Joint Faculty-Staff Bargaining?
Should university staff and faculty join together in collective bargaining?
The recent collective bargaining legislation provides academic staff and faculty with a couple of options for how they can proceed with collective bargaining. This legislation provides two separate bargaining units, one for academic staff and one for faculty. If one or both of these units votes to pursue collective bargaining they may do so independently. However, the legislation also provides faculty and academic staff the option to combine together into a single bargaining unit for the purposes of collective bargaining.
Why would some choose to maintain separate bargaining units? Some faculty and academic staff might decide that the conditions of their employment are too distinct from one another to pursue collective bargaining as a combined unit. In particular, non-instructional academic staff might feel that their interests are unique from those of the faculty and would not be best served by a single bargaining unit. Also, one group might conclude that the other group’s commitment to unionization and collective bargaining is not as strong and would, thus, jeopardize their efforts.
Why would some prefer to bargain in a combined unit? Most academic unions across the country represent both academic staff and faculty in combined units. Academic employees usually choose to unite because this unity makes the bargaining unit stronger and they believe it leads to better contracts. Academic unions disagree with the idea that faculty issues will overwhelm the concerns of the academic staff. They argue that they focus on all classifications equally and emphasize the common concerns of the entire university community: increased workloads, protecting academic standards, decreased job security, loss of pay, and erosion of benefits. By working together all university workers can share their concerns and come to common solutions that benefit the larger university community.
It should also be mentioned that members of the academic staff, should they choose to pursue collective bargaining, might have to wait while their bargaining unit is clarified by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC). In the meantime, the faculty might choose to pursue collective bargaining as a single unit. However, once unit clarification is complete, the academic staff will still have the option of combining with the faculty in a single unit or remaining separate.
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