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October 26, 1995

Anti union

Gerald Massey began his presentation by denouncing the University's administration in far harsher terms than UF leaders did. "Pitt has developed an administrative culture conducive to arrogance, at ease with mediocrity, and tolerant of incompetence," he said.

"Mediocrity and incompetence are so prevalent, and so blithely accepted, that one has to spend much of the working day doing someone else's job, or trying to undo the damage done by some Pitt office or other," Massey continued. "But give the devil his due. Pitt's administrative culture does one thing exceedingly well: It looks after its own" — both financially and by maintaining a job performance system that virtually guarantees continuation in office, he said.

"There are many real problems here at Pitt, but unionization is the solution to none. Far from solving our problems, unionization would only compound them. And in addition to aggravating old problems, unionization would bring a batch of new ones in its wake." Massey said he was "astonished" to hear UF leaders cite Temple as a university that has benefited from faculty unionization. "It's not just that Temple is a second-rate research university…No, much worse for the United Faculty, unionized Temple is a collective bargaining proselytizer's nightmare: A history of bitter and divisive strikes. Unrelenting faculty-administration conflict. Significant faculty attrition to help pay for economic gains. Partial substitution of unit seniority — the last-in, first-out principle — for the traditional protection of tenure. An exodus of 3,000 students after the 1990 strike, [a loss] that is still not made up." Contrary to the UF case that Temple faculty salaries have outpaced those at Pitt, Massey said the Pitt-Temple comparison actually favors Pitt.

Temple's average salary among four faculty ranks (instructor through full professor) is $64,200, while the comparable figure at Pitt is $57,400, Massey noted. Taking into account that a greater proportion of Temple faculty are full professors, the adjusted average Temple salary drops to $61,500 — still $4,100 ahead of the Pitt average.

"Ah, but we have not quite finished our computations," Massey said. "According to their chambers of commerce, the cost of living in Philadelphia is a whopping 14.5 percent greater than in Pittsburgh. Adjusting for the cost-of-living differential, we find that to equal the purchasing power of Pitt's average salary of $57,400, Temple's average salary would have to be $65,700 — that is, it would have to be $4,200 more than it actually is." Using the same formula, Massey said, Temple full professors would have to be paid an additional $9,300 to match their Pitt counterparts and Temple assistant professors would need an extra $3,200 — although Temple associate professors would out-earn their Pitt counterparts by $100.

"Temple also provides an instructive lesson in how faculty unions 'protect' health-care benefits," he said. Beginning July 1, Temple's administration gave Blue Cross a monopoly on employee health insurance, replacing Temple's previous dual provider package. "Sound familiar?" Massey asked. "Well, what did Temple's vaunted faculty union do? Absolutely nothing. How could they do otherwise? The collective bargaining agreements signed by the faculty union and by Temple's 14 other labor unions all gave Temple's administration the right to change health care providers unilaterally, provided only that overall health care benefits were not thereby reduced." While Temple did not freeze faculty salaries this year, as Pitt did, eight of Temple's 15 unions have signed agreements mandating pay freezes next year, Massey said. "The faculty union will join them soon. Bet on it," he said.

Only one factor, the threat of a strike, gives a union power at the bargaining table, Massey said, "and for this threat to be credible, there must be a bona fide willingness to call a strike." Eventually, if UF wins a union election here, Pitt faculty would have to go on strike, he stated.

"So if you are thinking about signing a union authorization card or voting for a faculty union, remember the United Faculty is not a play union in some pretend game. It is the real thing. Ask yourself whether you are willing to put yourself and your family — along with students, staff and colleagues — through a bitter and divisive strike in the uncertain hope of securing what would amount at most to modest financial gains for those well-positioned faculty members fortunate enough to retain their jobs after the strike." Massey urged faculty who are having second thoughts about having signed UF cards to ask for them back.

"The United Faculty pretends that the advantages of a unionized over an independent faculty are so transparent that no right-thinking person could fail to appreciate them," Massey continued. "Isn't it curious, then, that our benighted colleagues at all the great research universities, and at nearly all the good ones as well, have been blind to these advantages? It appears that United Faculty enthusiasts can perceive truths that nobody else can make out." In the mid-1970s, Massey chaired a national committee of the American Philosophical Association that produced a report on faculty unions; the 140-page document was adopted by both the American Philosophical Association and the American Psychological Association as embodying their official position on faculty unions.

One of the report's recommendations was to group only persons with common economic interests into a bargaining unit, Massey noted. "In this respect, the United Faculty bargaining unit is a prescription for disaster. It lumps part-timers with full-timers, regional campus faculty with Oakland faculty.

"The United Faculty would have part-time and regional campus faculty members believe that their economic interests won't be subordinated to those of the full-time Oakland faculty. If it should prove so, Pitt would be a historic first, for unions have traditionally subordinated the interests of less well-paid workers to those of their better-paid comrades." David Brumble also argued that it is the least secure faculty who suffer under unionization. "Union negotiators realize that they need to please the majority of union members" — and the one thing the majority will agree on is more money. "It will be those who are least secure who would vote for job security." Addressing the audience, Brumble said: "Those of you who are among the recently hired, the least secure — you newly hired librarians and you assistant professors and instructors. The administration this year decided we should forego salary increases in order to retain people. How certain are you that all of us who are secure would vote in a secret ballot to give up a 3 percent raise in order to keep you on?" He noted that Pitt's faculty has grown by 1 percent since 1988; during that same period, Temple cut its faculty by 2.6 percent, he said.

"It is generally recognized that university unions…are willing to chip away at libraries, cut staff, increase class size, just about anything in order to settle for the one thing which they know the secure majority is going to want — a bit more money," Brumble said.

"So, you've got to ask yourself, how important are your students? How important is our study abroad program? How important is your research? How important are your libraries?" Brumble argued that the millions of dollars that Pitt's University Library System (ULS) spends each year on books, journals and databases would be "red meat at the bargaining table." He noted that Temple's library system cut its staff from 160 employees in 1988 to 136 this year — a 15 percent reduction. During that same time, ULS's staff held steady, he said.

Brumble said he served for eight years on the Senate's libraries committee. During those years, the committee helped to shepherd through a major reorganization of ULS and two commitments from the Pitt administration for large, multi-year infusions of money for the ULS acquitions budget, he said. "It's difficult for me to imagine getting those changes and commitments through if we had had to deal with unions." In chairing a dean search committee and serving on the search committee for a new ULS director, Brumble said, he noted that some applicants said they could deal with a faculty union; others wanted to avoid a unionized campus. "Not one candidate for either position felt that a union would make Pitt more attractive or more collegial," he said.

Brumble asked audience members how many of them would be willing to serve on union grievance committees or "sit with 20 people around a table to decide whether we must all be in our offices for 14 or just 12.5 hours per week? But if you are not willing to do such mind-numbing committee work, who is? I know that I would much prefer to be teaching and writing and reading books. Do you really want to be governed by colleagues who want to do such work? One thing at least is certain about unionization, it adds another level of bureaucracy.

"And this will be a layer of bureaucracy that has no reason to think of the welfare of students. In the course of Temple's most recent strike, they lost 3,000 students. Have you ever seen anywhere in the union fliers anything about ways in which we can provide more money for study abroad scholarships? Have you ever seen a union flier that worried about student recruitment? Have our union organizers ever written a position paper about overcrowding in Hillman Library?"

Filed under: Feature,Volume 28 Issue 5

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