Monday, February 25, 2013

Why Decertify AFMSU?

Dear Colleagues, 

The petition to vote to decertify AFMSU's representation of tenured/tenure-track (TT) faculty has been approved by the Montana Board of Personnel Appeals (BOPA). This election will not affect the non-tenure-track (NTT) faculty. The NTT unit will continue with collective bargaining through AFMSU. 

The election will be conducted by mail. Ballots will be mailed to eligible voters on March 27, and will be counted by BOPA on April 16.

Many TT faculty believe that the almost-three year experiment with unionization has failed, and that faculty unionization is detrimental to MSU’s teaching and research quality.  These concerns led us to petition for a decertification vote to determine the majority view.

We, the petitioners, ask that you consider the important issues presented below. Each issue includes a link to a more in-depth discussion and appropriate documentation.

AFMSU is claiming a slight majority membership, though our research shows otherwise. We know that many union members are opposed to the union. The election will be very close. Please consider the issues and vote.

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

For a list of faculty who publicly support decertification, click HERE.

For background and union terminology, click here.   

The Issues

Click on any item below to see related text and documentation. The full document is here. 
  1. AFMSU is unable to negotiate significant improvements in raises, and delayed the raises that we were scheduled to receive.
  2. AFMSU has made no significant progress on improving faculty benefits.
  3. AFMSU is an organization that is undemocratic, unrepresentative, and non-transparent. 
  4. Over 90% of dues and fees leave campus.
  5. Union “gains” have been insignificant or non-existent.
  6. The union misrepresents its accomplishments.
  7. Unionization creates an adversarial relationship between faculty and administration, and among faculty.
  8. Unionization of research-active universities reduces quality.
  9. This decertification election is our only opportunity to decertify AFMSU's representation of TT faculty.
  10. There is a viable alternative to AFMSU: faculty governance. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Background and union terminology

AFMSU (Associated Faculty of Montana State University) is the university-level component of the union.  MEA-MFT (Montana Education Association-Montana Federation of Teachers), the state-level component of the union, is primarily concerned with K-12 issues. The two national components of the union are the AFT (American Federation of Teachers) and NEA (National Education Association). NEA is the largest labor union in the United States. 90% of our dues and representation fees go to these state and national organizations.

The main function of AFMSU is to negotiate with Administration on matters related to   compensation, benefits, and working conditions, and to have the results written into a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Items that have been written into the CBA are said by the union to have been “secured”, as defined in a public union forum on December 13, 2012; ”secured” means that both sides agreed to include an item in the CBA, whether or not AFMSU negotiated  improvements over Administration offers. AFMSU also uses the term “transparent” to mean that a process or outcome is open to the public and easy to understand. The CBA can be found here. 

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. 

AFMSU is unable to negotiate significant improvements in raises, and delayed the raises that we were scheduled to receive

Our raises are decided principally by the State legislature and Administration, and not by AFMSU. Consider salary increases at the University of Montana (UM), which has been unionized since 1978 (UFA). Since 2002, average raises at UM have been slightly lower than those at MSU (see the salary database here).  The UM union, which like AFMSU is backed by MEA-MFT, has been unable to effectively lobby the State legislature for significant faculty raises. AFMSU is unlikely to do any better in this funding climate. From 1987-2009, the average annual raise for MSU faculty was 3.6% per year (see here). MSU voted to unionize in March of 2009.  There were no raises in 2009 and 2010 as AFMSU worked on the CBA for over two and one-half years. Faculty then received across-the-board raises of 1% (plus $500) for 2011 and 2% (plus $500) for 2012. These raises came directly from our Administration and were certainly not a result of negotiations by AFMSU. For background on this issue, see the e-mails from President Cruzado of July 26, 2011 and August 24, 2011. The latter clearly shows that Administration planned to provide these raises. The union first blocked Administration from awarding these raises, and then claimed credit for having “secured” them. In reality, the union is powerless to increase our compensation and misled faculty into believing that salary increases were the result of AFMSU efforts. 

