Faculty union advocates can’t quite get their messages straight on pensions. But whatever the situation, it is always a reason to have a union.
Their first position was that the university administration was oblivious and ineffectual in the face of a threat to pensions. That’s why we need a union.
Unfortunately for this argument, the fact is that the university administration has been focused like a laser on this problem for years, and has been working constructively to try to develop a realistic, sustainable reform plan that would preserve our core pension benefits.
Another position, broached by one faculty union advocate in an email to the Senate, was that the administration was actually complicit in the legislature’s assault on pensions, because by proposing compromises they legitimated further cuts, especially to COLAs. That’s why we need a union.
Unfortunately for this argument, the fact is that the state labor coalition also signed on to COLA cuts when they supported State Senate leader John Cullerton’s bill last spring. So if seeking compromise is complicity, then the unions were complicit too.
Next, the CFA took a different tack, saying that they welcome and appreciate the efforts of the university administration, but that they can’t be as effective as the labor coalition in lobbying against the pension cuts. That’s why we need a union.
Unfortunately for this argument, the fact is that the labor coalition was no more successful in blocking the bill, which passed on December 3.
Next, the CFA argued that their lobbying effort may have failed, but the battle will move to the courts, supported by the state labor coalition. That’s why we need a union.
Unfortunately for this argument, the fact is that the legal process will take months, perhaps years to resolve, with an uncertain outcome. What is certain is that the judicial outcome, whatever it will be, will not be affected at all one way or the other by whether there is a faculty union on this campus.
Now the CFA has a new line, which is that even if the pension cuts do go through and are upheld by the courts, they will push for negotiating the creation of a supplemental retirement plan with a university employer contribution. That’s why we need a union.
Unfortunately for this argument, the fact is that President Easter and the Chancellors have already announced their intention to find ways to soften the effects of any pension cuts, and in fact discussions on developing an employer-supported supplemental retirement plan have already been going on between faculty governance leaders and the administration. Hopefully, the outlines of such a proposal will be developed and made public soon – long before a union could even come into being.
Once again, shared governance is being pro-active and effective in protecting faculty interests, without the need for a union or paying union dues.
What is also fortunate, for all of us, is that the administration set aside reserve funds to prepare for just such an eventuality, and didn't spend them when faculty union advocates were pressuring them to do so.
*** This blog is a jointly authored project by two people who believe that the campaign for tenure-track faculty unionization has damaged morale and divided our campus, and that a faculty union, if ever established, would erode academic quality and undermine our highly successful system of campus shared governance, which has earned nationwide praise.
We speak for ourselves. We have no organization behind us, we don’t ask for funding, we don’t pay national hired guns to come in and make the case for us.
We want to start a different campus conversation about faculty unionization, which we believe will be more thoughtful and substantive when people have all the facts.
We welcome and will consider postings from others expressing issues and concerns about faculty unionization. We know that many faculty are very upset about the possibility of working on a unionized campus.
If you see any information here that is inaccurate, please tell us and we will correct it.
If you share our concerns and want to help, please forward these postings to your friends and colleagues, and urge them to do the same. ***