Cuts at the UW

University of Washington Enacts Austerity By Choice

Michael Reagan

This spring, University of Washington graduate student teaching assistants began receiving news that their positions are to be cut from the upcoming academic year.

Roughly 25 graduate students from the College of Arts and Sciences had their positions eliminated because of budget shortfalls at the college level.  Students were informed by their departments, some of which faced drastic reductions.  In my own department, history, fully one-third of all TA positions were to be cut, although some of those positions have now been restored.  Other departments were cut by a quarter or a fifth. Still others chose to reduce their incoming cohort by 80%, or completely eliminate incoming grad students, rather than make cuts to current students.

Needless to say cuts this drastic hinders the core mission of the university: undergraduate instruction, production of new knowledge through graduate student research, and training the next generation of scholars. All suffer with these cuts.

It is hard to know the precise nature or the extent of the cuts because even now, a full three months after students were informed they were being let go, top university administrators including College Dean Robert Stacey, University Provost Gerald Baldasty and President Ana Mari Cauce, have issued no official statement about the cuts or their reasoning.

Instead what we’ve learned has come in bits and pieces from department chairs, private emails, and in conversation with top administrators.

University administrators say there is a $5 million budget shortfall in the College of Arts and Sciences. In November of 2015 however, just two-and-a-half months before he informed departments of cuts, Dean Stacey pledged $10 million to build a new bio-science building on campus.  According to the Seattle Times, “Stacey said his department is run so efficiently that the $10 million amounted to a windfall of extra money,” and that the College had an “unexpected infusion” of tuition dollars that could be spent on the new building.  The remainder of the funds for the new building will come from Wall Street bonds, which of course, are to be funded through student tuition.

In February of 2016 Dean Stacey turned around and told departments they would have to cut graduate positions.  In an email to department chairs Stacey explained the “bad news” that the College’s “instructional fund . . . allocations will not be sufficient to maintain next year the same number of TAs and lecturers you were able to support this year.” He called this a reduction in departments’ “TA purchasing power.”  (Later, during a September 1, 2016 meeting, Stacey denied knowing that the cuts would result in reduced graduate positions.)

Stacey now told chairs that cuts were necessary because key metrics in a new budget system, “activity based budgeting” or ABB, had declined.  The cuts came “as a result of declines in the number of degrees we awarded and declines in our total student credit hours,” he wrote.  Coupled with a confluence of other reasons (like a short fall of state funding, increasing union wages, and fees that were dropped), and months after spending millions of dollars on other priorities, Stacey now claimed a deficit.

It is difficult to say for certain what is happening on campus because of the lack of transparency coming from university officials. Some cuts have been rescinded by Dean Stacey, but we don’t know how many, and many more are still having their positions eliminated, including me.

The University claims the ABB budgeting model and declining enrollments necessitate cuts at the College of Arts of Sciences.  However, enrollments College wide are up, and Arts and Sciences has seen an increase in funding based on ABB.  Furthermore, ABB is not applied at the department level, on which Stacey has chosen to enforce these cuts.

At a September 1, 2016 meeting with impacted graduate students President Cauce and Dean Stacey heard from a Fulbright scholar who withdrew from her program because of the cuts.  The student explained that the cuts were likely the “new normal,” and that the prospect of years of uncertain funding was too anxiety provoking for her to continue. Another student, recently recovered from open heart surgery, shared that she would lose health coverage at the end of the month if her position was not restored.  President Cauce and Dean Stacey did not respond to these students’ concerns.

It’s clear that the cuts Dean Stacey and others are enacting is a choice; they are political, not fiscal.  Our university budget is healthy, with plenty of funding for other priorities.  University of Washington officials are choosing to undermine graduate research and instruction, a core mission of the public university, to favor construction contracts funded through bonds and tuition guarantees. This is a phenomenon we are seeing at public universities across the country, one that undoes the foundation of public higher education.

