Some more links on UMN faculty organizing

From the Minnesota Daily, Faculty files to unionize.

From MPR, U faculty file petition toward union vote.

From City Pages, Faculty file for union to bring the U’s focus back to the classroom.

From Workday Minnesota, University of Minnesota faculty file for union election.

From the Pioneer Press, U faculty expected to vote on union.

Update: the Daily editorial board is in favor of unionization.

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UMN faculty union drive

Faculty at the University of Minnesota are filing to form a union!  It’s a group consisting of tenured, tenure-track, and contingent (adjunct) faculty, looking to join the SEIU education local.  This is the same union that organized Hamline adjuncts in 2014; their new contract (just signed recently) gives them their first raise in a decade, as well as numerous other protections.  The U union will be fighting for similar gains for contingent faculty, as well as a stronger voice for tenured faculty in the governance of the university.  Let’s do this!


Edit to add: the WSJ has a piece on us (paywalled):

If faculty vote to join the Service Employees International Union, they would potentially establish the largest bargaining unit of any school in the nation since at least January 2013 when new organizing activity in higher education began to rise, said William A. Herbert, executive director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College in New York.

In the past three years, faculty and graduate students at about 65 schools have voted to join a union–a clip of nearly one school every two weeks.

University of Minnesota Professor Mark Borrello, who teaches the history of biology and evolutionary theory, said he was motivated to organize faculty to join a union because he believes the working conditions of part-time contingent faculty are bad and getting worse. The result: a transient workforce that was leading to a decrease in the quality of education.

“These are national trends, but they’re particularly upsetting [in Minnesota] because we’ve historically been a progressive state that prides itself on being hyper-educated and hyper-literate and when you feel like that’s not happening there’s this immense sense of frustration,” he said.


Further edit: the official announcement video is here, press release is here, and coverage from KSTP is here.

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Harris Machinery warehouse

One of the things I like about the Minneapolis landscape are the beautiful old industrial buildings.  Some (for example, in downtown) have been repurposed in various ways, but others are just slowly crumbling.  One of the latter is the Harris Machinery warehouse by the transitway in southeast Minneapolis.  It caught on fire over the weekend, which was visible from our window:

Fire at the Harris Machinery warehouse (30th Ave SE) viewed from 25th Ave SE

Flames visible at the Harris Machinery warehouse from a half-mile distance

Flames still visible against the smoke more than an hour after the fire started.

(Sorry about the terrible window glare in the third one.)  On Tuesday morning, there was still a fire truck keeping an eye on the smoldering:

A fire truck kept watch over the smoldering remains.

Partial side view of the Harris Machinery warehouse after the fire.

The roof was already caved in before the fire; the ice covering the building and nearby trees is what happens when firefighters spray a lot of water around in sub-zero temperatures.  I was not the only person out this morning who thought this would be an interesting photo to take:

There was some mention of the fire in the Strib and in the Daily; the Strib has some good photos.

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Personal weather report

Number of days spent in the NY area this winter: 12

Number of those days on which I wore my winter coat: 1

Number of those days on which I needed to wear my winter coat: 0

Temperature on Christmas Eve: 70 degrees Farenheit


Number of days it has been too cold to bike in Minneapolis: 0

Number of days I have worn my facemask while biking: 2

Number of days I didn’t wear my facemask but wished I had: 1

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A victory for workers at the U

The clerical, janitorial and other workers at the U, who have been in contract negotiations for months, have won what look like strong contracts: nontrivial pay raises, including a minimum of $15/hour, six weeks maternity leave (giving them parity with other groups on campus, including professors), and no increases in health care costs.  Kudos to them for doing the hard work necessary to make this happen, and having it pay off.  Hopefully academic staff will learn from them, come together as a union, and join the collective fight to make the U a better, fairer place.


Related older posts:

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Mathematica makes me want to cry: standard radical form edition

Here is a thing that makes me want to cry: every high school student at some point learns about putting things in something called “standard radical form.”  For example, I learned to simplify \frac{2 + \sqrt{3}}{1 - \sqrt{3}} by multiplying the top and bottom by the conjugate of the denominator, yielding

\displaystyle \frac{2 + \sqrt{3}}{1 - \sqrt{3}} = \frac{(2 + \sqrt{3})(1 + \sqrt{3})}{(1 - \sqrt{3})(1 + \sqrt{3})} = - \frac{5 + 3 \sqrt{3}}{2}.

This is maybe a stupid thing to teach high school students, but it is at least related to a very non-stupid thing, which is that when you take an algebraic extension of a field, like say \mathbb{Q}(\sqrt{5}), the resulting object is a vector space over the base field with dimension given by the degree of the adjoined element and an explicit basis given by powers of that element.  (This is not the only possible choice for what the non-stupid thing is.)  What this means is that if I write down any expression that is a result of additions, subtractions, multiplications and divisions involving only rational numbers and (say) the square root of 5, there is an honest canonical way to write this, namely as a + b \sqrt{5} for some rational numbers a and b.  Thus testing whether two such expressions are equal is theoretically trivial.

All of this build-up is to an uninteresting conclusion, namely, that Mathematica doesn’t know any of the above facts.  In particular, none of its built-in simplification tools take advantage of these simple canonical forms.  The result is that it is quite a lot of work to do almost anything that requires one to compare numbers in such field extensions, and so for example if you ask Mathematica for the positions of (1 + \sqrt{5})/2 in a list that contains both (1 + \sqrt{5})/2 and 2/(\sqrt{5} - 1), it will only tell you about instances of the first element.  Alas.

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This story about two runaway girls hidden by their mother (and maybe a network of anti-Family Court conspiracists) is fascinating.  (More background here.) The Strib is (justifiably) proud of its work here, since it broke the case open back in April.  The best parts of most articles, at least from the point of view of humor value, are the quotes from the mother’s lawyer:

Grazzini-Rucki’s attorney, Michelle MacDonald, criticized the placement of the children in foster care.

“Why are they not living with their mother right now?” MacDonald said.

Grazzini-Rucki, who was arrested in October, is being held in lieu of $1 million bail by Dakota County and housed at the Ramsey County workhouse.

(MacDonald previously ran one of the most epically awful campaigns for office that I have been aware of.)

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