Tenure Track Faculty petition to stay out of union

3/23/2012: Sent to me and I believe all TTF’s this AM:

Dear Colleagues,

Many tenure track faculty members have expressed concerns regarding the union’s proposed bargaining unit.  We have put together a petition for those TTF members that share our concerns.  The ERB has informed us that we can file a document that states our specific concerns and a list of faculty that support the objection.  The petition lists four reasons that the TTF should be excluded from the proposed bargaining unit.  Admittedly, it is not perfect, but time is of the essence so we have attempted to concisely articulate the points in the time we have available.

The ERB has informed us that we can collect names electronically, and if you wish, you can choose to make your name visible only to the petition sponsors and the parties to whom the petition will be sent.

Our hope is that those who have concerns regarding the proposed bargaining unit will have the opportunity to be heard by the ERB.  If you plan to support this effort to be heard, please sign the petition as soon as possible.

The petition can be found here:  http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/objection-to-proposed-bargaining-unit/

 The text:

We object to the inclusion of tenure-track faculty (TTF) in the proposed bargaining unit set forth by United Academics of University of Oregon, AAUP/AFT, AFL-CIO, on the following grounds:

(I) The proposed unit of employees is very broad, with different roles and functions within the University. These include full-time, part-time, and retired faculty, as well as faculty primarily engaged in research, others engaged in instruction, and some engaged in both. It is difficult to envision a single entity effectively representing the needs of all of these heterogeneous constituents.  Moreover, the plan to include Officers of Research requires exclusion of TTF members who supervise ORs, but the mobility of faculty in and out of “supervisory” status, such as rotating terms as department heads, makes the composition of the proposed union unworkable.

(II) Employment decisions within the TTF are peer reviewed and are therefore fundamentally different from other proposed members of the bargaining unit.  For example, TTF members make hiring, promotion and retention decisions about their peer TTF members.  Non-TTF members are not typically involved in this type of decision making process, and in fact are commonly reviewed by TTF members.

(III) The proposed unit excludes Principal Investigators with supervisory authority and faculty in the School of Law. The basis for excluding these groups is unclear and inconsistent. Principal Investigators and faculty in the Law School have both a research and instructive role in their employment that is almost identical to other active tenure-track faculty members. Tenure track faculty included in the bargaining unit are more comparable to this excluded group than they are to other members included in the proposed unit such as Non-TTF faculty.

(IV) The manner in which TTF members are compensated is heterogeneous and not conducive to collective bargaining.  Many TTF members trade-off salary with research and lab funding, so a one-size-fits-all collective agreement will limit TTF members’ ability to make these decisions individually.  Any attempt to standardize compensation contracts through a collective process will reduce the valuable flexibility that is built into the current system.

The union website is here. No response as of yet. Please keep comments on track. It may take time for them to be approved, I’m swamped.

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42 Responses to Tenure Track Faculty petition to stay out of union

  1. Anonymous says:

    Also see http://ir.uoregon.edu/sites/ir/files/ten2011.pdf : as of 2010 (last year available), 683 TTF, 681 “fixed” (I assume career NTTF?), 462 adjunct, 15 visiting, 88 post-retirement = 1,929 total teaching faculty.

  2. Anonymous says:

    See UO Fall 11 Mini Profile at http://ir.uoregon.edu/sites/ir/files/F11%20Mini%20Profile_0.pdf bottom of page 2 for Fall 2011 UO tenure-related faculty numbers, according to institutional statistics. No breakout by Law School though.

