Scabs


From the GTFF Facebook Page

From the GTFF Facebook Page

The Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTFF) is a few days from a potential strike against the University of Oregon. As reported by The Register Guard this morning in Eugene, mediation has failed. The strike date has been set by GTFF as December 2.

This past summer, the American Association of University Professors at Portland State University neared a strike. Rallies with several hundred supporters, especially students, took place before a deal was reached.

No public employee union in higher education has gone on strike since the collective bargaining act went into law in the mid-1970s (read our history of strikes). So, there’s reason for skepticism there will be one here. But the University of Oregon has put out the call for replacement workers/scabs to replace GTFF should there be a strike. That would lead to campus mayhem. According to the GTFF, they teach about 1/3 of all courses. The U.O. professors themselves just formed a union, and actions in support of GTFF from the faculty could be expected. And from a distance, at least in the Register-Guard, both sides seem fairly close to each other on compensation & benefits. A deal within the next few days is conceivable.

But whether there is a strike or not. the GTFF bargaining crisis points to a growing problem across higher education that’s been building for decades: reducing the number of hired faculty in favor of cheap reliance on part-time faculty, lower-level faculty, and graduate students to keep the colleges and universities running. Many of these instructors get no health benefits, no paid leave, and do not get a livable wage.

As higher education relies on graduate students and low-level faculty more and more, in lieu of providing more stable regular faculty jobs, it’s natural for graduate students and low-level faculty to realize the amount of power they have and to begin demanding fair wages, benefits, and working conditions. Whether a strike happens at the U.O. next week or not, this problem is growing and will require more attention soon on local and national levels.

The Chronicle of Higher Education: “University of Oregon Draws Criticism for Response to Threatened TA Strike

The GTFF has a Facebook Page that does a good job of putting faces and stories to the work going on, and also has a website. Its recent video featuring members “Why Am I Ready to Strike?” is worth a watch:

ImageDon’t know where the graph below is from, or if it’s accurate, but if true it points to the Portland school district struggling to meet its promises again, this time on bringing in teachers over the past year. Combining this with its recent hamhanded bullying of subs & hiring for replacement teachers off Craigslist, Portland Public Schools is reminiscent of the White Queen in Through the Looking Glass. Solutions tomorrow, solutions yesterday, but never a solution today—

“I’m sure I’ll take you with pleasure!” the Queen said. “Twopence a week, and jam every other day.”

Alice couldn’t help laughing, as she said “I don’t want you to hire me—and I don’t care for jam.”

“It’s very good jam,” said the Queen.

“Well, I don’t want any to-day, at any rate.”

“You couldn’t have it if you did want it,” the Queen said. “The rule is jam to-morrow and jam yesterday—but never jam to-day.”

“It must come sometimes to ‘jam to-day,'” Alice objected.

“No, it ca’n’t,” said the Queen. “It’s jam every other day: to-day isn’t any other day, you know.”

“I don’t understand you,” said Alice. “It’s dreadfully confusing!”

“That’s the effect of living backwards,” the Queen said kindly: “it always makes one a little giddy at first—”

PPS-Hiring

Eagle Point educators, both certified and classified staff, are still on strike. The district continues to behave dishonorably, hiring bus drivers who break the law (as captured on video), avoiding coming to the bargaining table determined to starve out their employees (quality service to students be damned), intimidating employees and students (see video below), and preparing to open sham classrooms with babysitters early next week.

The Eagle Point community deserves better behavior from their district. People now see students getting disrespected by the district in the same ways the district has disrespected their employees for months.

The district is luring replacement educators with bonuses to cross the picket line. Paying for hotel rooms and buses (doesn’t that get expensive?) from as far away as Portland. Most educators are saying no, and are heroes for doing so.

Times are tough, and slipping in to get some money while waving the “For the Kids!” flag may seem like a good idea, but that’s wrong.

By benefiting from the working conditions decades of union educators have fought for — while current educators are out putting their careers and families at risk — to cross the picket line drags everyone down in a race to the bottom.

Good contracts are not granted, they are fought for. Union educators in Oregon have fought for good benefits and working conditions for generations, sacrificing their own income and putting their careers on the line to build fair contracts and learning conditions for students.

Employers did not automatically grant child labor laws, worker safety protections, weekends, 40-hour workweeks, pensions, health care benefits, living wages. The labor movement, employees standing together, established all of those things.

Whether accepting a bonus of $10,000 or 30 pieces of silver, money is temporary. A reputation for having helped your brave colleagues on the picket line, or violating their union picket line for a quick money grab to hit their careers and families, is something they will remember forever.

Districts across the state seem to draw from the same playbook in using a budget shortfall, whether real or not (we’re looking at you, Reynolds School District!), to go after basic contract protections and rights and quality learning conditions they’ve been licking their chops over for years. Communities and parents push back, causing board members to have “public” tantrums in front of news cameras. It’s becoming a thing, as the kids say.

