Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Labor Unions: The Past or the Future for Colleges?

By Richard Vedder

While labor unions in general have stagnated in modern times, that is not true with unions of governmental employees, that have often thrived. There are a number of reasons to believe that unions might gain in popularity on college campuses in the coming years as budget cuts from state governments limit the ability of some colleges to expand spending.

Yet this view might be wrong. The faculty at Michigan Technological University have just voted to decertify the AAUP group selected as the collective bargaining agent. Looking at the Web site of anti-union faculty (who prevailed in the election), several reasons stand out for the probable loss of the union:

1) Union dues are several hundred dollars a year, and some faculty believe the benefits are less than the considerable cost;

2) Some faculty, correctly in my judgment, consider unionization somewhat incompatible with greatness as a research and teaching institution, since the great universities are exclusively non-union (with respect to the faculty), and unionization downplays the role of individual merit and accomplishment;

3) Unions tend to regulate faculty behavior in a costly and bureaucratic way relative to the more informal governance mechanism implicit in Faculty Senates with considerable clout but little formal power.

I suspect the Michigan Tech decertifying move is a relatively isolated event, but the move to promote unionization in U.S. universities seems to have stalled or have little traction in recent years.

No comments: