This labor conflict ain’t over

John Hoff

The picket signs might be put away, but the underlying issues and conflicts associated with the recent American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees strike can’t be tossed in the back of a desk drawer like an old union button.

Some of us crossed that picket line every day with remorse and regret, but all the same we repeatedly crossed that line like a bunch of reactionary, red-state, right-wing scabs. So, the way I see it, I still owe the union big time. And so I will continue to demonstrate loyalty to these underpaid workers through actions and habits developed while the picket lines were holding, and hope was alive.

For example, I have stopped buying over-the-counter items at Boynton. There was a time when I was urging students to take advantage of the great drug deals at Boynton. Now I will continue to seek bargains, but I will seek them elsewhere.

Regretfully, I don’t owe the University any money right now. If I did, I would wait until the very last possible moment to pay that bill, in order to demonstrate loyalty to the workers and, well, to revel in spite.

There is such a thing as winning the battle but losing the war, something known since ancient times as a “Pyrrhic victory.” That could be what has happened in this instance.

Yes, the picket lines broke, but publicity and news coverage surrounding the strike exposed one of the main grievances of the workers: Administrators have been fattening their own pay at the expense of folks at the bottom. Powerful political players took a stand in favor of the strikers. Professors seeded courage in a new generation by daring to defy orders from the administration and taking their classes off campus.

If “coming together” means anything, it certainly means no repercussions against these courageous instructors. No, not even a mildly worded letter in a file. Zip. Zero. Nada.

The collective outrage caused by this strike will undoubtedly have an impact when budget allocations are made in the future. It appears that if the state legislature wants money to actually make its way to the folks doing the tough jobs at this University, then the state legislature needs to be very specific about those allocations, or the rats will nibble away most of the cheese before somebody can fetch it from the pantry to make a sandwich.

The real cost of this strike was borne by students, who endured the confusion and inefficiency caused by missing workers. The University itself managed to save a pile of money by passing the inconvenience on to students, then using wages saved during the strike to make lump-sum payments.

One important lesson to remember in all of this: You can go out on strike and get your job back. You can wear a union button every day in support of workers who have walked off the job. You can even publicly defy the administration and take your class off campus, and will there be any harsh consequences? It appears there will not be.

With the 2008 Republican National Convention bearing down on our innocent metropolis like a horde of night raiders, it is important to remember we live in an environment where resistance is possible and the consequences of defying authorities might not even be particularly severe.

In the end, the University administration might find their victory is nothing but a pile of ashes, and the ancient conflict between the workers and the bosses will not be decided by a single battle.

Solidarity. Forever.

John Hoff welcomes comments at [email protected]