Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Arizona Teachers Vote To Strike, Sparking Statewide Walkout

Teachers in Arizona held a strike vote on Thursday that launched Arizona's first-ever statewide walkout and turned down a proposed pay raise — instead demanding increased school funding.

The Arizona Education Association and the grass-roots group the Arizona Educators United announced that teachers will walk off the job April 26.

At issue is a plan crafted by Gov. Doug Ducey to give teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020, starting with a 9 percent hike next year.

Initially, Ducey's plan drew support from two education advocacy groups, Save Our Schools Arizona and the Arizona Parent Teacher Association. But both groups have withdrawn their support, saying the plan is not sustainable and likely will come at the expense of others in the educational system.

AZPTA President Beth Simek, in a video statement, said that an analysis from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee staff, coupled with her group's research, led to their decision to oppose Ducey's plan.

"In light of the funding streams that have come to light regarding the '20 by 2020' plan, we can no longer support the governor's proposal," said Simek. "As a voice for children, we hope to see the governor and this legislature find a sustainable, long-term permanent funding source that does not hurt others in the process."

School support staff groups say they feel left out of the governor's plan.

In a tweet, Save Our Schools Arizona said, "It is now clear the existing proposal is not sustainable or comprehensive as a means of increasing educator pay and re-investing in Arizona's classrooms and schools."

Both groups said that they are still ready to work with the governor on a new plan.

Arizona's teachers plan to strike is an unprecedented move and comes with high risk.

According to The Associated Press:

"Teachers themselves could face consequences in this right-to-work state, where unions do not collectively bargain with school districts and representation is not mandatory. The Arizona Education Association has warned its 20,000 members about a 1971 Arizona attorney general opinion saying a statewide strike would be illegal under common law and participants could lose their teaching credentials."


A Nutty Professor Strikes Again

It happened again this week, another university professor was exposed as an unhinged liberal, filled with uncontrollable rage.

In the aftermath of the death of former First Lady Barbara Bush, tributes flowed in from around the world, except not from Randa Jarrar, a Fresno State University English professor. Jarrar tweeted that Mrs. Bush was a “racist” and that she was glad the “the witch is dead.” In response to the outpouring of support for the Bush family, Jarrar tweeted, “F… outta here with your nice words.” She also expressed extreme hatred for the relatives of Barbara Bush, tweeting “Can’t wait for the rest of her family to fall to their demise.”

While it is sad that a so-called English professor had to resort to profanity to express her point of view, it is even worse that someone entrusted to educate young people harbors such hatred. In response to the controversy, Fresno State University President Joseph Castro said, “Professor Jarrar’s expressed personal views and commentary are obviously contrary to the core values of our University, which include respect and empathy for individuals with divergent points of view, and a sincere commitment to mutual understanding and progress.” It was announced that an “investigation” into Jarrar’s behavior was underway.

This semester, Jarrar is on sabbatical and is traveling overseas. She crowed that because she was tenured she could not be fired. Her arrogance only enraged people even more and after her real phone number was posted, calls started flooding in to her office. To distract her critics, Jarrar falsely claimed that her work phone number had not been officially activated and posted another one for those who “really wanna reach me.”

Unfortunately, the phone number she posted was for a University of Arizona mental health crisis line. The volunteers operating the phones were inundated with calls from people wanting to complain about Jarrar, not those in need of mental health counseling. Jarrar’s stunt may have prevented those who were suffering from an actual mental health crisis from receiving critical assistance.

The sad episode not only exposes the sickness of Jarrar, but also the clear problems on many college campuses today. Throughout the country, in far too many colleges and universities, administrators have hired nutcases like Jarrar to teach impressionable youngsters. As a result, many parents are paying exorbitant tuition for their children to be indoctrinated, not educated.

Presenting alternative perspectives to liberalism is not allowed on many campuses. Just this week, Professor Josh Blackman tried to present a lecture, ironically on the importance of free speech, but was shouted down by protestors at the City University of New York School of Law.

On a regular basis, conservative commentators like Ben Shapiro, Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos face threats of violence on college campus and outright hostility from administrators who look for every opportunity to cancel their speeches. Often, university officials delight in canceling conservative speeches by claiming that security costs are too high or adequate facilities for the speakers are not available.

In contrast, leftist viewpoints are seemingly always welcome and liberal professors are celebrated and protected no matter how extreme their views. Last year, Lars Maischak, another hateful Fresno State University professor, made news when he tweeted that President Donald Trump “must hang.” The history instructor was not allowed to teach during last Fall’s semester but, incredibly, was not fired.

In the case of Jarrar, Fresno State University should immediately terminate the employment of this detestable individual. She does not possess basic decency or respect for other points of view. Jarrar represents the antithesis to the type of atmosphere that should be cultivated on college campuses where differing opinions are encouraged and welcomed.

Another reason that may cause Fresno State to act involves the negative response from some of their major contributors. A few large donors are raising objections to Jarrar and threatening to withhold their usual financial support. One such contributor, Ed Dunkel, Jr., said, “I have huge concerns. This represents such an embarrassment to the university and the community. It's hard to believe this is an isolated thing that just happened. I have to imagine people previously knew of this person's character and what she's about.”

In fact, donors may be the key in forcing universities to end the stifling environment of liberal indoctrination. If major donors started boycotting, university administrators would get the message quickly and may start to adjust their policies. Otherwise, the abuse of conservatives, the indoctrination of students and the vile hatred spewing from professors will continue unabated.


