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Law professors to opt out of faculty union?

3/2/2012: That’s the rumor down at the faculty club anyway. Apparently the union organizers are not opposed: keeping them out of the bargaining unit reduces the denominator, and law professors – even adjuncts – are not likely to sign the union card. My recollection is that this split has happened at other unionized schools as well.


  1. Anonymous 03/02/2012

    Dog asks

    What’s special about the Law School with
    respect to the this. Is their employer somehow different than professors in other schools?

    Can the Business School also opt out, if not,
    why not?

    Can CAS opt out?

    How many inconsistencies are there in this union effort, let alone the selective survey announcement?

  2. Anonymous 03/02/2012

    Is this only for law professors? Where do I sign up? If there is an opt-out, I’d wager most of the TT faculty will take it.

    Oh, does this mean the union will still be negotiating “on behalf” of the TT faculty? Then it’s not really an opt-out, is it?

    I guess the law professors may figure they can essentially be independent of the University. They probably can.

    Wouldn’t it be better for them to be working on a challenge to the union drive, if it is successful?

  3. Anonymous 03/02/2012

    I am a pro-union law professor. There are a number of differences between the law school and other units, most obviously a dramatically different academic year schedule, plus the fact that the law school is the school for the entire state of Oregon, not just the U of O. Faculty are not as pro-union in the law school because, quite frankly, the school is smaller and much better administered than other units, like CAS. I don’t see these as reasons for not including the law school in the bargaining unit.

    • Anonymous 03/03/2012

      Nothing against the law faculty for making these arguments, but if the union is pretending they are valid arguments (and not just an expedient scheme to shrink the denominator), it makes them look pretty ridiculous. Semesters vs quarters divides TT faculty into fundamentally different categories of employees, but researcher-teachers with lifetime tenure are the same basic kind of employee as adjuncts on one-term contracts and postdocs? “The law school is the school for the entire state” — and why doesn’t the same logic apply to the SOJC, AAA, etc.? For that matter, almost every doctoral-degree granting department at UO is the only one of its kind in the state.

      This is about bending the numbers to try to make the vote pass at any cost. Between this and the almost-inevitable exclusion of TTFs who supervise postdocs and ORs, the bargaining unit is starting to fall apart. And the organizers’ various promises about how a union will strengthen governance, improve administration, etc. are falling apart with it.

    • Anonymous 03/04/2012

      The last sentence of my comment shows I agree with the response. I was just trying to explain the thinking behind why the law school might be different; but, as I concluded, these are not reasons for not being included in the unit.

    • Anonymous 03/04/2012

      Add to this that if the union does manage to achieve anything (protecting benefits, better governance, etc.), many of the best paid faculty (law profs and TTFs with major grants) will be free riders.

  4. Anonymous 03/03/2012

    UO LERC Prof Gordon Lafer has an excellent piece,
    “Time for Faculty Union,” in the latest Eugene Weekly,
    bottom, page-4 of the Mar 1st edition. Read it.
    I couldn’t agree with him more.

    • Anonymous 03/03/2012

      This makes me wonder… who pays for LERC? Could we do without it? LERC currently has a six-member faculty “with strong roots in the union movement and an interdisciplinary range covering such areas as sociology, history, economics, industrial relations, education, and public health.” What it is, but an ideologically driven, quasi think tank?

    • Anonymous 03/05/2012

      As opposed to the business school?

  5. Anonymous 03/03/2012

    I don’t often read anything in the weekly for hard, unbiased logic, but thanks for the tip

  6. Anonymous 03/03/2012

    The Lafer piece is conceptually flabby in tracing so many of our problems to the bugbear of corporatization. Many of those problems — like rising tuition — have less to do with corporatization than with public disinvestment (which is a different beast) and, I daresay, the academy’s own ostrich-like neglect of its teaching mission. But even if Lafer is right, to form a union, which he thinks will oppose corporate logic, can ultimately only reinforce it. Unions exist to win concessions from corporate managers, rightfully in some cases, but not to codetermine the missions of those corporations themselves. If the faculty want a voice in our academic mission, a union is not the answer in my opinion.

