12/16/2010

Faculty at Wisconsin Campuses File for Union Elections

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The faculty at University of Wisconsin campuses—River Falls, Stevens Point and Stout—have filed petitions with the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) requesting elections for union representation through AFT-Wisconsin.

As required by state law, members of the faculty union organizing committees collected cards signed by their colleagues requesting the WERC to administer the election. These "showing of interest cards" were signed by more than 70 percent of the faculty at each of the campuses.

The election petitions were filed in a political environment that has been especially hostile to public employee unions. But according to Patricia Berg, a professor of journalism at UW-River Falls, "There's been a lot of tough talk about unions and unionism in the press recently. The story that's being overlooked is that unions are now, and always have been, about giving employees a meaningful voice in their workplace. That's why I will vote in favor of a faculty union at UWRF."

Tim Shiell, a professor of philosophy at UW-Stout, agreed, stating that the time is ripe for a faculty union on his campus. "This is a historic moment for UW-Stout. The struggle for the right to vote on unionization has been a long one; by moving forward with an election, we have the opportunity to not only exercise this right, but to also make UW-Stout a better institution."

According to Andy Felt, a professor of mathematics at UW-Stevens Point, faculty unions are a vehicle to improve the University of Wisconsin. "Faculty are not just instructors and researchers; we are the stewards of our campuses. Having a meaningful voice on campus will give us the ability to advocate from the ground up for an even better UWSP, for our students and community alike."

The next step in the process is for the WERC to set dates for elections. If a majority of voting faculty cast their ballots in favor of collective bargaining representation, a local union will be formalized on each of the three campuses and campus bargaining committees will begin the process of contract negotiations with the employer. Faculty at these three campuses join their colleagues at UW-La Crosse, who filed for a union election earlier this month, as well as their colleagues at UW-Eau Claire and UW-Superior, who voted in favor of AFT representation in spring 2010. Collective bargaining rights were extended to faculty and academic staff in the 2009-11 state budget. [Jill Bakken, AFT-Wisconsin]

December 16, 2010