Plymouth State University faculty looks to join labor union
PLYMOUTH — Plymouth State University faculty members announced, Monday, that they have filed for election with the NH Public Employees Labor Relations Board.
The results of that election will determine whether the tenure-track faculty will become the newest bargaining unit of the State Employees’ Association of New Hampshire, the state’s largest labor union. A minimum of 30 percent of the potential members in a bargaining unit need to have signed authorization cards in favor of unionizing before an election can take place.
If successful, the tenuretrack faculty will be the second SEA bargaining unit at PSU. The adjunct faculty members at PSU voted to form their union in late 2011.
Following months of discussion and consideration, the faculty members believe forming their union will provide the means to positively affect issues such as healthcare benefits, job security and working conditions.
“For me this unionization is all about making sure there is a strong faculty voice,” said Cathie LeBlanc, professor and chair of the communication and media studies department at PSU. “When we are making decisions about how the university should work I would like the faculty to have a clear mechanism for having input.”
Faculty members are quick to acknowledge that their existing relationship with the administration is good and many recognize that it will become even better once the faculty members have organized their union.
“Collective bargaining of a legally binding agreement can ensure that the processes and procedures that are working for us continue to be used, even after this administration is gone,” LeBlanc said.
Another member of the tenure-track faculty believes organizing is a “win, win, win situation,” said Gary Mc- Cool, associate professor and coordinator of Reference Services at Lamson Library and Learning Commons. “The formation of a faculty union can be a win, win, win for all parties -¬ students, faculty and administration. Students win when the faculty is empowered to ensure the quality of education and when we can help attract high quality faculty and reduce faculty turnover. The faculty wins when there are clearly defined and legally binding policies and conditions of employment. The administration wins by gaining a stronger partner in advocacy for increased state funding, and by strengthening a shared governance system with faculty.”
Grace Fraser, associate professor of social science, agrees.
“I have thought about this a great deal and have to come to believe that a faculty union is necessary. The issues are not simply about wages and benefits. I am deeply concerned about the quality of academics,” Fraser said.
Associate Professor Scott Coykendall was very excited that there is a possibility of joining the union because he believes that the faculty has a great relationship with the administration. Coykendall said that it is not a unanimous feeling amongst the faculty, but said that there are many who feel like this could be a positive move. He said that the vote will be interesting.
“When the faculty has a stronger voice in the decision making, the situation will be better for everyone,” Coykendall said. “It is very connected to the central core of the university’s academic mission.”
The PELRB will determine the number of eligible members in the bargaining unit. Those eligible members will then have the opportunity to cast a vote to join SEA in an election later this spring.