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Election set for faculty members to join teachers’ union

February 3, 2011

As a result of a survey given out in October, over 70 percent of the teachers on campus signed cards in order to move along with forming a union.

There will be an election to form a union in either March or April with sponsor from the American Federation of Teachers.

Geography and Mapping Science Professor John Heppen explained that they are moving along fast in the process since the survey. There will be an election to form a union in either March or April.

“If majority vote in favor, we will have a union,” Heppen said. “Then we will write and vote on our own constitution.”

Kurt Leichtle, History & Philosophy Department coordinator, explained that it is clear that after the questionnaire, faculty members know much more about collective bargaining than before.

“The survey was meant to bring awareness of a union on campus and to ask questions like, ‘Is this something we want to do?’ and ‘Are you interested or not?’ The response was very positive,” said Leichtle.

In June 2009, the state of Wisconsin passed the higher education collective bargaining legislation enabling UW System schools to have the option of unionizing.

The UW schools that have pursued the option include UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stout, UW-Lacrosse and UW-Superior.

The American Federation of Teachers represents 17,000 professional public employees in the UW system alone.

On the AFT website, it explains all of the benefits that members would receive and it would be hard for faculty to deny these advantages that they don’t have without a union.

“You have the power to bargain; the power to negotiate; and the power to change things, win improvements, and achieve goals that matter to you and to the people you serve,” as said by the AFT website.

Wisconsin Rep. Robin Vos agrees that a union can provide all of this, but faculty and staff should not have to be coerced into one.

“I’m a strong supporter of Right To Work, giving people the freedom to join a union if they want to, not forcing them to join one,” Vos explained in an email.

What Vos does not agree with is for tenured faculty members to be able to join in a union.

“No private citizen should be forced to join and pay dues to any organization, no matter the purpose,” Vos said.

“However, I don’t support allowing already tenured faculty members to become part of a collective bargaining unit.  I don’t think it’s necessary.”

In order for faculty members to join a union, the organizing committee collected cards that were signed by faculty who showed the interest in a union.

“After faculty who were interested signed these cards, the State will look at these cards and match signatures to who is eligible to vote and that may take some time,” says Leichtle.

What is left to be done is for the committee board and the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) to set up a few more meetings.

This will allow them to get back the responses of faculty before they decide on an election date come early spring.