Health center says no to union

by Jim Martyka

Faculty at the University’s Academic Health Center voted not to join the rest of the University in a January union election.
By a vote of 299 in favor and 478 opposed with 281 abstaining, the health center faculty ended its role in the drive for collective bargaining. University Faculty Alliance lawyer Steve Gordon said the state will lift its status quo order from the health center.
But some faculty leaders said the health center faculty’s decision might have been unfairly influenced.
Carol Wells, a professor of Lab Medicine and Pathology, said one likely reason the health center faculty voted against inclusion was pressure from an e-mail message they received from Academic Health Center Provost Frank Cerra.
In the message, Cerra said he believes a union would lead to a breakdown in current systems of negotiation within the health center. He said the current systems are more personal and allow faculty members to be creative in negotiations.
“If we unionize, what will it do to our individual fates when much of that negotiation happens between a central university negotiation team and the union?” Cerra said in the message.
Tom Walsh, the faculty alliance co-founder, said another reason for the outcome of Thursday’s vote was threats from the health center administration that faculty would lose funding for research as well as clinical and grant income if they voted for inclusion.
Wells said another possible reason might have been general fear of a union. “People are afraid of the unknown,” she said, “and collective bargaining is a big unknown.”
Gordon said the faculty alliance will protest the election results through the state’s Bureau of Mediation Services because “the regents and the administration engaged in massive unfair labor practices.”
According to Gordon, the regents violated the status quo order by implementing the “Sullivan II” tenure proposal for the University’s Law School. The regents misled the faculty, Gordon said, “by promising that if faculty voted against a union, the proposal would be applied campuswide.”
The health center is the third segment of the University to vote for or against inclusion in upcoming union elections. Wednesday, faculty on the Morris campus voted against inclusion in an outstate bargaining unit, and Crookston faculty tied, prompting a possible investigation of voter eligibility.
Thursday’s vote marks the third time in the past 18 years that the health center faculty will not join the rest of the faculty in a union vote. Prior to this year, the health center and Law School faculty opted out of a unionization election in 1978 and again in 1981.