Back in April, as academic labor unrest was stirring on our sister campus, I wrote this post about the issues that are prompting many faculty to look anew (and where legally available) at unionizing to solve at least some of the problems besetting higher education.
Now "we" (or at least, some of us) are upset because "we" voted by union card to form a union without telling...well whom, exactly? "Us"?
We actually did tell us. A union card drive for non-tenure-track (NTT) faculty involves speaking, individually, to as many members of the potential bargaining unit as can be located. Nearly every NTT faculty member who could form part of the bargaining unit was contacted, and a majority of those faculty members decided that they wanted a faculty union to represent their interests in collective bargaining. So who is this "we" who weren't told? Precisely those people who are not part of the bargaining unit. "By May 5, when the Senate held its last meeting of the 2013-14 academic year, and when union organizers were intensely engaged in a no-holds-barred attempt to persuade specialized [aka, NTT] faculty to sign union cards, once again no mention was made of the card campaign."
The UIUC Senate is not a body that represents NTT interests. NTT faculty are eligible to serve as senators, and a handful do, but most of the senate, like most of the faculty, consists of tenure-stream faculty members not eligible to be part of an NTT collective bargaining unit. So, no, "we" did not see the necessity of telling the small numbers of "us" in the Senate, who already knew about the union card drive. And "we" listen closely when a "we" that has often excluded us suddenly invokes "us" as part of a collective entity that has not dependably recognized our interests, much less supported them.
Some tenure-stream faculty in our departments can tell you "our" names. Some have no idea who "we" are though they see us regularly in the halls. Some of "us" are expected to come to department meetings; many of "us" are deliberately excluded. Some of us had rehiring, promotion, and grievance procedures available to us even before the Senate discussed Provost's Communication #25 which recommends departments put in place such procedures. Some of us do not nor will we in the future, as PC #25 leaves these matters to the discretion of individual departments.
The authors of the anti-union blog "have to ask, Is this the way to make fundamental policy decisions affecting faculty on this campus?" "Fundamental policy decisions affecting faculty on this campus" are routinely made through channels that bypass NTT faculty without being regarded as divisive. An NTT union is simply a way to make sure that "we" are counted in ways that serve "our" interests, as well as those that don't.