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Letter to the Editor: Why I Support PAT Unionization

April 27, 2011

UNH is a unique institution  - a community where staff pursue common goals while working in diverse professions.  We share a respect for colleagues, faculty, administrators and trustees who work diligently to maintain the institution in a difficult climate.   UNH staff build and maintain a research, learning and living environment that rewards our students and faculty with the benefits of a first-class institution.   Our trademarks have been our dedication, resourcefulness, flexibility and commitment to a shared academic mission.

The current climate tests those principles.  In recent years, our community seems increasingly segregated between those with individual or union contracts and everyone else.   Our sense of  ‘communality’ is eroding.   This growing divide challenges an unwritten UNH social contract of equitable reward and sacrifice between administrators, faculty and staff. 

Although one may constructively critique the tone and tactics of the AAUP in dealings with the administration over the past decade, one cannot refute their success on behalf of its constituents.   Conversely, the recent USNH Mercer Study on compensation demonstrates that PAT, lacking organization, have fallen the furthest behind colleagues at peer institutions.

Many of us supporting unionization have been forthright with the state employees union in our desire for positive and constructive representation on our behalf.   We want informed, respectful and flexible dialog with the administration that speaks to our collective community – not just our self-interests.  We sought out the SEA/SEIU 1984.   They understand New Hampshire and represent over 12,000 state employees.    I am confident they will represent us professionally by translating dialog into effective negotiation.

It is possible to simultaneously protect one’s self interests while respecting the institution - the community.  In this climate, PAT staff need collective representation to effectively thread that needle.   We understand sacrifices must be made.  We believe collective bargaining will ensure that all share in those sacrifices and that burdens don’t simply cascade down on those who lack contracts or bargaining units.  United, we believe that all will benefit when better financial times return.  It’s not simply about asking for more.   Recent administration and council dialog processes, however participatory, frequent or well-intentioned, are simply not equivalent to negotiation. 

We can’t predict the ultimate result of legislative efforts regarding collective bargaining in NH or how lasting any changes might be.  However, that uncertainty is no reason for us to pause.  It is reason to be more committed - not just as a response to immediate circumstances but for colleagues (the UNH community) that will follow us in years to come.

I encourage my PAT colleagues to join the effort by signing a card in support of the unionization effort.  It is a confidential process.  You can find out more at supportpat.wordpress.com or at our information tables around campus.

I hope we may also use this process to form new and meaningful alliances between operating and professional staff; faculty; and administrators as we rebuild a stronger shared community. 

Stephen Pesci is a 10-year UNH PAT employee and works in Campus Planning.

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