Monday, March 18, 2013
Response to AFMSU "myths"
On March 1, AFMSU sent an e-mail to faculty responding to our e-mail of February 25, and giving a link (http://afmsu.org/faq/myths-versus-facts/) 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.
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) faculty. Faculty 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 (http://www2.montana.edu/facultysenate/). 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 (http://msupetition.blogspot.com/2013/01/there-is-viable-alternative-to-afmsu.html). 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 CBA. Combining 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 (http://msupetition.blogspot.com/2013/01/this-decertification-election-is-our.html). 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 union. The 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 negative. The 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 http://msupetition.blogspot.com/2013/01/afmsu-is-unable-to-negotiate.html, Administration had previously committed to these raises. The 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?” (http://msupetition.blogspot.com/2013/02/why-decertify-afmsu.html). We 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 (http://afmsu.org/consitution/#Art09). 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 http://msupetition.blogspot.com/2013/01/afmsu-is-unable-to-negotiate.html.
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 (http://afmsu.org/officers/). All 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 http://msupetition.blogspot.com/2013/01/unionization-has-added-unnecessary.html
MYTH #11 “AFMSU will reduce quality and promote unproductive faculty”
RESPONSE: The University of Montana (UM) has had a faculty union since 1978. While 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. (http://msupetition.blogspot.com/2013/01/afmsu-has-made-no-significant-progress.html)
Over 90% of dues and fees leave campus. (http://msupetition.blogspot.com/2013/01/over-90-of-dues-and-fees-leave-campus.html)
The union misrepresents its accomplishments. (http://msupetition.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-union-misrepresents-its.html)
This decertification election is our only opportunity to decertify AFMSU's representation of TT faculty. (http://msupetition.blogspot.com/2013/01/this-decertification-election-is-our.html)