An Unusually Insistent Prof Writes…

This recently in from a prof in Windsor:

During the recent contract vote OPSEU engaged a PR firm to create various advertisements and a website. The ads continued to run after the vote had been taken. A potential waste of union dues.Ted Montgomery was recently asked how much this campaign cost. He initially couldn’t remember, then remembered that is was 6 figures and after further prodding remembered that it was between $200,000 and $300,000. A significant amount of money. We were surprised that the leader of the bargaining team was unable to remember such an important expenditure. Since he was the team leader he surely was consulted by OPSEU.What do you make of this?


What do I make of this?  Well, I suppose I start by noting that this is a blog about our work as college teachers, not about union politics.

However, the writer seemed sufficiently concerned about my opinion to go to the trouble of sending the exact same message twice, as a comment to two different pages of the blog, so I feel that I owe him or her the courtesy of a reply.

So: What do I think about this?  Well, given that I’ve never seen or heard the advertisements in question, it’s hard to say, exactly.  But my offhand  impressions are as follows…

1.  Noting that a 30 second televised spot in Canada can cost over $100,000, I think that $200-$300,000 is not a remarkable sum for an entire ad campaign.

2.  Assuming that the ad time was purchased prior to the offer vote, then I don’t think the fact that the ads continued after that vote necessarily indicates a waste of money.

3.  If the ads were general “Here are why the negotiated issues are important” or “Here’s why quality college education matters” messages, then — rather than being “a potential waste of union dues” — I think they’re appropriate to run at any time (and, arguably, should be continued throughout the next years).

4.  I think that one may run the risk of mistaking the the position of “bargaining team head” with “Chief Executive Officer”.  As I understand it, the head of a bargaining team is responsible for negotiating a contract based on the demands put forth directly from the union’s members.  S/he is not responsible for budgeting or promotions, and would therefore not necessarily be responsible for knowing detailed information thereof.

5.  Even if the bargaining team head were responsible for budgeting or promotions,  expecting any individual to access precise numbers off the top of his/her head in the middle of a general meeting strikes me as a bit . . . exacting.

But most of all, I’m inclined to believe this:

6.  If people increasingly strive to humiliate their own elected representatives publicly, then increasingly, the people who in the future would be willing to occupy such posts would likely be a) servile toadies who were unwilling to take the risk of actually taking a controversial position, or b) insensitive individuals who were utterly indifferent to hostility from their members.

I wonder if either character type is one that we — as union members or as citizens — would desire in our elected leaders.  And, speaking out of pure speculation, I furthermore wonder whether a hypothetical increased environment of online criticism from angry members might have any impact on the number of women or members of visible minorities (or, quite frankly, reasonable, moderate people) who would be inclined to run for elected positions.

But, as the banner at the top of the page indicates, that’s just one prof’s perspective.

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