A. Gorlewski, Shelley Pineo-Jensen

Dismissing Academic Surplus: How Discursive Support for the Neoliberal Self Silences New Faculty
Julie Gorlewski

Academia and the American Worker: Right to Work in an Era of Disaster Capitalism?
Paul L. Thomas

Survival Guide Advice and the Spirit of Academic Entrepreneurship: Why Graduate Students Will Never Just Take Your Word for It
Paul Cook

Standing Against Future Contingency: Activist Mentoring in Composition Studies
Casie Janelle Fedukovich

From the New Deal to the Raw Deal: 21st Century Poetics and Academic Labor
Virginia Ann Konchan

How to Survive a Graduate Career
Roger Todd Whitson

In Every Way I’m Hustlin’: The Post-Graduate School Intersectional Experiences of Activist-Oriented Adjunct and Independent Scholars
Naomi Reed, Amy Brown

Ivory Tower Graduates in the Red: The Role of Debt in Higher Education
Nicholas D. Hartlep, Lucille T. Eckrich

Lines of Flight: the New Ph.D. as Migrant
Alvin Cheng-Hin Lim

Protest violent police repression of striking Mexican teachers

LETTER FROM US section of the Trinational Coalition to Defend Public Education

Asking us to support Mexican teachers – send to Mexican officials

We stand in solidarity with the teachers of CNTE in Mexico who are calling upon the government for a genuine dialogue, that their demands be acknowledged and that violent repression not be used against the nationwide movement in defense of public education as it was today in Mexico City. The rights to assemble and express legitimate concerns are rights that are inalienable rights that are part of the civil and democratic freedoms for which humanity has fought and died for during the last two centuries. WHEREVER POSSIBLE, ORGANIZE DEMONSTRATIONS IN FRONT OF MEXICAN CONSULATES AND TAKE PHOTOS TO BE SENT TO THE SAME ADDRESSES AS THE COPIES OF PROTEST LETTERS. Even a photo of 5 people in front of a consulate is a tremendous morale booster for our brothers and sisters fighting against the destruction of teacher unions & public education!

Police end teachers protest in Mexico City
Police attack striking Mexico teachers

LETTERS TO THE GOVERNMENT CAN BE SENT TO:
LIC. ENRIQUE PEÑA NIETO
Presidente Constitucional de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos
enrique.penanieto@presidencia.gob.mx

LIC. OSORIO CHONG MIGUEL ANGEL
Secretario de Estado
secretario@segob.mx

LIC. CHUAYFFET CHEMOR EMILIO
Secretaria de Educación Pública
emilio.chuayffet@sep.gob.mxrasagas@live.com
Prof. Eligio Hernández de Oaxaca XXII: eligiogonzalez@hotmail.com

Below is a copy of the letter that the US section of the Trinational Coalition to Defend Public Education sent to the protesting teachers in Mexico. Use it as a template and send copies to:
seccionmexicana.coali@gmail.com
Maestra Graciela Rangel de Michoacán sección XVIII: rasagas@live.com
Prof. Eligio Hernández de Oaxaca XXII: eligiogonzalez@hotmail.com

MEXICO D.F., MEXICO September 13, 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Trinational Coalition to Defend Public Education-USA extends our support for your valiant and militant struggle to defend not just your rights as teachers and trade unionists, but the Mexican people’s right to a public education that is guaranteed in your federal constitution. We applaud your courageous resistance against implementation of the present changes in the constitution which would use standardized tests for teachers to be hired and to keep their jobs, standardized tests for students that will limit their future opportunities in life as well as reducing federal funding to state and local schools. These changes will have the worst impact on the poorest states and communities, especially those whose population mainly speak languages other than Spanish.

We face similar attacks in the United States of America under the guise of “reform”. Your struggle for educational and union justice is an inspiration to us about how teachers and communities can unite to defend public education. You have clarified for the world that the forces behind these so-called reforms are powerful corporate interest that intend to privatize public education.

YOUR STRUGGLE IS OUR STRUGGLE!

In solidarity,

Rosemary Lee, for Trinational Coalition to Defend Public Education-section USA

Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor republishes back issues #1-5 and #9

Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor, back issues #1-5 and #9 are now reformatted and accessible through the Archives.

Thanks to the outstanding editorial work of ICES GRA Maya Borhani, we’ve been able to work forward and republish these back issues. The balance of back issues will be accessible in due time. We did our best to make this remediation work and apologize for any errors in the transfer. Please inform us if you pick up mistakes here or there. We also thank all of those who contribute/d as editors,reviewers, readers, and authors.

Some may prefer the more anarchic aesthetic of the original online format, wherein access remains at
http://louisville.edu/journal/workplace/issue5/back_issues.html and
http://louisville.edu/journal/workplace/workplace1/wokplace.html and
http://louisville.edu/journal/workplace/workplace2/wokplace2.html and
http://louisville.edu/journal/workplace/workplace2-1/wokplace2-1.html and here at UBC in the future.

Thank you for your interest in ICES, Critical Education, and Workplace.

Please keep the new manuscripts flowing in!

Sandra Mathison, Stephen Petrina & E. Wayne Ross, co-Directors
Institute for Critical Education Studies http://blogs.ubc.ca/ices/
University of British Columbia
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