The cuts, administration priorities, the lack of transparency, and other recent problems indicate a failure of leadership at the very top of this university. At a minimum the TA cuts should be rescinded for next year.  More broadly, we should think about what kind of university we want to have, and what kind of leadership can get us there.

Michael Reagan is a graduate student in the history department at the University of Washington

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AWDU – Study Group

To help us think about building for the future, and once all this frenzied organizing dies down a bit – let’s read!!!!

Other folks have done what we’re trying.  In Chicago rank and file teachers got pissed, self-organized, formed a caucus, and now lead their union.

And there’s a book about it!

“How To Jump Start Your Union” covers all the basics of how CORE grew from a bunch of teachers angry about neo-liberal reforms in their schools, to one of the strongest and most exciting unions in the labor movement right now.

Linked here are selections from three chapters.  Bradbury et al – How To Jump Start Your Union – ch 3. Bradbury et al – How To Jump Start Your Union – ch 5 (selections). Bradbury et al – How To Jump Start Your Union – ch 12

Come join the discussion:

Friday May 6th – 4PM
Cafe on the Ave
4201 University

Mark your calendars! Talk to your phone! See you on the 6th!

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Undocumented Immigrants Pay Billions in Taxes to Fund Programs They’re Banned From Using

By Meredith Hoffman

April 13, 2015 | 2:45 pm

Undocumented immigrants are often portrayed as drains on the US economy that pay next to nothing in taxes while receiving free public education for their children, access to infrastructure, and protection from local police and fire departments. Researchers from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, have argued that the 11 million undocumented people estimated to be living in America create a fiscal deficit for the government.

But as American citizens and permanent residents file their taxes this week, the reality is that undocumented immigrants will also fork over billions worth of their hard-earned dollars to the IRS — and they could end up paying even more if they’re ever granted legal status.

The US government estimates that at least half of undocumented immigrants pay income tax, and analysts told VICE News the population will contribute at least $12 billion to the federal government this year, and at least $10.6 billion to state and local governments via income and payroll taxes.

“It’s really important to debunk the myth that undocumented immigrants aren’t paying taxes,” Meg Wiehe, the state tax policy director at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), told VICE News.

The ITEP previously found that undocumented immigrants paid $10.6 billion in 2010 to state and local governments, and Wiehe said the figure is now “at least that or higher.” The group will release an updated report later this week.

Undocumented workers pay their part despite the fact that they are explicitly banned from taxpayer-funded programs such as Social Security, Medicare, welfare, and food stamps. Undocumented immigrants contributed about $12 billion to the Social Security Trust Fund in 2010, according to the Social Security Administration.

University of Nevada tax law professor Francine Lipman told VICE News that the workers often pay taxes to satisfy demands of their employers, who increasingly push to pay employees on the books.

“More and more employers are wanting to pay people above the table through the tax system because they want the tax deduction,” Lipman said, explaining that the companies receive a tax rebate for claiming more workers.

To receive another tax break, some businesses even overstate the money they pay employees on their W-2 forms. Afraid that reporting the false claims will expose them to deportation, the undocumented immigrants end up paying more than they actually owe.

According to Lipman, who has researched immigrants’ tax contributions the past 10 years, people who entered the country illegally can also end up paying higher taxes because they don’t qualify for the earned income tax credit (EITC), which is intended to benefit low income workers.

“Earned income tax credit is a refundable federal credit you get to claim on your annual income tax return,” Lipman said. “But everyone on the return has to have a valid Social Security number, so undocumented immigrants don’t get that now.”

Analysts told VICE News that many undocumented people file taxes to comply with US laws, hoping it will lessen their chances of deportation and eventually help them gain a path to citizenship or a green card. According to a report from the Center for American Progress (CAP), undocumented workers would contribute $69 billion more in federal taxes and $40 billion more in state and local taxes over the next ten years if they were granted legal status.

Philip Wolgin, CAP’s associate director for immigration policy, told VICE News that the potential windfall would be the combined result of more employees stepping forward to pay taxes, and the fact that documented workers tend to earn higher wages.