  3. Anonymous says:

    cross-tabulations by rank and college/school:

    Total Professor Assoc Asst Other
    AAA 17 3 13 1 0
    CAS 133 65 39 24 5
    ED 10 8 2 0 0
    Jour 4 4 0 0 0
    LAW 5 4 1 0 0
    LCB 36 13 12 9 2
    Music 3 2 1 0 0
    PE 1 0 0 0 1
    Dance 1 0 1 0 0
    Unknown 5
    Anon 54

    TOTAL 269 99 69 34 8

    • Anonymous says:

      Do you guys know what is the count of TTF on campus excluding the Law School?
      Thank you in advance

    • Anonymous says:

      See ir.uoregon.edu/sites/ir/files/F11%20Mini%20Profile_0.pdf at end of page 2 for institutional stats on Fall 2011 UO tenure-related faculty numbers. No breakout by law school though.

  4. Cat says:

    My advice, if they expect to win the end game or even if they’re confident they already have, is to devote some political capital to outreach here on campus. There are a lot of “next steps” even after (if) the cards get certified. How the union organizers–who I hope aren’t just going to breathe a sigh of relief and hand it all over to the professionals (AAUP or whoever)–are going to move forward with the actual bargaining, to try to gain all the advantages they hope will manifest once the union exists, is going to be really tough, to judge by what’s happening now. And frankly, for many of us, it doesn’t inspire confidence in the organizers. As in any election, winning isn’t the end, it’s the beginning. Next they’re going to have to have to lead. And except for Prof. Keyes’ occasional forays onto UO matters, I sense no leadership anywhere as these debates unfold.

  5. Cat says:

    I thank Prof. Keyes for his even-tempered explanations. Cat was never one for conspiracy theories, and knows too many of the union organizers to impute bad intentions or sneakiness. But I do think, honestly, that they’ve been naive and that the’ve not done a particularly good job of PR in the last few weeks of their campaign.

    First, the presumption of the organizers seems always to have been that a union was a good idea, and it was just a matter of configuring it fairly rationally, with the chief criterion being expedience and viability within the law and ERB requirements. But now the devil is in the details, and face-to-face with them, many faculty find precisely those details exacerbate their doubts about the union. The organizers simply fudged too many of these details in their card check promotion. But they should quit fudging now and–like Prof. Keyes–engage the debate. Shrugging and saying, “well, the law made us do it” just won’t do. I find most of the organizers–again excepting Prof. Keyes–altogether too glib and smug about these issues, which is why anyone either opposed to the principle of unionization or open-minded/ambivalent about it but dismayed at the bargaining unit hasn’t been remotely swayed by their rebuttals. Indeed, to judge by the petition, a few of their supporters have even swung the other way.

    Second, I can well imagine that in the heady days when the last of the necessary cards came in, which was the exact same moment when they let the law school go, it didn’t occur to them that it would be a big deal. It’s really not clear to me how hard our lawyer friends had to argue, vs. how quickly the union organizers opened the back door for them; while there is ample precedent for excluding law faculty from unions, others suggest including them (such as at UF, an AAU institution, where med school faculty are also in the bargaining unit). But again, the organizers should really not be surprised that this elicited many questions, and felt to many like a last minute trick of the numbers.

    All in all, what’s most dismaying is that the union organizers seem to feel no need to address, or do other than put down or shrug off, those within the very organization they’ve worked to hard to create and intend to speak for who are apprehensive. It’s easier just to put them in the box of “those implacably opposed to the union” (with implicit characterizations like “elitist”, “thick-headed,” “Knight professors”). How a group ostensibly committed to unity could so thoroughly have sown dissention in such a short time is rather astonishing. You’d think the admin or the ERB were the only audiences for their actions. They seem content–to judge by their happy posting of next steps–to consider the 50%+ who signed hards as their only constituency. Reading the names of the non-anonymous signatories to the petition opposing the bargaining unit, one can’t help but notice the overwhelming preponderance of scientists and LCB profs. Why is the union just blazing ahead, blowing off whole categories of those they intend to represent?

    • Anonymous says:

      Well said!

    • Anonymous says:

      A confusing thing to me is that scientists (PI) are highly represented in the petition against the union, when they might not even be allowed in the union. Can they count towards perhaps bringing the union down? Or do they not have any voice in discussing what an appropriate union might look like because they may not be part of this particular one?

