Below are some FAQs on the value of a collective bargaining unit. In Ohio, all state universities except Miami and Ohio State now have collective bargaining. What do they know that we don’t?
I’m skeptical about collective bargaining. Why should I support it?
Like many of your colleagues on campus, you may feel convinced that faculty have lost significant power in matters that relate directly to their work (teaching load, class size, program development, salaries, health benefits, RTP). But maybe you have doubts as to whether collective bargaining is the solution. We would like you to consider the following points.
- Collective bargaining is an increasingly common choice among faculty around the country and in Ohio (with 10 AAUP collective bargaining campuses).
- The reasons for its growing popularity are simple: it creates a mechanism that ensures that faculty are always involved in the decisions that most affect them.
- Through collective bargaining, the collective wisdom of the faculty can be brought to bear on important campus policies and programs that impact our lives and those of our students.
In short, collective bargaining ensures true shared governance.
Many faculty members on this campus are alarmed at an increasingly top-down management style that marginalizes faculty. The Faculty Senate, on which many of us have served and do serve, has no real power. Shared governance on this campus has been reduced to the administration making policy and the faculty implementing it.
If faculty members believe that they should have a guaranteed say on the critical issues of the day, then how can we best accomplish this? The choice is clear. Collective bargaining is the mechanism to ensure real shared governance.
What about non-tenure-track faculty?
Contingent faculty at OU (Groups II, III and IV) are poorly paid and overworked, underrepresented (Group II) or unrepresented (Groups III and IV) on the Faculty Senate, and lack any kind of job security. Their pay and workload are determined arbitrarily, and they have no power to determine their working conditions as they lack the protection of tenure. Group II faculty have retired from OU after 30 years or more of sequential one-year contracts. These faculty need the protection provided by collective bargaining more than any others. A union contract can, and should, provide for multiyear contracts for Group II faculty, minimum pay, maximum workloads, and minimal protections for part-time (Group III) faculty. Group III faculty, who teach piecework, must not be given temporary workloads equivalent to full-time Group II or Group IV faculty, but paid as little as half as much, and denied benefits. This is an unfair and exploitative labor practice which must be stopped.
Group II and Group IV faculty would be covered by the salary, benefit, workload, job-security and other protections provided to Group I faculty by a union contract. (Ohio law currently denies Group III part-timers the right to be represented by a union, but there is a bill now in the Ohio House that could change that.) The union is the one place where all faculty regardless of “Group” will have an equal voice. (Of the seven members of the OU chapter of AAUP’s Executive Committee two are Group IIs.) National AAUP has taken a strong position in favor of including non tenure-track faculty in campus collective bargaining units (see for instance this AAUP position statement). The OU chapter recognizes that our bargaining unit would be far weaker without Group II and IV participation. We are committed to representing all faculty equally. This will be a union for all faculty, without distinctions of “Group” status.
Will I be at risk by signing a collective bargaining card?
A number of junior faculty have asked whether signing a collective bargaining card can put them at risk. This is an important question. OU+AAUP will keep your support absolutely confidential. If you sign a collective bargaining authorization card, that fact will be kept in the strictest confidence. Your card will NEVER be shown to any University official. Once the OU+AAUP receives your signed card, it is given to an executive committee member for safe keeping. The cards are kept off campus in a secure location. When the OU+AAUP has collective bargaining authorization cards signed by 60% of the university faculty, we will file those cards with the State Employee Relations Board (SERB). This action will lead to an election, where you will be asked to cast a secret ballot voting either Yes or No on OU+AAUP as your collective bargaining agent. The fact that you signed a card will not be divulged to the University. Again only SERB personnel will see your signed card – no one in the OU administration will ever have access to your card. Similarly, the University will not know how you cast your secret ballot.
If you have decided in favor of collective bargaining, sign your authorization card and return it in the pre-addressed envelope. If you need a card, you can download a card facsimile from our web site or contact us and we will confidentially get you an authorization card.
Will collective bargaining mean an end to shared governance and collegiality?
