Friday, January 20, 2006

The Choice to Collectively Bargain: Why is that Bad?

In a recent post on his blog, Brian Fraley takes issue with a bill (pdf file) proposed by Republican State Senator Dale Schultz, the majority leader, to "allow UW faculty to unionize." What Fraley does not explain well is why he opposes this legislation. In his words:

"Unionized UW faculty? This is a warmed over Democrat proposal, variations of which have been introduced by former senators Cal Potter and Rick Grobschmidt (both who now are entrenched in the DPI bureaucracy). Well, a unionized educational bureaucracy has done so much to help K-12 public education in Wisconsin, why not try it in the UW System, right?"

Aside from pointing out that Democrats tried to pass similar legislation in the past and inferring that unions have supposedly hurt K-12 education in Wisconsin, Fraley presents no direct evidence for why he opposes Schultz's proposal. (Side Note: All classified employees in the UW system--who make up one-quarter to one-third of the employees on most campuses--are already unionized with other state civil service employees under AFSCME Council 24.)

The bill proposed by Schultz would actually give faculty and academic staff in the UW system the choice to unionize--which amounts to the right to collectively bargain on salary and other conditions of employment. This is an important distinction because there are just as many, if not more, academic staff in the UW system as faculty. Academic staff are made up of professionals in teaching positions such as lecturers or clinical instructors and non-teaching positions such as academic advisors or student services coordinators.

Additionally, the legislation does not require faculty and academic staff to collectively bargain; it just gives them the option to do so. Twenty states--including Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Michigan--already allow their state university staff and faculty the option to collectively bargain. Why shouldn't Wisconsin give academic staff and faculty that same choice?

Disclaimer: I am an academic staff member in the UW system. Just thought I should mention that before some enterprising blogger finds it out (it's not too tough to uncover) and calls my view biased. Along with that, I should note that I'm not proposing collective bargaining in the post above, but rather I'm supporting the right to collective bargaining. If Schultz's proposal becomes law, I'll turn my attention to the pros and cons of actually unionizing in my line of work.

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