    • Anonymous says:

      Anon 8:42 asks about scientists. There are several issues here. The wording as to who is excluded from the bargaining unit is more complicated than just PIs. It refers to PIs with supervisory authority.

      Since in most departments, TTF have supervisory authority over NTTF, this could (on the one hand) be interpreted to be _any_ PI. Or, it could be interpreted to be any PI who employs non-student researcher under his or her grant. Or maybe something else. None of us in the sciences knows who is meant to be included and excluded. Furthermore, many of us sometimes have grants, sometimes do not, sometimes employ non-student researchers, sometimes do not. So we would be moving back and forth between union membership and non-membership. Furthermore again, since most of us do not want to be represented by this bargaining unit, we would have incentive to employ non-student researchers rather than training graduate students. This is opposite to what the incentives should be at a research university.

      Finally, what most of us are interested in is _not_ bringing the union down. Rather we are interested in not having TTF in our departments as a part of the union. The reasons we think this is a bad idea also apply to non-science departments, but if the union had offered (as they apparently did to the Law School) options for individual departments to opt in or out of the union, most of the natural science departments would have opted completely out.

      Note: there are many other reasons that a lot of the scientists think this union is a bad idea for TTF – it isn’t just what I wrote about above. That was just an attempt to answer Anon 8:42’s question.

    • Anonymous says:

      Scientists are heavily represented in the non-anonymous signers of the petition. They may not be heavily represented among signers of the petition overall however.

      People (not in science departments) have told me stories about being verbally harassed and then given the cold shoulder by their colleagues after not signing cards. Under such circumstances it makes sense not to sign this petition with one’s name and honestly, that would have a chilling effect on signing it at all.

    • Cat says:

      Sad. For what it’s worth, in my department, which is heavily pro-union, the couple of us who declined to sign cards–and even engaged in vigorious debate with our local union organizer–have so far been treated with nothing but respect and courtesy. It’s a shame if that’s not been the norm. (Still, were I an untenured member of my department, I’d probably have signed the petition anonymously.)

  6. Anonymous says:

    I do wish that some law prof would articulate a decent, principled explanation for why the law school, *uniquely* among UO schools and colleges, should be excluded from the bargaining unit. All of the explanations I’ve seen so far seem either transparently opportunistic or sheer unsubstantiated legal bluff. They may be good lawyers, but they’re looking to me like fair-weather colleagues.

  7. Peter Keyes says:

    As regards organizer conspiracy theories, I just wish we were that omniscient. Most of the issues cited were determined by state law, as we understood it. Schedule? By law, a card check period is 90 days, when else would anyone set a starting date other than the start of a term? We’re responsible for some things, but not the academic quarter system. Retired faculty? We don’t mean all of them – just the ones teaching. (And if we were so crafty, why would we want to include the faculty cohort least likely to vote for a union?) PIs? We tried to figure out how this would be interpreted by the ERB, based on past cases. You may have a different take, and you may be right. We’ll have to wait to see how the law shakes out. Personally, I’d like to have them in. Law School? We always thought they were in, it was quite late in the game when they announced they wanted out and had good grounds for it. So if you want them in, blame them, not us.

    And thanks for the acknowledgement that the organizers may think they are doing a good thing. I feel that way about the opponents too. I may come to different conclusions than those in the online petition, but I can see how from their perspectives they are raising critical issues.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, I can see Professor Keyes explanations as plausible, but to dismiss questions of intent as “conspiracy theories” is again resorting to snideness. I can raise the notion that it was deliberate to include groups (like ORs) more likely to favor the union and exclude groups (like the OAs) less likely to favor the union without believing in any conspiracy.

      Professor Keyes makes the correct point that working conditions for TTF vary widely. This is correct, and this is one of the reasons that collective bargaining doesn’t make sense for TTF.