  7. Anonymous 03/03/2012

    dead duck quacks in agreement with last anonymous. all it would take is a prez and provost committed to help rethink how to rengage admin and faculty with each other, including a well-informed senate budget committee with enough continuity of membership and/or staff to stay on top of the broad academic priorities on which there is likely faculty consensus–you know, student faculty ratios, competitive compensation for all on campus, research support relevant to each area, decent facilities,lassrooms and offices before vanity ‘olympian’ project on some vice prez priority list. a union will lock everyone into a on-size fits-all contract, and formal conflict with even sympathetic leaders. it is the nature of collective bargaining and the instinct for survival of union structures once established. we can do better with a truly committed prez and provost, so let’s focus our efforts on that. without that, we’re lost whether we have a union or not.

    • Anonymous 03/04/2012

      Dear dead duck: The UO Constitution gives the Faculty leverage for constructive re-engagement. Old Man says “Take it easy, but take it!”

  8. Anonymous 03/04/2012

    Posted here for lack of a better place: I had heard that there’s some sort of survey of faculty to determine what bargaining priorities should be. Does anyone know anything about this? (Obviously, I didn’t get it. I’m TT faculty.)

    Question #2: when exactly is this card check? Is there some actual card I’m supposed to have gotten?

    • Anonymous 03/05/2012

      I wrote, last week, to the person who sent the survey out, and have still not gotten a response. My question was simple–does the survey mean that the union has won its card check? Or is proclaiming victory by way of insinuation another union tactic? I worded my message politely and tactfully, but the operatives have not extended me the courtesy of a response.
      My conclusion is that the survey is a move straight out of the AFT playbook, and that it’s one of the things they “always” do when the vote is close.
      Let’s remember that we’re dealing with seasoned operatives here, not with our own starry-eyed colleagues. These are skilled people working on a national scale, not a local scale. The AFT and AAUP professionals have sunk a certain amount of money into colonizing us, and they’re going to use the tactics (including insinuations like those that accompanied the survey) that they know will help them win.

    • Anonymous 03/06/2012

      Dog says

      to the best of my knowledge:

      1) the union has not yet “won”

      2) its somewhere between 200 and 300 votes short but the process remains
      well short of contacting everyone in the potential bargaining unit.

      3) I have no idea of the exact number of card check signatures (but believe it to be in the broad range 850-950).

      4) as established earlier, I am a dog and dogs can’t count – just guess

  9. Anonymous 03/04/2012

    Dog to Anonymous

    Your two questions are excellent reflections of how poorly this process is
    being conducted. Indeed, the reason that many people think I am anti-union is
    because I am critical of the process, not because I might actually be anti-union
    for other reasons.

    I suspect you are typical of many TT faculty that are mostly in the dark about this process. To add some further clarification or confusion:

    1) The survey was sent to selected members of the potential “bargaining unit”.
    The dog did not get one either. Many TT faculty did not get one. The survey email even originates from a sufficiently strange email address that it could
    easily get interpreted (correctly in this case) as SPAM. So yes, this is fairly unscrupulous.

    2) A card check process (also known as “majority” sign-up) is a way to avoid a secret ballot. If 50% + 1 of the potential bargaining unit actively sings a card (which you are supposed to get – you have to indicate your willing to sign – then the card magically appears). My trouble with this is that nowhere has it been stated what the numerical size of the “bargaining unit” is. So what is
    the magic number for a “majority” and who vettes that number?

    And, for the record, I have no problem with an honest attempt to form a union as a proactive measure to improve the working conditions of the collective. By my count, about 4 words in the previous sentence are being violated or ignored by
    this current process.

    (PS I suspect that many pro-union forces will now argue, in this forum, that their process is an honest attempt …) ; okay –> let’s exclude the law faculty then

    • Peter Keyes 03/04/2012

      1) The survey is available to any who would like to participate, with a link via the UAUO website:

      Many other useful pieces of information are available there too.

      The Organizing Committee is in a bit of a bind. It is criticized for not taking strong stands on campus issues (such as the firing of the President), but if it did take a stand, it would get criticized for not being representative of the bargaining unit, which hasn’t been formed yet. So the point of the survey is to solicit opinions from a broad range of people in the potential bargaining unit on what issues they think are most important to address. If the union is formed, this survey, plus many other forms of input and participation, would be used to set the union’s agenda, starting to figure out what issues collectively matter to us. So we encourage all (even those who may be opposed to forming a union) to fill out the survey.

      The UAUO doesn’t send blanket email out to all faculty, first, because it doesn’t have access to the listservs that the UO maintains. So emails go out to faculty whose email addresses it does have. And second, if faculty members have indicated that they are really opposed to a union and have declined to give the UAUO their email addresses, then there’s not much point in the union continuing to contact them, is there? Frankly, I’ve been a little taken aback by how many faculty feel they are being “stalked” and “pressured” by the pro-union staff and faculty. So if the UAUO sent out blanket emails, I’m sure we would be hearing lots of complaints about how the union is now spamming the faculty. As I said, if you want to understand how the card check process is going, you can just look up the website. Doesn’t sound too hard.