Wolgin explained that government costs would not immediately increase because federal benefits such as welfare don’t typically kick in until five or 10 years after workers receive legal status. “It benefits the entire economy,” Wolgin said. “Workers earn more money with legal status, so they have more money to spend at local businesses. Then local businesses can create more jobs — you see wages going up for everyone, not just the undocumented population.”

Conservative groups remain skeptical of those arguments, maintaining that granting “amnesty” to immigrants that entered the country illegally would incur more costs for the government.

Jerry Kammer, a senior research fellow at Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that describes itself as “low-immigration, pro-immigrant,” warned in a blog post last week that the earned income tax credit could actually draw more immigrants to the US.

“One has to wonder if the EITC could become another financial magnet, another powerful draw for impoverished people living in impoverished homelands where the idea of a social safety net — including a cash payout from the government for taking a low-paying job — is an impossible dream,” Kammer wrote. “Only in America.”

But Randy Capps, the director of research for US programs with the Migration Policy Institute, told VICE News that the greater tax contribution by immigrants with legal status would offset the cost of the EITC. And, in the bigger picture, he noted that taxes are just a small part of the role immigrant workers play in the US economy.

“The greatest contribution is the work,” Capps said. “The biggest benefit is to society is from the work they’re doing.”

Follow Meredith Hoffman on Twitter: @merhoffman

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Ghost in the Machine: Reflections on the Poetry of Xu Lizhi

M Reagan

Borrowed from the philosophy of mind, specifically critiques of Cartesian conceptions of mind-body duality, the idea of the “ghost in the machine” has taken on changing meanings since its introduction in the post war period. Originally the phrase was intended as a diss of Descartes philosophy of mind as a kind of occultist ephemera, a hazy notion of cognition somehow separate from the “mechanical” – biological and chemical – functions of the brain. The idea grew from a materialist determinism of the scientific community in the height of the post-war triumph of capitalism, and drew on a scientific and rationalist worldview that had long animated the industrial revolution, and industrial capital. Belief in ghosts, a human mind, and human affections, outside the machine, industry and the body, was a kind of backward superstition.

Of course in reality the body, materialism and industrial capital have plenty of ghosts. In Marx’s theory of alienation, the animating spirit of human labor, a defining characteristic at the very “essence of the species”, was removed from working people through the mechanization of production, and more importantly, the loss of control and ownership of the materials of production and human creative activity. Humans, workers under industrial capital, lost the ability to control their labor, and their lives; they became alienated from their products, their labor, and themselves. People became a kind of living accessory to the machine, ghosts that haunt the process of production and capital formation itself. In his more poetic moments, Marx extended the metaphor, calling capital a kind of “living machine” that derives its animating spirit from the ghosts of labor, from the histories and generations of “dead labor” it sucks and destroys, “vampire-like” in its quest for further profit.

That process continues today, all the more harshly and dramatically in the industrial landscapes of southern coastal China, places like Shenzhen. Here, Xu Lizhi’s life and poetry are embedded in these processes, a testament to the resilience and obstinacy of the human ghost caught in the heat of the inhuman machine. When Xu writes of the “yoxuung workers” for whom “industry captures their tears before they have the chance to fall,” he indelibly marks for us the clarity of it all – the dehumanization, alienation, loss of control, of one’s life and even one’s affections, in Foxconn, and other sites of world profit making.

But his poetry does something more. It demands of us a reevaluation of the very materialist conceptions of history from which his, and our, world springs. His “disgraceful poems” push out to us a corporeal person, now a ghost – living, plunging, and falling asleep, in the deadly and deadening machine of the current information economy; his work a humanist affront to the dead economism of the materialist framework.

