The UW Argues About A Union

AAUP cross postA dialog from from AAUP listserv


to Faculty

Congratulations on undertaking this fascinating and innovative study that demonstrates the benefit that unions have provided (and likely will continue to provide) for working people in our nation. It is unfortunate that union membership is declining and that so-called “right-to-work” laws are increasing, and I think that the study provides important data to argue that unions are beneficial for the lives of working people and their families.

I wonder if the results of the study are less applicable to university faculty, as we tend to have better working conditions than (for example) factory or clerical workers, as well as more input (through shared governance) than the vast majority of U.S. workers. It seems to me that the UW offers an attractive working environment for the vast majority of faculty. Of course, some groups of faculty (such as part-time lecturers and our colleagues on short-term contracts) definitely need more respectful treatment and better working conditions, and I am hopeful that the Faculty Senate and our new UW administration will address this issue in the coming year. Our president and provost both are long-serving members of our faculty, and I believe that they care about the university community and want to take care of the needs of the faculty.

Best regards,



Amy Hagopian

Amy Hagopian


I note you are director of thoracic imaging at UW Medicine, a full professor and a vice chair. Congratulations on those achievements.
One of the reasons we are stalled on faculty union organizing at the UW is that people at the top of the faculty prestige pyramid don’t see their fates as tied to those holding contingent, insecure or non-tenured faculty positions. Despite our attempts to hold open public discussions of the pros and cons of unionization, the signers of the “UW Excellence” webpage haven’t much engaged in these dialogues.
The “some groups of faculty (such as part-time lecturers and our colleagues on short-term contracts)” that you reference now comprise 70% of our UW faculty ranks. In the School of Public Health, we are all self employed, required to raise (on average) 85% of our salaries from private or grant sources so we can subsidize the teaching and administration required to keep the school afloat.
Who wants to be the last fully-tenured high-prestige faculty member in a sea of contingent faculty? No one in an insecure position is much motivated to defend your tenure status, and if they’re in a part-time position, they can’t even vote in their departments.
It’s unfortunate you don’t consider faculty to be “working people” worthy of a collectively-organized body to improve our conditions. Our first job would be to work in alliance with fellow unionized faculty at the four regional universities to improve allocations from the state legislature. We will never accomplish that goal without an organized effort, which requires a union.
Best wishes for a great rest of the summer,

Amy Hagopian, PhD

Associate Professor
Director, Community Oriented Public Health Practice
University of Washington School of Public Health

Image result for galya dimentHi Amy,

Just strikes me as not very helpful that, on the one hand, you want us all to be in it together, regardless of our positions and titles, while, on the other, you were not content with just treating Gautham as “a faculty” and felt the need to look him up (since there was no signature under his name) in order to point out how his academic “class” determines his view on the matter, as if that alone always explains everything in our beliefs. The rather patronizing “Congratulations on those achievements” was also kinda unnecessary.

People who have known me for years are aware that I was an early proponent of the union and very active on behalf of UWAAUP in trying to organize it through AAUP/AFT. But now I am yet to sign the card. And, yes, I am a full professor and was a chair for 12 years so, in your book (unfortunately, all to familiar to me as a former Soviet), that probably explains it all; in all fairness to me, however, it has not stopped me from acting on my true and deeply-held convictions while doing other things that have not been exactly popular with the administration.

The reason the process is stuck, it seems to me, is not because some of us are content in our positions and do not give a damn about the rest and the real and severe problems that exist but because we have honest misgivings about “the fit” (I definitely did feel that AAUP/AFT were a much more natural combo for the academic culture) and, frankly, at least in my case, also because of the rather simplistic and often black-and-white nature of some of the messages and appeals.

All best,


Galya Diment, Professor
Joff Hanauer Distinguished Professor in Western CivilizationGalya

SMS dots half tone icoYou have it exactly right.

I suspect that most (or at least a majority) of the UW faculty would vote for a union that :

1, Respected strengthening our existing democratic system of shared governance.
2. Avoided the politics and political activity the SEIU has practiced.
3. Avoided trying to appear as if the organizers are an unelected voice for “the people” .. AKA our faculty.

While I am sure that SEIU would take exception to being called “Trotskyist,”  there are sad lessons that the SEIU should learn from his life.  Unlike you I was never a citizen under the Soviet system, but I have been reading Isaac Deutscher’s biography of Trotsky.   The real message of that book is that Trotsky really believed that an elite minority could speak for the proletariat. That message was wrong in Russia and it certainly is wrong at the UW.

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