UW Oshkosh faculty and academic staff may choose to self-organize, elect an existing union as our representative, or choose no representation at all. There are examples of all models around the country. Minnesota State College is self-organized. They do not belong to the AFT or another big union. Rutgers, on the other hand, is represented by the AAUP-AFT. If we choose representation, negotiations would take place at the UW System level (i.e., the union would be bargaining with the Board of Regents, not directly with our campus administrators.) Things that are currently in our handbooks (e.g., disciplinary procedures), would become part of a union contract. If either the union or the administration wanted to make changes to these things, they would have to negotiate. This is not all that different than what occurs as part of our faculty governance process. The big difference for us is that the UW System would be required to negotiate with the union(s) over wages, fringe benefits, and other working conditions (e.g., hours of work, wage determination processes, and even class size and related workload issues).
To obtain union representation, our campus must show that at least 30% of the employees within a particular bargaining unit (e.g., faculty) wish a union to represent them in collective bargaining. This is done by collecting signed “authorization cards” that state something to the effect of, “I want the AFT to be my union for the purpose of negotiating wages, hours, and working conditions with the University of Wisconsin.” This is called an “authorization card campaign.” Once enough interest is demonstrated (i.e., enough cards are signed), the union may request an election from the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission. If a very high percentage of employees have signed the cards, the union may ask the employer to “voluntarily recognize” the union as the collective bargaining agent. If the employer agrees, no election is necessary. Most unions will not petition for an election unless they can get at least 60-70% of the employees to sign authorization cards for two reasons. First, they are likely to lose some supporters once the employer embarks on its own campaign to resist unionization. Second, some unions rely heavily on “grass roots” efforts of the employees in negotiations and in daily administration of the contract (i.e., ensuring compliance). In such a “participation model” of unionization, the union needs to know that most of the employees are truly committed to exercising their collective voice in their relationship with their employer.
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