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March -- April, 2014
New Ground 153.1 -- 04.01.2014
New Ground 153.2 -- 04.15.2014
by Judith Kegan Gardiner
Signs carried by faculty outside classroom and administration buildings indicated key causes of faculty dissatisfaction. "What would Jane Addams do?" asked a sign in front of the famous Chicago activist's historic Hull-House Museum on Halsted Street. "Close your laptop and join the picket line," others urged. Some signs said simply, "Contract Now" and "Teaching Conditions = Learning Conditions." One long-term lecturer held a sign saying, "I teach, therefore I am [exploited]."
The UIC UF union was recognized by the Illinois Labor Relations Board in June, 2012, and union representatives rapidly drafted a set of contract demands. Key issues include multi-year contracts and raises for non-tenure track faculty, many of whom with Ph.D. degrees currently earn $30,000 a year for full-time teaching or less, which is less than public school teachers earn and about on a par with many fast food workers. However, these "adjuncts" or "contingent faculty" are treated as temporary workers without job security who can be fired by administrative will, even when they've been teaching at UIC for years. Although tenured faculty are more secure, they have received no raises in the past few years and in fact were subject to a "furlough" or pay cut imposed from the top. According to statistics circulated by the American Association of University Professors, the University of Illinois system is far from broke: It is accumulating huge cash reserves from raised tuition, even though aid via the state legislature continues to decline.
Distinguished Chicago activist Dick Simpson, Professor of Political Science at UIC, declared that "I'm striking so that future teachers will be protected and have their rights. We are the ones who create this university and deserve a voice." Lennard Davis, Professor of English and of Disability Studies, criticized the UIC administration's long "charade of collective bargaining," conducted by administration lawyers but without the participation of decision-making authorities.
Many faculty feel that the governing body of the University of Illinois system, the Board of Trustees appointed by the governor, has adopted a corporate model of management, resulting in higher tuition costs to students, larger numbers of high-paid administrators, but fewer stable faculty. In contrast, the University of Oregon, whose union was formed at the same time as UIC's, has now achieved an equitable contract endorsed by its faculty.
Claiming that tenured and contingent faculty have nothing in common, the UIC administration sued UICUF to insure that there be two bargaining units. However, UIC United Faculty have continued to cooperate in joint bargaining sessions rather than permitting themselves to be divided. Non-tenure track faculty share concerns about faculty voice, participation in governance, and responsibility to students. They agree that contingent faculty who must travel to multiple jobs to make ends meet cannot devote themselves as fully as they would wish to attending student conferences and supervising student labs and writing.
UIC United Faculty President Joe Persky, a Professor of Economics, claims that "The heart of UIC is its faculty and its students, but the Illinois Board of Trustees short change them both. They take more of our students' tuition money, and even with hundreds of millions in profits each year and more than a billion dollars in reserves, they refuse to pay professors what they're worth.... The administration's priorities don't match our mission, and after trying to negotiate a fair contract for eighteen months, they left us no choice but to strike, which only strengthened our unity and resolve. It's time for the University to get as serious as we are, and settle this contract now." If a reasonable settlement is not reached soon, the union fears it will have to engage in a longer, more open-ended strike at the end of the spring term.
Editor's Note: Strike photos and
the latest about the February walkout can be found at uicunitedfaculty.org.
For a look at the issues facing labor in academia, see Episode
22 of "Talkin' Socialism", an interview with Joe
Persky and Holly Graff.
Statement by DSA's National Political Committee
Seized by police during a mass arrest of peaceful protestors, McMillan was beaten severely by the police on her ribs and arms until she went into seizure. She was subsequently denied medical treatment by the police for a lengthy period of time.
According to her attorney, before the beating, an individual grabbed her right breast from behind and McMillan instinctively threw an elbow in response. McMillan's assailant turned out to be a male plainclothes police officer. In addition, the defense has recently learned that the arresting officer has previously been involved in incidents involving the possible excessive use of force, as well as other possible illegal behavior.
Despite the facts in the case that demonstrate that the police initiated the altercation, Cecily McMillan is facing charges that could yield up to a seven year prison term. Due to the unjustified nature of the police assault on McMillan and her subsequent brutal beating, DSA joins independent observers in demanding that the charges be dropped immediately.
At the same time, DSA would point out that McMillan is just one of more than 700 protesters arrested in the course of New York Occupy Wall Street's mass mobilization. These mass arrests during a peaceful protest resulted from a policing policy of "arrest now, ask questions, and find charges later," a pattern of unjust policing noted in a scrupulously detailed report issued by the NYU School of Law and Fordham Law School faculties.
According to this report, the NYPD routinely used excessive force against Occupy protestors, with the police employing batons, pepper spray, scooters, and horses against the peaceful demonstrators. This behavior has led to the vast majority of these 700 charges being dismissed by the courts.
DSA notes that Cecily McMillan has been an active member for several years of both DSA and its youth section, the Young Democratic Socialists, having served as the volunteer northeast regional coordinator for YDS in 2011-12. But McMillan's case is just one blatant example of a broader pattern of state violation of the basic right of all to peacefully assemble and protest.
