Faculty votes strongly to approve union
April 1, 2011
Even though a bill that abolishes the right for most state employees to unionize was passed by the state legislature, signed by Gov. Scott Walker and published by the Legislative Reference Bureau, UW-River Falls faculty members have voted in favor of union representation through AFT-Wisconsin.
Of the faculty who turned out to vote for union representation on March 23 and 24, 90 percent voted in favor.
UWRF is the fifth campus in the system that has had faculty vote in favor of union representation since they were granted that right in June 2009.
Faculty at UW-Superior and UW-Eau Claire voted in May 2010 and faculty at UW-La Crosse and UW-Stout voted in February and March respectively.
UWRF faculty had the second highest percentage of union supporters, behind UW-Superior that had 94 percent.
The eight other campuses in the UW System are also in the process of unionizing, said an AFT representative speaking on background.
Some campuses are further along in the process, which include UW-Stevens Point that held an election Wednesday and Thursday and UW-Green Bay that recently filed for an election.
Academic staff at UW-Superior filed for an election recently as well, the representative said.
The collective bargaining bill, which is an amended version of the budget repair bill and focuses specifically on stripping most public employees of their collective bargaining rights, passed through the State Senate March 9.
The Assembly passed the bill the following day and Gov. Walker signed it March 11.
The manner in which the bill was passed compelled Dane County District Attorney, Ismael Ozame, to file a lawsuit against some lawmakers claiming they violated the state’s open meetings law.
On March 18, Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sunni issued a restraining order against Secretary of State Doug La Follette, who was set to publish the bill March 25.
Despite all of this, the bill was published by the Legislative Reference Bureau March 25, which said it must publish all laws within 10 days after they are signed.
The drama and confusion surrounding the collective bargaining bill has not quelled UWRF faculty support for unions, said Political Science Professor Wes Chapin.
“When it became clear that the governor’s extremist legislation had nothing to do with balancing the budget and everything to do with denying workers’ rights, UW-River Falls faculty realized the urgency in this vote, said Chapin. “Together, we stood up, took notice, and turned out to vote.”
Faculty at UWEC voted for union representation in May and already have an approved constitution and formed a negotiation committee, said English Professor Stephanie Turner.
The negotiation committee had begun a survey of the bargaining unit in preparation for drafting a bargaining contract when the bill was approved,” said Turner. “The status of that committee is uncertain at this point.”
Even though the legal issues surrounding collective bargaining are still uncertain, UWRF faculty are moving forward with writing a constitution and electing officers who will campaign for faculty issues such as working conditions and contact time with students, said Geography and Mapping Science Professor John Heppen.
The organizing committee is meeting as early as next week to take the first steps in the process of writing a constitution, said Chapin.