From Karen Falconer-Al Hindi, our President for 2015-2016:
All full-time faculty members at UNO are part of the bargaining unit; that is, whether or not they are (dues-paying) union members, they enjoy the benefits and protections offered by the collective bargaining agreement between the union and the UNO administration. All full-time faculty members are also served by the Executive Committee, including the Grievance Officer. The simple principle of fairness suggests that all UNO faculty members should be (dues-paying) union members.
Prospective members sometimes hesitate to join around the issue of dues. They wonder what the dues pay for, and why they are 0.75% (.0075 x) salary. For some perspective, this means that a faculty member making $55,000 pays $34.38 per month, and a faculty member making $80,000 pays $50 per month (typically via convenient payroll deduction). As professional expenses go, this is a bargain: Compare what one receives with union membership to the cost, for example, of participating in a 3-day professional conference.
Dues-paying members enjoy not just one but three memberships: 1) the UNO AAUP; 2) the national AAUP; and 3) the Nebraska Conference of the AAUP. They receive a subscription to Academe, and enjoy several members-only events during the academic year (events this year have included the annual Salute to Labor parade, two chapter meetings, two dinner events, and a family afternoon at Pump It Up). In addition, members are welcome and encouraged to attend membership development events such as happy hours at the Brazen Head Pub. All events are offered at no additional cost. Finally, members take pride in knowing that their dues support the important and demanding work of the union bargaining team.
The three most expensive union undertakings, and thus the primary destinations for member dues, are: Dues (to the National AAUP, AAUP State Conference, and the National AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress); Membership development; and preparation for collective bargaining. Membership development includes recruiting new members, and just as important, offering time and space for members to connect with one another. Preparation for collective bargaining is a time and money-intensive process.
When the Nebraska Unicameral rewrote the public sector bargaining law, it removed our ability to use a “special master” who was forced to choose between the UNO AAUP and the UNO administration in the event of disagreement over the contract. Now, by law, the best our AAUP can get is the midpoint in a list of peer institutions, and any impasse over any single mandatory item in the contract (wages, hours, and terms of employment) can open the entire contract to scrutiny by the Commission of Industrial Relations (CIR).
The cost of going before the CIR can quickly add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars (as another Nebraska public sector union recently discovered). So, it is extremely important that the UNO AAUP enter the bargaining season very well prepared with data, analysis, and a well-researched and easily justified peer group of institutions. In addition to members of the UNO AAUP executive committee who prepare research and analysis, the union pays our attorney as well as an expert witness to do so. In recent years the UNO AAUP executive committee has budgeted $20,000 for these expenses and this has been adequate. In the event that we were forced to go before the CIR we would be prudent to set aside $200,000. Clearly, collective bargaining requires substantial resources and potentially deep pockets.
Where do our dues go? To support the important work of the AAUP.
Karen Falconer Al-Hindi wishes to thank Joe Brown, John Kretzschmar, Dana Richter-Egger and James Shaw for help with this post. Any errors or omissions are hers alone.