      I have _always_ been opposed to collective bargaining for TTF for this reason, among others. If I believe a majority of TTF genuinely thought collective bargaining for TTF was a good idea, I would be unhappy, but would go along with this. But one of the reasons that many of us are so unhappy about the chaotic way that some TTF would become part of the bargaining unit and others would not is because the TTF polled seem to have been gerrymandered so that a majority of the TTF (excluding PIs and Law School faculty) _isn’t_ a majority of the TTF.

      Finally, I object strongly to the fact that those exceptions only became known a week ago. Professor Keyes accuses others of subscribing to conspiracy theories, but the behavior of the organizers in not publicizing this information, and in refusing to give the card check counts for the various categories while the appeal period is elapsing is, as others have said, indicative of precisely the kind of non-transparency the union organizers claim that the union will fight against. We should make decisions about people and organizations based on what they actually do, not by what they say they will do.

  8. Peter Keyes says:

    First, apologies for a snide comment last night. I was just getting frustrated by some disingenuous comments above, which seem to argue that the exclusion of PIs and Law faculty is the main problem people have with the union (and also with the never-ending line of “sleazy and corrupt”). Many people were opposed to a possible union months ago, but now they are acting like these two issues, which only became known a week ago, are the whole basis for why they object. I acknowledge that commenters since then have raised some more substantive points, not straw dogs.

    I do have a different take on some of your comments, though. I think there is no perfect bargaining unit – there will always be some problem with who is in and who is out in a complex organization such as this, and I think the continuing discussion of this is meaningful. I do disagree that it made more sense when the OAs were included – when things got rolling a couple of years ago, and I realized the OAs were in the proposed unit, I dropped out of the process – I couldn’t see any connection between faculty and OAs, who are often mid-level managers around the university. Also, the current proposed definition of the bargaining unit is closer to the Statutory Faculty (which doesn’t include OAs) than that prior proposed bargaining unit. In defining the Statutory Faculty in the new Constitution, we attempted to focus on what constituted a “professor” in the 19th century, when job descriptions weren’t as defined as they are now, and we settled on those who “profess”. That is how career NTTF got in. Statutory Faculty had to be defined to meet the legal judgment of the AGs office, and so while this bargaining unit is similar, it doesn’t have to be identical.

    As for “wildly different working conditions and interests”, I think those exist even within the TTF. Some of us are in departments where our teaching contact hours can take up more than half the week, some spend all waking hours in labs with assistants and post-docs, some never teach a large class, some never advise PhD students, some are in departments where the norm is to secure large research grants, some are in fields where a few thousand is hard to come by, some are active in administration and governance, some are probably unknown to all on campus except their department head and post-docs. I think I have more in common with an adjunct in my department than I do with an associate professor in Chemistry. (Every few years I keep a timesheet to see how I spend my working hours – it would be interesting to compare this to others’.)

    At first I was resistant to a union with TTF and NTTF, thinking that our interests were too different, until I started to think about how they were also alike. I still acknowledge the differences, but I think the common interests win out on balance. If we are together, we can have a united voice on issues, rather than being played off each other. I’ve also come to believe that if the NTTF are on their own, they are less likely to get their issues addressed adequately.

  9. Anonymous says:

    My issue is that post-docs will have a voice in setting research priorities in the CBA but PI TTF will not.

  10. uomatters says:

    My problem with the proposed bargaining unit is that the union organizers included, for example, people with less than 0.2 FTE appointments teaching PE classes in the Rec Center.

    They are supposed to share he same interests and get the same 1 vote as a tenured full professor? This is ridiculous. Not kidding!

  11. Peter Keyes says:

    From what I’m reading, it seems that the big problem everyone has with the proposed faculty union is that it doesn’t include the Law School and PIs. So if some way could be found to include them, then you’d all be happy with it?

    Just kidding.

