Wednesday, April 24, 2013


AFMSU/MEA-MFT was decertified as the exclusive representative of the tenured and tenure-track faculty on April 24, 2013.

The vote tally was 190 in favor of decertification and 185 opposed. 

Effective April 29, 2013, AFMSU/MEA-MFT will no longer collect representation fees or dues from TT faculty. 

Our sincere thanks to everyone who has supported the decertification effort.

We are grateful to the many who helped us with our legal bills. 

The Petitioners

Bennett Link, Professor, Physics
Randy Babbitt, Professor, Physics
Gary Brester, Professor, Agricultural Economics and Economics
F. William Brown, Professor, College of Business

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


The ballot count is as follows:

190 in favor of decertification of AFMSU/MEA-MFT's representation of TT faculty

185 against decertification

6 challenged ballots  (4 challenged by union, 2 challenged by petitioners)


If one (or more) challenged ballot is ruled valid and is in favor of decertification, AFMSU/MEA-MFT will be decertified. Election rules require that the ballots will be reviewed in a hearing in the near future, at which we will have to argue the case for or against each challenged ballot.

We are grateful to the many who have helped us with our legal bills. 

Our sincere thanks to everyone who has supported the decertification effort. 

The Petitioners

Bennett Link, Professor, Physics
Randy Babbitt, Professor, Physics
Gary Brester, Professor, Agricultural Economics and Economics
F. William Brown, Professor, College of Business

Saturday, April 6, 2013


Reminder: vote to decertify AFMSU/MEA-MFT

Please contribute to decertification legal fees

Why Decertify AFMSU?

Your vote to decertify is essential

Ballot instructions

Faculty who publicly support decertification

Article in Inside Higher Ed (4/1) about the decertification effort

Article in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle (3/27) about the decertification effort

Letter from Randy Babbitt, Bennett Link, and David Dickensheets

Letter from Rufus Cone

Letter from David Dickensheets

Letter from Bern Kohler

Letter from Edward Schmidt

Letter from Patrik Callis

Letter from Wes Lynch

Letter from Jerry Johnson

Letter from Valérie Copié

Response to AFMSU "myths"

Where your dues and fees go

Letter from Randy Babbitt, Bennett Link, and David Dickensheets

Dear Colleagues,

AFMSU/MEA-MFT’s failure to achieve any substantial improvements in
their first round of negotiations is well documented at  The union’s rebuttal to these failures is
that they need more time to prove themselves.  Since it will not be
possible to decertify AFMSU/MEA-MFT in the future, as explained at, the future of AFMSU governance must be
decided by the faculty now.

The evidence so far suggests that AFMSU will not improve.  The union
claims to be “a transparent, member driven organization,” [1]  where
“all members have a voice and non-members are encouraged to
participate.”[1]  The only open input occurs at their bargaining
forums and “input of all faculty is crucial to the improvement of our
contract.”[2]  Thus, the  success of collective bargaining depends on
faculty participation in these forums.   The union claims in their
e-mails to faculty that these forums are “very successful, gathering
critical input from Members and Non-members alike.“[2]  The truth is
these forums have abysmal attendance, demonstrating that faculty, both
union members and non-members, have not embraced this process.

The AFMSU Contract forums held on December 13th had very poor
attendance.  At the first forum of the day, besides the AFMSU
officers, bargaining team members, and the AFT and MFT organizers,
three decertification supporters (including Bennett Link and Randy
Babbitt) out-numbered other TT faculty.  The following forum that day
was cancelled due to lack of attendance.

Other AFMSU forums have had even worse attendance.

Randy Babbitt (decertification supporter and non-member) attended the
AFMSU Forum to discuss intellectual property policy on March 5th.  The
entire attendance was the TT AFMSU president, a member of the AFMSU
bargaining team, four AFT and MEA-MFT organizers, and only two faculty
members – one NTT faculty and one TT faculty (Randy Babbitt).  How the
input of just one or two faculty will filter through the union
representatives and translate into any positive action is unclear and
will not be known until after the secret negotiations that produce the
CBA are finished.  The intellectual property rights (including on-line
courses, copyrights, and patents) of the MSU TT faculty should not be
decided this way.  This process is very different from the past when
the Technology Transfer Office staff and a dozen concerned faculty
from diverse areas would sit down and discuss intellectual policy
issues, resulting in collaboratively developed proposed policy
changes, that would be put out for extensive comment from the whole TT
faculty, before being debated and voted on by the faculty senate.

The March 26th AFMSU forum on MSU Workload Policy, one of the union’s
priorities and an important issue, should have attracted a large
number of faculty.  This meeting only had two TT faculty members
present for the full meeting – a third faculty eventually joined the
discussion.  One of the TT faculty was David Dickensheets, a TT union
member and decertification supporter.  Two AFMSU officers and one
MEA-MFT/NEA representative rounded out the meeting.

It is clear that union forums to obtain input from faculty are not
working. The “forum” model lacks participation and provides no
mechanism for feedback to or approval from the Faculty prior to
negotiations. As a result, the contents of the next collective
bargaining agreement (assuming the union is not decertified), will be
determined by a small group of union officers with their own
bargaining priorities, as was the case for our current CBA.

