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Staffer Supports Union

March 12, 2008

To the editor,

Dick Cannon, UNH financial vice president, sent an email about the evils of unionizing and the paternalistic regard the university administration holds for its employees to UNH staff and extension educators on Tuesday, March 4. The letter is in last Wednesday’s Campus Journal.

As a staff member, I would like to respond to a few of his points.

Obviously, judging by the list of UNH salaries in the newspapers recently, some fortunate employees are very successfully competing with their peers in N.H. public employment. Others are not so lucky.

“Individuals in like circumstances” are not treated even-handedly. So much depends on precisely what job you are initially hired into. Then you are locked in place with little regard for how your work compares with those sitting or standing next to you. Some departments do try to reduce inequalities by use of performance and equity money, but many more use discretionary dollars to reward their favorites.

The university’s personnel structure, at the staff level at least, is much too rigid and can’t really make fine distinctions. When it tries, it often appears to be arbitrary or political.

If the university really cared about rewarding superior performance, they would publish the names and increases of merit recipients. Exemplary employees would be identified so they could be emulated. Instead, personnel and salary decisions are made in secret. The reasons for that are obvious, at least to me.

There is no adequate way to resolve disputes. I ask you, would you trust an employer’s “Fair and Impartial Resolution” (FAIR) process? Regarding staff recognition, there really is none (except the Presidential Awards for staff, for which the administration listened to staff for once and which involve money).

As for representation through the staff councils, I have some experience with this and my conclusion is the councils are designed to fail, nine years out of 10. Unlike the Student and Faculty Senates, these groups are captives of the administration.

Even so, my memory from 15 years ago is that the Operating Staff and PAT Councils were actually consulted in a meaningful way about the distribution of salary increases. Somewhere along the way, this stopped. Conversations with council members and council minutes indicate to me there is no longer real discussion before salary decisions are made by the administration.

I think every staff member on campus would benefit from union membership. Right now we have no real place at the table when the important discussions take place. Too often we feel we have no say in our work lives. Perhaps we would like the entire salary increase to go across the board. Perhaps we would like some small percentage to fund an in-depth evaluation of our hiring and promotion practices.

Unions have been responsible for giving us the 40-hour week, overtime, and much more. A union here would not be a group of outsiders imposed between the staff and the administration. A UNH staff union would be made up of us, all of us, and we would be working to make UNH an even better place to work.

Don Gordon
Staff member

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