    • Anonymous says:

      A serious response to your not-totally-joking joke:

      I had a number of reservations about unionizing. But speaking for myself, if a true majority of my colleagues wanted to join together and form a union, I would have gone along with it — reluctantly yes, but recognizing the legitimacy of both the process and its outcome.

      However, UAUO manufactured a majority by assembling an incoherent bargaining unit. It did so by putting together people who have wildly different working conditions and interests (like putting adjuncts and postdocs together with TTFs, even though the first 2 groups are almost always supervised b the latter) and splitting apart people whose work and professional interests are virtually identical (treating law TTFs TTFs who supervise postdocs and research assistants and associates as somehow different from TTFs who do not supervise non-student research personnel).

      And since an incoherent bargaining unit is a legal basis for challenging the formation of a union, that is what people are focusing on now.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m surprised union organizers didn’t think these issues through before proceeding. If the organizers wanted to form a credible union, they’d back up (withdraw ERB submission) and try to address their colleague’s concerns in a thoughtful manner, have an actual vote, and go from there. That’s the only solution I see to avoid setting up a strongly adversarial arrangement within the union from its onset. The snide and dismissive comments from union organizers doesn’t help either.

    • Anonymous says:

      My fear is that organizers _did_ think this through.

      Remember the recent (2010) attempt at a card check for a bargaining unit consisting of OAs, TTF and NTTF (much closer, by the way, to UOs notion of statutory faculty). When it became clear at that time that the majority of OAs (who are quite aware of how badly the union works for clerical classified staff) and the TTF were majority opposed to this idea and the organizers realized that the card check might not succeed, that effort was abandoned.

      Cut to this winter. New organizing unit: OAs out, ORs in. Campus in an uproar with Lariviere’s firing. Law School faculty and many science faculty (who by large majorities
      oppose the bargaining unit) out. All adjuncts (even if they are just teaching one part
      time PE course) in. Retired faculty (really?) in. Filing right before finals week and spring break. Organizers coercing anyone who doesn’t unequivocally oppose the union to sign cards.

      Yes, I’ll grant the organizers probably believe that they are doing a good thing. But they’ve certainly given the appearance that what they care about is getting a bargaining unit certified rather than dealing with the many challenges the university faces.

  12. uomatters says:

    Ignoring flagrant abuse of sabbaticals by administrators like Bean and Frohnmayer is not the way to defend it for professors who use it for its intended purposes.

    But I will take that out of this petition post and put it in a separate one that is obviously my own opinion.

  13. Chicken says:

    Actually, the labor law seems pretty clear as I read it, since it was designed for workplaces in which there is a fairly clear division between supervisors and employees. The fact that it is hard to fit the law around university faculty only suggests to me that unions are not appropriate for university faculties. There is no way to form a bargaining unit without splintering the category formerly known as “colleagues.”

    And by the way, Jim Bean, whatever your view of him, is one of those colleagues. His sabbatical plan is no more absurd than my own. But by harping on it so publicly, UOMatters only gives our state legislators good cause to eliminate sabbaticals for all of us.

    • Anonymous says:

      You would cite illness as a legitimate reason for a sabbatical? Just curious.

    • Cat says:

      Let’s not be distracted by Bean’s sabbatical–which is fodder for another post (already I think)– or anyone else’s.

  14. Anonymous says:

    It is the Oregon Law and ERB that defines and excludes supervisors. This was explained to me by Union organizers. The faculty that support a Union are only complying with the law. My understanding is that they did not need to specify PI supervisors in the filing for them to be excluded by the ERB. They wrote it in so that the notice sent out was as clear as such legal writings can be for all of us. Labor law interpretation based on the assumption that it matches common sense and is never contradictory wastes all of our time. It is the law that is complicated and murky sometimes NOT the behavior of our pro-union faculty.

