A Peg Kramer, University Staff Association the end, manly apologies were swapped, and plans for the future were solidified. But solidarity? Who knows. There may already be too much water under the bridge. Leaders of both groups admit that a cosponsored march of university workers on the Capitol in the spring of 1998 was successful. Soon afterward, however, relationships soured. Gross claims that the U.S.A. attempted to take credit for the march, even though it had been organized with union resources. According to Kramer, the relationship was sundered when the U.S.A. decided not to join the T.S.E.U. because the, workers felt they weren’t ready to unionize. Other observers say that the falling-out occurred at a state-wide T.S.E.U. meeting in 1998, when union delegates from UT-Austin who were also memtempted to push collective bargaining which would require a major change of heart in the Texas Legislature onto the T.S.E.U.’s official platform. This much is true: Accusations over who is more undemocratic, more self-aggrandizing, and less organized fly back and forth. The infamous letter was just one sling among so many arrows. Watching the fray are u ‘ersity workers. “The staff association did some posit’ ve things,” said Glenn Worley, a staff member in the library who has been at UT since 1975. A former member of the T.S.E.U. and a current member of the U.S.A., he questioned both the U.S.A.’s negative attitude and the T.S.E.U.’s use of his money. In the end, he said, “I didn’t do the Nathan Lambrecht/Daily Texan Staff sick-out, because I didn’t feel it was a good idea.” On the other hand, he feels alienated from the union. “The union’s operating as if it’s the Thirties or Forties. They don’t understand what people want. They [workers] get tired of hearing about the evil exploiters of labor. We don’t like to get treated like line workers or agricultural workers.” The letter, and the sick-out which provoked it, highlight a more fundamental point of contention: Do university workers belong in a state-wide union that also represents parole officers, child welfare workers, and food service workers, employed by some 254 state agencies in all? If so, can the union and its state-wide constituency make room for strategies such as fighting for collective bargaining rights that the grad students, the U.S.A., and Peg Kramer hold dear? Kramer maintains, in fact, that the answer is no. Higher education’s varied funding sources and different grievance procedures, health insurance, and retirement system make it unique among state employers. And UT-Austin’s situation is even more exceptional. Workers at the flagship of the UT System have to live in Austin, where the booming economy has drastically increased living costs. Meanwhile, Gross and Branson hew to the T.S.E.U.’s oneunion-fits-all policy, pointing to several victories in the last four legislative sessions that only a statewide union could have achieved. It took the T.S.E.U.’s muscle, for example, to defeat the University of Texas’ attempt to get exemptions from a mandated pay raise for all state workers. “[The UT administration’s] basic philosophy is to keep themselves isolated from the rest of the state OCTOBER 20, 2000 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7
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