Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What have you done, Massachussetts

A post by FunkDoctorX the other day got me started thinking about some problems with academic jobs, something I've been thinking about a lot anyway. I just want to point out three states, and their bills:

Wisconsin: passed a bill eliminating collective bargaining rights for everything except salaries, and prohibits striking.
Ohio: Senate Bill 5 eliminating collective bargaining for benefits, and prohibits striking
Massachussetts: The state house of representatives passed a bill eliminating collective bargaining rights on health care.

Wait What? Massachussetts? That tiny state with gay marriage and state mandated health care? That great bastion of blue?

I got interested in this issue when I first heard coverage of the Wisconsin bill that mentioned that University of Wisconsin could no longer form unions.

Let me just present a case study as to why I think this is important, with the standard caveat that anecdote is not the singular of data.

I went to a non-unionized university. My partner's had a union.

I did not have dental insurance. My partner did.

I did not have the option of maternity leave. I could pay the school to take a term off. My partner had access to a full semester.

We considered it a victory when we were able to convince our department to stop using discriminatory pay scales for foreign students, or when they agreed to pay summer school TAs the amount they verbally told the students (no paper contract had been issued that year). My partner's school? They had lawyers to deal with this type of negotiation, so that untrained students who should really be focusing on their theses didn't have to figure out which dean would be most sympathetic.

At the risk of starting a flame war, where do people come down on the issue of unions (in general, or in your university)?

1 comment:

  1. My graduate University also had a grad student union. We got really great health benefits (all covered after my 2nd year, in the 1st year we had to pay for the summer months). I don't know much about the parental leave though.

    To be frank, I actually am not always the biggest fan of unions. I have certainly benefited from their existence both in grad school and here in the UK, but I get wary when they start to wield too much power. I certainly believe they have an important place to ensure workers are treated fairly, but they can also be a considerable impediment to progress (see public employee pensions backed by taxpayers...this should have all been switched to 403(b) plans awhile back like what private companies have done with 401(k)'s...progress on this front is way too slow).