Friday, February 4, 2011

UWW Faculty Union. Yea or Nay?

Alright folks, weigh in.  As comments in the last post indicate, there's talk of a faculty union here at UWW.  Care to give an argument in favor of it?  Care to give a rant against it?  For all of us sitting on the fence (faculty or students), convince us to go one way or the other.


  1. I have been publicly advocating for this, so, yes, I support it. I am well aware of the many pitfalls associated with having a union. On the other hand, the non-union approach has simply not worked. We keep falling further and further behind. Since we have not had a real advocate (UW-System has been ineffectual), we might as well try to advocate for ourselves. Another reason to be for a union is the many examples in other states where there have been real benefits derived from unions.

  2. George, I support it as well. UW System does not always speak for faculty interests. I agree with the rest of your comment. I like the fact that you used your own name.

  3. Why are you sitting on the fence on this issue? A faculty union cannot hurt. UW faculty have not received raises for the last five years or so. Unless there is a strong advocate for the faculty you may not ever receive a raise. The power of a collective faculty voice with the ability to strike would make a difference. I can understand why faculty in the College of Business do not collectively support the union. They have the best salaries and teaching loads on campus, as well as a brand new building, but I cannot understand why faculty in the other colleges are still sitting on the fence on this issue. Look what the collective voice is doing in Egypt, bringing down the dictator. Together there is strength!

  4. You all sound like the faculty union walks on water. But wouldn't the union protect sub-par instructors from being dismissed? I know that this was talked about a little already, but I am concerned about that.

  5. George, what are those pitfalls you refer to?

  6. Many faculty and staff already are already members of TAUWP, an Association of University of Wisconsin Professionals. (TAUWP) is a statewide local union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and AFT-Wisconsin. TAUWP members include faculty and academic staff at UW-Superior, UW-Stout, UW-River Falls, UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stevens Point, UW-Green Bay, UW-Oshkosh, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Parkside, UW-Whitewater, UW-Platteville, UW-La Crosse, UW-Extension (outside of Madison) and the UW-Colleges. Under the new legislation, TAUWP may be recognized as a state wide union but it has been representing and protecting the rights of faculty and staff for years! I am sure you would agree that faculty and staff are entitled to legal representation, even in cases of pending dismissals. The appropriate statues relating to the dismissals of sub par faculty members is Wis. 36. In short, it states that a tenured faculty member can only be dismissed for cause. However, the faculty members in a department can bring a dismissal case forward, but the faculty member is entitled to due process guaranteed under the 14 Amendment. In short, unions do not protect sub par faculty members if the department and university may a strong case for dismissal.

  7. Anon 7:19, The argument that the Union would protect sub par faculty members is completely bogus. The University has never dismissed anyone on the basis of bad teaching! I have been here for over 20 years and I am not aware of a single case whereby a faculty member has been dismissed on the basis of bad teaching. So how can the Union protect sub par faculty members when there are no sub par faculty members presented to the Board of Regents for dismissal? However, faculty members have been dismissed for other infractions.

  8. Better get behind the Union. You will need all the help you can get cause Scotty Walker is not playing any damn games. He is coming at your ass big time and UW Sys and Whitewater Administrators are not going to save you. They already make the big bucks! Here is a taste of what is in store for you:

    "Forcing concessions from state employees is a popular talking point for Gov. Scott Walker and one that likely will find a central place in his first State of the State speech Tuesday. Publicly at least, union officials say they want to keep talking with Walker. Privately, they worry he will circumvent the bargaining table and go for an all-out evisceration of their right to negotiate over health care and pension costs. Republican legislative leaders have joined Walker in identifying labor costs as a place where the state should look to cut costs to help balance a projected $3 billion budget shortfall. Walker, whose speech will be televised live statewide, said he will use the address to begin talking about his budget plans with all the details coming later in February.
    "We expect to hear a grim financial outlook and a way forward," said Scott Spector, lobbyist for union AFT-Wisconsin, which represents about 17,000 state employees. "We hope it's going to be a cooperative message that we can all work together and not balance it on the backs of workers."

    In short, Walker is in a kick ass mode and he controls both houses of State Gov, and the little pit bull Nass is chomping at the bit. Let the games begin - the big squeeze is on now. Better stop bashing the Union and get your asses off the fence.

  9. So if unions are going to be circumvented by Walker, why all the hub bub to get a faculty union at UWW? It's not going to matter anyway.