We prefer a more inclusive, open, deliberate, and iterative approach
to determining faculty priorities and preferences. We do not wish to
cede our collective Faculty voice to the AFMSU bargaining team, who
cannot speak faithfully on our behalf.

We urge you to vote for decertification.


Randy Babbitt

Bennett Link

David Dickensheets

[1] Myth 8,

[2] AFMSU Email to MSU faculty on Mon 3/25/2013

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Reminder: vote to decertify AFMSU/MEA-AFT

Dear Colleagues,

This is a reminder to PLEASE VOTE in the current election to decertify

If you have received this e-mail, you are an eligible voter and should
have received a ballot. If you have not received a ballot, e-mail
Windy Knutson, the election judge, at, and she will
send you one. You may also confirm that your ballot was received by
e-mailing Windy Knutson.

AFMSU/MEA-MFT has been manipulating this election in their favor from
the beginning. The union is diligently furnishing the election judge
with address corrections for UNION MEMBERS ONLY. AFMSU/MEA-MFT is NOT
providing this information for representation-fee paying non-members,
though AFMSU/MEA-MFT is required by law to represent non-members in
the TT unit.

AFMSU/MEA-MFT is also challenging the ballots of non-union members,
who they are required to represent, despite these individuals being
eligible voters according to law. AFMSU/MEA-MFT has yet to dispute a
ballot from a union member. We are working with legal counsel to make
sure that eligible voters are not disenfranchised.


The Petitioners

Bennett Link, Physics
Randy Babbitt, Physics
Gary Brester, Agricultural Economics and Economics
F. William Brown, College of Business

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Letter from Rufus Cone

Dear Colleagues,  

I urge you to vote to decertify AFMSU as representative of the tenure-track and tenured faculty for reasons briefly outlined below and in earlier notes by colleagues and The Petitioners.

Students at a university like MSU are offered the unusual experience of learning from faculty who are creating knowledge and critically evaluating ideas and new ways of expression;  this highlights a significant difference between a university education and high school.  One of our goals is to convey to students, through the direct experience of research and creativity, some sense of the satisfaction, the excitement, the joy, of intellectual activity and the process of discovery and understanding. 

With that perspective, from my early days as a young assistant professor at MSU, I have regarded my obligation to be providing new opportunities for students in both the classroom and research/creativity.  My current laboratory grew from a $5000 startup package;  it has produced a dozen Ph.D.’s and many undergraduates who have helped make the optics industry strong in Bozeman.  

This required an entrepreneurial attitude throughout – garnering resources, finding used equipment that could be re-used or re-purposed in research and in classroom demonstrations, designing new courses, connecting with local companies, connecting with outside researchers, bootstrapping up, and gaining external funding.  And it benefitted from support and encouragement for these initiatives from the department and the MSU administration.  Those achievements required hard work for which recognition has been given.  

This is not a singular story.  MSU has been made into the high-quality University we know in 2013 by the hard work of many many entrepreneurial faculty members.  Without the individual and independent efforts of those faculty members, each taking a different path – their own path, we would not be where we are today.  The stature of the Faculty and the stature of the University have improved dramatically, and independent and motivated faculty are the reason for that.  

Most of those faculty assumed that their individual contributions would be recognized and rewarded.  As other colleagues who have written urging decertification of AFMSU have clearly indicated, the AFMSU/MEA/AFT vision – being collective rather than individual oriented – is quite different from what I have described.  It is not compatible with that vision of a University.

If I were a young ambitious Ph. D. seeking a faculty job at MSU, as soon as I learned that MSU faculty were subject to the inappropriate management of an MEA/AFT outlook, I would turn down any offer to come here and look elsewhere.  I say that from the heart after obviously having felt strongly about MSU as a desirable institution for the previous years of my career.

In my time at MSU, attempts at unionization were soundly voted down twice by independent-minded faculty.  If the high quality we offer students at MSU is important to you, I implore you to vote to decertify AFMSU, not for my sake but for the students and the future of the great University that we have created together - something that is bigger than any of us.


Rufus Cone

Friday, March 29, 2013

Ballot instructions

Dear Colleagues,

Most Tenure-track faculty in the collective bargaining unit received their ballots today and a number are responding with questions. Please note the following:

1) If you have been receiving e-mails from us, YOU ARE AN ELIGIBLE VOTER and should receive your ballot today or tomorrow.  If you do not, contact Windy Knutsen,  You can also contact us for help.

2) The mail with your ballot that you will receive will have a return address of "Montana Department of Labor and Industry".

3) Follow the directions very carefully to ensure your ballot is not declared invalid. Be sure to SIGN the outside of the return envelope in the place indicated. Your signature is essential.

4)  If in doubt about the instructions, please email us at

Please vote!

Letter from David Dickensheets

Dear Colleagues,

I value the discourse that has occurred these last weeks regarding decertification of our tenure-track faculty union, and I thank those who have made themselves vulnerable by sharing their opinions.

