Letter to the Editor: On Academic Collective Bargaining
April 27, 2011
To the Editor:
When the faculty voted to have collective bargaining here at UNH in 1990 it was no sure thing. There were months of spirited discussions and debate and even now, twenty years later, that debate continues. However, one thing is certain: all of us have benefited from the work that our union does for us.
In 1989, we ranked dead last in the mean salary among our 10 regional comparators. That ranking translated into a full 12 percentage points below our New England/Mid-Atlantic colleagues. Through collective bargaining the slope has changed direction and in 2010 we were 5th in the comparator group. We went from 12 percent below the mean to 2 percent above it. We also bargained for better benefits and mitigations to help defray the out-of-control costs of medical care in New Hampshire.
These are obvious benefits of collective bargaining but there are some that are less visible but are equally important. Our contract assures our right to academic freedom. We can engage in intellectual debate without fear of reprisal or censorship. We can also disagree with our university administration without fear of retaliation. These rights are vital if we are to engage in an active academic life.
We also have a guarantee of due process with a fair and impartial grievance procedure. Often the union and the university can reach mutually satisfying outcomes when disagreements arise; but when talking through a problem doesn’t work and there is a recognized violation of the contract, we have a process that ends in binding arbitration. It’s often said that people check their due process rights when they walk in the workplace door: not when they have a union.
The PAT staff are now organizing for union representation. AAUP-UNH fully supports this effort. The National AAUP also recognizes this right in the organizational policy on “College and University Academic and Professional Appointments.” This policy states in part: “For many years, professional appointees who are not members of the faculty have shared in the academic work of our colleges and universities, including teaching and research. These colleagues often have advanced training and wide experience and perform critical educational roles with students; in many cases, their academic credentials are commensurate with those of faculty. Yet, although they have shared the professional and academic work, many have not been accorded the rights and protections appropriate to their positions.” The policy further states in its recommendations: “Professional appointees should have the right to choose to participate in collective bargaining.”
The PAT staff have long shared in the academic work of UNH and are engaged in our teaching, research, and service missions. It’s past time for their collective voice to be heard and we hope that their efforts to form a union are successful.
Dimond Library, reference department