Faculty at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse filed a petition Nov. 23 with the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) requesting an election for union representation through AFT-Wisconsin.
Members of the faculty union's organizing committee collected cards signed by their colleagues requesting the WERC to administer the election. These "showing-of-interest cards" were signed by 235 UW-La Crosse faculty—more than 70 percent of the faculty body.
Tom Hench, chair of the UW-La Crosse Management Department, believes the time is ripe for a faculty union on his campus. "This is a historic moment for faculty at UW-La Crosse," he says. "The struggle for the right to vote on unionization has been long and arduous; those of us who have been part of that campaign feel the profundity of being able to finally exercise this right."
Hench sees a faculty union as a vehicle to preserve the University of Wisconsin. "Faculty are not just instructors and researchers; we are the stewards of our campus. Having a meaningful voice on campus will give us another tool to advocate for a UW-La Crosse that better meets the needs of our students and our community."
The next step in the process is for the WERC to set a date for elections. If a majority of voting faculty cast their ballots in favor of collective bargaining representation through AFT-Wisconsin, a local union will be formalized and a bargaining committee will begin the process of contract negotiations with the employer. They would be the third faculty group to do so in the University of Wisconsin system, following faculty at UW-Eau Claire and UW-Superior. Collective bargaining rights were extended to faculty and academic staff in the 2009-11 state budget. [Barbara McKenna, Jill Bakken]
November 29, 2010