It is difficult to grapple with an issue that is emotional for many and inherently divisive. I have deep regard for my colleagues who want what is best for our institution and who have invested long hours toward that end, whether they are persuaded it will be achieved via unionized TT Faculty or whether they believe decertification would be a better outcome.

My overarching concern is departmental and institutional excellence in instruction and research and creative activities. Only if we continually increase institutional quality will we be successful recruiting and retaining the highest caliber colleagues with whom to share our ambitions, ideas and efforts, and recruiting the most highly motivated students who will choose to invest four or more years with us learning and discovering and engaging to address society’s challenges. It should be noted that this is the abiding concern of both our Faculty and our Administration.

I am not persuaded that collective bargaining through AFMSU (and MEA-MFT and NEA with whom we are tightly bound) will foster a focus on excellence. Neither during the original certification of AFMSU nor during this decertification period have I heard a compelling argument (or really any argument at all) for how the union will increase institutional quality. How will AFMSU make MSU a more excellent university? Union proponents have simply not made this case.

The discussion on decertification has covered a lot of ground already (please visit for an archive of much of this discussion). Many workplace concerns, including due process, tenure and promotion and faculty governance, will not be materially different with or without a union.  Similarly, our woefully low salaries (measured against peer institutions) are not likely to be affected by collective bargaining. In fact, a recent survey of 498 4-year public institutions that accounted for variables such as regional cost of living variation found that “Among public 4-year institutions unionization reduces university expenditures, faculty salaries, and wage variability.” (Cassell, M. K. (2012). Teachers’ unions and costs in the 21st century university, Issues for Universities in the 21st Century. Madison, Wisconsin.) It is irrational to expect that our situation at MSU will be any different, and certainly the evidence from the first three years seems in line with this expectation.

Others have also voiced a concern regarding the deterioration of relationships between Faculty and Administration since AFMSU was certified. I would add my voice to those concerns. In my own interactions with administration at MSU, I have heard the phrase “we can’t talk about that because it is part of the CBA – you’ll have to take that up with your union.” Unfortunately the presumed adversarial relationship between the union and the administration makes administrators reluctant to speak candidly for fear of exposing themselves to legal action. I find the lack of candor distasteful, and the extraneous layer of bureaucracy a significant cost to the university.

Let me raise one point that has not been discussed. I am deeply uneasy that AFMSU cannot advocate cleanly for MSU Faculty concerns. AFMSU owes its allegiance to MEA-MFT and the NEA (where 90% of our union dues go). Our local union executives cannot operate independently of the State and National unions – there is always a paid MEA-MFT or NEA representative present at AFMSU meetings. Nothing will happen at MSU that is contrary to the aims of these powerful unions. My colleagues who value the political power of a connectional union in Helena and in Washington are ignoring the fact that MEA-MFT and NEA are dominated by K-12 teachers – those organizations are not focused on the concerns of university Faculty, especially for a Faculty of a Carnegie RU/VH university. 
AFMSU inherits a political agenda that is a distraction from the legitimate concerns of quality and fairness in our university workplace. This was in evidence when I received several emails from AFMSU requesting my participation demonstrating with the nurses who were negotiating with the Bozeman Deaconess Hospital Administration. I doubt the AFMSU team even considered this political request to be out of order, since part of union philosophy is political solidarity. I am fully supportive of any of my faculty colleagues who want to give their time or money to the nurses’ or the teachers’ unions, or any other labor cause as they see fit. But the distraction of the political baggage carried by the union is yet another reason that I do not feel AFMSU is really focused on my concerns about the quality of our institution, as measured by the excellence of our Faculty and the research, outreach and instruction we can deliver.
Finally, I want to state that I have a high regard for our Administration, from my department Head to the third floor of Montana Hall.  They are not some “other” to be vilified in CBA negotiations. They are former faculty members, and in many cases they will return to the Faculty after the generous contribution of their time and talents in Administration (for which they too are underpaid). When I listen to the rhetoric of the AFMSU core, the “Administration” is treated with suspicion at best, and disdain at worst. This does not fit with my own experience. How can we face our formidable institutional challenges going forward without a cooperative and trusting relationship between the Faculty and the Administration?

When I think about the future of MSU and what we can do to increase the quality of our Faculty (and thereby of the University) and the environment in which we work, I do not feel that AFMSU’s involvement is going to help, and in some cases will cause harm. The financial, relational and workload costs of being unionized cannot be justified.  For these reasons I find that I must vote to decertify AFMSU as our bargaining representative.
Respectfully yours,
David Dickensheets
Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Letter from Bern Kohler

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

I have great respect for those who ardently support a tenure-track faculty union, and who have put their time and effort into getting it off the ground. Recall, however, that the union was voted in by a margin of twelve votes. This virtual tie revealed a strong polarization that hasn’t diminished over time. Absent support from a strong majority, it is obvious that the union threatens our unity. 

If a union divides us, consider something most of us agree on: We are passionate about continuing MSU’s current upward path as a strengthening research university that offers world-class opportunities to growing numbers of Montanans and out-of-state students. I support decertification because a tenure-track faculty union is not the best mechanism to advance MSU and sustain our fledgling status as a top-tier research university.

