UPDATE, OCT. 9, 10:37 A.M.: The fight for UC Irvine professor Andrew Tonkovich’s right to paid leave following emergency brain surgery last month has finally ended in righteous victory! Tonk’s union, UC-AFT, provided the welcomed news in an update this morning.
“Thanks to your support, Andrew has been granted paid leave for one quarter, consistent with his doctor’s recommendation and with our union contract,” the statement reads. “UCI has dropped its demand that he pay back salary and insurance premiums. Andrew is on track for recovery and hopes to return to teaching in January.”
An online petition demanding as much from UCI administrators gathered over 7,600 signatures!
That provided the backdrop to an Oct. 7 letter to the lecturer from Diane O’Dowd, vice provost of academic personnel. She disagreed with the union’s contention, but conceded to its demand.
“Based on clear policies and consistent practice governed by the union contract, your leave request would normally be without pay at UCI,” O’Dowd wrote. “We also understand the difficulty of this situation and our administration is eager to help in the best way we can.”
By a noted exception, O’Dowd approved Tonkovich’s paid leave for the Fall quarter. Should he need further time off, the administration will consider it with proper documentation from his healthcare provider.
There’s power in a union and petitions, after all!
Even though Tonkovich can finally rest and recuperate with all this now behind him, the struggle continues. In the midst of a contract campaign, UC-AFT is fighting for all faculty to secure paid medical leave, just like tenure-tracked faculty, in the case of any unexpected health challenges.
Give ’em hell, cabrones!
ORIGINAL POST, OCT. 1, 2:56 P.M.: Andrew Tonkovich, a longtime Weekly contributing writer almost since this infernal rag’s hatching, is doing okay enough after emergency brain surgery. He kept a scheduled appearance at Laguna College of Art and Design in Laguna Beach last night despite feeling fatigued–talk about dedication! While the Tonk, who also hosts Bibliocracy Radio on KPFK-LA 90.7 FM, can still show up to take part at the college library’s distinguished author lecture series, complications from the procedure call for more recovery time away from work.
And the biggest post-op headache is coming courtesy of UC Irvine. That’s where Tonkovich lecturers at the Department of English and has taught for 22 years. But Peter the Anteater has denied him paid medical leave–not once, but twice–during his current health troubles.
Being a longtime activist alongside all his literary antics, Tonkovich has now become the cause. An online petition addressed to UCI administrators is demanding that he be given paid medical leave that the University Council-American Federation of Teachers (UC-AFT) fought for workers like him to have for starters. The union that’s pushing the petition towards 5,000 signatures is also decrying the university’s attempt to clawback his salary and their contributions to his health insurance premiums from last summer since he can’t work this term.
That, friends, is called insult to injury.
It’s also the drain of neoliberalism that universities across the state are circling down while wanting to establish it as the new normal. Currently battling for a new contract, UC-AFT sees Tonkovich’s dilemma as part and parcel what they’re up against.
“Andrew’s story is just one part of the bigger picture of contingent faculty labor,” the petition states. “He represents the type of scholar-teacher who can make a difference in thousands of students’ lives if permitted to have a long-term career at the UC. And his story illustrates the crushing callousness and contempt with which UC admin treats many lecturers.”
Tonkovich: get well, soon! In the meantime, the Weekly will keep you in its thoughts, prayers and hell-raising!
Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!