As I touched on at the conclusion of my final presentation, I think the largest takeaways for me were two sentiments, hand in hand, one of which reflects the knowledge I have gained, and another which reflects my thankfulness for the opportunity to do so.

When I look back now on the few brisk December days I spent shivering, underdressed, holding my hands to a burn barrel on the Momentive picket line, I feel as though I am confessing to myself a previous state of ignorance. I had no knowledge of the underlying issues, nor the previous cuts, nor the fact that there was a direct axis between the upper management of Momentive and President Donald J. Trump when I stood on the picket line.

Now I feel I have a clear understanding of all of these interrelated elements, as well as the facts to back up my argument that such setbacks for the middle class are a pretty regular occurrence in modern America. On top of that, I learned how to use WordPress to the extent that I think I would feel quite comfortable using it in the future, perhaps even in a job setting, which I honestly think I might enjoy.

Ultimately, this class granted me a very positive experience, which, especially for a class administered in an online setting, is something I hold in high regard. I am very glad to have taken it.

As a final note, I apologize for the lateness of this post! I am still in the throes of final season here at Geneseo and had quite a busy weekend.

Long-overdue Update

My hiatus is over!

After my rather nasty encounter with the great Canadian ground some number of weeks ago, I have been cleared as all but healed, with a full range of motion. And that isn’t all I have to report! Over spring break, I met with Jon Flanders, a longtime friend of my family and a very knowledgeable member of the local labor union community. Our lunch was very fruitful, as not only was he supportive of my project and willing to provide his photography of the strike, he was also quite helpful in shaping my thoughts for how I can better provide historical placement. Jon referenced me to a number of people to reach out to and similar regional labor conflicts to study, in addition to providing me with a wealth resource of original photographs taken at the scene of the strike, which will be the digital backbone of my relatively simple site. Although I do not think I will be interviewing the people to whom Jon referenced me due to the logistics of travel and the amount of time required, I could not have been more thankful for his willingness to vouch for my project.

As it stands, I still have a good bit of work to do; however, it is largely in the form of integration. The materials to complete the site are entirely at my disposal, by now I have probably spent more than enough time procuring newspaper articles and photographs. I merely need to assemble them in the cascade app, and thankfully I have not yet faced any difficulty in doing so (outside my injury), as the interface is exceedingly user friendly and intuitive. I anticipate having a malleable outline of the format of the site ready in time for Milestone 3 this week, which, I must admit, snuck right up on me. I blame the warmth.

Anyways, as planned, I intend to move through each aspect of the strike in chronological order, from the precursor conditions and previous benefit cuts right through til the end, paying special attention to how negotiations were flawed from the get-go, and what might have changed that fact. At the conclusion I intend to refer back to these moments in order to impart some tangible ideas about how such conflicts may be avoided or at least better-managed in the future (e.g., universal healthcare and open books). On that note, I could still definitely use some help thinking of other potential routes to go given the facts of the strike. I know I have my biases.

Anyways, with all that being said, I’m gonna go ahead and wrap this post up to go put some time into the cascade. ‘Til next time!

Research Contract

Mission Statement

With this project I will be detailing an over 100-day strike which occurred at the Momentive Performance Materials plant in upstate New York. Workers at the plant user hazardous materials to produce industrial adhesives and solvents, and the inflection point of the strike was a drastic slashing in health, vacation, and retirement benefits by the owning corporation, which is owned by a handful of billion-dollar hedge funds. The strike ultimately resolved in a watered-down version of the original benefit-slashing at the behest of state negotiators, a deal which also included provisions for one-hundred retirement buyout packages over the next two years, leaving some workers malcontent.

In detailing the events which came to define this strike and its negotiation I intend to make a case for how local, relatively small-scale labor disputes can often be microcosms of much broader societal phenomena, in the current case, one where wealthy business interests and government act in unison at the expense of American workers. Especially prudent in this story is the presence of media, which first motivated the state to act, then hailed the ultimate resolution as a success, importantly crafting a narrative in the public eye at large.

All information will be introduced and presented clearly, in narrative format, on a site utilizing the ‘cascade’ tool with relevant photography in the background. Ideally, the site will have no more than three pages total, assuming a reference and perhaps thank-you page, for the friend of the family supplying me with many materials. The site will also be linked, thoroughly, to outside journalism.

