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Now long time readers of TUW understand how I feel about symbolism. I do not view it as harmless. And long time readers are probably familiar with the change in campus culture that has happened over the past decade or so. As such, you understand that nothing in this “discussion” from the student or even the SEIU standpoint has anything to do with discussion, logical reasoning, understanding how unions work, understanding how labor markets work, understanding or respecting individual rights, etc. And it is probably really unintelligent of me to expect to be able to argue and discuss such things on their merits. Remember, this episode? The “solar bench” still sits there, with not a single soul ever using it for many, many years, and ironically it sits just a few feet away from where our intrepid students who stand in solidarity with me are holding signs that are angry about how we waste tuition dollars:


And of course if you look at those signs and the others, it is flatly absurd on its face to suggest the U of R is union busting. In fact, the University never initiated contact with us before the SEIU came around. And I think several faculty members sent emails to their bosses and to the university to get a better understanding for what is going on. The University’s response was, as usual, careful and measured. They set up a website at the Provost’s office website and sent a couple of emails with information about how the process worked. And a recent email from the Provost came to faculty where he laid out his position on the effort. To call it “union busting” is a joke. And certainly union supporters who are calling the U of R union busters are trying to tarnish the U of R by evoking memories of things like this. They are also forgetting that if any institutions in the United States are favorable to the very causes that these students are advocating for, it is the University system itself. So now universities, first having cultivated and fostered an environment where the oppressor-oppressed narrative is the major narrative by which all relationships are to be viewed, have not found themselves ensnarled because of this very ideology.

Now, I view the students’ activism here as threatening. They do not know anything about labor law. They do not know anything about how unions work. They do not understand that they are holding signs and signing petitions that will 100% surely make my working conditions worse. And not only that, they are bringing this to me, I did not ask for their support, I did not ask to be part of a union … so basically what is happening is people are marching into your living room, taking a small piece of furniture out of it, supporting a law that says you can no longer on your own go to the furniture store and figure out what pieces to buy and not to buy, and never once recognizing that they were not invited in or that people were quite pleased with their furniture and the process by which they buy it.

They are directly threatening my job, my satisfaction with my job, and my family. Such behavior is certainly not tolerated in any walk of life, but the students seem to not be capable of thinking through the implications of their “solidarity” with us. And if they are capable, and do understand it, then what they are openly advocating for is a worsening of my career options for the sake of a betterment of some other faculty members career options. Again, let’s not even waste breath trying to understand why adjuncts are not paid well and whether the narrative of “oppressed holders of PhDs” fits. No, let’s just skip right past that.

So, I am not happy at all, and I wanted the students to know it. And no, I am not trying to “open a dialogue” or “engage in meaningful debate” about this. When someone breaks into your living room, takes your couch, and supports a passage of a law that won’t allow you to buy furniture on your own, you are not really wanting to “talk it out.” Really, you are ready to call the cops to have them prosecuted for their crimes. Now of course, we live in strange times, and you are not allowed to tell people that you are not appreciative of what they are doing. You are not allowed to raise your ire at the behavior of people that you view not only as wrong, but which provably will do financial, career and emotional harm to you. You are supposed to embrace it. Stupid me for forgetting that. So, here is what I sent the group, which of course was loudly ignored:

Interesting e-mail.
Do you understand the misleading tactics being used by SEIU to organize the faculty? For example, the SEIU organizers are only trying to solicit signatures from people they think will vote yes. Is that “democratic?” They even threaten to rip up cards from people who question what they are doing. Is that “democratic?” Do you know how well SEIU organizers communicate their intentions and the likely outcomes to potential faculty?
Do you know how the union effort was started? Did U of R faculty get together and push for this, or did the SEIU insert themselves onto campus to do this?
Do you respect a faculty member’s right NOT to want to be a part of this union?
Do you believe the SEIU has a right to take $360 from my paycheck without my approval?
Do you think the SEIU understands my working conditions and situation better than I do?
Do you think that I would be better off if a centralized group of people, who know little of me, my circumstances, or my department, would put me in a better position to negotiate agreeable contract terms than me? I am extremely pleased with my department chair and associate chairs, with my Deans and the Provost. They have been honest, fair, and generous to me and have rewarded my hard work. They have been flexible in my scheduling and family needs, and we have a great relationship when it comes to my course load, new course options, and more.
I am a non-tenure track teaching faculty member. I took the position here because it was one where I had to face the market test each and every year, and that the position would be flexible. Inserting the SEIU into my relationship with the U of R not only does not have a prospect for improving my working conditions, but it also strips me of my individuality and it strips me of a very attractive part of being a non-tenure track faculty member here.
Do you not respect my desire NOT to be represented by the SEIU? I take this issue as a serious threat not just to my personal well-being and happiness, but to the well-being of my family and I find it beyond disingenuous that a few breathless petitions are being passed around that supposedly “speak for me” and “support me” … you do not speak for me. The SEIU does not speak for me. You do not understand the nature of employment relationships and the myriad excellent things that the U of R does for me. I cannot speak for my other non-tenure track colleagues, nor do I think I should.
Quite frankly, the note from you is disheartening and threatening – I have worked extremely hard for almost 20 years to put myself in a position to have an employment opportunity like this. Both I and my employer are very satisfied by our relationship. And YOU presume to know better than I do what is best for me? And YOU presume to forcefully change the nature of my employment relationship and forcefully take money out of my pocket for that “privilege.”
Now, there are no guarantees in work, and that is fine.
Please leave me alone. Or is forcing your views and policies on me, when neither I nor many people like me asked for it, your view of “democracy?” Down the rabbit hole we go.
Since I got no response, I resent that directly to the three students I know, with the addition:
Do you know what union busting is?
Do you know exactly how the U of R has communicated with us about this campaign?
Do you know what it actually means to “Empower Contingent Faculty?” It seems to me that your efforts are directly trying to DISempower me, and I do not appreciate that in any way.
The union tactics are familiar, and sad. I expect to have my windows smashed, or worse, for my apostasy.
-Professor Rizzo

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