Some faculty may be concerned that collective bargaining will create an adversarial environment on campus, and that shared governance and collegiality will be lost in the bargain. However, other collective bargaining campuses in Ohio have gone before us, and comments from faculty there are instructive. Prof. David Smith (Architecture), past chair of the University of Cincinnati Faculty Senate, said this about collegiality and collective bargaining on his campus:
In terms of collegiality, I would suggest that collective bargaining has actually overcome some of our general tendencies to segregate ourselves into different academic units…Since UC is a very diverse institution, with open access units and graduate programs with highly restrictive admissions, with basic teaching units and research units, I find it amazing that we are able to collectively agree when negotiations are involved. And in this process, I also believe that we are forced to discuss some of these different expectations. (Union & Collegiality at the University of Cincinnati, Wright State University AAUP, n.d.).
Remember, this comment comes from a campus with a 20+ year history of collective bargaining. Yet it is one of the preeminent public institutions in Ohio.
Today, the administration and the Board of Trustees have the real power in making decisions. No one wants to deprive our administration of appropriate leadership and decision-making. We do, however, want to work with them to ensure that all views and interests are fully considered and, where appropriate, subject to negotiation.
What are the costs and benefits of collective bargaining to students?
This is, perhaps, the most important question of all. From the perspective of most faculty members, students are central to our careers and come first in our professional priorities. But students also know that faculty who are paid fairly and who participate in governing their institution are the best kind of faculty.
What other campus entity is more likely to know our student body better than the OU faculty? We see them in class, help them chart their professional course in advising, write letters of recommendation, and help them keep an eye on the job market. We, their faculty, know the sacrifices students make to come to college. We believe students know the conditions under which we work.
To address the issue of meeting student needs and expectations, we offer a brief analysis of how students have been fairing with a faculty without collective bargaining and our prediction of the impact that AAUP representation will probably have:
Tuition: Since 1996 undergraduate tuition has increased each year by the maximum amount allowed by the state legislature, with an additional increase having been added last winter due to budget cuts from the state. Will collective bargaining at the UA further financially burden students? Not at all likely. Our sister institutions that have collective bargaining have been able to address a whole range of governance, benefit and salary issues while operating in the same fiscal environment as our university – and keeping tuition increases within the same range as we have at the OU.
Fees: Since 1997 students have been burdened with technology fees, building use fees, course fees and other costs to help the university pay for sometimes questionable “services” to students – services that, at the very least, were not deliberated over with the faculty or students. Faculty with a collective voice would have moved the discussion about the implementation of such fees in different directions.
Other real costs: The quality and consistency of instruction in many of our academic programs has been compromised. In the past ten years, OU has lost many seasoned faculty to other universities. Frequently these faculty are not replaced, and the current hard hiring freeze (which seems never to apply to administrative vacancies) will ensure that these vacancies become permanent. Vacant lines are being lost every year to perennial budget cuts. Even when departing faculty are actually replaced, there are always replaced with more junior faculty, many of whom leave after a few years, largely because of the very issues we are discussing here – salary compression, reduction in operating funds, no real voice in academic development.
High faculty turnover weakens programs, jeopardizes accreditations, and reduces the overall quality of the institution. Collective bargaining offers junior faculty the one component they do not now possess – the opportunity for real shared governance. Empowered faculty are reliable, motivated faculty.
As the number of full time faculty decreases, the competition for face-to-face interaction with professors increases. This situation is exacerbated by continuing increases in enrollment. Faculty are becoming overwhelmed with demands for their time, and a continual shift of administrative burden to faculty (P-cards and Paris, travel expense reports and Concur, and on and on) only makes it worse.
Will I have to strike?
This is probably one of the most common questions about collective bargaining on college campuses. Images of faculty walking picket lines come to mind, and the whole thing seems far less than appealing. The question stands: will we have to strike? The answer is: only if you want to.
Actually, the power of reason and collegiality will stand administrators and faculty in good stead when we bargain together as equals. First, we all share a fundamental commitment to creating an enriched learning environment. Second, we believe in the power of information and well developed arguments. Third, our campus is populated with faculty and administrators who work together routinely throughout the year. All of these factors should contribute to a climate of constructive negotiation over important issues.