Just as the faculty-wide raises intended by Administration were delayed by the union, the first round of merit raises was also delayed for over one year. In June of 2009, the University Planning and Budget Analysis Committee (UPBAC) recommended that $180K (plus benefits) be allocated for merit increases for faculty for FY10. AFMSU, without a CBA in place, blocked these merit increases until October of 2010. Although the merit raises were retroactive for FY10, the union's presence resulted in an unnecessary one-year delay of the disbursement of $215K in merit raises. For documentation, see the e-mail memo from President Cruzado sent to department heads on December 7, 2010.   The union delayed these raises, and then claimed credit for having “secured” them. 

AFMSU has made no significant progress on improving faculty benefits

MEA-MFT has long been ineffective at improving benefits for MUS employees. MEA-MFT’s goals are often incompatible with the needs of MSU.  For example, the University already contributes 4.72% of our gross salaries to the defined-benefit teachers' retirement system (TRS) program (see the employer contributions to TRS benefits on your paychecks). Most of us invest in defined contribution programs (e.g., TIAA-CREF), as fewer than 10% are actively enrolled in the TRS program.  The TRS program has not been an option for MSU faculty for many years.  House Bill 90 proposes to increase our employer’s payments to TRS to 9.04% across both active TRS employees and those in defined contribution plans (the rest of the MSU faculty). MEA-MFT supports House Bill 90 which provides no benefits to 90% of MSU faculty.  Furthermore, this action reduces opportunities to lobby for increased employer contributions to faculty defined contribution plans. 

AFMSU is an organization that is undemocratic, unrepresentative, and non-transparent

AFMSU decisions are made by an executive committee and its bargaining team.  The members of these two groups are selected by AFMSU in uncontested union elections, rather than voted on by the entire faculty; the qualifications of these officers as representatives of the entire faculty are questionable. In the AFMSU organizational structure, many departments are inadequately represented or have no representation. With all power in the hands of the executive committee, union members and department representatives have little voice in union direction and control, except for one vote every two years to ratify a new CBA. Non-union members pay representation fees, but have no voice.  The best leaders among our faculty will not be drawn to AFMSU politics. AFMSU is undemocratic and poorly managed by construction.

For over two years, AFMSU claimed to have strong support by TT faculty but would not divulge the number of TT faculty who were union members, even to union members. The secret CBA negotiations lacked transparency; again, even union members were not told the details. Prior to AFMSU, compensation, benefit, and work environment issues were discussed in open meetings. Before the first CBA was ratified, some faculty were misled by the union to believe the CBA had to be ratified as a condition for receiving the Administration’s planned 1% and 2% raises.

In order to be initially certified, the union manipulated the bargaining unit to their advantage by excluding groups that were generally opposed to faculty unionization, namely, the Extension and Montana Agricultural Experiment Station faculty. Some of these excluded faculty members have regular teaching commitments, yet their salaries and workplace environments are, by default, governed by the CBA with no opportunity for representation.  Thus, the CBA governs a divided faculty of union members, non-union members, and unrepresented members. 

As the Montana Board of Personnel Appeals (BOPA) prepared the list of eligible voters for the decertification election, MEA-MFT (on behalf of AFMSU) attempted to have faculty with University Sponsored Research Appointments excluded from the eligible voter list even though they have been paying representation fees. The petitioners consider this another example of undemocratic union practices and successfully blocked MEA-MFT’s attempt to exclude USRA faculty. 

Over 90% of dues and fees leave campus

Less than 10% of dues and representation fees remain on campus to fund union activities. Union dues and representation fees directly profit the state union (MEA-MFT) and national union (NEA and AFT) organizations that do not share the interests of MSU. Annual union dues are $631 for most members, and representation fees total $417 for most non-members. If we decertify AFMSU, faculty will each receive effective raises of about 1% for the remainder of their careers, about $20K in total for many faculty members.

