Monday, April 26, 2004

norma jay, #2

A reader e-mails from Belle Epoch, NE to say: "I hope the strike goes, um, however you would like it to go; I'm not really clear [from your weblog] which side you are on. Perhaps you are not at liberty to discuss your personal views in a public forum, such as your weblog." A couple of other people have also e-mailed to ask for my "stance" on the strike.

So, here is the official JFW position on the matter:

1. JFW is for the teaching assistants getting every penny from the state they are able to get.

2. JFW deeply dislikes whenever faculty members suggest the low pay of teaching assistants is warranted by their "apprentice" status. He deeply dislikes this because (a) it seems to privilege one type of graduate student who is best able to afford such a situation (namely, a healthy, childless student in their mid-twenties with a middle-class parental safety net) and (b) many teaching assistants are thrown into their position with very little instruction/supervision from their supervising faculty member (myself, when I've had TAs, included) and so the word "apprentice" seems either delusionary or disingenuous.

3. I am not going to cross the picket line. If there is a strike, I've arranged to hold my Tuesday class in the Catholic Student Center on State Street. (I did come from a union household, after all, and in an industry where some of the most ugly union-busting in the US in recent history took place, in ways that have directly affected my family's livelihood to this day.)

4. That I am not going to cross the picket line has nothing to do with whether I agree with the strike. I wouldn't cross the picket line for a two-day strike even if I disagreed with it. It's only two days, and it's not like I'm not more productive working from home anyway.

5. I can't say what I would do if the strike was planned to be more than just a two-day strike. My guess is that if it was to be a two-week strike, I would still not cross. The issue of whether I specifically agreed with the strike would obviously loom much larger in my decision calculus if the strike was longer.

6. Although I think they were right to agitate to strike, I think the union should accept the state's latest offer and not strike. Or, if they do the two-day walkout, they should still not follow it up with the planned grade strike. My worry is that if things reach a sufficiently drastic step that the Republican legislature mobilizes on the issue, they could end up (much?) worse off. From my contacts at the statehouse, many of the Republican state legislators sound so irrational and rabid that who knows what they would do if it became a cause celebre. That said, I do tend toward the panicky, and I have a long and painful track record as a poor and overconciliatory negotiator.

7. I will admit that I have said that if, after I've gone to the trouble of scheduling an alternative venue for my Tuesday class, students don't show up for it, that I will not only cross the picket line on Wednesday, but cross it hundreds of times, pacing back and forth and back and forth perpendicular to whatever picket line is manned by graduate students enrolled in my class. But, no, I am not serious about actually doing this.

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