Faculty draw closer together to unionize

Jim Martyka

Members of two prominent faculty groups discussed their recent decision to work together on the issue of unionization Monday with about 100 faculty members.
Executive members of the American Association of University Professors-Twin Cities Chapter held the meeting in Coffman Memorial Union to inform their members, along with other curious faculty members, of the details of their merger with the United Faculty Alliance.
AAUP members announced last Thursday their decision to support the UFA in case of a union election.
Among the items discussed Monday was a memorandum of agreement, which clarified the objectives of the merger. The document listed three main objectives: that the faculty be represented in collective bargaining, that a majority of the faculty vote in a union election and that the AAUP should become the faculty bargaining agent after the election.
This final point means that if an election takes place and the faculty wins, the faculty alliance would immediately drop their name from negotiations and allow the AAUP to lead in collective bargaining.
Faculty Alliance co-coordinator Tom Walsh said, “It would be practical to transfer bargaining to the AAUP because they are a national unit, as opposed to a local unit like the UFA, and would give the faculty national representation.”
However, Walsh also said this point as well as others on the memorandum have not been presented to local members of the Faculty Alliance. These will be discussed in a meeting on Wednesday, Walsh said, and he anticipates their full support.
AAUP members present at the meeting were asked to reveal their opinion of the merger of the groups. Forty-one indicated that they supported the merger while there were none who indicated they opposed it.
V. Rama Murthy, president of the AAUP-Twin Cities, said he was surprised and delighted with the amount of support they were receiving. “It is amazing how unified everyone in this meeting was,” he said.
The merger of the faculty groups comes after a month of heated discussion triggered by a set of tenure proposals issued by the University’s Board of Regents. The proposal contained greater authority for administrators to lay off tenured professors, which upset many faculty members.
Members of both groups spoke about the events surrounding the tenure debate, in an attempt to clarify issues for local members.
Among the speakers was a representative from the National AAUP organization. Jack Nightingale said the tenure dispute at the University has gained the attention of universities nationwide. He also warned participants that these proposals are forerunners of problems to come.
“The national organization is very committed and prepared to support and help provide whatever you need during this organizing drive,” Nightingale announced. He said the national chapter was prepared to offer both financial assistance and personnel to the effort.
Members at the meeting were also encouraged to voice concerns and ask questions. Some of the main concerns were about financial support of the faculty unionization campaign as well as the implications of getting involved with a union. “We must look at the long-range consequences,” said one participant. “These have to be discussed before we can vote.”
Executive members agreed and said there would be more meetings to discuss the issue. Murthy also said that members are working on writing a draft of the union contract for faculty members to examine.
Many members also gave suggestions on what the unit should do next to inform members and get total support, as well as how to win the election. Murthy said that he couldn’t believe the number of suggestions. “To see that shows how concerned these members are with the issue,” he said.
For now, executive members said they are assembling teams to do research and educate the faculty community.
“It’s time to get this thing rolling,” Walsh said.