  10. Good, then just bend over and take Walker's foot up your ass like a man. As for myself, if I am going down, I am going down swinging. Now is not the time to be singing "we shall overcome" its time to get organized and if necessary march for our rights, including our economic rights, as faculty members. Our courageous Egyptian brothers and sisters are showing us how to get it done. How dare Walker come in and try to balance the budget on the backs of loyal state employees.

  11. Walker doesn't even have a college degree. He dropped out of Marquette. He is not going to be kind to the UW System. He is not going to be kind to unions either. You may go down swinging, but I'm afraid that we will all have our asses spanked very soon. How can the faculty union really protect us against this monster? I'm all for it, but it feels more like putting my finger in a dam that is just about to blow.

  12. Dear Fence Sitters,

    I understand your desire to be thoughtful and reflective on this important issue. I am pleased that you don't take it lightly. But at some point, as noted above, you will need to get off the fence and try to protect yourselves and your colleagues.

    Why do I support a union at UWW? First, in these difficult times, rather then standing alone with little or no voice, I'd rather stand with my colleagues and try to have a place at the table to discuss our collective fate. The union can give us a voice from which to at least manage the seemingly anti-intellectual and pro-privatization climate in which we find ourselves. For example, if more forced furloughs are implemented, which seems likely, the union can at least help to manage the terms of their implementation. Perhaps with a union, we might be able to use these days to take a real vacation or to earn income elsewhere. This arbitrary rule (actually highly politicized rule) of not taking furloughs out of teaching days and not being allowed to taking them consecutively is ridiculous. If you are not going to pay me, at least allow me to use the days in a way that make sense to me. I guess the idea that an individual should have the choice to make individual economic decisions only works when it benefits those in power. But I digress...

    Second, I believe that a union could help UWW get a larger piece of the budgetary pie. The union could meet with members of the legislature, and could help them to see that an investment in education is a pro-business stance. The financial return on an investment in education is well documented, and the return on the quality of life in the state is obvious. Unions can help to communicate these and other messages, and to tailor them to the perspective of the individual legislators. Most of us don't have time to effectively and consistently lobby the legislature.

    Third, ask yourself, why is it that other unionized groups at UWW and elsewhere did not experience the 2%--what I consider illegal—loss of a contractually promised raise. All in all, we received a 5% pay cut.

    Fourth, in terms of protecting incompetence, I suspect that a union may actually improve competence. If people are supported and treated fairly they are likely to do higher quality work. What often happens is we don't support and treat people well, and then we blame them for a poor performance. Moreover, unions do not have to fight for every grievance. If someone deserves to be disciplined or let go the union does not have to stand in the way. Unions require the institution to follow proper procedures and to provide a reasonable argument for disciplinary action or dismissal. Isn't that what we would want in any case?

    If you are a fence sitter, please ask yourself these questions. Would you rather have a place at the table to manage your fate, or would you rather have it imposed on you? Would you rather stand with your colleagues for the good of your peers and the good of the university, or would you rather go it alone? If you are still on that fence, what are you doing to inform your decision? Are you being proactive or reactive? In any case, in this cold weather, be careful of getting cold feet and getting frozen to that fence.


    James Hartwick

  13. Great points, James - I fully agree. As faculty we are well-versed in, and have dedicated our careers to, quality higher education. Our expertise and our voices are essential to the debate that is now raging around higher education in general, and policy at UWS and UWW more specifically. We need to be part of the solution, not stand on the sidelines and hope that others will figure out and do what is best for teaching, learning and research/creative activity at UWS/UWW. (Their record to date is not encouraging!)

    Similar to our rights of faculty governance, a union is what the members make of it.

    James' example of mandated furlough time is right on the mark. A union may not be able to prevent furloughs. However, unions in WI and elsewhere have been able to affect the number of furlough days (we benefited from the union-contracted maximum of 8 furlough days/yr when Gov. Doyle chose to apply it across-the-board to non-union UWS employees) and to negotiate the activities eligible for furlough (although faculty in CA suffered more furlough cuts than us, they negotiated to include teaching as an eligible-for-furlough activity).

    And, if the legislature and governor agree to the UWS request to fund the system through a more flexible block grant, then a strong union, with local campus leadership, can be an effective partner (in cooperation with faculty governance) in determining how to budget available funds to build the best university we can.

    BTW: There are lots of us in support of a locally-controlled union at UWW, and many who are interested in talking about it. A Faculty Senate resolution from last year calls on faculty to discuss union (pro, con, on-the-fence) openly and without repercussions.