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Teachers Vote Yes to Unionizing

By Kelsey Davis; News Editor
On April 21, 2016

Teachers Vote Yes to Unionizing

Kelsey Davis
News Editor

On Tuesday April 19, the tenured and tenure track professors at Plymouth State University voted yes to forming a union. The faculty will be a part of the AAUP, the American Association of University Professors, the largest union in the United States to represent the interests of faculty in universities. 164 members of the faculty voted over a two day span, with the results being 97 in favor of unionizing, and 67 voting for no representation. 10 faculty members abstained from voting.

The vote to unionize is the result of a fourteen month push led by faculty members here at Plymouth State. “We really started mobilizing in September 2015. It started with sending out feelers and getting a sense of what faculty wanted, and it built up to the vote today,” said Dr. John Kruekerberg, the Chair of the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies Education department. “In order to successfully create a union, there must be a democratic vote with 50% plus one vote being in favor. So we needed to talk with people and see if they were amiable to doing this.”

After talking with all but four of the tenure track faculty members and surveying over half, those pushing to unionize were able to pinpoint three main topics that 75% felt were most important to address, and solve with the creation of a union. The overall goal is to increase visibility and to get a legally binding contract that states the conditions of employment. At the moment, the faculty handbook states that the administration has “the right to change any of their policies, rules, or regulations at any time, including those relating to salary, benefits, promotion and tenure, termination, or any other term or condition of employment. . . .Accordingly, this Handbook and its provisions do not and should not be construed to create a contract of employment or establish any legally binding conditions of employment." The faculty wants stabilization and a stable foundation of employment conditions.

The most important thing for all faculty members is to ensure a highquality education for their students and to increase their success. By unionizing, the faculty will be able to address inequalities across campus and ensuring that all faculty will have access to the necessary tools, resources, and time needed to perform their mission in giving the students the education they deserve.

Another topic that the faculty hopes the union will address is the transparency within the administration. At the moment, it is felt that it is not clear how decisions are made. A union guarantees the faculty access to participation in the decision making process from the very beginning. Information that is accurate will be more available as well.

There was previously a push two years ago to unionize the tenured and tenure track faculty. The previous attempts have been to unionize SEIU, the Service Employees International Union. Despite the close vote, the push to unionize failed, and the university remained without a union for the tenure track faculty. Plymouth State previously was the only state university without a union, with Keene State being represented by the American Federation of Teachers and the University and of New Hampshire being represented by AAUP.

Not every faculty member was in favor of the union. On Friday, April 15, a faculty forum was held in Heritage Commons. The meeting was to allow the faculty to meet and talk about the union, and many faculty members took the chance to share their fears about the union.

Dr. Linda Levy, the director of the undergraduate Athletic Training Program, asked, “What can unionizing bring us that we cannot do ourselves?” Dr. Levy also spoke of poor communication, where she and many other faculty member sent out emails asking questions and received no response. Gary McCool, an Associate Professor and Coordinator of Reference Services at Lamson Library & Learning Commons at Plymouth State, responded to Dr. Levy and said, “By unifying, the faculty would have a stronger force in saying yes or no to certain policies and also have access to legal services should they be necessary.”

Dr. Patricia Lindberg, a professor of education and integrated arts, also spoke against unionizing. In her argument against unionization she said, "Every single person in this room is completely different. I want us to have the freedom to be individuals."

“We are working towards a harmonious environment moving forward. Our goals are the same, to do our jobs as best we can,” said Dr. Chris Chabot, a professor of neurobiology at Plymouth State. Since the union is based on democracy, the union will not work without the support of the faculty. If it comes to a point where the majority of the faculty does not want to be a part of AAUP anymore, they can begin the process of decertification, in which faculty members would vote on whether or not they would like to stay in the union. If they vote for decertification, the university would go back to having a non-represented faculty.

Right now, the faculty will begin the process of formally unionizing. On Thursday April 21, they met to finalize a timeline in which they set up milestones like voting in a representative. The focus is to have open communication with faculty, and to give them time to contemplate on whether or not to join the union. Having a union on campus does not force the faculty to join, they can refuse to do so and not be represented by the union. The faculty who supported the union have no interest in steamrolling over faculty who oppose them.


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