Committee lobbies for teachers union
December 9, 2010
The organizing committee of around 20 faculty at UW-River Falls have been working for several months on getting other faculty to support union representation through the American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin.
The organizing committee is collecting a showing of interest from the faculty, said Organizing Committee member and Geography and Mapping Science Professor John Heppen.
The faculty are showing their interest in a union by signing an authorization card. By signing the cards, faculty indicate they wish to have a vote approving AFT-Wisconsin as their representative for collective bargaining, added Heppen.
The cards are sent to the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission to verify that at least 30 percent of the faculty have signed the cards.
“I’m confident we will get a strong showing of support for AFT-Wisconsin on campus,” Heppen said.
If at least 30 percent out of 230 faculty approve a union, an election administered by WERC would occur on campus sometime next semester, added Heppen.
It is state law that 80 days must elapse before there is an election to allow other unions to get on the ballot, said Organizing Committee member and Math Professor Don Leake.
Faculty at UW-LaCrosse are also working on getting a union to represent them. Authorization cards were signed by 70 percent of the faculty, well over the 30 percent minimum by WERC.
Students at UWRF may benefit from faculty being represented by a union, while also helping in faculty retention, said Heppen.
“Students will probably experience a better education,” Heppen said. “When faculty feel more engaged and have a greater say, the educational quality goes up, and they are less likely to leave. That’s a problem I think we are starting to see. A lot of good faculty members here are thinking about leaving.”
Faculty at UW-Eau Claire voted on a union in May, and campus-wide communication has improved, said Economics Professor and candidate for president of the union Thomas Kemp.
“People are talking about the issues that affect their ability to ensure student success more openly.”
Leake said the reason for unionizing isn’t necessarily about compensation issues.
“We’ve been told we are not going to get any raises and it’s easy to imagine an increase in furlough days, she said.”
The impulse to join a union is more about giving faculty a stronger voice in their fate, added Leake.
“Unionization isn’t a fight with local representatives; it’s a fight with UW-System,” he said. “You wonder how much Madison considers our unique challenges; System isn’t always fair to smaller campuses.”
Leake said an example is the health and human performance project, which, he said, has been delayed for years even when the need has been obvious for at least a decade.
Faculty and academic staff were granted collective bargaining rights in the 2009-11 State Budget and since then, faculty at UWEC and UW-Superior have voted for a union.
The unionized faculty at the aforementioned universities may not be included in the proposed pay raise that was requested by UW-President Kevin Reilly on Monday. The board of Regents met yesterday and today to discuss the request that would give university faculty a two percent pay increase, according to the Associated Press. The recommendation would go into effect on July 1, 2011 and cover the next two years.
Leake said that faculty at UWRF should take advantage of the opportunity to have collective bargaining rights.
“Now that we have a chance, might as well give it a chance.”