Organized Librarians and Rocking the Vote

Librarians and Archivists at University Western Ontario recently voted 88% in favour of a strike. This doesn’t mean that they are going on strike immediately, but that can go on strike now. (Could somebody please correct me if I’m wrong?) Their issues are ones that librarians face on many campuses, and include: “language on Annual Report & Review, Workload, Promotion and Continuing Appointment, Reassignment, and Compensation and Benefits.” Maybe this sounds familiar because it’s largely what the UC librarians were asking for in our most recent contract negotiations which have been overshadowed by the California budget crisis affecting the UCs.

This week UC librarians are voting to ratify our tentative furlough agreement. This vote comes close on the heels of a UC-wide walk-out to protest the way the the regents are still giving executives raises, while they are also plan to raise tuition 10%, cap enrolment, and furloughs. It’s frustrating for students, faculty, and staff. We’re being told that this situation is extreme (which it is), and that we all must shoulder the burden (which we are not, unless “all” does not include the executive administration). I understand that we need to restructure campus operations and that things cannot continue as they have for years, which will mean layoffs to some extent, but it’s clear that departments are just slashing jobs, not taking a reasoned approach. The administration is panicking, which causes everybody else to panic even more.

Frankly, it’s hard not to panic when you read interviews like this one from the New York Times with UC President Mark Yudof. He’s quite flippant and doesn’t really seem to understand why people are upset. I was giving him some credit until I read that.

So it is in this environment in which the organized librarians of UC are voting to ratify the furlough plan. Furloughs will hopefully prevent layoffs (as did the huge wave of retirements), but it’s not guaranteed. Surely voting to accept the plan will put us at at odds with the other campus unions, and will break the campus union coalition, but is that really such a bad thing? One one hand, I see the value of the union remaining in the coalition, but on the other hand it doesn’t seem that the other unions, such as CUE and UPTE have our (librarians) interests at heart. Is this vote about the situation at hand or meant to be a bigger statement about collectivism and worker solidarity?

I really wish I knew. I’m waiting to see the result of the vote. I’d love to see what the membership thinks.