DSA urges its members and friends to participate in demonstrations of support for McMillan and to contribute to the costs of her defense. We urge everyone to sign the petition requesting that the District Attorney drop the charges against McMillan.
Concerned individuals can click here to find more information about the upcoming protest on her arraignment date of March 19.
In addition, we urge members to click here to contribute
funds for her defense. Please join with us and stand in solidarity
by Dan Hamilton
The narrative needs to be regained about the nature of democracy. If we only see a strict binary between the private sphere and the government, it is no wonder that the democratic process will become impoverished. As Rancière points out, democracy is not necessarily about enlarging the influence of government but about enlarging the public sphere: "Enlarging the public sphere does not entailasking for State encroachments on society." He also writes, calling out those who have co-opted the name of democracy for neoliberal ends, "Under the name democracy what is being implicated and denounced is politics itself."
Although Rancière is writing from a French perspective, his critique hits particularly hard here in the US. It ought to be argued that if we want a healthier version of democracy that moves beyond simply serving either private or governmental interests, the public sphere needs to be expanded. When conservatives in the US argue for the privatization of healthcare, schools, and social security, they aren't simply arguing for the private sector to provide these services. What is actually happening, and what is far more grim, is that they are saying not only should these services not be provided through the government, but they shouldn't even be up for public discussion. How can a democracy, which hinges on the input and deliberation of the people, properly function if these most basic of topics are not allowed into the discussion?
The role Rancière's critique can play in regaining a real meaning of democracy is an important one, but even what Rancière is doing within the confines of this little book is interesting. In calling out the neoliberals for undermining democracy, Rancière uses an effective linguistic trick. He understands that democracy is a mantle claimed by most anyone in Western society -- whether on the Right or Left. In arguing that the Right is not actually promoting democracy, Rancière does not criticize them as haters of socialism, he calls them "haters of democracy," which will go much further in undermining their position rather than using terminology they are predisposed to reject from the start.
Another of the important arguments made in Hatred of Democracy is that we have seen in recent years a destruction of the divide between public and private, leaving us only with "the social." What has fuelled this is the increasingly consumerist nature of our democracy. It has created a situation where citizens, to be participants in democracy, no longer have to actively engage in politics, but rather can be agents of democracy simply be being a consumer -- shopping at certain stores and not at others. Of course, this is indicative of the destruction of our democracy, further shrinking the public sphere and eliminating public discourse.
Despite this book essentially being a screed against everything that angers Rancière, once the initial fervor passes after the first chapter, the reader is rewarded with some thoughtful analysis of the nature of democracy, different theories of its form, and forces in the modern world that are working against it. Its biggest strength is the ability to shed light on the true possibilities that exist for the democratic ideal, while neither capitulating to neoliberal democratic forms nor abandoning the project entirely.
Editor's Note: Hatred
of Democracy, originally published in France in 2005, was
recently reissued in 2014 as part of the Verso Radical Thinkers
Series. More information on this book and information on purchasing
it, can be found at Verso
by Tom Broderick
The next necessary step is to attend the Village Township meeting and get enough votes at the meeting to support ballot status. The Village Township meeting is Tuesday, April 8 at 6:30 PM. The location is tentative, but very likely the same as last year, which is the Township Senior Center at 130 S. Oak Park Avenue. If that location changes, we will let you know.
To pass, a simple majority of votes must be cast for each referendum. No more than three referenda can be on the ballot, so the referenda that get the greatest number of votes earn ballot status. Voters must be registered to vote in Oak Park.
Please mark your calendars and join
us at the Oak Park Township Senior Center on Tuesday, April 8
at 6:30 PM at 130 S. Oak Park Avenue and vote for democracy in
compiled by Bob Roman
Friday, April 4, 7:30 PM to 9 PM, the Greater Oak Park DSA will be having a reception for three members of DSA's National Political Committee who will be in town for the Labor Notes conference and other events:
The reception will be at the home of Bill Barclay and Peg Strobel, 150 N. Lombard, Oak Park, between the Austin and Ridgeland stops on the CTA Green Line. For more information, call 708.386.1371.
For those with an interest in left political ephemera, U.S. and European, or for someone looking to decorate a room, we've got a selection of posters you might like. Some of them may be "collectible". For most of them, we're only asking $15. To see what's still available, CLICK HERE.
The Chicago Abortion Fund is having a "bowlathon" on Saturday, March 29, 2 PM to 5:30 PM, at Timber Lanes, 1851 W. Irving Park Rd, Chicago. Each participant is being asked to raise at least $100. The Fund provides financial assistance for women unable to afford an abortion. For more information about the event, CLICK HERE.
Save the date! The 56th annual Debs -- Thomas -- Harrington Dinner will be Friday evening, May 16, at the Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza. "The War on Poverty: Fifty Years On" will feature Leone Jose Bicchieri, Executive Director of the Chicago Workers' Collaborative. More details very soon!
Upcoming Events of Interest
Events listed here are not necessarily endorsed by Chicago DSA but should be of interest to DSA members, friends and other lefties.