Countering University spin on unions

The misinformation game is beneath the dignity of any higher education institution.

I am writing to refute comments quoted in a Monday article on the American Federation of State, Municipal and County Employees unions’ survey of employees, “Unions conduct survey.”

Lori Vicich is quoted as saying that the University questions the unions’ survey, saying “the scientific response rate is low.” This is simply not true. According to the article the survey received a 50 percent response rate; this is phenomenal for a mailed/e-mailed survey.

Secondly, Vicich is quoted as saying that “asking union members heated questions during heated times can cause a bias.” Again, as the author of the article reports, this survey was taken in January 2005. At that time there was no heat to generate, except the heat generated by employees who have been working for more than 2 1/2 years under what is basically a wage freeze. The unions had not even voted on the composition of their negotiating teams, and no dates were yet set for bargaining talks to begin.

The survey was created as a way to get in touch with employees who are isolated all over campus, and who would not otherwise have a chance to express their needs in the upcoming negotiations. It is the University’s stance on negotiations that has heated things up – in its refusal to sit at the table – with properly elected negotiating team members (all of them University workers who are elected by their respective unions) until an unfair labor practice complaint brought them to the table; in its glacial pace of bargaining once talks began, and in its lack of respect for the plight of its own workers in the face of high health care costs and low wages.

The article’s quotes are typical of the University’s attempt to spin out misinformation. Bargaining unit employees have been receiving e-mails from the University’s Office of Human Resources for months. Many have been of slim factual content, with one e-mail containing an outright untruth. All of this is beneath the dignity of higher education institutions, but is even more unworthy of one aspiring to be one of the top three research and educational institutions in the country. It is time for the University administration to put its money where its mouth is – settle a fair contract for the workers who will make the University fulfill its public promises.

Barabara Bezat is a University employee and AFSCME Local 3937 member. Please send comments to [email protected]