Guest blogger Gary Rhoades is Professor of Higher Education at the University of Arizona’s Center for the Study of Higher Education, for which he served as director from 1997-2008. Recently, he served as general secretary of the AAUP. Rhoades’ scholarship focuses on the restructuring of higher education institutions and of professions in the academy, evidenced in his books, “Managed Professionals: Unionized Faculty and Restructuring Academic Labor” (SUNY 1998), and “Academic Capitalism and the New Economy” (with Sheila Slaughter, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004). Currently he also serves as director of the CFHE Think Tank.
“The Momentum is Gaining: Enough Is Enough!”
On November 9, I walked an information picket line at California State University East Bay ( CSUEB) in support of the California Faculty Association’s fight to defend public higher education. “Enough is enough” is the rallying cry for faculty in a system whose management–despite fact finders’ discoveries–refuses to face the facts, honor the contract, and allocate salary monies to faculty. Enough is enough in a system that, despite dramatic increases in class size and profound challenges in remediation and graduation rates, continues to reduce the share of instructional expenditures, now at 35%. Enough is enough in a system in which, despite tens of thousands of students being turned away and thousands of others for whom affordable higher education has slipped away, the chancellor identifies alleged low executive compensation as a key problem. That is Wall Street thinking: satiate the insatiable 1% at the public trough and starve the 99%, while blaming public employees for the system’s problems. Enough is enough.
The momentum is gaining. On November 8, in a landslide, the people of Ohio also said enough is enough. They voted to repeal SB 5. They voted overwhelmingly to reject the initiative of Governor Kasich, a former Lehman Brothers executive who helped the state pension fund lose hundreds of millions of dollars (invested in Lehman Brothers) and yet who blamed public employees for the state’s economic woes (after passing tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy). The people of Ohio voted to repeal a bill that gutted, and for full-time faculty eliminated, longstanding rights to collectively bargain. They voted in support of public employees.
SB 5 is part of a national assault on working people. In state after state, Tea Party governors and legislators have sought to eliminate collective bargaining for public employees. In statement after statement, public employees are denigrated and union workers are demonized, though they are the people who save, nurture, and teach us.
In Ohio, a broad coalition was formed of blue and white collar, public and private sector unions, of community groups, of grandmothers and students, and more, under the umbrella, We are Ohio. It formed to reverse the assault on public employees and public institutions. It formed in support of the idea that teachers and firefighters, first responders and professors, police and nurses, and other public employees are key to our future. And the coalition, We are Ohio, won. By a mile. By working together.
So it is on the information picket line at the East Bay campus. Students called out support, schoolteachers walked with signs calling for a fair contract, and teamsters honked their truck horns in solidarity with professors. The 99% are seeing they have common cause, and they are speaking out in support of one another.
“We are all Badgers!” was the rallying cry in Wisconsin’s battle over public employees’ collective bargaining rights. The response to the assault led to the recall of two state senators, and now to a recall drive on Governor Walker. The tens of thousands of people in Wisconsin who took to the streets and the Democratic legislators who took to neighboring states gave strength to their compatriots in Ohio and beyond.
So, now, as the rallying cry “We are ALL Ohio!” takes hold, the staggeringly successful struggle of this broad coalition is giving hope to and strengthening the resolve of public employees across the country. It is possible, together, to reverse the tide. To those whose political platform is to eliminate the civil rights of workers, women, same sex couples, immigrants, and the voting rights of citizens, to those who wish to eliminate the advances of the 20th century that have strengthened our country, it is possible to not just say, enough is enough, but to successfully challenge and change public policy.
Step by step, day by day, battle by battle, the momentum is building. Not only in these state struggles but also in the (inter)national OccupyWallStreet (OWS) movement that is creating space and foregrounding the dramatically sharpened, inequitable, and unhealthy stratification in our society in ways that have reshaped public discourse and public policy proposals. OWS has tapped into and catalyzed a powerful national sentiment that is repainting our social and political landscape. It has helped rekindle a sense that not just resistance but also change is possible. It has fed on the hunger for and fostered the momentum for a social movement to change our country’s path.
The momentum, and sense of being part of something larger, was evident in the information picket line on Loop Drive into the CSU East Bay campus, where California professors under fire took heart from the victory in Ohio and the sense of a growing pushback. It was evident in the energy of an event that is a precursor to a November 17 strike on two California State University campuses. It was evident in professors’ understanding that this is a first step in fostering political pressure on administration to honor the contract and bargain in good faith. Enough is enough.
The CFA’s choice of East Bay and Dominguez Hills as the sites for November 17 action is significant. These are two of the campuses with the most diverse student bodies in the system. They represent the historic mission of the CSU as the people’s university, the university of the 99%. They also represent the best future and hope for the state and the country in which the growth demographics of 18-21 year-olds are lower income students, students of color and immigrants. And yet in another shameful statement of misplaced priorities, these two campuses are among the most underfunded in the system.
Enough is enough. As the California Faculty Association continues its battle to ensure that the CSU be driven more by a commitment to the people who educate and who are the 99%, than by a continued catering to the desires of the 1%, we are all the CFA. The momentum is building. It is time for us all to support our colleagues in California and to help continue and build the momentum nationally to change our course from the policies of recent decades that further stratify our society and that favor and further enrich the 1%. It is time for us all to demand that we support and invest in our future, in the public institutions and public employees who serve and who are the 99%.