I have been asked to write a letter of solidarity for the Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 153 at Pratt Institute, which represents all clerical, secretarial and technical academic support staff. I am all too happy to oblige. As many of you are aware, they are currently engaged in a tough negotiation with the Pratt Institute Administration and have been without a contract since June 30, 2005.
You might recall that during the recent transit workers strike, politicians eager to look tough to their business and corporate cronies, continually pointed out that the transit workers were breaking the law and engaging in an illegal strike. Although technically true in that all public employees are governed by the ‘Taylor Law’ (which interestingly grants closed shop or agency fee to bargaining units in exchange for forfeiture of the right to strike), this political posturing was all about portraying workers as engaged in “lawlessness” and “thuggery”. Be that as it may, many of us in the private sector fortunate enough to have collective bargaining rights also have the right to strike. Yet, one can only engage in a strike when a contract has lapsed or is expired.
The threat of a strike can be leverage should a negotiation stall or reach an impasse. The UFCT is currently in contract with the Institute — an agreement that is not due to expire until August 31, 2007. Article XXXII: ‘No Strikes-No Lockouts’ of the CBA is worthy of your perusal and specifically addresses this issue.
For myself, I have never crossed a picket line and have no plans of doing so.
However, as President of the UFCT there would be serious implications for our union should I be seen as advocating, instigating, engaging in, supporting, encouraging or condoning any strike, work stoppage or other concerted refusal to perform work. As a bargaining unit member you should be careful as well.
That said, we are all creative enough to figure out how to show solidarity with those who are without a contract and need our moral support.
Dear Pratt Colleague:
There is not a day that goes by where upon opening my e-mail, picking up a newspaper or perusing the evening news, I am not spared yet another story of corporate hegemony, wars of choice, diminished civil liberties, pension fund raids, journalism as propaganda, union busting and decertification efforts, lax worker safety regulations, faulty intelligence, legislative failures to raise the minimum wage, the disappearing middle class, rising health costs and illegal wire taps and surveillance (to name just a few).
We are all in the midst of the total WalMart-ization of the American economy, its production of goods, services and employment. All of the aforementioned are the collateral damage and fallout of managerial and administrative torched earth practices deliberately seeking the total subjugation and dis-empowerment of American employees and workers.
For the overwhelming majority of us who actually work for a living, these grim realities are both sickening and depressing; endemic pathologies that appear to be insurmountable. However, all is not lost, for all politics are local!
The Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 153 at Pratt Institute, which represents all clerical, secretarial and technical academic support staff at Pratt, is presently stalled in negotiations with the Pratt Institute Administration and have been working without a contract since June 30, 2005. Their union’s demands have been sound, fair and reasonable. Yet, the Administration remains intransigent and is not bargaining in good faith.
Our Pratt colleagues deserve our respect and need our moral support!
During the abysmal nineties and Pratt’s financial crisis, these clerical, secretarial and technical support staff colleagues took it on the chin to help Pratt (their employer) make ends meet, accepting only minimal pay raises over three contracts (which didn’t even keep up with inflation) in addition to health benefits give backs. The Pratt Institute Administration, now flush with cash and surpluses, has shown its gratitude by refusing to accept the union’s exceedingly reasonable demands. The union seeks only to put its bargaining unit members on a course where they might eventually meet parity with their fellow brethren at other institutions.
Does this sound familiar?
As a long serving Pratt Institute faculty employee and one who personally appreciates the academic and institutional support our staff brothers and sisters provide each and every day, and, as the President of the United Federation of College Teachers Local 1460, I pledge my unwavering solidarity with the struggle of the Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 153, and with ALL who wish to freely organize and bargain collectively.
I urge my faculty colleagues to do the same.
Adjunct Professor w/CCE
President UFCT Local 1460