MSU Professors Seeking Union Decertification Vote

By Beacon Staff

BOZEMAN – Some professors at Montana State University are pushing for a vote to decertify the faculty union, saying it costs more than it’s worth and negotiated the same small raises that other university system employees received.

Those behind the effort say they have received 120 of more than 125 petition cards needed to authorize the vote by tenured and tenure-track professors.

The Associated Faculty of MSU won $400,000 in additional pay over two years for market and merit raises and received guarantees that assistant and associate professors who earn promotions will receive raises, union president Sandy Osborne told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. She said the contract also increased compensation for one-semester sabbaticals from 50 percent to 75 percent of pay.

“The main thing we’re trying to focus on is the positive accomplishments the union has brought to campus,” Osborne said.

A letter posted on the union’s website said “dozens of faculty have been assisted and supported with various concerns of their employment, including: promotion, salary, student complaint and leave issues.”

Osborne also expressed frustration that the effort to decertify the union came from an anonymous letter. More than 20 faculty members are listed on a website as publicly supporting a decertification vote, but messages left by the Chronicle were not returned or found no one willing to speak on the record.

The website for those supporting a decertification vote says they believe the majority of tenured and tenure-track faculty no longer support the union, in part because it has failed to substantially improve the large discrepancy between MSU and national salaries while charging $631 in dues per year or a $417 representation fee to those who do not wish to be union members.

Some people want to see $20,000 raises, Osborne said.

“I’m sorry; it’s going to take a while. We believe this is excellent progress,” she said.

Tenure and tenure-track faculty supported unionization by a 168-156 vote in April 2009, while non-tenured and adjunct faculty showed stronger support, voting 101-51 in favor. The proposed decertification vote targets the union for tenured and tenured-track faculty.

If the decertification effort receives petition cards from 30 percent of union members, they will be forwarded to the Department of Labor and Industry to seek a decertification election.

Montana State was the last campus without a faculty union. Its two unions belong to the MEA-MFT, the state’s largest union, which represents some 17,000 school teachers, university faculty and other state employees.

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