      And as for “unscrupulous”, I can’t even begin to understand your comment. Is it that if the UAUO doesn’t make sure you read everything it produces, it’s unscrupulous? Or is it the use of an email address that might get caught in your spam filters, that’s unscrupulous? (I guess that means that many of my best friends who have gmail accounts are unscrupulous too.) Or the fact that the UAUO doesn’t continue to contact faculty who have indicated their strong opposition to a union, that’s unscrupulous? Or is it that the UAUO hasn’t assembled its own completely accurate list of everyone in the possible bargaining unit (mainly due to a lack of cooperation from the administration) that’s unscrupulous? Dog is sounding a bit like Newt Gingrich, and this unionization process “…is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine.”

    • Peter Keyes 03/04/2012

      2) “a way to avoid a secret ballot”? You might just as well have said that a secret ballot is a way to have a minority of activists take over the faculty! As even the UO HR website says, a card check means that the majority of those in the proposed bargaining unit must actively vote yes. Not a majority of those who show up to vote, but a majority of all those who will be affected. Again, as the HR website notes, if only 250 people chose to vote, then it would only take 126 yeas to have a union, whereas with a card check, this is more like a thousand. I don’t understand this fetishization of the secret ballot as being the gold standard for democracy, when in fact the card check is a higher bar to clear.

      Cards don’t “magically” appear. If you are talking to a union organizer or supporter, they will have a card for you to sign. Or if you stop by the union office, or send them an email, you will get one quickly. These are legal documents, which were not just stuffed in mailboxes where they would be largely ignored. If they are not filled out correctly (such as with your legal name), they will not be counted by the state. So it is important that they can be tracked and secured.

      As for the “magic number”, no one knows what it is, not even the UAUO. There are some numbers you can start with – TTF is a reasonably stable and discoverable number. NTTF is harder to determine, and adjuncts even harder. The administration has made some tentative lists (which I’m sure they would make available to you), but even these are not definitive. Then there are the wildcards – the administration recently announced that they would henceforth consider librarians as NTTF, not as OAs, so suddenly they are possibly in the bargaining unit. But while this has been announced, it has not been officially acted upon, and if it is not acted upon before the end of the card check, they might not be in. So the short answer is, there cannot be a magic umber at this point.

      Then who determines it, and vets it? The State Employment Relations Board (ERB). They interpret and apply state law, check the validity of any card that is signed, and count the cards. After the cards are turned in to the state, the UO will probably make some motions as to whom they think should be in or out of the bargaining unit, and the UAUO will make its arguments too. The ERB will make the decisions, and no one really knows how it will turn out, or what the final magic number will be.

      As for the Law School issue, I must say I don’t understand it. This is very recent. One post above points at differences between the Law School and the rest of the university, and says this is the basis for the exclusion, which I have heard has been the case at some other schools, although I can’t confirm that at all. I have heard that this proposal came from faculty at the Law School; it did not come from the UAUO. It is not an attempt to game the process. We don’t know how adamant the Law School faculty are about this, whether they will want to be excluded or not. And again, I would guess that any final determination on this would be made by the ERB. Similarly, a post above argues that “the bargaining unit is starting to fall apart” with the exclusion of TTF who supervise/hire post-docs, etc. The rules that would govern this are the state’s, not anything proposed by the union. I may not like the Electoral College either, but it doesn’t keep many of us from voting in a presidential election.

    • Anonymous 03/04/2012

      Dog a.k.a. Newt with Massive Ego

      I will stick to my second point – if no one knows the exact number of
      workers on the factory floor, then how am I, a factory floor work, assured that an accurate count has been done? I consider this to be unscrupulous independent of who is to blame for this.

      You can argue all you want that transparency and clarity and fairness has existed from day one and all I had to do, as a dog, was to click on
      the website. Well, dogs are idiots … as is Newt

    • Peter Keyes 03/05/2012

      Dog – I didn’t mean to imply that your ego was Newtonian, only your outrage.