Of course, the overwhelming tragedy of his work is his suicide. Xu, now a ghost , cannot give us more. His words are silenced, his future insights erased, “before they have a chance to fall.” But there is joy here too, a joy found in resistance, in the assertion of the human. Xu joins the ranks of countless workers lost to capital – the ghosts of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, the Homestead rebellion, the Haymarket martyrs, the Foxconn suicides – whose stories and lives, their very humanness, stand in contrast and resistance to the machine of capital.

Echoes of past recriminations of capital could not be more present. To paraphrase August Spies, a Haymarket martyr, the power of their voices are made all the more resonant through their silencing at the hands of the state and capital. They stand to tell us that if given to this machine, all that is left are the ghosts. Xu seemed to understand this too; marking his legacy as one of resistance. In his words “Whether I speak or not / With this society I’ll still / Conflict.”

Xu Lizhi, his life and life’s work, are now given over to this great silence in the graveyard of the machine; he, and those like him, are the specter that forever haunts capital. For a poet there can be no greater achievement.

The pomes of Xu Lizhi can be found here: https://libcom.org/blog/xulizhi-foxconn-suicide-poetry

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Alienation, animated.

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Ricky Maclin, Leader of Historic 2008 Republic Windows and Doors Factory Occupation, Dies at 61

BY Leah Fried

“If you don’t fight, you’ve already lost,” Maclin often told workers. “But if you do fight, you can win.” (Brendan Martin / The Working World)

Melvin “Ricky” Maurice Maclin, Vice President of United Electrical Workers Local 1110, leader of the historic six-day factory occupation of Republic Windows and Doors in December 2008 and founding member of New Era Windows Cooperative, died on May 5, after being diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in early April. He was 61 years old and died surrounded by family in his Chicago home. The steady stream of visitors was a testament to the impact he had on so many lives and our movement for justice.

“This is a huge loss for me and for our movement,” said his good friend, Local 1110 President Armando Robles, who was also a leader in the Republic occupation. “He leaves a huge hole in our lives. He was a great friend and a brother in struggle.”

Ricky was born on March 2, 1954, and spent his early years in Haywood County, Tennessee, on his grandparents’ farm, where they grew cotton and raised cows, chickens and pigs. He lived with his grandparents, with whom he was very close, his mother and stepfather, and his younger sister Brenda. His Aunt Helen, his mother’s sister, described Ricky as “a fast learner and very smart. He caught on to anything he wanted to.” While his given name is Melvin Maurice, his mother took to calling him Ricky because she was fond of that name and it stuck (though the family nickname “Gigi Pig Squeak” did not). His cousin May Carolyn Reed said, “Ricky was a real charmer. We called him ‘Pretty Ricky,’ like the singer.”

His parents moved Ricky and his sister to Chicago when Ricky finished elementary school.  He attended CVS High School in Chicago. After graduation, Ricky entered into what family members called the “street life,” but eventually became religious and turned his life around.

Ricky worked for many years in the restaurant industry before landing a job at Republic Windows and Doors in 2002. A few years later, he met Cynthia and married her. She recalled how “I had decided I didn’t want to get married. But an elderly lady who Ricky helped take care of set us up on a blind date. She called me and said I just had to meet this very nice man. From the moment we met nine years ago, we were inseparable.”

Republic Windows and Doors workers organized into UE Local 1110 in 2004 and Ricky became a shop steward. In 2007, he was elected vice president of the local. He helped lead the successful worker occupation of the Republic factory in 2008, challenging Bank of America to take responsibility after the bank received a $25 billion federal government bailout during that year’s Wall Street crisis, and then cut off credit to credit to the window factory, wiping out jobs. The UE members’ courageous action received massive national and international media attention, making them working-class heroes at a time of so much villainous action by the 1 percent, and the occupation ended when they won the back pay to which they were entitled. It also led to the plant reopening under a new owner, Serious Energy, and with the UE contract intact.

In early 2009, Ricky participated in the Republic Workers Victory Tour, speaking in several cities around the country to encourage other workers to take bold action to defend their rights. He loved to tell other workers, “If you don’t fight, you’ve already lost. But if you do fight, you can win.”

