Friday, April 11, 2014

Fair share and Scottwalkerism: a partial retraction

In an earlier post, I discussed the part of the administration's "last best offer" to tenure-track faculty that would require the union to verify monthly that it has more than 50% of the membership in order to continue automatic fair-share checkoffs from all members of the bargaining unit.  I was too dismissive about how onerous such a requirement would be on the union.  Depending on how such a fair-share provision is structured, I imagine complying with that provision would indeed be onerous for the union.  I also read over-literally the union's website, which had stated that that no union "in Illinois" had such a contract provision.  I think from the context of the union's statement, the website's authors clearly meant no public union "in the Illinois."

Do I therefore go back on my statement that by itself, the university's fair-share offer is "not worth striking over"?

That depends.  If it is relatively easy for the union to comply, then I stand by my statement.  For example, if the union merely has to attest that as of x date in each month, it had y number of new members and z numbers of people who have left the union, then I don't find that a particularly onerous requirement.  If it is relatively hard, then the union has to almost be expected to strike over it.  For example, if the union has to draw up official lists of its bargaining unit, perhaps contesting with the university every month who is and who is not to be included in that lest, or if the union has to re-sign everyone every month, then that is way too much for the union to be expected to bear.

Still, onerous or not, it is quite apparent to me that the reason UIC made that fair share offer was to goad the union into striking.  It's hard to see what good would come of monthly re-verification other than to weaken the union.

This is all well and good if, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, one's ultimate resolve is to destroy the union.  This particular fair share proposal, represents a zero-sum mentality, an assumption that the union is sheerly bad and without any saving graces whatsoever and supported only in bad faith and must be opposed or hampered at every turn.

And yes, I disagree with the union, and fear that it does indeed have some of the structural flaws I mention in my letter of February 8 and that some of its demands threaten to ensconce bad practices or increase costs to the university. I also have reservations about the certification process and distrust the card-check system that led to recognition.  I believe the bargaining unit is too big and has too many conflicts of interest, and I believe that the union has been less than upfront about the fact that it is negotiating not one contract, but two (a tenure-track contract and a non-tenure-track contract).

But even I have to say that the union has jumped through all its hoops and signed its cards and negotiated in mostly good faith.  I may not like the card-check rules for recognition, but that is the procedure that was in place.  I may not like the contours of the bargaining unit, but that has been litigated in court.  I may not support the union, but the process and deserves better than a proposal designed with no other purpose than to force a showdown.

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