Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Big Labor vs The Higher Ed Establishment

By Bryan O’Keefe

The intrepid reporters over at Inside Higher Ed have a very interesting story this morning about colleges' and universities' reaction to the Employee Free Choice Act. In another hat that I wear, I have written about the EFCA, which would fundamentally change labor laws to favor unions and their leaders. For example, the bill would eliminate secret ballot elections for unionization votes and would also allow government officials, through binding arbitration, to determine wages and benefits for employees in first contracts. With its allies now running Congress, the bill passed the House last month and will probably come up for a vote sometime this spring in the Senate. President Bush has already said he will veto it, but passing both chambers of Congress would be a success for labor leaders. If we have President Obama or Hilary in 2008, you can bet the farm that the bill will become law.

The Inside Higher Ed piece is fascinating because hardly anyone from the college/university side wants to talk about the issue. That’s because privately schools oppose the bill and fear the effects that it would have on their workforce. But they also know that labor has a foothold on college campuses, especially amongst the left-leaning faculty and students, and coming out against the bill would probably do some PR damage.

Here’s hoping that some colleges and universities however decide to stand up and fight for what’s right. There is nothing wrong with colleges and universities supporting democracy via secret ballot elections and also advocating for negotiating contracts with their employees without government intervention. Having worked in public relations for a short time, I understand their concerns, but this is an issue where having some members of the higher education establishment take a more public role might actually help derail the legislation – which even colleges and universities agree would be a good thing.

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