Despite ongoing political attacks on unions and public employees by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, University of Wisconsin faculty members across the state continue to vote for union representation. The latest organizing victory came on March 24, when faculty at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls voted 148-16 in favor of union representation by the AFT and AFT-Wisconsin.
"This landslide election, along with the four other recent University of Wisconsin campus union victories, demonstrates that workers—in this instance, UW-River Falls faculty—will not let Gov. Walker's anti-democratic, anti-worker ideological agenda deny them their right to form a union," says AFT president Randi Weingarten.
"This is the third successful election held since Walker introduced legislation to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees. This latest group of UW faculty are courageously ignoring the governor's assaults and standing up for what they believe is good for their students and for their profession," she says.
The vote occurred as state courts review the constitutionality of a "budget repair" bill that would eliminate academic staff and faculty's right to collectively bargain, and a budget bill that would drastically cut funding to the UW System.
"What we've seen at UW-River Falls today is an extension of what we've seen across our state since Walker announced his disastrous bill," says Wes Chapin, a professor of political science and chair of his department.
"Our state is at a crossroads. Wisconsin has a long and proud history of fairness, integrity and progressivism. The labor movement has been, and will continue to be, central to that history. UW-River Falls faculty made a stand in preserving that history, and moving Wisconsin forward."
According to Chapin, Gov. Walker's budget repair bill further galvanized the faculty's resolve to form a union. "When it became clear that the governor's extremist legislation had nothing to do with balancing the budget and everything to do with denying workers' rights, UW-River Falls faculty realized the urgency in this vote. Together, we stood up, took notice, and turned out to vote."
Chapin notes that the UW-River Falls faculty union had no intention of backing down in the face of anti-collective bargaining legislation. "Our strength cannot be legislated away," he says. "Our strength is, and always has been, our collective voice—a voice that is stronger than ever."
University of Wisconsin faculty and academic staff were extended the right to collectively bargain in June 2009. Since that time, faculty at four campuses—UW-Eau Claire, UW-Superior, UW-La Crosse and UW-Stout—have voted in favor of collective bargaining representation. [AFT press release, AFT Wisconsin]
March 24, 2011