In 2012, Maclin helped lead a second worker occupation of the window factory, when Serious Energy decided to close the plant with little notice. Out of that occupation came the idea of workers buying the company and starting a worker-owned cooperative, and a commitment by Serious to sell them the equipment they needed to make that happen. Ricky was one of three of the original team that began the process of founding, with help from The Working World, what is now New Era Windows Cooperative.

During the first plant occupation, Maclin frequently spoke to the news media on behalf of his fellow workers. Capitalism: A Love Story, Michael Moore’s 2009 documentary about the financial crisis and the injustice of the economic system, highlighted the Republic workers’ action as one of the few stories with a happy ending, and Ricky Maclin is featured. He’s also shown and quoted extensively in Workers’ Republic, Andrew Friend’s excellent documentary film on the occupation, and in UE’s own short video about the Republic struggle produced by Andrew Dinkelaker.

UE General President Bruce Klipple said, “Ricky Maclin was amazing. What he and his fellow workers in Local 1110 did is unbelievable, and made a huge contribution to this union, the entire labor movement and the working people of this country.”

“Ricky was one of the most inspirational rank and file leaders I have ever met,” says Carl Rosen, UE Western Region president. “He had a knack with coming up with the most perceptive comment for any situation and saying it with a very disarming smile. And he always knew which side he was on. UE and the whole labor movement have lost a great leader.”

Ricky Maclin is survived by his wife Cynthia Maclin; three stepchildren, 14 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren; his sister’s two kids and 10 great-nieces and -nephews; and his cousin Shannon, who he considered a little sister. He will be remembered by all who love justice and struggle to build a fair and kinder world.

Funeral services will be held on Friday, May 15 in Chicago. The wake is from 10 am to 11 am at the Taylor Funeral Home at 63 E 79th Street. The funeral service will be held from 11 am to 12 pm at Carter Temple CME Church located at 7841 S Wabash Ave. Viewing will take place Thursday May 14, 8 am to 8:30 pm at Taylor Funeral Home.

Leah Fried is an organizer for the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers.

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30,000 Teachers Walk Out in Protest of Big Class Sizes in Washington State

BY Mario Vasquez

Since late April, Washington state teachers have been striking for reduced class sizes and better funding for classroom programs. (Washington Educators Association / Facebook)

On Tuesday, May 19, thousands of demonstrators marched through downtown Seattle to support a rolling strike by public school teachers across Washington state. The teachers are protesting what they say are unacceptably high class sizes and low pay, stemming from their state legislature’s failure to fully fund public education.

Six thousand teachers and supporters from Seattle Public Schools and the nearby districts of Mercer Island and Issaquah shut down intersections for blocks in the largest coordinated action since the rolling walkout began on April 22. In total, at least 30,000 teachers in 65 striking school districts have participated in one-day strikes.

Washington Educators Association (WEA), the statewide teachers union (a National Education Association affiliate), has pointed out that the state has the sixth-highest student-teacher ratio of any state, at 19.4, according to NEA data from 2013. The union calculates that an additional 11,960 teachers would be needed to reduce the student-teacher ratio to the national average of 15.9. Class sizes are typically about nine or 10 students larger than the student-teacher ratio. Teachers say that big class sizes in Washington state result in poor working and learning conditions.

The strike is unusual in that the teachers are not pressuring their respective school districts, but rather targeting the state legislature for its unwillingness to fund education enough to decrease class sizes and increase teacher compensation. Popular signs at rallies across the state have read “Educators care for our kids every day – It’s time the legislature cared” and “On strike against legislature – stop blaming teachers – start funding schools.”

On the class size and funding issue, union members say they have both the courts and the voters on their side. In 2012, the state Supreme Court ruled in McCleary vs. Washington that the legislature had failed in its constitutional duty to “amply provide for the education of all children within its borders” and ordered it to implement adequate funding increases by 2018. Last September, the Washington Supreme Court found the legislature in contempt of court for failing “to provide the court a complete plan for fully implementing its program of basic education,” warning lawmakers that the legislature would be “sanctioned” if it did not develop a plan by the end of the legislative cycle.