But Eagle Point School District is taking it further, going beyond scare tactics and bad information to bullying and illegality. Here are twelve examples on the eve of a possible May 8 strike of district attempts to attack educators, harm the community and students, and generally be lousy:

  1. Telling educators on disability they must cross the picket line and return for ‘light duty’ or else lose their disability. Does it matter that they have not been released for work by their doctors? Nope!
  2. Half-time employees are directed to work more hours or be fired. FUN FACT: if they work more hours they can join the union. Does the district mean to bully people into becoming Eagle Point education union members and making the picket lines larger? Weird strategy.
  3. A high school principal disregards student concerns about a strike, neglecting the opportunity to create a teachable moment about conflict resolution and non-violent demonstration. Frustrated and disrespected, students leave school to protest the situation, and the principal expels them. Another kind of teachable moment.
  4. Mayor has been calling businesses and asked them to stay out of the conflict (probably to make sure the principal doesn’t try to expel businesses, too).
  5. The district is using Craigslist to offer more than normal sub pay for replacements to work 5 hour shifts. Where is this magical money coming from? Isn’t Craigslist used more often for, ehm, personal connections? Don’t real educators use EdZapp instead? (EdZapp, if willing to donate $ for this free plug, let us know).
  6. Teachers are being asked to write 10 days worth of lesson plans before they check out for the strike. When they aren’t given time during the day to plan their lessons anyway. Why not only work extra time, to help replacement workers stealing their jobs? Genius!
  7. Every employee is being asked to check out and to take their personal belongings home, turn in keys, and computers. Some teachers are being asked to turn in textbooks as well. Days before the strike. The district should put their energy into bargaining seriously instead of ramping up for a strike.
  8. Security guards have been seen giving high fives to picketers (put in as a good-news item, figuring you wanted a break).
  9. Renting nearby private property for parking space, threatening to charge people parking there with trespass, and ordering security to only arrest those who look like they are “congregating”. “Racial profiling” is a common phrase, might this be “educator profiling”?
  10. Principals polling individual educators about their plans to strike or not, attempting to coerce employees into not striking. It’s been a few centuries since a good Inquisition, way to go old school! Are Eagle Point administrators certified at Wal-Mart?
  11. Telling educators they may not speak to parents or students about bargaining issues at all, any location or time, not just as school.
  12. Claiming publicly to be willing to meet to continue bargaining with educators, but consistently refusing to meet beyond the mandates of the limited availability of the state mediator.

Loyalty oaths or be fired! Ailing educators: detach the i.v. and hobble into the school or be fired! No free speech rights no matter where you go! Once the Eagle Point School District installs loudspeakers with songs of praise that proclaim the wisdom and great feats of its leaders, its transition to North Korea will be complete!

BONUS GOOD NEWS! DISTRICT SHENANIGANS BACKFIRE!

The Eagle Point School District encouraged people with concerns about a possible strike to call a provided phone number to voice their opinions. The phone number? Went to the union members of the Eagle Point Education Association. Clever.

However the union reports that over 75% of the district-directed calls have been in SUPPORT of the local educators. USA! USA! USA!

Another thought about the scare tactic/scab-fishing memo Gresham-Barlow and Parkrose districts sent far and wide.

Randy Bryant

Gresham-Barlow Director of Human Resources Randy Bryant sought to encourage teachers to cross the picket line. Bryant also threatened teachers who choose to invoke their right to strike: “Teachers who work during the strike will not be in danger of jeopardizing their license or their employment status with the District.” Classic fear-mongering.

Well, Randy, teachers who act ethically and choose to stand with their colleagues against the power-grab by your boss Jim Schlachter also will not be in danger of losing their licenses. But you probably knew that. You just wanted to press a fear button and try to break a teachers union. But your clumsy letter is making educators laugh across many districts.

Teachers who choose to invoke their statutory right to strike will not endanger their employment status.  After great deliberation, teachers have decided to defend themselves and quality instruction against a strategy hatched among many districts to concoct a perceived emergency and use it as an excuse to go after teachers’ rights to have a say in their work schedule, preparation time for quality student instruction, and their personal and student safety in the classroom. Asking trained educators what is needed for educational instruction sure is pesky, isn’t it? Better to try to scare them rather than talk with them about their expertise, or find out what students need, or engage the public during public meetings. Or as your bosses say: “meetings in public, but not public meetings.”

It is a shame Gresham-Barlow administration has hired an outside Strike Coordinator, and that Randy Bryant is being forced to carry the water for Jim Schlachter and a few misguided voices on the School Board.  Teachers and the community see through the threats. Somebody needs to take a stand for sanity before Schlachter drives the District off a cliff.

As if identical attacks on teacher contracts (and yelling the same things at the public) weren’t enough of a clue Gresham-Barlow, Parkrose, and Reynolds school boards and superintendents have been coordinating their efforts for months, here’s a joint memo from Parkrose & Gresham-Barlow districts looking for scabs to work as babysitters in the event of a teacher strike against them (click to zoom):

Substitutes are CRITICAL to keeping schools running under normal circumstances. Many educator careers flow from substitute to full-time to part-time gigs.

But most substitutes also understand that good working conditions and learning environments for students come from the hard work teachers have put in to establish and protect fair contracts. Hard work it’s especially important to respect when teacher union members go out on strike to fight for them against the districts attacking them.

And many substitute educators also belong to unions!

We bet these colluding districts will have to stretch very far and very deep into dark places to find certified educators willing to work as scabs. Ethical educators rely on trust and interpersonal relationships and know enough to say no. Ethical educators set their eyes on the long term.