Tools I Plan to Use

I intend to have my site revolve largely, as aforementioned, around the cascade tool as provided (here.)[] Accordingly, photographs from the relevant stages of the strike will accompany varying parts of the narrative. I do not intend to be excessive in my use of multimedia with this site, as writing is a strength for me and I believe photographs will provide enough support.

However, I do intend to link, as extensively as I can, to other pieces of writing regarding the strike, including labor releases, news articles, and perhaps even blogs by local writers. Some of these such articles may include video, provided on and by third party websites. As I am undertaking this project solo, and must carefully manage my time, such outsourcing is prudent.

Milestone 1 – March 7

  • Establish contact with John, acquire email verification of permissions
  • Assemble photo library and news links
  • Rudimentary chronological order within a document

Milestone 2 – March 21

  • Site barebones
  • Textual makeup of site complete
  • News link integration

Milestone 3 – April 4

  • Integration of photo media
  • Completed draft of site
  • Time for revision/tweaks

April 25 – Project Complete

Project Proposal

Preliminary Title – The Momentive Strike as a Microcosm for American Politics

This project will detail the negotiations which occurred between the IUE/CWA Local 81359 Union and Momentive Performance Materials ensuing a 105-day strike which occurred from November 2, 2016 to February 14, 2017. IUE/CWA Local 81359, which is affiliated with AFL-CIO, represents industrial and media workers in Waterford, NY, and Momentive Performance Materials is a chemicals manufacturing company owned by an assortment of hedge funds, such as Blackstone and Apollo Global.

The project is of utmost relevance to the current political atmosphere, being that the largest shareholders in Momentive are billionaires who are rather emblematic of the Trump brand and psyche, whereas the union is comprised of eminently blue-collar, working class people. Moreover, its ‘resolution’ proved to be a massive loss for the union, who were forced to return to the work with benefits still slashed, scabs still employed, and the threat of layoffs looming in the future.

I intend to undergo this project in a rather straightforward journalistic manner. I am lucky enough to have a few ties to the labor movement in the area and I will be consulting with a family friend to procure pictures and accounts of the strike, especially those which are pertinent to the negotiations process, although it largely occurred behind closed doors at the behest of Andrew Cuomo, New York State’s current Governor. I will use a combination of his primary information as well as information found in news articles to construct a site which features a single, extended page, wherein the process of the strike will be chronologically detailed.

For a brief sketch of what it might look like, I plan on using the ‘cascade’ tool which was recommended to me in class last week, (thank you!) and I envision the top of the site featuring a fullscreen picture of the chemical plant bearing site’s title. Scrolling downward will lead users immediately to an explanation of the opposing sides of the conflict, as well well as their relevance in the big picture. Thereafter, the page will detail what caused the strike, how negotiations were undertaken, the influence of media coverage on these negotiations, as well as the ultimate conclusion of the strike, all supported with picture media, and sourced with newspaper articles as necessary.

Hello world!

At the outset of this semester, I had it in mind to detail a conflict between the Seneca Nation of Indians and the State of New York, wherein the Seneca Nation had stopped paying the State on casino revenues. Yet as I began to dip my toes into the metaphorical pool of resources on this conflict and its ‘resolution’, I merely found that the arbitration the Seneca Nation had entered with the State decided the Seneca Nation was wrong, and owed the State a bunch of money.

Given that our focus in this class is perhaps supposed to be microcosmic of the large-scale conflicts plaguing our national political and social atmospheres, I felt the outcome of the Seneca Nation and State dispute fell flat. Their case would, as I saw it, likely preclude any broad, constructive conclusion about the nature of settling disputes.

So I turned my focus elsewhere. As of now, I am reading materials about a labor dispute between union workers and Momentive Performance Materials, which encompass cut benefits causing a 105-day strike which ultimately led to State-aided negotiations yielding a new three-year contract for workers. At the end of the strike, workers signed contracts which still included many of the initial cuts the company sought to make, namely to health insurance benefits, vacation time, and retirement benefits, but cuts that weren’t quite so deep as those of the original proposal.

As my father is fairly active within the realm of worker’s rights and labor unions in our local area, (Albany) I was able to attend the picket line for this strike during one of the days it was going on. Looking back on the immediacy of this experience, the interactions I had with the plant workers, and my memories of the entire scene of the strike, I could only feel my interest level rising.

If I am able to get in contact with the relevant individuals, both within the union that struck and the company management that made the initial cuts, I think the strike will make for an excellent case study on the intersecting nature of workers’ rights, corporate interests, and the role of the state in bridging the gap.