While it has always been characteristic of those favoring an increase in governmental powers to support maximum concentration of these powers, those mainly concerned with individual liberty have generally advocated decentralization. There are strong reasons why action by local authorities generally offers the next-best solution where private initiative cannot be relied upon to provide certain services and where some sort of collective action is therefore needed; for it has many of the advantages of private enterprise and fewer of the dangers of coercive actions of government. — Friedrich von Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (1960)
One of the issues on the table at today’s meeting over Operational Excellence is what the administration likes to call “benefits decentralization,” but what we insist on calling by its proper name: benefits cuts proposal. According to an astute post by our comrades in Academic Workers for a Democratic Union, this proposal would have the following effects:
- A reduction of GSI positions coupled with speed-up in the workplace.
- As a corollary of (1), a dramatic increase in debt-financing of graduate education.
- A structural antagonism between GSIs and departmental staff given that the same pool of money will be used to fund both sorts of employees.
For a fantastic explanation as to how this benefits cuts proposal — so-called “benefits decentralization” — will necessarily produce these three consequences, read the AWDU post. This isn’t simply a proposal, mind you, but was actually willed into effect one week ago today. This effectively constitutes an extra-contractual and unilateral imposition of cuts to jobs and benefits, an affront to the collective bargaining process as well as all workers on this campus. Thankfully the academic student employees’ union UAW 2865 has filed an Unfair Labor Practice complaint against the administration; we’ll follow developments as news comes in.
No cuts to worker benefits!
“Decentralization” is empty neoliberal rhetoric; call a spade a spade!
Once again, from AWDU:
Finally, we must comment on the Budget Office’s cynical use of the rhetoric of decentralization and flexibility in their draft proposal. Just as campus Administrators have presented Operational Excellence – a process that, if implemented, will result in hundreds of layoffs – as an effort at increasing staff autonomy and self-management, the Budget Office has suggested that limiting the overall compensation of graduate students and staff members will give departments greater budgetary freedom. But what sort of freedom are they offering? The freedom of staff members and graduate students to work longer hours for the same pay? The freedom to spend time and resources petitioning private institutions for funding? The freedom of faculty chairs to choose which staff members to lay off, or where to cut corners? The freedom of debt and wageless life?