What happens when we disagree over key issues? We’ll do what you would expect: discuss, argue, debate, compromise, weigh options, and ultimately come to an agreement. If there is an impasse, Ohio’s labor laws (ORC 4117) provide options to help avoid strikes:
- Mediation – provided through the State Employee Relations Board
- Fact-Finding – provided by a neutral panel
- Mutually-Agreed Dispute Settlement Procedures – such as arbitration
For all of these reasons, academic strikes are rare in Ohio and the nation.
Kent State University has had a collective bargaining unit for 20+ years and has not had a strike. The University of Cincinnati has had collective bargaining for longer than Kent and has had three brief work stoppages.
The power to strike is what puts the teeth in any union contract, but it is rarely necessary. The potential for a strike alone is normally enough to encourage the administration to sit down and bargain in good faith.
What is fair share?
While we would hope that all faculty in the bargaining unit would join AAUP after the election, we know that there are some who will not choose to do so. However, since the contract covers all members of the bargaining unit, regardless of whether or not they are AAUP members, and since the law requires the AAUP to represent all unit members fairly and equitably regardless of dues paying status, many AAUP chapters in Ohio and elsewhere (e.g., Wright State, Cleveland State, Central State) have negotiated a provision in their contract requiring payment of a “fair share” to cover the cost of negotiating and administering the collective bargaining agreement. The amount of this fair share is normally 80-85% of dues (which are normally .75-1% of base salary).
While state law does permit negotiation of such an arrangement (also called an “agency fee”), it is the chapter’s decision whether or not to seek to negotiate such a provision. That decision, along with other decisions about the initial contract proposal, will be made by the AAUP chapter members after the election.
Will collective bargaining mean an end to merit?
No. What it does mean is that faculty can consider merit along with other critical salary issues consistently ignored by the administration, such as compression, equity, the leapfrogging of salaries, and cost of living increases.
How the OU+AAUP views merit: Under collective bargaining we could have negotiated salary raise pools for the recent years in which faculty received little or no raise. Contracts containing such salary raise pools have the force of law and cannot be rescinded unilaterally by the administration. It was the existence of such contracts at the unionized campuses in Ohio over the last few years that allowed faculty on those campuses to get significant raises while we got little or none, and is directly responsible for the dramatic decline in our faculty pay rank in the state in the last two years.
Through collective bargaining, faculty will have a voice in the entire salary program on campus. Through our negotiations we will be able to bargain for what we think are reasonable and fair salary policies that address the range of salary issues we have. One component of such a policy would be merit. Collective bargaining will ensure real shared governance on salary issues, including merit!
I’m satisfied with the current situation on campus. Why would I need collective bargaining?
If you agree with the following statements, you may not be ready for collective bargaining:
- In terms of individual faculty well being, the University administration has done a good job of taking all issues into consideration.
- As a member of the faculty, I feel very good about my potential to influence decisions on campus because the administration respects my opinion.
- My salary is right about where it ought to be under the current OU administration.
- Decisions on faculty salary are generally fair across campus.
- The tenure system is antiquated and in need of a complete overhaul, such as five-year post-tenure reviews for tenured professors.
- The number of part-time instructors relative to full-time instructors is just about right.
- Non-tenure-track faculty are treated equitably.
- We have as many tenure-track faculty in my department as we need.
- The faculty senate has been a reliable organ for getting faculty issues into discussions at upper administrative levels and for actually influencing outcomes.
- The University budget is tight, therefore faculty should not expect to receive regular pay raises.
- Matters of University policy and teaching load are best left to administrators.
- Students are always considered when increases in fees are made.
- Faculty evaluation of administrators plays a meaningful role on the OU campus.
- The University adequately rewards quality undergraduate teaching.
- Increasing the number of high-level administrators is justified and has a positive outcome on the faculty and student body.
- Administrative salaries are appropriate relative to faculty salaries.
- Faculty have played a meaningful role on all search committees for OU administrators.
- The University has become a better place to work during the past several years.
- I am confident that the OU administration will maintain our current level of benefits into the foreseeable future.