Union “gains” have been insignificant or non-existent

AFMSU claims their “gains” to be: (1) annual salary raises, as well as merit- and market-pay improvements, (2) the implementation of a transparent and binding sabbatical procedure and improvements in sabbatical pay, and (3) the development of a workload appeal process with peer input. 

As documented above, AFMSU obtained neither annual raises nor merit raises for faculty, both of which were planned by Administration. AFMSU delayed these raises before claiming credit for having “secured” them. The procedure for giving sabbatical awards has always been quite clear; sabbatical proposals are evaluated against established criteria by the Faculty Affairs Committee, ranked, and the evaluations returned to applicants. The Provost greatly increased the number of annual sabbatical awards before the CBA. The CBA only stipulates sabbatical pay must not exceed 75% of base.  Recent increases in the number of sabbaticals and funding at the 75% level are due to the Provost’s actions, not the union.  Finally, the CBA section on “workload appeal” (7.03.01) is vague, poorly written, and lacks a stated purpose.

The union misrepresents its accomplishments

AFMSU falsely claims that decertification will remove Faculty “contractual rights”.  Salary increases were awarded for years before AFMSU existed and were never “removed.” Recent faculty salary increases will remain, as will the small increases in promotion raises and sabbatical pay percentages that AFMSU claims to have "secured". Before the CBA was ratified, AFMSU suggested that faculty members needed to approve the CBA to receive the 1% and 2% raises that Administration had planned but that the union was blocking. Once the CBA was ratified, AFMSU claimed credit for obtaining these raises. In the absence of significant accomplishments, the union continues to misrepresent its value and accomplishments to faculty. All of these “gains” (i.e., faculty benefits) will remain after decertification.

Unionization creates an adversarial relationship between faculty and administration, and among faculty

Unionization is inherently adversarial. Unionized universities, in comparison to non-unionized universities, tend to have more adversarial relationships between the faculty and the administration, as well as more strained inter-faculty relationships. The evidence and reasons are reviewed by Wickens (Higher Ed., 2008), available here(This article is available on-line through the MSU library).

Unionization of research-active universities reduces quality

In many professional unions, merit and promotion increases are based on seniority and other considerations rather than on productivity. In a research-active university, this compensation model reduces quality because knowledge generation depends upon diverse faculty expertise across campus and within colleges and departments. Salaries vary substantially among faculty primarily because of external market forces. For a university to have a Business College, for example, it must be prepared to pay faculty enough to attract them away from lucrative employment in the private sector. Values placed on teaching and research output also vary significantly among departments. Faculty unions typically ignore these fundamental differences, as illustrated by the generic, all-encompassing CBAs they produce, and there is no evidence that AFMSU will be any different. 

Most of the TT faculty at MSU have research expectations.  To be awarded tenure, faculty must be productive in their research and scholarly activities. High tenure standards maintain university standards for scholarship. Typically, tenure decisions are made by committees composed of faculty colleagues with some oversight by the Administration.  In the union’s role as “defender of the faculty” from Administration, the union will weaken the tenure process by promoting unproductive faculty through grievance procedures.

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

AFMSU has stated clearly that they plan to combine NTT and TT units by executive order, that is, without a vote. AFMSU has majority support among NTT faculty, and if the two units are combined, the union would be invulnerable to future decertification efforts from TT faculty. If the two units are combined, faculty would then be governed by a single document that will be too broad and simplistic to address both TT and NTT faculty issues. If you have any doubts about the wisdom of unionization of TT faculty, your vote in the upcoming election is your last chance to decertify the TT union.  This vote will decide if you, as an independent faculty member, are to be governed by AFMSU for the rest of your career at MSU.

