The independent student news site of San Marcos, California

The Cougar Chronicle

The independent student news site of San Marcos, California

The Cougar Chronicle

The independent student news site of San Marcos, California

The Cougar Chronicle



The Wisconsin State Assembly passed legislation stripping state employees of most of its collective bargaining rights in mid-February. The bill was backed by Wisconsin’s newly elected Republican governor, Scott Walker.

Collective bargaining is a union’s ability to negotiate wages, pension, benefits, working conditions and contracts with employers. For almost a century, unions have served as a stronghold for financial protection of the United States working class. Head of the Economics department at Cal State San Marcos, Dr. Robert Rider, discussed in an interview that the restriction of collective bargaining privileges is due in part to “the unsustainable retirement and health benefits promised to some public sector employees, which is exacerbated by the demographics of the retiring baby boomers.”

Following the bill’s passage, throngs of teachers, police and other civil service members and their supporters met in solidarity at the Wisconsin state capitol to protest the legislation. In contrast to the current protests in Northern Africa and the World Trade Organization protests in 1999, the demonstration in Wisconsin exudes a much more peaceful vibe but with comparable passion in the eyes and voices of demonstrators.

However, collective bargaining restrictions are not just happening in Wisconsin. Ohio’s State Assembly passed a similar measure on March 3 and Tennessee and Indiana’s legislatures are considering similar action. CSUSM’s CFA chapter president, Professor Don Barrett stated that “the increasing anti-union sentiment among governing agencies nationally means that there is more support for other actions that aim to reduce the power of unions.”

Professor Barrett flew to Madison, Wisconsin to show West Coast solidarity with East Coast unions: “The area was packed with people of all ages, chanting, drumming and holding signs in opposition to Gov Walker’s attempt to end collective bargaining.” His journey was sponsored by the Los Angeles Labor Council, and Wisconsin protesters met Professor Barrett and others with overwhelming gratitude, “we kept having to remind them that the ‘thank you’ was from us to them, for having given a new level of energy to union and political activism.”

Mike Geck, chapter president of the CSU Employees Union, CSUEU, also joined a separate demonstration in Sacramento to show union solidarity from the West coast.

CSUSM faculty’s contracts have been in the negotiation process since last June due in part to an inability to negotiate layoff procedures and appointments for lecturers between CFA and the CSU. Instability in the workplace for professors can serve as distraction from providing a quality education for their students, according to Dr. Barrett: “the work environment is becoming quite discouraging for many faculty who are fearing a loss of the ability to use their expertise in defining how education should work, an increase in workload to the point where they cannot provide individualized assistance to students who need it, and a work environment where their job security is constantly under threat.”

As the wave of anti-union sentiment crashes across the country, CSUSM faculty and staff unions are banding together to stay afloat.

Photo courtesy of Don Barrett

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