An article was published recently in the Quindecim, authored by a “Goucher Student Against the Faculty Union.” As one of the students involved in supporting the Faculty Union campaign, spreading awareness and collecting signatures to demand administrative neutrality, I was interested to see a dissenting viewpoint. Expecting an insightful, well-formed, critical response to the faculty’s plans to unionize, I was appalled to see that what was published instead was an ignorant, sometimes downright false, reactionary diatribe riddled with inconsistencies.
First, I want to address the claim that students were asking other students to sign “a petition to unionize non-tenure track Faculty at Goucher College.” The petition my fellow students and I wrote and circulated was a request for the college administration to remain neutral (which appears to not be happening) during the process of potential unionization. Furthermore, a majority of the “arguments” made in this piece were taken directly from an email sent to the community by President Bowen, which had a serious slant against unionization. The language used in subtly anti-union rhetoric such as this indicates a confusing misunderstanding of how unions work. The idea that unions will let bad teachers keep their jobs, while simultaneously forcing other, good professors to join or be fired is ridiculous and inconsistent. If a faculty member does not want to be part of the union, they will not be fired and they will not pay full dues to the union. They will, however, still pay half of their dues (since they still get all of the benefits), and they just won’t have a vote as a member of the union would. If and when the faculty wins their union, there will be a period where they work on their contract. Only when the contract has been accepted by all will they start paying dues. And, if a member of the faculty does not wish to be a part of the union, they are not fired. There is no one forcing faculty members to pay full dues under threat of being fired. Further, the claim that Goucher gets “nothing in return” in paying dues to SEIU is absurd, as we will clearly be getting their help in obtaining better working conditions and compensation for our faculty. However, it is not a third party arrangement, as has been argued in many of the anti-union messages I’ve heard and read. Goucher College faculty would be voting for their own collective bargaining unit, representing themselves. SEIU organizers and employees are not the Goucher College Faculty Union; the Goucher College Faculty is. The SEIU is not making decisions for the faculty; they are merely supporting and representing their interests.
Respect for our teachers means trusting them to make the right decisions when it comes to their own employment, not challenging their ability to decide whether or not they want to unionize. It is disrespectful to the work our professors do to imply that their jobs are somehow less worthy of unionization and fair working conditions than physical labor jobs. Our faculty works long hours with expensive equipment, as in any other highly specialized occupation. Finally, since Goucher is in a huge deficit (as is the case with many other higher education institutions), it is highly important that Goucher spends its money wisely and maintains its community values. Fighting the union is a waste of money, when our teachers could be receiving the pay that the lawyer hired by Goucher is receiving. I find it completely absurd, you’ll have to forgive me, that a student at Goucher College who is a member of a union himself would be opposed to the unionization of his professors, to whom he gives his “utmost respect.” Before coming out as for or against the unionization of our professors, remember that their livelihood is your education, and that they are perfectly capable of deciding what is best for their employment. It is not Goucher administration’s decision to make, and it certainly isn’t up to Goucher students.