  15. Anonymous says:

    The booklet that UAUO distributed to faculty during the card-check process states the following: “In the specific case of United Academics (UA-UO), it is our intention to include all teaching and research faculty at the University of Oregon in one bargaining unit. This includes TTF, NTTF, RAs, and postdoctoral fellows. We believe that all teaching and research faculty at the UO share a community of interest, and we believe that this ultimately is the bargaining unit that the ERB would certify for this campus.” (emphasis in original; source http://uauoregon.org/wp-content/blogs.dir/75/files/2011/11/101-Booklet.pdf)

    This paragraph is inconsistent with the way UAUO defined the bargaining unit in its petition to the ERB. The union decided unilaterally to exclude law school faculty and supervisory PIs. I wonder how many faculty who signed cards did so under an incorrect impression about the composition of the proposed bargaining unit. And whether the inconsistency would invalidate the card check.

    • Anonymous says:

      Aside from the exclusion of the law school, why is this inconsistent? NO union bargaining unit will include supervisory PIs.

    • Anonymous says:

      It is inconsistent because in the union statement above it does not say “TTF (excluding PIs and Law Faculty), NTTF, other adjunct faculty, RAs, and postdoctoral fellows” which is more or less what we learned post-facto from the ERB filing. The exclusions are inconsistent with the phrase “ALL teaching and research faculty.” I understand that it’s Oregon Law that excludes PIs–but that simply means that the union organizers were aware of this exclusion from the outset and failed to specify it in their literature. By the way, does anybody know how many of the total number of TTF are currently PIs?

    • Anonymous says:

      I was personally told by my union rep and Howard Bunsis that the union would petition to include supervisory PIs and leave it up to the administration to try to challenge that. I passed that information on to my department colleagues.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why would a union bargaining unit include some supervisory personnel (department heads and TTF who supervise, hire, and make promotion and salary recommendations for NTTF) but not supervisory personnel who happen to be PIs of a grant?

      This is the kind of strange anomaly that makes it hard to understand the thinking of the bargaining unit proposers. In fact, what it makes it _look_ like is that they were trying to split off enough science TTF (who are disproportionately opposed to the union) so that they would have a better chance of being able to claim that a majority of TTF signed cards.

      I’m not saying that is actually the reasoning, but given the strange logic of excluding some supervisory personnel and not others, it makes one question the reasoning.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Wow. Please explain.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Actually, the corruption of the union already surpasses what I’ve seen from the administration in 20 years here.

    • Anonymous says:

      What specific, actual, observable corruption are you alleging? And what is your definition of corruption because I see none here.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Even if you’re for the union, please sign this petition. A union formed after more extensive discussion and a vote has much more legitimacy than one that would result from card check alone.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is not a petition for a mail-in ballot. It is a petition against forming a union.

    • Anonymous says:

      It is not a petition against forming a union.

      It is a petition against including tenure related faculty in a bargaining unit composed primarily of non-tenure track instructors.

      The UAUO proposal is a bargaining unit mixes TRF whose role include supervision, research and graduate education (as well as undergraduate education) with NTTF whose role is primarily undergraduate education.

      Even if you grant that unionization makes sense for either of these groups alone (and I think you would have a tough time assembling evidence for that argument beyond dissatisfaction with the status quo), it can’t make sense to include them both in the same bargaining unit.

      Finally, if it is indeed the case that the majority of the TRF do not wish to be represented by this bargaining unit, what is the logic that says they should be forced into that?

  19. Anonymous says:

    Sorry it sticks in your craw that Bean has signed–though it seems to me too bad that you would let that color your otherwise evenhanded posting of the petition itself. (Besides doesn’t he have that right as the union has defined the bargaining unit?)

  20. Anonymous says:

    What evidence is there that faculty unions do anything to curb administrative abuses?


    • Anonymous says:

      This has been the slight of hand performed by union organizers (and which uomatters has played an unwitting? role). Very clever.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s a public institution in New Jersey. They are all corrupt. So you really think things would have been better at Rutgers with no union? Or do you just not understand endogeneity?

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