From The Trenches: Board of Trustees Reflections
5/11/2011 6:25 PM
I recently had the pleasure of addressing the CSU Board of Trustees during the public comment period on Tuesday, May 10th, 2011 around 3:30pm. I say around 3:30pm since the agenda is fungible, and the public comment period is limited to thirty (30) minutes. So, I was glad we were there the whole time just in case they moved the agenda.
The CSU Labor Council began the public comment period by reading a joint statement of unity and solidarity. In the past, the CSU has taken great delight in pitting the staff against the faculty, the students against the staff, and all of us against one another. The Chancellor’s Office has opened “Union Rights” in all of our contracts, targeting release time for CFA. CSUEU is waiting to see what the CO might have in mind. Another avenue of attack is seniority in the layoff process, where the CO bargaining team asked, “Why should we give preference to someone who’s just phoning it in?” It seems dedicated public service only matters if you are looking for that nice watch and a picture in a PowerPoint presentation.
I followed the CSU Labor Council with a speech on the layoffs at CSU Channel Islands, even as they tried to shuffle past me to the representatives from Students for Quality Education (SQE). I did not yield my time.
Here’s the text:
My name is Joseph Dobzynski, Jr. I work at CSU Channel Islands as a programmer/analyst supporting the Oracle Campus Solutions system, which is thankfully no longer called PeopleSoft. I also serve as Vice-President for Member Engagement for the California State University Employees Union, and previously served as both Chief Steward and Chapter President for Chapter 324, representing CSU Channel Islands.
Recently, we received layoff notices for all nine (9) of our lab and equipment technicians. It has been messaged to the media as “workload reductions,” since within the layoff notices is the magnanimous offer to keep their positions if they choose to take an 11 month appointment. It is a love it or leave it offer, and two (2) of these individuals have already stated they will need to find positions elsewhere to make ends meet. We have heard quite clearly that both their program chairs and their administrator opposed this decision, so we’re not exactly sure how this decision was made or who will own up to it.
The layoff notices are ambiguously cited for both lack of work and lack of funds. Lack of work, as far as we can tell, is anecdotal, which emphasizes the slow time in the summer and completely ignores the extra, unpaid overtime they put in during the busiest parts of the semester because they, like me, care (in the present tense) about the mission of CSU Channel Islands and the mission of the CSU.
Lack of funds, when it’s totaled up, amounts to roughly $35,000. Small potatoes in the budget of CSU Channel Islands, but a huge impact to the livelihood of these nine (9) individuals. Compare that to the $3 million dollars spent in previous years on having a new logo designed, or the $1.1 million dollars in external contracts signed by the campus in 2011 alone, or however much money was dumped into the iPads that are carried by managers around campus, in addition to their iPhones. Even Governor Brown has had cell phone use limited, while we have seen it accelerated.
This is an outrage, and not just for the fiscal side of the equation. Many of us came to work at CSU Channel Islands for the opportunity to be a part of something. I spent my tenure as chapter president praising our management up and down for their fair approach, their stewardship during the lean economic times, and their willingness to work together. Now we see nine (9) lab and equipment technicians being extorted for a month’s pay. This is a permanent change for a temporary fiscal crisis.
We’ve also seen all our labor-management meetings cancelled, across-the-board denials of release time, and warnings being delivered by managers to our union officers that release time doesn’t have to be approved, as if WE didn’t understand the contract. Combine all of this with the small potatoes extortion of $35,000 from the nine (9) employees, and we should ask ourselves, in the words of Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On?”
You can hear my speech on my YouTube feed here: http://youtu.be/9tG_yLCyQ5c
Speaking truth to power is not without consequence. A labor-management meeting was held today (which was news to me, the last I had heard they were all cancelled) and the opening topic was how upset Dr. Rush was with my comments. I question whether he is more upset than the nine individuals who have to give up a month of their pay. Keep in mind a month of his pay would cover the cost for what they’ll get from extorting these nine individuals for a month of their pay.
What bugs me the most is that they messaged these layoffs to the media and the legislators as “worktime reductions,” to keep their image of being a huge community supporter while extorting nine (9) community members for a month’s pay. So, if I feel angry, it is a righteous anger. The entire manner in which this has been carried out, from the sneak attack layoff announcements, to the puff pieces to the local media, to the harassment our chapter officers are feeling from their managers... all of this feels like a betrayal for principles CSU Channel Islands has stood upon since its inception. CSU Channel Islands has an important mission in Ventura County, and contrary to popular belief, it is not just one man who made it happen. It was all of us, sinking our lives into the university to make it a success.
The public comment period closed out with SQE giving passionate statements to the CSU Board of Trustees and calling for Chancellor Reed’s resignation for his poor stewardship and escalating tuition rates. This followed actions taken at CSU Sacramento and CSU Fullerton in the form of building takeovers. The question is whether labor will be there to support them in future actions, and not just cheering silently from the sidelines.
Joseph Dobzynski, Jr.
California State University Employees Union
Vice-President for Member Engagement
Statewide Organizing Committee - Chair