There is a viable alternative to AFMSU: faculty governance

AFMSU has proven to be an ineffective and costly addition to MSU bureaucracy. Faculty members should consider replacing collective bargaining with faculty governance based on principles and standards defined by faculty consensus, not by an AFMSU bargaining team and executive committee that have little appreciation for the diverse needs and priorities of individual faculty members. Faculty governance works well at other universities, and it has and can continue to work well here. We suggest that faculty could bring about a cultural change at MSU by becoming more involved and proactive, perhaps by reforming Faculty Senate as a starting point, coupled with efforts to facilitate comity and collegiality to strengthen the faculty community.  Faculty are now demanding changes from Administration; the response of the administration shows that MSU’s faculty do have power if they choose to act. Most importantly, MSU’s TT faculty do not need a union to bring about change.  The faculty are the university. We urge you to join us in decertifying AFMSU so the faculty can move forward in our efforts to improve excellence in teaching, the production of knowledge, and an environment that fosters creativity.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

E-mail from President Cruzado: July 26, 2011

Dear MSU Community,

I hope you are having an enjoyable summer.  In the midst of these warm summer days, it seems hard to believe that the first day of the Fall Semester is little more than a month away.  And, as we begin to prepare for the start of the new school year, I believe this is a good time to review for you the financial health of the Bozeman Campus.  Only by sharing with you some of the key financial data and trends affecting our budget this year can we operate as true partners in the stewardship of this wonderful university.  Some of the significant events shaping our financial picture this year include:

   *Steady enrollment growth since Fall 2007
  *Student headcount up 11.4% through Fall 2010 and up 6.2% from Fall 2009 to 2010
  *We estimate total student enrollment to be up 2-3% again this Fall (2011)

   *Solid non-resident student base (26% in FY11) provides higher tuition revenue

   *State budget cut of 1.6% for the FY12/13 biennium ($750,000 per year)

   *Montana University System allocation adjustment for state funds based on Student FTE 
  *FY12 = Loss of $2.6 million vs. FY11;  FY13 = Loss of $5.2 million vs. FY11

   *Tuition increase approved by the Board of Regents
  *5% increase in FY12 ($4 million over FY11) 
  *Another 5% increase in FY13 ($8 million over FY11)

   *MSU set aside $7 million in the Board-approved revolving reserve over the past several years
  *These funds originated from enrollment growth revenues 

Although MSU's state funding has been reduced for the FY12/13 biennium, total general fund revenues (state funding plus tuition and fees) will actually be higher this year as a result of continued enrollment growth and tuition increases.  In fact, to support the recent enrollment increases, the university in FY12 has committed an additional $1.2 million in funding to the academic units and $200,000 to student support.  Further, we will still be able to provide one-time funding for additional course sections in FY12, which may be necessary if enrollment growth continues this year. 

I want you to know that every effort is being made to avoid larger class sizes and to maintain a quality educational experience for our students.  Also, reserves we set aside over the past several years will allow us to make strategic investments in our classrooms and instructional buildings to make them more accessible and accommodating to our growing number of students.  And, of course, we will continue to explore ways to invest in our greatest assets, our faculty and staff.  Even though we will have less financial support from the state this year than in years past, it is important for you to know that the resources of your university are being managed in a responsible manner to meet our growing needs. 

Thank you for playing a vital role in making Montana State University one of the finest educational institutions in the world.  I especially want to thank those of you on the Budget Council who have worked skillfully and tirelessly to navigate difficult circumstances.  I appreciate all you do for this university.  And, as always, if you have any comments, questions or recommendations, please don't hesitate to contact me at

Enjoy the rest of your summer, and I look forward to welcoming you back.  


Waded Cruzado

E-mail from President Cruzado: August 24, 2011

Dear Colleagues:

A few weeks ago, I provided you with information about Montana State University's financial health and ways in which, with your help, we are managing the university's resources.  To continue the open communication we have established, I would like to share some information about proposed budget considerations, including salary adjustments at MSU for the next biennium.

The Board of Regents of the Montana University System has recognized the importance of providing quality education to its more than 45,000 students and the need to invest in our human capital--our faculty and staff--to maintain the quality of education our students deserve.  With this in mind, last May the Regents approved a five percent (5%) tuition increase for each of the next two years.

