An Incredible Week at Wright State University

Posted to the Academe Blog of the national AAUP by Rudy Fichtenbaum:

It has been an incredible week at Wright State University. The weather has been terrible (temperatures in the single digits followed by snow and freezing rain).But everyday this week, hundreds of faculty have been on    the picket line from 8am to 6pm at the four main entrances to the campus. Our faculty have given up their paychecks, lost their health insurance, and left their classrooms, labs, schools, and hospitals to take a stand and send   a message to the administration and board that we will not let them  destroy public higher education at Wright State.

Members of the Wright State AAUP chapter executive committee have  been working around the clock, writing press statements, doing interviews, posting on social media, organizing picket shifts, and dealing with the campus police. All who can are also doing regular shifts on the the picket lines. We have other members in charge of checking people in for picket duty, supplying picketers with hand and foot warmers, providing food for hundreds of strikers, shoveling snow, shuttling picketers from our headquarters to the picket line, putting up and taking down tents every  day.

Our students have been unbelievable. They have brought food and drinks to us on the picket lines. One day last week while I was on the picket line a computer science student crossed the street in front of campus carrying a shopping bag full of hot bowls of chili and thanked us for what we were doing. Students have held two marches, walking from campus out to our picket lines, and briefly occupied the president’s office on Thursday demanding a meeting with the president.

We have been joined by our brothers and sisters in the labor movement from Dayton area and beyond. Of course, AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress chair Paul Davis was there with us, as were others from Cincinnati State. John McNay president of the Ohio AAUP conference was on the line with us. Other chapters from across the state have joined us as well–Bowling Green State University, the University of Cincinnati, Miami University, and faculty from the University of Dayton. This fall the Wright State AAUP chapter affiliated with the Dayton-Miami Valley Central Labor Council (AFL-CIO), and their support for us has been fantastic. The president Tom Richie and executive director Diane Walsh have been on  the line with us, as have members from IBEW local 82, UFCW local 75 , IUE local 775, Iron Worker’s local 290, Ohio Federation of Teachers, and the Ohio Education Association. The state AFL-CIO blasted out our petition  and a petition organized by students across the state. The AAUP-CBC has approved a grant in support of the strike and we have received donations and letters of support from other unions across the country.

We have had the support from members of the Dayton City Commission and Senator Sherrod Brown.

We have had great support from the national staff of the AAUP. Organizers Ben Ratliff and Kira Schuman have been on the ground for weeks and both organizing director Christopher Simeone and executive director Julie Schmid have also been here to offer their support.

The administration and board have still refused to negotiate with us believing that our faculty would never strike. Once the strike was a reality, they claimed that they would cover all of our classes. In reality what is happening is that the campus is in chaos. They have threatened students with the loss of financial aid if they fail to attend class. They have some chairs attempting to teach as many as six classes. They have ads on  LinkedIn offering to hire hundreds of scabs. There are hundreds of reports from students on social media telling us that substitutes are telling them   to read their books or work on previous assignments. We have had reports of clinical sections at hospitals where no instructor showed up, so the students left. Their definition of covering a class is having a “sweeper” take attendance! But as one of the signs held up by one of our picketers said “Attendance is not Instruction.”

The administration and board have filed an Unfair Labor Practice against our chapter for not helping them determine how many scabs they need to teach classes and for refusing to provide scabs with the intellectual property of our faculty to enable them to run classes. On Thursday, in what is clearly a move of desperation, they filed a Notice of an Unauthorized Strike with the State Employment Relations Board (SERB).

Our attorney has told us there is a difference between an illegal strike and and effective strike and what the administration and board are admitting with this filing is that the strike is effective. The SERB agreed, and found in our favor.

We are confident that our members will remain united and do whatever is necessary. As the president of the national AAUP, I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with each of our members who have chosen to take  a stand, putting everything on the line, to fight for students and to ensure the continued existence of public higher education as a common good.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s