A Brief History of Our Union Efforts:
Updates. John Humphrey

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Update 081706.
We are no longer a Unionized faculty. July 31, 2006 rolled around without a clear majority of member instructors, leaving local 47 no choice but to quit us. At the end of the day it's hard to put my finger on exactly how we could have come so far as to have representation and a contract and then to lose it. But the bottom line is probably that for many of the instructors, Union representation wasn't perceived to be worth the $200 annual membership fees and $.36 an hour in work dues. I'm talking about those instructors who wouldn't have joined the Union otherwise. because of other Union work. Most of our hard core supporters have been at MI long enough to have suffered pay cuts and worse. But after the 'independent contractor' fiasco of 2000 was circumvented, many of the instructors lost interest and stopped paying attention. New-Hires have only experienced a calm and respectful relationship from Management- coincidentally, while we've had Union representation. Management played its cards right, avoiding policies that would upset the instructors. During the time that we were represented by Local 47, many of the faculty experienced two significant raises. Management was able to make the case that the Union had nothing to do with the raises, despite the fact that the owner had maintained all along that there wouldn't be any raises... ever.

I've certainly learned a lot from the experience. I realize now I was projecting all the wonderful experiences I've had working alongside instructors- many of them long gone- I had the pleasure of knowing, into our fight for a better deal. A part of me was hoping to 'make things right', out of respect for the many instructors I've known to have been fucked over at MI. Philosophically speaking, I see that I was involved in an attempt to enrich the experience of working at MI with the meaning that derives from my personal values. I see now that for most people the notion of working at 'just a job' is enough. I also see how fear is the primary motivator.

I suppose I'm most disappointed by how easy it was for a large majority of the instructors to leave the work to our small committee. Can you even imagine how it felt to have invested hundreds of hours on behalf of so-called Union supporters, some of whom wouldn't even wear a pro-Union button? I'll be more careful about picking my battles in the future.

On the other hand, the experience of working with the committee, especially Barrett Tagliarino, was something I wouldn't have missed. Scott Parker and Dave Hill came in a little later but really kept our spirits up and were supportive in many ways. And also local 47- Richard Totusek early on, David Schubach, and of course Hal Espinosa and his assistant Amy LaCour. A real pleasure. Our attorneys, Adam Stern in the beginning and later Lewis Levy. Reliable and effective.

Instructors would often say to us, 'The Union hasn't done anything for me.' It was that whiny-assed, hand out, 'what's in it for me' attitude that was our undoing. Big thanks to those other instructors who were there for us and consistently supportive. With more of you, it would have been easy.

Update 071506.
Fascinating, really... In a way. 2006 rolled around and quite a few instructors failed to renew their membership dues. The Union, naturally, and with our (the committee's) blessing, is about to walk away. If a clear majority of instructors aren't members in good standing by July 31, we're done. No contract. No representation.

Update 12/05
Finally! They said it couldn't be done. "There will be no raises... ever." Wrong. We've been negotiating our new contract. In anticipation of that we started a button and information campaign which involved the students- who were keen to support us. After all these years MI has implemented a seniority based pay scale ($20-$30 an hour) which they intend to supplement later on with 'merit based' raises. Some of they instructors earned a 40% pay increase overnight. Thanks to all who helped.

Update 06/05
It's 5 years and two contracts later, but now that the Local is actually asking for their dues and memberships to be paid, some of the instrructors (requires 30% of Instructors) have petitioned for what's called a 'deauthorization' vote. If passed it would remove the clause in the contract that requires Instructors to join the Union, but in effect it would end our Union representation because the local can't afford the cost of representing us (they've already spent upwards of $60k on our behalf) without our support.

Update 10/04
A new one year contract has been negotiated. Hey! We lost some of the pittance we had acquired in the last contract! The new contract reflects a: loss to us in Paid Time Off; absolutely no increase in income (except to the TAs who received a raise of from $8 to $9.25 an hour); and calls for us to PAY BACK hundreds of thousands of dollars in what THEIR NEW ACCOUNTANT determined to be an overpayment of the 10% of profit 'bonus'! We were asking for a Cost of Living raise (most of the instructors have not had a pay increase since the mid 90s) and a Union Pension contribution (amongst other things, but these were obvious and completely reasonable.)
Note that both enrollment and tuition costs are up. i.e. It's not about the numbers.
How could this happen? Well, my own opinion is that the owner, Shibuya, will not give any of it up without a fight. And, as our teachers have proved in the past, they're not ready to fight until they get real mad. Perhaps this last round of negotiations will be what it takes to piss the teachers off bad enough to give Shibuya and the MI Management that fight.
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