As you consider decertification of the tenure-track faculty union, please keep the “90s” in mind: 1) 90% of the nation’s top research universities (i.e. the 108 universities in the Carnegie Foundation’s RU/VH classification, an esteemed group that now includes MSU) do not have tenure-track faculty unions. 2) 90% of AFMSU dues and representation fees leave campus and flow to state (MEA-MFT) and national entities (NEA/AFT, AFL-CIO). These groups, which overwhelmingly represent teachers and public employees, do much work that is good, but they have few affiliations with universities of our strength and potential.

A tenure-track faculty union is not the innovative way to right the higher education ship in turbulent 21st century seas.  A tenure-track faculty union builds a wall between “labor” and “management” when no such wall exists at the most dynamic and innovative institutions of higher education. At highly successful universities, effective and successful faculty members are expected to take their turn at the helm and serve in departmental and university leadership positions. We are at a time in our evolution where we must expect as much from our administrators as we do from ourselves. I see no way that a faculty union can bring about the strong administrative hires we urgently need to continue to improve. 

The union has failed in several years to significantly increase its membership. Today, roughly half the faculty have no say in approving legally binding agreements made by a subset that is now their exclusive representative on all issues pertaining to wages, benefits, and working conditions. Enfranchisement requires sending even more money to the off-campus groups AFMSU has chosen to align itself with, and lending our support through membership. Please reflect on whether these principles and this status quo should be continued.

MSU is on a remarkable trajectory set in motion by our faculty in spite of low salaries and the limited support provided by the modest tax base of one of the nation’s least populous states. A tenure-track faculty union erodes the agility that has brought us to the threshold of national prominence, and makes it more difficult to implement needed change. Allowing a “labor vs. management” culture to take root at MSU will disrupt the leadership pipeline, threaten excellence, and endanger the recruitment of innovative faculty and faculty leaders.

Let’s keep MSU “as remarkable as its setting” and the reins in our own hands. Please support decertification.

Bern Kohler, Professor
Chemistry & Biochemistry

P.S. The few tenure-track faculty unions at public research universities are overwhelmingly affiliated with the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). Interestingly, AAUP-affiliated unions charge lower dues than AFMSU. Ours may be the only faculty union in the nation with a regressive dues structure in which the least compensated pay the largest percentage of their salary in dues. An MSU assistant professor earning $52,000 pays 1.2% of her base salary to join the union. That is significantly more than she would pay as a member of the AAUP-managed union at Rutgers (0.8% of base), University of Cincinnati (0.75%), Wayne State University (0.9%), or the University of Florida (1.0%). Why must we have both the nation’s lowest salaries and the highest union dues?

P.P.S. The upcoming vote doesn’t change the status of the non-tenure track bargaining unit. Decertification is neither anti-union, nor a right-wing conspiracy. The fact that the majority of top public universities with their left-leaning faculties do not have tenure-track faculty unions dispels the myth that partisan, anti-union forces are behind decertification.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Your vote to decertify is essential

Dear Colleagues,

The vote for decertification of AFMSU/MEA-MFT's representation of tenured
and tenure-track (TT) faculty is likely to be very close, so your vote to
decertify is very important and will make a difference. A simple majority of
those who vote will determine the outcome.

AFMSU has been publicly claiming majority membership since November, and
has recently stated that 52% of the TT faculty are union members. However,
the official list of the TT collective bargaining unit accepted by the Board
of Personnel Appeals, as of 2/28/2013, does not show majority membership,
with 198 union dues-paying members out of 399 in the TT unit.  In addition,
we have been in contact with many TT union members that have opposed
the TT union from the start and joined the union in silent opposition, or
are disappointed with AFMSU’s performance over the past 4 years.  If the
all TT faculty vote, there are enough non-members and members who oppose
AFMSU/MEA-MFT’s representation of TT faculty to decertify the TT component
of the union.

This decertification vote will NOT affect AFMSU/MEA-MFT’s role as the
representative of the non-tenure track (NTT) faculty at MSU.  AFMSU/MEA-MFT
will continue to represent the NTT faculty after this vote.

Ballots will be mailed to you today (3/27/13) from Helena by the Montana
Board of Personnel Appeals. The ballots will be counted in Helena on April
16.  Follow the ballot instructions carefully and return your ballots early
so they don’t miss the deadline for the count.

Please consider the issues described and discussed on this website.

And please vote!

The Petitioners

Bennett Link, Professor, Physics
Randy Babbitt, Professor, Physics
Gary Brester, Professor, Agricultural Economics and Economics
F. William Brown, Professor, College of Business

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Letter from Edward Schmidt

Dear Tenure-track Colleagues,

Should the tenure-track faculty at MSU decertify AFMSU?  In situations where gross inequities or systemic employee abuse exists, unions might help employees achieve improved labor practices.  For example, we have heard of corporations where employee-pensions were captured to fund exorbitant compensation packages for top executives.  In such situations, collective bargaining might help employees achieve a fair distribution of assets.  MSU’s tenure-track faculty, I will argue, do not suffer abuse or inequities of this magnitude.  I find AFMSU to be an unnecessary, ineffective, and unjustifiably expensive hindrance to MSU's educational mission.