Compounding this legal pressure is the binding initiative 1351 approved by voters in November 2014, which calls for a 20 percent reduction in class size and the hiring of 15,000 teachers over the next four years, according to advocates of the initiative.

While both legislatures have put forward proposals to fund class size decreases up to the third grade, none have proposed fully funding initiative 1351. Gov. Jay Inslee has called for two consecutive special sessions to address the funding issue and other budgetary matters before a July 1 deadline. If they don’t resolve the budget, legislators risk a government shutdown.

Jesse Hagopian, a history teacher at Garfield High, says that teachers’ “backs are to the wall,” necessitating collective action.

“The old strategy of supporting politicians and hoping that they will enact pro-education policies has not worked for so long that it has actually caused a state of crisis for our union as a whole,” he says. “It’s reached a level of absurdity. I think [lack of support from the legislature] made [WEA] leadership more willing to back some of our smaller locals that began this one-day strike wave in the state.”

The strikes have been primarily organized by teachers union locals, rather than by the statewide union. On the eve of the first strikes in late April, a WEA spokesperson told Washington’s News Tribune that it was up to locals to “decide how big the protest gets this year.” What began with eight districts has now swelled to 65.

The legislature’s unwillingness to go fully fund I-1351 and adhere to McCleary has galvanized teacher in a way that Susan DuFresne, a kindergarten teacher at Maplewood Heights Elementary, describes as “truly grassroots.”

“I place this strike wave at the tipping point in the struggle between progressive education reform and corporate education reform,” DuFresne says. “This struggle has a long way to go to educate and activate students, parents, teachers and community members—but this strike wave is finally bringing attention to this struggle in arenas we call the ‘non-choir.’ ”

Hagopian, who is part of the social justice-based reform caucus Social Equality Educators and last year came 45 votes shy of being elected Seattle teachers’ union president, says the political situation in Washington is “Robin Hood in reverse.”

“Lowering class sizes costs money, and to raise that money you would have to actually tax the rich,” he told In These Times. “We’re one of seven states in the nation that don’t have an income tax and one of only nine states in the country that don’t have a capital gains tax.”

Indeed, Washington has the nation’s most regressive tax structure, according to a study published in January by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. The study found that the state’s top 1% contributes 2.4 percent of family income in state and local taxes while the poorest 20 percent contribute 16.8 percent, making Washington the “highest-tax state in the country for poor people.”

Meanwhile, the state’s largest corporations have received eye-popping tax breaks in recent years: In 2014, Boeing was awarded the single largest tax break a state has ever given a company: an $8.7 billion cut. Microsoft reportedly avoided $528 million in state taxes between 1997 and 2008 due to lax legislative oversight concerning the company reporting its revenue through its licensing office in Nevada, despite basing its software production in Washington.

At the same time, lawmakers have suspended voter-approved cost-of-living increases for educators every year since 2008. Washington’s teacher pay now ranks 42nd in the nation. Teachers also say that legislatures are undermining their job security by introducing legislation that would tie state standardized tests to teacher evaluations. This has helped push hundreds of educators and students across Seattle high schools to boycott the tests, placing the city at the vanguard of a larger emerging wave of test boycotts across the country.

WEA members say that if legislators don’t resolve funding issues by the end of the second special legislative session, rolling strike waves will begin again when school begins in September. Hagopian expects even wider support from teachers at that time.

“I can’t imagine that after feeling the collective power that we found in the streets on Tuesday when we walked out,  that teachers would just go quietly back into the classroom and submit to the humiliation of being in one of the richest regions the world has ever known and seeing kids come to school without basic supplies and ballooning class sizes,” he says.

Mario Vasquez is a writer from Santa Barbara, California. You can reach him at mario.vasquez.espinoza@gmail.com.

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