Tuesday, September 17, 2013

oddball notes on a Tuesday

       I find myself with a small amount of time on my hands to put something brief up on the blog.  I've been extraordinarily busy with orientations and bargaining work.  Both tend to translate into a lot of small and often repetitive tasks with no real end in sight.  It's important work that is on occasion interesting, but it tends to seep into all pores of your daily life, producing a seamless flow of union work.  Fortunately, we have some collective support networks in place on our campus to deal with such work, or the entire process would be overwhelming.  

       However, rather than union work, I'd like to turn briefly to science fiction.  The most notable occurrence from my perspective is the death of Frederick Pohl, the former member of the Futurians, who had a long career as an author, editor, and agent within the field of science fiction.  Pohl produced the significant critical works, The Space Merchants and Search the Sky with C.M. Kornbluth.  He also helped get a lot of folks into print through his work as an editor and as an agent.  The latter work produced some controversy as Pohl was not always able to get folks the money that they were expecting within that role, a failing I suspect that arose from his amateur status, rather than any systemic dishonesty.  His divorce from fellow Futurian, Judith Merril was also problematic, involving some fairly emotionally abusive behavior on his part, despite the fact the two eventually reconciled and became friends, again. (Pohl, in fact, provided the text for phonograph recording of two Merril stories that I own on lp).  Despite those issues, Pohl represented one of the last of the early generation of science fiction writers, outliving the rest of the Futurian collective, and more public figures such as Heinlein, Asimov, and Clarke.  He was writing a blog that I have linked to up until the time of his death that provided his own recollections of his fellow Futurians and other figures within the genre.  It's really worth the read if you're interested in the history.  I'm in the process of reading his memoir, which I will write about in the next few days.

      As a last note in this conversation, it has struck me over the past few months that the field of science fiction criticism has been deeply harmed by the fact that Darko Suvin's important interventions, Metamorphoses in Science Fiction, and his work on Victorian Science Fiction, are not in print.  The former regularly goes for over fifty dollars online, and I have seen the latter for over six hundred dollars online.  This lack of accessibility translates into a lot of contemporary work only engaging in Suvin's work from a second hand perspective, which often translates into shallow and often tendentious readings of his critical framework.  This became most apparent in the surface reading that Peter Paik provided of the text, From Utopia to Apocalypse: Science Fiction and the Politics of Catastrophe, a reading that lacked the focus and thoughtfulness that Paik brought to his other subject material.  I don't think Suvin's work is flawless, but he provides a substantial engagement with the mutating formal quality of the genre, linking it with the rise of the capitalist world system along with the myriad of resistances that respond the creation of that system and deeply shape its trajectory.  It's difficult to think of an equivalent text in another field being similarly inaccessible.  At some point, Yale needs to reprint those volumes, or let someone else reprint them.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Thoughts on the current state of the union (UAW 2865)

        I've been debating whether I should comment on the blog that an anonymous group of individuals put up about the bargaining process, entitled "Paycheck First".  I don't know who's writing, but the writing is largely representative of the sorts of distortions, misrepresentations, and nonsense that is largely representative of the former leadership's writing style, going back to their interventions defending the process of bargaining the 2010.  As far as I can tell, the individuals writing the blog want us to go back to the approach to bargaining the contract that was taken in previous periods, which was to see the role of the rank and file of the union in the bargaining process as fairly minimal and to be sharply controlled by the leadership.  It's important to note that the Irvine campus rejected that position, first with the vote on the contract and second when the membership had an opportunity to vote in the triennial election of that same year.  Additionally, a number of their posts are fairly close to the comments and positions that have been taken by labor relations within the bargaining process.  I've come to expect very little from the former leadership, but I was a little surprised by their open capitulation to the logic of management.  I'm open to a substantial conversation about the process of bargaining, but the writing in this anonymous blog doesn't warrant much in the way of engagement.  At very least, the individuals writing this blog could show the courage of attaching their names to the various accusations they have made.

        To turn to the more substantial issue of actual bargaining, rather than the shadow theater of anonymous comments, we're moving out of the summer period of bargaining into the fall.  We've put a number of different proposals on the table, but our ability to put pressure on the administration substantially increases with school back in session.  We take our jobs at the bargaining table fairly seriously, but our ability to bargain a good contract is dependent on the active support and participation that we receive from the rank and file membership.  Along with the work that we have put at the bargaining table, we have been starting the process of getting folks involved at the campus level, including tabling, fliering, and talking to folks at their offices when we can find them.  We're looking forwards to getting in touch with a lot of folks during orientations.  We've also been working to make stronger alliances with the other student groups on campus, and with a number of unions as well, returning to the informal union coalition that tentatively got formed last year.  Those alliances were quite evident at the bargaining that occurred in Irvine, with union and student allies speaking up in support of our various demands.  The contract that we're fighting for, one that would contribute to the defense of a genuinely public education, and in defense of social justice is going to take a lot of membership support.  We want a strong paycheck to make up for the years of sub-inflation raises we have received over the years, but we also want to use our contract to fight for underrepresented groups, to put caps in the amount of students are in our classrooms so that undergraduates receive a better education, and for cheaper housing and other issues.  We're hoping to see your participation in the variety of fights that are going to occur over fall quarter.

         We've been involved in this fight for a long time now.  Through our work in the public education movement, we've seen the University of California system move from double digit fee and tuition increases to a cap on tuition for the last couple of years.  This fight is never acknowledged by the former leadership of the union, because they played no role in it, refusing to ally themselves with the students and unions involved in it.  Instead, it was folks from AWDU who did that work, and contributed to those victories. With this new contract, we have the opportunity to move away from staunching the wounds of privatization and beginning to make gains for ourselves and for the public university.  AWDU has moved the union from the provincial backwaters that it used to occupy, and has placed it in the center of the struggles around the university, and the fight for a more just and democratic society represented by campaigns such as "Make Banks Pay".  Those fights have earned the union respect, and have led to alliances that can make that happen.  We're looking forwards to the fight.  The rank and file of our various campuses have the opportunity to get a strong contract through that process.