BREAKING NEWS: UW Faculty Announce Effort to Create a Union.

from AAUP listserv:

Working Towards a Union for the UW faculty

by Raya Fidel, Professor, Information School


The quality of faculty work life at the UW has deteriorated during the last decade.  Throughout the years the Faculty Senate has worked diligently to represent the faculty and it needs.  It introduced into the Faculty Code new policies about adjudication procedures, a reasonable pace for faculty salary raises, and transparency during the faculty promotion process, among other measures to enable faculty members to maintain the quality of their research and teaching.

In recent years the faculty has realized that the UW administrative leadership views the decisions made by the Faculty Senate as recommendations only with no executive power.  In line with the national trend, faculty governance at the UW is eroding rapidly.  Last year provided a prominent example when President Emmert rejected two Senate resolutions and issued an Executive Order that reshaped salary policy and, more important, reshaped the Faculty Code.  The senate has no recourse to pressure the President to negotiate with the faculty because it is an “advisory” body.

One recourse the faculty has is turning to the courts.  This has proven an effective approach when the University administration had to accept a court decision and compensate faculty for withholding a required 2% raise in 2002-03—a decision resulting from a lawsuit brought by faculty member Duane Storti.  While effective, such approach is highly resource-demanding and might have extreme complexities.  A better approach is to establish a faculty body that has the authority and power to negotiate with the Administration; that is, to form a collective bargaining unit—a union.

Faculty in the four regional state universities in Washington State are already organized in a local union associated with United Faculty of Washington State (UFWS, ).  Bill Lyne from Western Washington University, who is the current President of UFWS, explained that establishing a union in WWU has actually improved the relations between faculty and Administration (even though the administration tried its best to prevent unionization).  Both he and Lisa Klein (AAUP union president at Rutgers University)—who visited campus in May, 2009—indicated that with the union faculty relations with Administration are stable and predictable.  Contract negotiations create an opportunity to have genuinely meaningful conversations about wages and working conditions, and Administration is much more active in responding to the union than it was when working with the faculty senate on these issues.  In addition, the union gives faculty representation at the state level that is highly effective because of the firm faculty governance that a union affords.

The UW chapter of AAUP has created a unionization working group to consider faculty organizing.  Members of the group have talked to faculty members in various schools and departments to identify the main issues that should be addressed in order to improve faculty work life.  So far, faculty governance, salary policy, and the requirement to bring money through research grants and other means have been raised as areas of concern.

If you have any questions, or if you want to bring concerns about additional issues, to share the situation in your department, and to receive current information about the working group please send us a message at <>.

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1 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. 1

    it is hardly breaking news that aaup wants to unionize the uw, it seems to
    me they always did, but could never even try as such unions were illegal in
    our state.

    i think that now that they are legal though so it is worth a shot.

    if i recall correctly a lot of negative sentiment was expressed among faculty at uw on this issue in past.

    but times do change so we will see.

    emmert gave plenty of ammo i think, not the least of which was his giant salary and then leaving for the ncaa.

    emmert’s decisions on final issues from faculty senate he decided on is good ammo for what our administrators are really like.

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