      As for factory floor workers (or voters), we are never able to verify anything with 100% accuracy or fairness, are we? How many voters have moved out of the district, were those redistricting lines drawn to give partisan advantage, how many voters on the rolls have died, how many voters were excluded by onerous registration procedures, etc. Any system this large is necessarily imprecise and from some perspectives, lacks scruples. I don’t impute this to evil intent or bias (not in Oregon – in NY I would), but to the nature of complex human activities with many variables. One would hope this doesn’t come down to hanging chads, that any margin would be large enough so that the verdict can be widely accepted. And in the end, the decisions about all this will be made by an independent state agency, so the interpretations and conspiracy theories of each side will be moot.

      I would just like us to ramp down the rhetoric a bit. I can tell you that in the past year I have seen the UAUO organizing committee and staff acting in an ethical, thoughtful and responsible manner. These are not outside agitators sent by the Comintern, these are your colleagues. Likewise, although I may disagree with the anti-union arguments I hear (and even think some of them are not reality-based), I believe that the union opponents are doing what they think best for the university too. If the union doesn’t pass, I’ll be disappointed, but I won’t go hide out in the Coburg Hills with the partisans. And if it does pass, I hope that the White Terror won’t extend beyond my friends in the Art History Department.

      As for websites, as the famous New Yorker cartoon said, On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog.

    • Anonymous 03/05/2012

      Dog clarifies

      A few weeks ago, in this forum, some Anon accused the dog of posting merely for the dog’s own “massive” ego – so that’s what I was referring too. And I think Isaac Newton would come back from the dead to hear the term Newtonian applied to a Gingrich.

      Matters of precision, open communication and clarity are subject to individual judgements. Indeed, I believe I teach in a clear manner but if you asked my students, I am just a dog barking. Perhaps, my judgement is highly flawed in all of this but my judgement remains – this union issue has polarized faculty and I think this could have been avoided early on. Whether or not that is a fair statement is naturally open to interpretation but it remains the reason, why, at this time, I would not sign a union card. Twelve months ago, I may well have done that before levels of confusion and puzzlement set in for this particular dog.

  10. Anonymous 03/04/2012

    The FAQ page of United Academics says this: “2. Who will the United Academics bargaining unit include, and who will the collective bargaining contract cover?
    Included in the unit and covered by the contract are all faculty (tenure-related and non-tenure- track), research assistants/associates, and post-doctoral scholars.”

    So do they mean all faculty except for law faculty and for faculty supervising post-docs? Or all faculty? Do these faculty not pay dues but still benefit from negotiations, or do they have to pay the agency fee mentioned in the FAQ as a way for faculty to not join the union and not pay dues but still share in the cost of the union?

  11. Anonymous 03/04/2012

    Dead duck quacks in response to last several posts, including the ever blunt dog. dead duck learned in a labor relations graduate program for flocks that the option to join union of flocks or not is an individual duck’s legal right, but individuals may not choose whether to be in or out of a bargaining unit, the definition of which is almost always an issue resolved when union files for certification or a formal election. Our organizers obviously don’t want an election. Resolution is a mix of negotiation and interpretation of law by the relevant labor relations board. Members of unit who don’t join union typically are required to pay an “agency fee in lieu of dues and have no vote or voice in union affairs
    If a unit member does join union, then he or she pays regular dues, votes in the union and becomes subject to union rules and may be fined for violating them. Some of the ambiguities on the bargaining unit could have been clarified by organizers’ focusing on more clearly delineated groups, either separately or collectively, such as TTFs in degree-granting programs .5 or greater, ‘career NTTFs .5 or greater in degree-granting programs, or all Officers of Instruction .5 or greater in degree-granting programs. Note this definition excludes part-time officers of instruction below .5 and all officers of research. A separate drive could have been organized for OIs below .5, and I suspect a majority of TTF would have been sympathetic to the need for a stronger voice for part-time faculty in terms of their pay, benefits and working conditions. Librarians are inherently tough unless union sticks to OIs in degree-granting programs, which would exclude Librarians, but they could form their own union, if they wish. Librarians are tough otherwise due to supervisory issues in the organization of a library, which may have to be resolved position by position if a certification petition is filed. Similar issues arise with directors and department heads, who could end up going in and out of unit as supervisory appointments change. On other issues, the burden of resolving doubt traditionally rests with those advocating a change. Those opposed or, mor likely, undecided do not necessarily believe all is fine, but the burden of argument and evidence for demonstrating change would be better than status quo or an alternative type of change rests with those advocating the change. Thus far, I am unimpressed, however disgusted I may be with recent years of administration on campus. Sorry for quacking on so long if you are still awake.