In my opinion:

1)   Neither the State nor the Administration is misappropriating resources that should, instead, be redistributed among MSU faculty. The budget and budgeting processes are reasonable, responsible, and transparent. There is neither a selfishly overcompensated executive team nor other irresponsibly misspent source of money in the budget for AFMSU to garner for the MSU faculty.

2)   MSU’s tenure-track faculty have tenure and grievance processes to ensure merit-based evaluation, promotion, compensation, appeal, and employment-security.  AFMSU’s process does not improve on that which already existed.

3)   Since there is neither gross misappropriation of available resources nor a climate of unfair promotion, dismissal, and appeals at MSU, AFMSU is a superfluous and costly burden on MSU’s tenure-track faculty.

4)   AFMSU has caused increased bureaucratic workloads for tenure-track faculty, which detracts a substantial portion of our effort away from student education and creative endeavors.

I support the democratic process and I encourage all tenure-track faculty, whether they agree or disagree with me, to vote.  Strong participation in this vote will mean a strong result. Please watch for your ballot in the mail and participate in this important decision.

Sincerely yours,

Edward E. Schmidt,
Associate Professor
Immunology and Infectious Diseases

Monday, March 25, 2013

Letter from Patrik Callis

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

Tenured and tenure-track MSU faculty members included within the AFMSU bargaining unit will soon vote on whether to decertify MEA-MFT as our union after ballots are mailed out on Wednesday.  I am pleased to offer my perspective on why I will be voting FOR decertification.  My brief comments are intended to provide a historical comparison, and address the principle of unions representing tenure track faculty.

While both sides like to present their side of the argument as logically obvious, the truth is that we are going to vote with our gut.  My gut has been here for quite a while.  I have been a faculty member at MSU for 45 years.  I remember vividly that the union twice attempted certification in the late 1970s, and twice the faculty said NO.   No union wasted its resources in additional attempts until 3 years ago.

In the last 30 years, MSU--without a union--grew enormously in quality of programs, stature, and salaries.  Union supporters would have you believe that logically this could not happen.  Well, it did, and the reason is simple. The State, University administrators (chosen by faculty committees), and the Faculty all share the same goal and incentive:  to create a university that is a vibrant, high quality institution despite perennially low funding that plagues all the State institutions.  This is very much in contrast to the environment where unions traditionally shine: when a large entity accumulates enormous wealth at the expense of a low income working force.  My gut says that MSU will continue to spiral upwards without the Union.

Would MSU have done even better with a union?  That experiment has been done.  Also in the late 70's, the University of Montana Faculty voted FOR union representation.  An outsider looking in would be hard pressed today to tell which university has had the benefit of over 30 years of union representation--representation that incurred an estimated $5,000,000 in membership and representation dues.  Average salaries at the University of Montana are slightly lower than at MSU. 

Why are we not inundated by testimony pointing to the great advantage of that union representation?  Because there is not much, if anything, that stands out relative to what would have happened without the Union.  Here I will defend the Union; it's not the Union's fault.  There is really not much they can do for a highly educated, motivated, creative work force that has a tremendous say in how the university is run.

Many will say that this is being naive and overly optimistic.  I feel that to blindly assume that the Union will somehow make things better for the Faculty is naive and overly pessimistic about the future of MSU without a union.

In summary, there is considerable risk in not voting for decertification.  The University administration comes and goes, and the Faculty has traditionally had a say in their selection.  The Union on the other hand will likely be here forever if we fail to decertify.  Unionization  will forever have an impact on the type of faculty and administrators that can be hired at MSU.  Young faculty should be particularly thoughtful about this, and I am hoping that in next few days they will think long and hard about how the Union will impact the environment in which they strive to cultivate their ideas and aspirations.  As you look around, you will see many respected colleagues whose accomplishments needed no help from union representation.

Please vote FOR decertification!

Patrik Callis

Friday, March 22, 2013

Letter from Wes Lynch

Dear Faculty Colleagues, 

Tenured and tenure-track (TT) MSU faculty members, who are currently included within the AFMSU bargaining unit, will soon have the opportunity to vote on whether or not to decertify MEA-MFT as our union representative.  Because this vote is so important to MSU's future, I'd like to explain why I support decertification. 

Before doing so I want to make clear that I do not oppose faculty unions.  I would gladly support a union for MSU if such a union acted in the best interests of the entire faculty and did so by facilitating open communication and democratic decision-making.  Unfortunately, based on its performance, I can no longer support MEA-MFT as my union representative.  In my opinion, MEA-MFT and the AFMSU leadership have been secretive and dishonest in their dealings with the faculty and have been entirely "undemocratic.

