Indiana University Staff and the Strike

So maybe you have heard the news: Indiana University is going on strike! Organized by Student Power IU (SPIU), the strike is scheduled for Apr. 12, 2013 to coincide with a meeting of the IU Board of Trustees.

As a staff member at IU I agree with many of the views of SPIU and its goals for change. I share the groups concerns about costs for students, wages for employees, as well as broader socioeconomic issues that you can read about here. I can appreciate that they are frustrated at the lack of progress on the campus and have chosen to take a more aggressive stance with a strike. 

Unfortunately, as a staff member at IU, I am not allowed to support their strike. I would like to, and believe that as citizen of the human race I should have the right to, but per the rules of IU I am not allowed to or I could lose my job.

The clause that states this is probably my least favorite part of the Conditions for Cooperation, a document that along with the Articles of Cooperation dictates how IU deals with virtually its entire staff. These are Trustee documents, originally authored in the days of Herman Wells that can only be change by the Trustees. And what they say is: “The university will not continue to employ any person who participates in, threatens, or encourages any strike, slowdown, work stoppage, or other interruption or interference with the activities of the university.”

It is pretty clear, and pretty limiting. So, when SPIU chose a strike and to advocate for actions that might cross this line, staff at all levels were essentially cut out. Brave individuals there may be who take the risk and get involved in the strike and its planning, but none of the groups that represent staff (such as my own CWA 4730) can endorse it. Furthermore, to assure their constituents know the rules and the risks, staff groups are put in a position of appearing to be against it.

This is truly unfortunate, as division is created where solidarity is needed. Many goals of SPIU are goals that staff member’s share, many staff members would like to support SPIU. However, the fault is not with SPIU and the strike. The problem is with IU and its rules. 

This I believe, that IU staff should have the right to strike and that the Conditions for Cooperation should be amended to grant this right. Sadly I do not see that happening any time soon with the Trustees composed the way they are (a topic for a different column) but it is still a goal worth pursuing. Meanwhile, as groups such as SPIU try to effect change and get the attention of the University to their cause, IU staff at all levels will have to continue to find other ways to do the same.

Peter Kaczmarczyk