  12. Anonymous 03/04/2012

    [From Anonymous Mar 4, 2012 09:20 AM]
    Thanks, Peter, for the link to . I suppose I should have already been aware of this, but I wasn’t. I have found the survey document. I haven’t found the time period of when the card check occurs / ends, but I haven’t looked very hard yet.

    About emails: I do find this statement a bit odd: “The UAUO doesn’t send blanket email out to all faculty, first, because it doesn’t have access to the listservs that the UO maintains. So emails go out to faculty whose email addresses it does have.” There aren’t *that* many faculty — a dozen people looking by hand at department web pages could probably get all the addresses in an hour (probably much less). I don’t fall in the second category you noted of anti-union people, by the way. Maybe like Dog, I’m in the ‘sympathetic but puzzled’ category.

    • Peter Keyes 03/05/2012

      As Charles Krauthammer once said about Congress, in looking for an explanation of their behavior, it is probably better to assume incompetence rather than malfeasance.

  13. Anonymous 03/04/2012

    Dog responds

    Thanks anon above for more properly interpreting my comments. I believe there are
    potential good aspects towards forming a union but the nature of the process, to me, has unnecessarily polarized the issue(s); but I also believe that this is
    typical of any process at the UO. So yes, this dog could be more sympathetic if
    it were less puzzled. Puzzled dogs are blunt and chase their tail around in
    circles, yet even a puzzled dog can quickly produce a faculty email list.

  14. Anonymous 03/04/2012

    “unnecessarily polarize[s] the issue(s)”

    That pretty much describes my feelings about the union

  15. Peter Keyes 03/05/2012

    As someone who’s been involved in the process for the past year, it has all seemed pretty clear to me, so I’m chagrined to hear that it has not been clear in the past couple of months to those somewhat removed. I apologize for that, and in our defense, I can only offer my experience that it is a Herculean task to inform and engage as diverse and scattered a faculty as we have, who are all prone to hide out in their labs and offices until a major crisis erupts. (When the President was fired, I saw people at the faculty meeting whom I hadn’t seen in 15 years.) When I was Senate President, I eventually realized that it took a concerted effort, spread over three months, to alert and engage the Senate on an issue to the point where they could make an informed decision. And that was with 49 Senators; this effort involves thousands, none of whom are self-selected, and few of whom are as engaged as Senators. I’ve seen other comments in past months which have pooh-poohed the amount of work involved in this; I can only say, you should try it sometime, when you have another day job you’re trying to do.

    As for polarization, I think this is a bit overstated. If some imperfection in process, some overlooking of optimal ways to engage people, is enough to “polarize the issues”, we’re in big trouble at this university. Personally, I can put up with a lot more incompetence and discord before I feel things are polarized (but I’m from NY). Academics are professionally predisposed to be perfectionists and obsessed with details, looking for the one small point with which to shoot down a whole theory or process. But governance and politics are messier fields, and we can’t expect every point to be indisputably resolved. I think we shouldn’t get too upset about relatively minor procedural issues to the point where it obscures the important issues. In the immortal words of Bart Simpson, “… the little stupid differences are nothing next to the big stupid similarities.”

    • Anonymous 03/06/2012

      There is no excuse for systematically making invitation only to those predisposed to be supportive, especially as it is more costly to separate email lists by propensity to support than it is to send global invitations. I appreciate you being forthcoming, Peter, but it is not all a ‘you should try it sometime’ sort of thing.

  16. Anonymous 03/08/2012

    This piece of logic from the union organizers, if I don’t sign I’m in favor of the status quo, reall? does it say that on the card? If you don’t mind, I don’t need the union organizers to tell me what my actions mean. my not signing means what I intend it to mean, which is that serious faculty governance can work, esp under the new constitution, and I’d rather wait a few months to see who we can attract as president and the kind of commitment we can get on governance. if we can’t make shared governance work how can we run a union, unless we hire our own level of bureacrats we’ll have to watc too, and who will tell us how to think and what our actions mean, as in the message we apparently all got as faculty shared governance can work well It has been done before and can be done again. several posts have pointed out how to get started

  17. Anonymous 03/09/2012

    The list of supportive quotes from UO members on the organizer’s website is illuminating. A lot of comments from NTTFs on soft money wanting job security which raises a lot of tough questions. Where do they think the money’s going to come from? Do other universities with unions commit funds to soft money positions? It’s a zero sum game so I wonder what else suffers if they do.

    How much of our CBA will be directed towards this issue?

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