AFMSU distorts of the truth when it claims its decisions are made  “…by a majority vote of AFMSU members….”  While strictly true, the fact is that most decisions are made by small, unrepresentative, groups at meetings closed to everyone except “dues-paying members” and the number of dues-paying members is only about 50% of the TT faculty included in the MSU bargaining unit.  And although AFMSU claims more than 50% of these pay dues, the actual number is unclear because AFMSU does not disclose this information.  Furthermore, only a very small subgroup of these "members" actually attends the meetings where voting takes place.  Thus, "majority vote” actually means a majority of dues-paying members who attend these meetings.  Often as few as 20 faculty members are making decisions for more that 400 members of the bargaining unit.  Furthermore, keep in mind that a large number of TT faculty members, specifically those in MSU's Extension Service, were originally excluded from the bargaining unit in order to increase the chance of MEA-MFT’s winning the certification vote.  In two prior certification attempts, when these members were included in the bargaining unit, MEA-MFT failed to win certification. 

A proposed new workload policy offers a specific example of the secrecy surrounding AFMSU's decision-making; this decision will have a major impact the entire TT faculty.  Before its recent postponement, discussions were underway between the MSU administration and a select (unknown) group of AFMSU representatives, to introduce a new “faculty workload policy” for TT faculty into the next CBA; the new CBA will take effect next year if decertification fails.  I would venture to guess that most of my TT colleagues know little or nothing about this important negotiation, which was abruptly postponed when it became clear the decertification vote would take place.  As initially outlined by the Provost's Office, this policy will define a standard workload for all TT faculty at MSU based on a teaching load of 8 classes (24 credits) per year.  Reductions in this teaching-based workload -- and presumably any variations among individuals or academic disciplines -- will depend solely on what other activities each faculty member is engaged in.  Presumably this would include such typical and critical faculty activities as research and service, but perhaps also other activities yet to be defined.  It remains unclear how these other activities will be counted toward the faculty member's overall workload, although this decision will probably have a major impact on each of us.  Keep in mind that the method of counting other work, or even who will determine what counts, is yet to be negotiated by a small group of AFMSU members who make up its bargaining team.  Now I'm sure AFMSU’s leadership will promise full and open discussions of these important workload questions with "all AFMSU members;" but remember that more than half of all the TT faculty are not "members."  And if past performance is any indication, even "dues-paying members" will not be privy to the critical negotiations between MSU administration and the AFMSU bargaining team.  Why not?  Because, as they argued previously during negotiation of the original CBA, revealing any details about the negotiation would "weaken AFMSU's bargaining position."  Thus, the outcome of these negotiations won't me known until they are completed; and even then they will be packaged into the new CBA, which "members" will have a single opportunity to either accept or reject – presumably again at a closed meeting attended by a small fraction of all TT faculty.  Finally, I would note that this new workload policy might very well nullify or otherwise modify existing Letters of Hire, which most of us signed when we were initially hired by MSU. 

Finally, let me correct one more AFMSU claim.  The MSU administration has never been the “unilateral decision maker on campus” that AFMSU claims it will become if decertification succeeds.  The past successes of MSU have depended critically on the quality, vision, and leadership of the faculty and particularly on the leadership of the Faculty Senate.  All members of the central administration with whom I have dealt over my 33 years at MSU have recognized the critical importance of the TT faculty to the success of the University.  They have always been responsive to faculty concerns, including concerns about the fair and equitable distribution of salary, merit raises and other benefits.  I assume this will remain true in the future, as it has been in the past, whether or not we are represented by MEA-MFT.  In fact, AFMSU has stifled the conversation between faculty and administration, which has reduced the opportunity for the kind of rich conversation needed so we can all work effectively together for the benefit of our students and the state. 

For these reasons, and many others that I'd be happy to discuss, I plan to vote FOR decertification.  Whether you agree with me or not, please vote.  Only if we hear from a “real majority" of the TT faculty will we know what's best for us and for MSU.

Wes Lynch 
Wesley Lynch, Ph.D.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Letter from Jerry Johnson

My support for the decertification of AFMSU is based on two central points: ineffectiveness of the organization and the polarization of the campus. Let me say at the outset I am not antiunion. On the contrary, I have belonged to labor unions in the past and fully support them when appropriate. Such is not the case with AFMSU.
When the unionization movement at MSU began, I made inquiries about the efficacy of the organization. I was, and remain, astounded how ill-defined and amorphous their goals are. I have never heard a clear evidence based strategy or platform for the organization. For me, this is a clear indictment of the lack of campus based leadership and vision that organize and maintain the union on a daily basis. For an organization that collects close to 1% of earnings from members, I would expect to see well-defined metrics that delineate the return on my investment. I don’t. 
On the AFMSU website they link to “membership benefits” page; a page celebrating travel discounts, credit cards, insurance programs, and investment programs to name a few. I would have expected substance and policy but can find no links to substantive policy. 
More problematic is the inherent polarization that results from the unionization of the faculty. In their literature, AFMSU members present themselves as members of the “tribe” with all the answers while those who are nonmembers as malcontents. Such framing of the differences only perpetuates discord between two factions that share similar interests. I see these divides in my own department and across campus. The polarization continues to other institutions including the faculty senate and campus administration. The widespread lack of enthusiasm for AFMSU is not constructive toward building a forward-looking campus. This is especially true given the growth estimates of our enrollment. Rather, the union is an impediment to effective campus wide communication. 
Many functional institutions exist across campus for faculty who would choose to be involved directly in university governance. AFMSU is simply not effective at doing so. 
Jerry Johnson
Dept of Political Science

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Letter from Valérie Copié

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to share with you my reasons why I cannot endorse AFMSU and why I support a decertification vote on AFMSU representing tenure track (TT) faculty.

