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What a Union Could Do

1.      Program prioritization cannot be separated from the agenda of austerity as a threat to the public university.  We, the faculty, are the experts on the meaning, relevancy, and intellectual content of the subjects we teach. We must have a stronger voice in shaping the university. Faculty voice needs to be better organized to empower us to approach these discussions collectively.  We do not claim or want to keep allocation of resources static. We must recognize that our voice needs to be enhanced, and collective bargaining is a step forward to thwart arbitrary decisions.

2.      A unionized faculty can bargain over the impact and decision to restructure departments or units that may result in a reduction in force or a change in the working conditions of the faculty.  In short, a union can bargain over anything that affects a faculty members working conditions--even things like size of office, more workload requirements, etc. Our union can enhance our voice in this process and make it legally binding.

3.      A union can organize for power in the resource allocation process. Unionized faculty can demand that claims of financial exigency or even budget stress be backed up with financial data. Faculty from California to Idaho to New York have found their unions have made these processes more transparent and have prevented arbitrary firings.

4.      University Professionals of Illinois (a consortium of faculty from other unionized campuses) can provide expertise on budget analysis and assist with procuring the necessary documents (actual expenditures rather than budget projections).

5.      In the event of a Reduction in Force that occurs outside the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement, administration will have to reenter negotiations. At that point, the union could bargain for whatever the membership wanted. At the University of Minnesota at Duluth, where the administration proved substantiated financial hardship, the union negotiated for “voluntary buy-outs before mandatory lay-offs” ( ). Other ideas would be a Memorandum of Understanding describing the exact conditions necessary for academic program elimination or severance pay guarantees. Collective bargaining gives us legal rights over the conditions under which we work. That includes legal rights to contest resource allocation.