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