Harvard grad students vote to unionize

Harvard University graduate students have voted to join the United Auto Workers, part of a wave of teaching and research assistants on private college campuses embracing the labor movement.

In a National Labor Relations Board-sanctioned election held Wednesday and Thursday, the vote was 1,931 to 1,523, creating a bargaining unit of nearly 5,000 students, including several hundred undergraduates in teaching positions, the UAW and Harvard said Friday. The union said Harvard is committed to bargaining on a contract, but the university said it has not yet decided.

The UAW, with its deep blue-collar roots, has become a seemingly unlikely bastion of academic organizing, attracting more grad student members than any other union.

Since 1990, when the union successfully organized graduate students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, it has brought graduate students at four other public universities into the fold, including the massive California State University system. The effort accelerated at private universities following a 2016 NLRB ruling that recognized Columbia University students’ right to organize.

At Harvard, those backing the union said they are looking for stability in their wages (the usual 3 percent annual raise was cut in half this school year), more robust health care, and a better process for resolving grievances. But above all, they are seeking bargaining power, said Ben Green, a fourth-year PhD student in applied math.

“The main thing that we really want is to have a greater say, greater democracy, in our working conditions,” he said. “By joining with UAW, we’re also joining with these other universities organizing with them. We’re building power not just for graduate workers at Harvard, but for graduate workers across the country.”

This is the second time Harvard graduate students have held a union vote. The results of the first election, in the fall of 2016, were scrapped following disputes over the voter list, leading to months of litigation.

“Regardless of the outcome, this election underscores the importance of the university’s commitment to continuing to improve the experience of our students,” Harvard said in a statement. “We want every student to thrive here and to benefit from Harvard’s extraordinary academic opportunities.”

The rise in unionization among graduate students reflects the growing role of younger, more white-collar workers in unions. Last year, a third of new union members nationwide were in professional or technical occupations, and more than three-quarters were under age 35, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Teaching and research assistants at many public-sector colleges and universities are covered by state collective bargaining laws, most of which consider grad students to be employees. Their counterparts at private schools, however, are at the mercy of the NLRB, which has gone back and forth on the issue.

The UAW, officially the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, has 45,000 grad students and 30,000 academic workers among its 400,000 members. Although the bulk of its members are auto workers and other manufacturing employees, it also represents legal aid attorneys, Foxwoods casino workers, Museum of Modern Art employees, Village Voice writers, and Sierra Club staffers.

Interest from those at private colleges and universities was sparked in 2013, when NYU grad students voted to join the UAW through a non-NLRB election. It remains the only private university with a collective bargaining agreement. The following year, the New School and Columbia kicked off campaigns to join the UAW, followed by Harvard, Boston College, Northeastern, and Boston University.

“From that point on there was tremendous energy,” said Julie Kushner, director of UAW Region 9A, which covers New England.

A 2016 decision by the NLRB, reinstating the right of grad students at private universities to organize, stoked the fire further.

Last year, grad students at Tufts and Brandeis both voted to join SEIU Local 509, among the more than 20,000 private-sector students involved in union campaigns in the past year and a half, according to the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College in New York.

But with President Trump in office, and his three appointees giving the NLRB a 3-2 Republican majority, the pendulum could swing back.

Given all the back and forth on whether grad students at private universities have the right to organize, and the possibility that a more conservative labor board would say they don’t, some students have become reluctant to test their luck with the NLRB. Rather than risking setting a new legal precedent that could crush other union drives, some grad students — including those organizing at BC, Yale, and the University of Chicago — have abandoned their efforts to unionize through the NLRB and are trying to pressure universities to voluntarily recognize and negotiate with them, which can be difficult.

“These workers and our union are not defeated or demoralized by the threat posed by an anti-worker labor board put in place by President Trump and the Republican Congress,” Kushner said. “We are inventing new strategies, switching tactics, and taking bold steps to go outside of the NLRB.”

Some campaigns have reached a fever pitch. Graduate students at Columbia, whose membership with the UAW has been certified by the NLRB, voted to strike next week if the school continues to refuse to bargain.

At Harvard, the administration has sent a series of e-mails to students making a case against unionization, referencing the Columbia strike and noting that school deans and leaders would be “legally prohibited from working directly with individual students” on matters of wages and working conditions.

Along with increased stipends, better health care coverage, and more stability in their work, Harvard organizers want a sexual harassment policy that gives students more protection. Just last month, the prominent Harvard government professor Jorge Dominguez was placed on leave, and then abruptly retired, after allegations of sexual misconduct spanning three decades came to light. Despite the fact that multiple women had complained to university administrators over the years, Dominguez continued to climb the ranks.

A contract recently negotiated by the UAW at the University of Connecticut strengthened protections against sexual harassment, union officials note, including detailing specific offenses — such as sexual innuendo, unwanted touching, and standing too close — and expanding the time period that students have to file a complaint.

Grad students are highly dependent on their advisers, especially in science, where research tends to be funded by grants awarded to specific professors, making those students more vulnerable to abuse because their jobs depend on that person, said Green, the Harvard applied-math student. And as it stands, there is no clear process for addressing complaints, said Niharika Singh, a fourth-year PhD student in public policy.

“With a union we have expanded options for dealing with sexual harassment on campus,” she said. “These are not minor issues. They are pervasive.”


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