University Senate wants collective bargaining vote

A bill pending in the state Senate would allow UW campuses to vote on the issue of collective bargaining for UW System faculty members.

Right now it is illegal for faculty and academic staff to bargain with administrators about their salaries.

Susan Harrison, chairwoman of the University Senate, said she looks forward to the opportunity of bringing the question about collective bargaining to the campus. “I hope the bill passes,” Harrison said.

Richard Boyum, a University Senate member, said all other state employees have the right to decide if they want collective bargaining. All of the states that border Wisconsin allow their universities to choose as well.

“I think it is a paradox that what is often referred to as `Wisconsin’s brain trust’ (faculty and academic staff) is denied the opportunity to determine whether or not they can be represented by bargaining units,” Boyum said.

Salaries at all levels in the UW-System tend to be lower than the surrounding states, said Boyum, who added collective bargaining would lead to greater opportunities for faculty and academic staff.

The University Senate adopted a resolution last month asking the Legislature to allow it to engage in collective bargaining. UW-Oshkosh, UW-Milwaukee and UW-Platteville have done the same.

Currently under state law, UW System faculty and staff members share in the governance of state universities, but they can not negotiate issues such as salaries and working conditions, Boyum said.

The state Senate bill would allow faculty members to bargain over salary, hours and working conditions but would prohibit strikes.

Ed Muzik, a staff representative for The Association of University of Wisconsin Professionals, said similar bills have failed in the past partly due to warnings from administrators, who claim it would harm the university system.

“The issue is not money; it’s power,” Muzik said.

“Administrators have the power, and they don’t want to give it up.”