Why I support a faculty union

It’s the start of a brand new year at the University of Minnesota, and things have begun to settle down. Last week, amid all the homecoming week activities on campus, supporters of an effort to form a faculty union held an event on Northrop Plaza — and since my name and face have been attached to pro-union materials, colleagues have asked me why I am in favor of it.
 
Over the last few years, public higher education has been fighting a defensive battle against those who no longer see universities in terms of our economic, social or educational benefits to states or individuals. Our neighbor Wisconsin is a prime example. We have become a luxury in the eyes of some and a target for budget cuts to others.
 
So how can forming a faculty union help? What can it do for us to better the lives of students, staff and faculty in challenging times? Standing shoulder to shoulder, forming a faculty union will allow us to bring a powerful voice to the state Legislature as we battle for more funding for students, research and the support we need to do our jobs well.
 
Standing shoulder to shoulder, forming a faculty union will allow us to sit at the table with administration as legal equals to advocate internally for better working conditions for everyone. Communication will improve, and decisions will be more transparent. 
 
Faculty members at many other union campuses have done so much better in terms of working conditions and benefits than we have at the University. Just ask a colleague who works at one of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. You may be surprised.
 
Standing shoulder to shoulder, forming a faculty union that includes both tenure-line and contingent faculty will empower us to make the University a better place for everyone
in both good times and difficult ones. We can challenge a corporate culture that has made decision-making a top-down process and has put the commercialization of our research above teaching and service. Instead, we can work on a culture of cooperation at the University that will benefit all Minnesotans economically, socially and educationally.