Stanley Fish Makes Good and Supports Academic Unions in Discussion with Walter Benn Michaels

I’m not ordinarily a fan of Stanley Fish and his editorials on The New York Times, but as he does says in his conversation with Walter Benn Michaels, we all can be wrong. I may have been too critical of Fish as he recognizes that he was wrong about the importance of unions to the university.

In the editorial, “We’re All Badgers Now,” Fish and Michaels respond to Naomi Schaefer Riley’s op-ed piece in USA Today, “Why Unions Hurt Higher Education.” They examine the reasons why unions are needed today more than ever: universities are increasingly becoming corporatized, faculty and researchers have less say in the operation of the university, and the university is increasingly made subservient to political forces rather than a place to challenge and critique all positions as part of its pedagogical mission. Perhaps more importantly, they diagram the discourse of the right that purposefully confuses job performance with academic independence, negligence with radicalism. This is recommended reading: Lessons From Wisconsin About Unions and Higher Education – NYTimes.com.

Republican Tactic Ends Stalemate in Wisconsin – NYTimes.com

More unfortunate news tonight according to The New York Times. The Wisconsin State Senators found a legal loophole to pass Governor Walker’s public union busting bill that takes away rights and money from Wisconsin’s workers to meet budgetary shortfalls created by his substantial corporate tax breaks:

The bitter political standoff in Wisconsin over Gov. Scott Walker’s bid to sharply curtail collective bargaining for public-sector workers ended abruptly Wednesday night, as his Republican counterparts in the State Senate successfully maneuvered to adopt a bill doing just that.

After a three-week stalemate, Republican senators pushed the measure through in less than half an hour, with the Senate’s Democrats still miles away trying to block the vote. Democratic Assembly members complained bitterly, and protesters, who had spent many days at the Capitol, continued their chants and jeers.

I have written previously that I support the WI workers here, and I am concerned about what this loss and the other recent workers’ rights losses in Idaho and Ohio mean for us all (i.e., the ~80% of the American population that controls less than 15% of net worth according to G. William Domhoff here). These are radical attacks on the ability of public servants, who provide invaluable services for citizens, to get a fair shake against overzealous and ideologically motivated politicians and administrators who want to cripple public services and our educational system.

via Republican Tactic Ends Stalemate in Wisconsin – NYTimes.com.

Ohio Legislature Railroads State Worker Anti-Union Bill, Passes Senate

According to the New York Times here, and The Huffington Post here, the Ohio state Senate passed a bill that removes rights of collective bargaining and protest from state workers including teachers, police, and firefighters. It is reported that it will also pass the Republican controlled House and be signed into law by Governor Kasich.

Ohio, Wisconsin, or the other states considering this kind of legislation are playing for political points through short term solutions that unfortunately will wreck their longterm develop plans. I don’t know if these laws, if passed, will stay on the books in the next election cycle, but if they do, I will be very curious to see what effect that they will have on the quality of education in these states. According to Angus Johnston at Student Activism, it appears that teacher unions do contribute to better quantified student performance [read the details here].

I Stand with the Wisconsin Public Workers

According to The Huffington Post, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker refuses to do what makes democracy work: compromise:

As union supporters moved inside for a sixth straight day of protests at the Wisconsin Capitol, Gov. Scott Walker reiterated Sunday that he wouldn’t compromise on the issue that had mobilized them, a bill that would eliminate most of public employees’ collective bargaining rights [via Madison Protests Continue, But Governor Scott Walker Is Unmoved].

I am an educator in the State of Ohio, and I stand with the workers of Wisconsin. It is important for educators to stand together to deal with the State, university administrators, and boards of regents, because we cannot protect our employment, our rights, and our wages alone in what is undoubtedly a politically charged realm.

It seems that Wisconsin is the first of many States that are attempting to revoke workers’ rights to bargain collectively. At least in the case of Wisconsin, it is troubling that the governor sought tax cuts that contribute to a budget gap, and then he wants to make up for this gap by not only increasing the financial burden on those unionized state employees but also eliminating their right to bargain collectively. This is in the face of the fact that those unions Walker wants to cripple are willing to negotiate a plan that would help the Wisconsin state budget without eliminating the right of employees to bargain collectively. What this means is that Walker and his Republican supporters in the Wisconsin legislature want is to take from Peter to pay Paul–take money and rights from state workers in order to give breaks to businesses and the wealthy while solidify their power base.

Here are some other resources on the Walker’s bill and the protests by folks like me:

According to Reuters, President Obama said in a television interview that, “Some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally, seems like more of an assault on unions”

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MSNBC has a solid rundown of many of the facts leading up to the protests here.

The Christian Science Monitor has an article looking at the changing public opinion of unions in general here.

Mother Jones reports that Walker’s funding comes from the Koch Brothers here.