SEIU 925’s membership continues to plummet as increasing numbers of family child care providers respond to the Freedom Foundation’s outreach program and exercise their constitutional right to cease paying union dues and fees.
The exodus has SEIU 925 looking to replenish its ranks by organizing another, more lucrative, group of workers: faculty at the University of Washington.
The Seattle Times reported last week on the months-long effort by the union to unionize UW professors.
Though SEIU’s national drive to unionize fast-food workers has garnered more media attention, it is also funding a nationwide campaign to unionize college faculty under the banner of “SEIU Faculty Forward.” The Seattle effort has been dubbed “UW Faculty Forward” by SEIU.
In some ways, it’s surprising the organizing effort has taken so long. The state Legislature set up the legal framework for faculty at state four-year universities to unionize in 2002. SEIU’s organizing drive at UW began in earnest at the beginning of the year.
While much of SEIU’s energy has been directed at part-time and contingent faculty, the effort at UW includes tenured professors.
The union campaign could face an uphill climb. A group of faculty have created a website, UW Excellence.org, thoughtfully spelling out “the case against unionization.”
Some of their arguments include:
- “No premier research intensive institution of higher education in the U.S.—no true peer of the University of Washington, no institution of a quality to which we aspire—has a unionized tenure-track faculty.”
- “Contracts at other institutions include provisions that would diminish our ability to support excellence.”
- “It will be harder to get things done at the University of Washington.”
- “There is no assurance that a unionized faculty will lead to greater state support for the University of Washington.”
- “There is no assurance faculty salaries would compare more favorably with our peers if we had a union.”
- “If faculty salaries did rise, it could come at the expense of other things the faculty value.”
- “Aspects of shared governance at UW that are working well could be negatively impacted by unionization.”
- “Even those who vote ‘no’ will pay and be bound by the contract.”
- “A strike would force difficult decisions upon each of us.”
- “Representation by the SEIU would artificially align all 6,000 members of the bargaining unit with just one of the two major political parties, regardless of our individual political preferences.”
These arguments appear to be resonating. When the Seattle Times story was published on Nov. 2, about 150 professors had signed a statement opposing “SEIU unionization of the faculty of the University of Washington.”
Since then, the number of signatories has more than doubled to 334. For its part, the union has refused to acknowledge the number of supportive union cards it has collected. There are about 6,000 faculty in the proposed bargaining unit.
If the union is able to get cards from at least 30 percent of the faculty, or about 2,000, it can submit them to the state Public Employment Relations Commission and call for an election.
Despite the difficulty involved, the unionization of 6,000 well-paid faculty would help offset SEIU 925’s diminished cash flow from the loss of family child care providers. Consequently, the union is unlikely to give up without a fight.
The Freedom Foundation has reached out to the UW faculty and will provide any information or assistance they request to support their efforts to remain union-free.