Category Archives: U.Miami: Strike’06

UM Strike Card Check Result to be Announced Thursday

Word is that this Thursday, June 15, at noon, the result of the chard check ballot of the would-be bargaining unit will be announced on the UM Campus at the Episcopal Church.

Recall that the settlement of the strike requires the unionizers to get a 60% super-majority in order to be recognized. But it gave them until Aug. 1 to achieve this total.

I have no inside information as to what this early announcement means, but logically it must mean either that they got the 60% or that so many people have voted that 60% is no longer possible. I’ll bet on the former.

Incidentally, the strike-related student discipline cases grind on. Because the formal charges were not filed until the summer term, the cases will be heard in camera by a single dean, acting as judge and jury; had charges been filed before the end of the school year, the students would have been entitled to much more process, to students as members of the tribunal, and to representation before the tribunal. So that’s not so great, unless the administration were to use this as an occasion for clemency — something for which I hope, but I’m not holding my breath.

Not Everything is Related to 9/11

Picketline led me to Findlaw where I find an article by Jennifer van Bergen, “a journalist with a law degree” entitled Speech on Campus After 9/11: Less Free Than It Used To Be?.

The piece’s thesis is clearly stated right at the top:

Universities have traditionally been places where debate and the free exchange of ideas have been welcomed. But after 9/11, that may be changing — as some recent, troubling incidents suggest.

In this column, I’ll survey some recent incidents suggesting free speech on campus is in peril, …

Exhibit A for this thesis is the UM administration’s reaction to the strike. And Ms. van Bergen, described elsewhere as a south Florida resident, appears to be serious.

I don’t get it.

Please don’t misunderstand: I am not here to defend the UM administration’s appalling conduct during and after the strike. If students were hauled in on charges and asked to identify each other from photos while being treated in an intimidating manner, that’s a violation of our rules (and would be without the intimidating manner, too).

Threatening students with serious consequences for their failure to disperse when ordered is petty and mean, not to mention disproportionate and stupid. Leaving the charges hanging after the strike, instead of resolving them with an amnesty or a wrist slap is unwise (from the administration’s viewpoint): so far it has only martyrized them, and will probably radicalize them.

But all this reflexive administrative behavior has nothing to do with 9/11. It has rather more to do with the flawed temperament of our leadership (either the Board of Trustees or President Shalala, or conceivably both) and the poor judgment and limited capacities of certain mid-ranking administrators. In short, your standard story of people in power unable to transcend petty impulses for revenge, and people in a bureaucracy displaying some really lousy judgment during a pressure situation — then digging in their heels when tempers should have cooled.

But this is the way of the world. People are imperfect. Academic authorities don’t like being forced to do stuff by uppity kids, and they never have. And the fact that the kids are right, and that they enlist noble outsiders to say they are right and to force it down the authorities’ throats, well, that doesn’t help.

But all this has nothing to do with 9/11. UM was like this ten years ago — indeed, arguably, it may have been substantially worse.

If anything — and I admit this is reaching a little — the UM experience with the recent strike proves the reverse of the van Bergen thesis. At one point the administration here tried to float the idea that students protesting were anarchists, or colluding with anarchists, or at least inviting in anarchists, who we were no doubt supposed to believe would in short order turn this pristine tropical campus into some Beirut on the Biscayne.

To the extent anyone paid attention to this silly idea, we just laughed, and it hasn’t been heard from since.

Free speech is not in peril on this campus, and we won’t let it be. At worst, its ankle is being bitten. Whether that bite turns out to be by a mosquito or a Doberman will turn on what sort of treatment the administration administers to the students it has up on charges. And that remains to be seen.

Law School Commencement Follow-Up

screenshot.pngIn several ways, this may have been the best commencement since I got to UM.

First, Caroline looked suitably imposing carrying the Law School’s modernistic mace around the Convocation center. Our kids, who followed along on the web cast, said she looked like a ‘level 500 warrior princess wielding an Elven mythril heavy mace’ which sounds about right.

The law school has a tradition of asking a graduating student to sing the national anthem (in English, at least so far). This years’ performer could have been the best ever.

The same might be said about the commencement speech by Anne-Marie Slaughter, the Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, which you can find (regrettably in ALL CAPS) on her blog under the title, Commencing on the Right Foot. If it wasn’t the best in a decade or more, it was certainly up there.

But perhaps the best part was that I managed to distribute almost my entire supply of “Support the Students” buttons, which means that considerably more than half of the faculty attending wore them, a number well exceeding my expectations. It was nice to see the faculty (relatively) united. President Shalala did not seem that pleased, but she had the good sense not to say anything … although one faculty member told me that the President wouldn’t speak to her when she had one on.

As for the invocation? Well, it was less dull than usual…but it didn’t mention the union or the students.

Coverage of UM Strike Settlement

Some links. NY Times: Walkout Ends at University of Miami as Janitors’ Pact Is Reached; Miami Herald, UM janitors end 2-month strike.

Nathan Newman, Miami Janitors Win:

With no help from Donna Shalala, the strikers at University of Miami won their crucial demand yesterday– the right to card check recognition for their union from the university contractor, Unicco Service Company. Part of the agreement was that the union would have to sign up 60% of employees to gain recognition, rather than the 50% required to win an NLRB election.

Which illustrates how bad the NLRB election process is. The workers preferred a lengthy strike, a hunger strike that hospitalized multiple workers, and a requirement for a super-majority rather than face the buzzsaw of a federal election, where employers manipulate the rules and routinely threaten and fire workers to defeat union

Kevin Drum: Card Checks:

Increased private sector unionization is probably the only effective, large-scale way to systematically help America’s middle class, and until we can level the NLRB playing field, card checks are the only way to do it. Congratulations to the U of Miami workers for winning the right to unionize. May many others follow in their path.

Also of interest, this post by SEIU head Andy Stern, written before the agreement was reached.

The UM Strike is Over (the Aftermath Is Not)

I’ve been very silent about the UM strike for reasons I’ll detail below, but let me start with the good news — it’s now over. Yesterday, UNICCO and the SEIU agreed to a modified, monitored, card-check and NLRB ballot. As Picketline Blog describes it, the agreement includes these terms:

  • The agreement establishes a code of conduct governing how both the employer and the union will interact with the workers during the process. Both sides agree not to interfere with workers’ decision whether or not to form a union.
  • A neutral, independent organization, the American Arbitration Association, will verify the results of the process to determine whether or not a supermajority of UNICCO janitors at the University of Miami wish to form a union.
  • Once AAA has independently verified that a supermajority of 60% of the janitors working for UNICCO have signed cards saying they want to form a union with SEIU, UNICCO has agreed to recognize (on the very same day) SEIU as the janitors’ union.
  • Janitors have until August 1, 2006 to demonstrate a supermajority.
  • The agreement covers 410 janitors working for UNICCO on the campus of the University of Miami and UM’s Jackson Memorial Hospital.
  • The striking janitors will return to work Wednesday, May 3, 2006.
  • Zoila Mursuli, the janitor union leader who had been fired by UNICCO, will be reinstated immediately. She will receive backpay for the weeks after she was fired before her co-workers went on strike.

That’s the good news.

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