Well, the cover story in this week’s Chronicle of Higher Education is about the UAW. Lucky for you, it’s free.
First, the good. I think the Chronicle got the right story this time. The story is not “UAW defeated at Cornell.” The story is “What is the roll of the UAW in higher education?” This article at least makes a passing attempt at answering that question, even if I’m not thrilled with the way that they answered it.
I was pleased to see that the reporter found a CASE dissenter, who was willing to propose that CASE (the Cornell Association of Student Employees, the group who attempted to unionize Cornell grad students) drop the UAW and try to unionize only TAs. Since CASE has shown no interest in talking to the opposition about what they could do to improve their next campaign, I’ll put it out here for public consumption: If CASE dropped the UAW and unionized only TAs, then they would win their representation election in a heartbeat. And I, for one, wouldn’t oppose them.
Finally, I was happy to see the quote from a former UAW regional director saying, basically, that the union leaders didn’t really give a damn about Cornell, that they were much more concerned about autoworkers. That will make a fine poster if the UAW tries again at Cornell.
Now, the bad. First, the article repeatedly mentions Jackie Janesk, an undergraduate who wrote a report on the UAW loss at Cornell for a class she was taking. I think Ms. Janesk worked hard on her paper; she certainly did a lot of research. But, I think her conclusions were seriously flawed. CASE tried very hard to argue that the UAW was a good fit for grad students, they just didn’t do it very effectively.
Second, the article seems to hop onto the “unionization is inevitable” and “Cornell is just a pothole” bandwagons. That’s been the UAW’s spin from the moment that the election results were announced. If the ballot boxes are ever unsealed, then I think the UAW will have one or two more potholes to deal with…
Finally, I wasn’t thrilled to see our concerns repeatedly lumped into the “standard anti-union tactics” bin. This completely misses the point that the opposition at Cornell wasn’t led by “the management” nor were we fed lines by the administration. The opposition was a group of students who were unhappy with elements of the proposed union. If our detractors would stop deluding themselves then they would realize that under different circumstances many of the leaders of At What Cost? would have supported a union – or at least not actively opposed it. I guess that’s my biggest compaint; the article seems to completely buy the UAW spin.
Oh well. I’ll be gone from Cornell before the UAW can return to Cornell, so I’ll stick to dissertation writing and let the pundits say what they will.