First and foremost, a union such as AFMSU does not recognize or appreciate the uniqueness of individual faculty: Faculty in different disciplines have very distinct professional needs and different cultures; yet in a union, everyone is put in one whole “indiscriminate package.” To me, this stifles faculty initiative and self-driven motivation for faculty’s creative work in research and academic scholarship.

Another big concern is that AFSMU is trying to replace the voice that the faculty have through Faculty Senate – i.e issues of tenure and promotion are and should be the responsibility of knowledgeable faculty members, not a union, not the administration - The union has no idea what tenure entails and what should the expectations be across disciplines necessary to meet tenure and promotion– it’s important that the most knowledgeable parties (i.e. faculty and departments) be in charge – I firmly believe that Faculty senate should be our voice, and this voice should not be superseded by a union which cares very little about the intellectual and academic strength of a university such as MSU.

It is obvious that since AFMSU has been created, an enormous amount of unnecessary bureaucracyhas been added for all – more paper work to be completed by faculty to justify “their work load.”  It’s counterproductive and distract faculty from what we really want to do which is research, teaching, and outreach. The bureaucracy created by the union has paralyzed every decision at the department head, dean, and Provost’s levels – the union creates an adversarial mentality which is not aimed at solving problems – faculty can work as a team and colleagues with administrators – the union does not understand this mentality of teamship and “win win” – a spirit that attracted many of us here at MSU as faculty.

The union has misled us in claiming that it was responsible for faculty raises – I know that’s not true and some of us were “blackmailed” into thinking that only those who would vote for a union would have raises – the raises were approved by MSU President and the Board of Regents in negotiations with the legislature prior to any CBA agreement. AFMSU does not represent our best interest – but tries to justify its existence and the burdensome bureaucracy that it has created for all.

Lastly if the union stays, many who do not want to be members will still be required to pay a substantial “representation fee. ”  However, this fee does NOT entitle non-members to vote on any new CBA contract or elect union representative, i.e. non-members are forced to pay but have no voice in the process. This is undemocratic and coercive. If people value the union, I can respect that – but what I cannot respect is that for others like me there is no other option but to be part of AFMSU with no voice as a non-member. This makes no sense and at the very least if there has to be a union, then faculty should have the choice to decide whether or not they want to be represented by such a body.Under the present reality, the only choice is to vote for or against the union for tenure track faculty.

I encourage everyone to participate in the vote of whether or not to decertify AFMSU for tenure track faculty, no matter which side of the issue you feel is most in agreement with your own values  - and please remember this has nothing to do with the issue of a union for non tenure track  (NTT) faculty. It is important that all voices be heard and respected no matter the outcome.

Dr. Valérie Copié

Monday, March 18, 2013

Response to AFMSU "myths"

Dear Colleagues, 

On March 1, AFMSU sent an e-mail to faculty responding to our e-mail of February 25, and giving a link ( to what they claim are “myths” about AFMSU. Here we respond to each “myth”. The issues were described previously at: Why decertify AFMSU?

We emphasize that the decertification effort is about deciding what is best for MSU through a democratic election; this effort is neither for nor against the current administration of MSU. 

We appreciate your indulgence of these communications, and hope that you find them useful as the election approaches. Ballots will be mailed to you on March 27, and will be counted by the Montana Board of Personnel Appeals on April 16

Respectfully yours, 

The Petitioners

Bennett Link, Professor, Department of Physics
Randy Babbitt, Professor, Department of Physics
Gary Brester, Professor, Agricultural Economics and Economics
F. William Brown, Professor, College of Business

MYTH #1: “A viable alternative to AFMSU is Faculty Senate”

RESPONSE:  The statements by AFMSU imply that faculty governance is impossible without a faculty union, though MSU has thrived and grown for over 100 years without unionization of the tenured and tenure-track (TT) facultyFaculty Senate (FS) is an advisory body that frames policies, procedures and standards of the faculty handbook, oversees the curricula, evaluates new academic programs, and serves to enhance communication between MSU faculty and administration ( AFMSU has already weakened FS with the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that restricts the role of FS (see CBA, Article 5).  We propose that faculty bring about a cultural change at MSU by becoming more involved and proactive, with reformation of FS as a starting point to make it more than solely an advisory body, coupled with efforts to facilitate comity and collegiality to strengthen the faculty community ( A strong FS is an essential element for effective faculty governance, but certainly not the only element. Faculty governance is a better choice than AFMSU. 

