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A Tight Spot
November 2, 2007 - 12:03am


Next week, there will likely be a three-day strike by service workers on the Hinterland campus, and I don’t know yet how many of my classes might be affected. (Evidently, even the union’s members will be given only 48 hours notice of an action.) The union has asked everyone not to cross picket lines, and the graduate student organization e-mailed all of us to ask for our cooperation. The grad organization acknowledged it’s unlikely departments will cancel teaching and research responsibilities in case of strike, but it hopes “alternative forms of support” might be found.

The union will do something quite smart: Instead of picketing individual buildings (a tactic that sometimes alienates users of those buildings), they’ll picket the entire campus. The perimeter they’ve chosen is five miles or more in length, and they can’t possibly hold it with their limited manpower, but they don’t need to; anyone who steps foot on campus those three days will be crossing their line.

I come from an old union family, which I’ve written about elsewhere, and I can’t recall ever crossing a picket line. (I still have memories of going with my mom down to the factory in my town and seeing strikers throwing rocks at semis driving through picket lines to pick up product for market. “Scabs!” the crowd shouted, and thud-thud-thud went the rocks.) In addition, I sent ethnography students into service workplaces around campus last year, and some of the stories they brought back make me even more sympathetic to union members’ requests.

So I’ll do everything I can do to support the strike. But if administration demands that no instructor cancel classes, I am personally unprotected.

If there was ever a group that needed organization, it’s adjuncts. A number of attempts have been made here, but the most recent fizzled when a professional organizer said that some percentage of all faculty would have to support unionization for us to be represented, and tenure-path faculty wouldn’t support it.

I wonder if students would come to class at the Thai restaurant down from our house….


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