Sunday, February 24, 2013

Unionization has added an unnecessary level of bureaucracy that diminishes productivity and quality

Union bureaucracy interferes with teaching, research, outreach, and creative endeavors by generating unnecessary tasks and inefficient procedures that waste faculty time and reduce productivity. As a direct result of a poorly written and overly simplistic CBA that supersedes faculty individual contracts (i.e., Letters of Hire), departments are now required to develop workload documents.  The requirements for written workload expectations defined in Section 7.03 of the CBA are so unclear that most faculty members, department heads, and administrators have been unable to proceed productively with this task. In addition, the purpose of the task is not explained in the CBA.  Meanwhile, Administration had to obtain a memorandum of understanding from AFMSU to avoid penalties for not producing a university-wide workload policy.  Departmental governance should not be within the purview of a union; teaching needs and research output are academic matters that are specific to different disciplines. 

Union bureaucracy hinders the evaluation and ranking of faculty within departments for merit raises.  The process of distributing merit raises is now more difficult, less equitable, and awkward. Departmental rankings are forwarded to deans for a review process that is far from transparent (see CBA section 13.03). The CBA also restricts departmental autonomy. For example, departments have lost flexibility to recruit and retain top-quality faculty, and now have even more difficulty responding to external market forces.  Furthermore, the union’s presence has caused administrative paralysis as many ordinary issues have become “union issues”; administrators are now reluctant to act on certain issues, and are forbidden by labor law to act or comment on others. Grievance procedures have become more convoluted, restrictive, and time-consuming for faculty members and departments.  We are now in an environment in which university decisions that have the full support of both faculty and Administration also require the union’s approval. 

MSU has high research output and is one of the 108 Carnegie top-tier research-active universities. This prestigious classification helps MSU attract and retain both students and faculty. MSU obtained Carnegie top-tier status without the union, and an important question is whether inefficiencies introduced by union bureaucracy will put MSU’s research status at risk. It is noteworthy that of the 108 Carnegie top-tier universities, only 13 (excluding MSU) are unionized.