MYTH #2: AFMSU wants to combine tenure track and non-tenure track units through ‘executive action’”

RESPONSE: AFMSU has not denied that they intend to combine the NTT and TT bargaining units. As stated in the AFMSU constitution, amendments require nothing more than a proposal “made by the Executive Committee” and “a majority vote of the members voting” at an “annual or special meeting.”  At a union meeting on November 12, 2012, Tom Burgess of MEA-MFT discussed combining the two units without a vote before developing the next CBACombining  the two bargaining units would make AFMSU invulnerable to future decertification. Hence, we now face our first and last opportunity to decide if MSU is to discontinue collective bargaining through AFMSU ( Collective bargaining could be restored by a future vote if Faculty desire it. 

MYTH #3 “AFMSU wants to homogenize faculty at MSU” 

RESPONSE:  We agree that AFMSU cannot and should not establish market rates for any discipline 
MYTH #4 “AFMSU creates an adversarial relationship with administration”

RESPONSE:   The union’s description of Administration as a “unilateral decision maker” (see MYTH #5) establishes Administration as an adversary in the eyes of the unionThe Executive Director of MEA-MFT, Eric Burke, attacked MSU Administration in a public document (“Answer to Petition for Decertification”, 1/28/13), falsely stating that “the Employer has unlawfully supported the decertification and has aided in the collection of decertification authorization cards,” reinforcing the union’s adversarial stance against Administration. The union’s assertion that a number of administrators and department heads support the CBA obscures the essential fact that MSU administrators are discouraged by labor law from stating facts or opinions about the union that could be construed as negativeThe relegation of department heads to “management” under unionization separates them from their colleagues and creates managerial barriers by moving departmental governance up the bureaucratic chain.

MYTH #5 “All of our contractual rights/gains outlined in the CBA will remain after decertification” 

RESPONSE: AFMSU argues that a “gain” is real only if it is written in a contract. The union’s claim that we will lose our “gains” is patently false. The raises we have received are in place and will not be taken away if the TT union and the CBA are dissolved. The “rights” that have been “secured” by AFMSU are not new but simply establish more elaborate grievance procedures. Most of these grievance procedures have existed for many years and appear in the Faculty Handbook; AFMSU has only made the procedures more complicated.

MYTH #6 “MSU administration secured money for raises and merit/market increases

RESPONSE: As documented here, Administration had previously committed to these raisesThe bargaining over these raises included input from Administration, Faculty Senate, students, and the Board of Regents. AFMSU delayed the raises, but now claims full credit for them. AFMSU’s sole contribution was to write these salary adjustments into a document. That AFMSU is not truthful with Faculty and misrepresents its accomplishments inspires neither trust nor confidence. 

MYTH #7 “MEA-MFT does not share the interests of MSU” 

RESPONSE:  We concur with the union that “Dues are power” and “MEAMFT [sic] is a loud voice across the state and nationally.” 90% of our dues and representation fees flow to state and national organizations primarily to fund collective bargaining unrelated to MSU. The union is indeed loud and powerful, so much so that many faculty members are unwilling to publicly express their opposing views because they fear reprisals. Such an environment is anathema for a university, which depends on open exchange of ideas

MYTH #8 “AFMSU is undemocratic, unrepresentative, and non-transparent” 

RESPONSE: This point was addressed in detail in “Why Decertify AFMSU?” ( note two irrefutable facts:  (1) if you are not a member of the union, you cannot vote or attend union meetings, and (2) if you are a faculty member that is excluded from the collective bargaining unit (e.g., extension faculty, experiment station faculty, professional engineers), you have no representation at all even though union decisions will affect you.  In between AFMSU officer elections, all the power of AFMSU rests with the executive board ( We maintain that the power of the voice of the TT faculty should not be decided by this small, unrepresentative group. The Faculty Handbook, which was the key document in faculty governance before unionization,  continually evolves through open discussions and the input of dedicated faculty. By contrast, development of the CBA is neither open nor transparent. The bargaining team cannot discuss details with other faculty, not even union members. The opportunity for revision occurs only every two years. Faculty have not embraced this restrictive process, as illustrated by the consistently abysmal attendance at forums to discuss items for the CBA

MYTH #9 “AFMSU Delayed Raises”  

RESPONSE:  Administration planned to implement raises, but could not act without the union’s approval, which the union withheld until the CBA was finalized. The union delayed the raises we received and now claims credit for “securing” them. These facts are documented at

MYTH #10 “Unionization has added an unnecessary level of bureaucracy” 

RESPONSE:  “YOUR VOICE” is that of the AFMSU Executive Committee, which consists of five to six TT and non-TT AFMSU officers ( faculty bargaining issues must now be channeled through this small group that was selected by the union in uncontested elections, not by a faculty vote. The union has added a thick layer of unnecessary bureaucracy that includes an array of surveys, forums, workload document development, and other unproductive activities that are described at

MYTH #11 “AFMSU will reduce quality and promote unproductive faculty” 

RESPONSE:  The University of Montana (UM) has had a faculty union since 1978While many faculty at UM have successful and productive research programs, it is MSU, without a union, that became a top-tier Carnegie Research University. We encourage you to talk to your UM colleagues about their experiences with the union at UM. 

The union did not dispute the following points: 

AFMSU has made no significant progress on improving faculty benefits. (

The union misrepresents its accomplishments. (

This decertification election is our only opportunity to decertify AFMSU's representation of TT faculty. (