The funds generated will allow us to invest in resources necessary to serve our record student enrollment, such as additional course sections and student-centered projects that will enhance access, classroom facilities and advising.  The Regents also allowed us to consider modest salary adjustments for our faculty and staff members.

At its upcoming meeting in September, the Board of Regents will consider some of the collective bargaining agreements for unionized faculty and staff for the Montana University System.  We at MSU will also make a proposal for salary adjustments for non-union faculty and staff at our four campuses and agencies.

Pending Board approval, the proposal would increase base salary by one percent (1%) plus an annualized amount of $500.  If approved, the adjustments would be effective October 1, 2011.  Effective October 1, 2012, the proposal would include a base salary increase of two percent (2%) plus an annualized amount of $500.  For those faculty and staff covered by collective bargaining agreements, several unions have reached tentative agreements with the salary provisions described above. The Montana University System will continue to bargain with all remaining unions until a successful agreement is reached.

While the proposed increases are modest, I am thankful that the Board is willing to consider this well-deserved action, particularly given current economic circumstances, limits to state funding and our desire to minimize the impact of tuition increases.

I want personally to thank each and every one of you for the contributions you have made to Montana State University and for the dedication you have shown in serving our students.  I look forward to a productive new academic year and your continued support of your university, Montana State.


Waded Cruzado

E-mail from President Cruzado: December 7, 2010

Dear Colleagues:

In March of 2009, our faculty voted to be represented by the Association Faculty of Montana State University (AFMSU) in collective bargaining agreements. For MSU administration, negotiations with the union became an important and necessary element for decisions regarding terms and conditions of employment of faculty members.

Since last February, AFMSU and the MSU administration have been engaged in collective bargaining negotiations and are working diligently to develop the university's first faculty collective bargaining agreements. These agreements will govern faculty terms and conditions of employment, so it is understandable that the process has been undertaken with great care. I thank all the individuals who have been involved in the process.
In June of 2009, the University Planning and Budget Analysis Committee (UPBAC) considered a number of budget proposals, including a request for merit pay for faculty members.  The recommendation stated that an amount of $180,000, plus related benefits, would be allocated for faculty merit increases for faculty for the Fiscal Year of 2010 (FY10).

As a result of these events, the question about the final destiny of UPBAC's recommendation in regards to faculty merit pay for FY10 was still pending final resolution. In October, we were notified by AFMSU that the union agreed to forgo the right to bargain the faculty merit increases for FY10.

I am writing to announce that we will honor the recommendation that was submitted by UPBAC and endorsed by AFMSU.  MSU is willing to offer faculty merit increases as base salary adjustments in the amount of $180,000 (plus benefits), for a total cost of $214,758 retroactive for FY10.  Those base increases will continue for the current year (FY11). Hence, the total cost of these salary increases will be $429,516 with an ongoing expense in FY12 and beyond of $214,758.

The rationale for the recommendation of salary adjustments retroactive to FY10 includes the following elements: 1) This recommendation has been consistently supported by MSU Faculty Senate leadership; 2) The proposal was appropriately included in the MSU general operating budget for FY10 and FY11; 3) It is consistent with the awarding of merit increases for faculty at our sister institution in the state; 4) It represents an issue that AFMSU has endorsed during bargaining negotiations; 5) We are committed to meritorious performance and will work diligently in bringing salaries closer to those of our peer institutions.

Moving forward, we will need to develop a mechanism for determining the distribution of the funds allocated.  I have asked Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Joe Fedock, to develop an implementation plan.   The plan will be addressed in collective bargaining with the AFMSU and will involve appropriate level of consultation with the Faculty Senate.  Once the plan is finalized, the merit increases will be awarded. With this goal and commitment to good-faith action, we aim to complete the process for the merit raises for faculty for the academic year 2009-2010.


Waded Cruzado