Association supports push for faculty union

Courtney Flynn and Courtney Flynn

The campaign trail is underway once again at the University, but this time it isn’t for a new President. Just over a week ago, the BGSU Faculty Association (BGSU-FA) sent campaign cards to all full-time faculty members urging them to support the chance for an election to unionize at the University. The BGSU Faculty Association is a local chapter of the American Association of University Professionals with 106 full-time faculty members supporting a collective bargaining form of unionizing at the University, according to the BGSU-FA Web site. If the BGSU-FA became certified as collective bargaining representatives of the University’s faculty, full-time faculty members would be invited to participate and actively voice their opinions on issues like salaries, benefits and grievance proposals. In order for collective bargaining to take place at the University, a minimum of 30 percent of the cards recently sent to faculty must be returned. BGSU-FA is aiming for a 60 percent return though, Ben Muego a social science professor and BGSU-FA interim president said. ‘In order for us to have a good chance of prevailing, we need about 60 percent of the cards returned,’ Muego said. If the cards are signed and returned, it does not mean the signer necessarily supports the unionizing of the faculty, but instead the opportunity for faculty members to choose. Once the goal of the group is met, the cards will be sent to the State Employment Relations Board where the cards will be kept confidential. The BGSU-FA must then file an election petition accompanied by the signed cards. There will then be an agreement between the State Employment Relations Boards, the BGSU administration and the BGSU-FA on how to conduct the election and the logistics of the bargaining unit, according to the Ohio Conference American Association of University Professors Web site. However, members of the BGSU-FA fear the administration will use tactics to raise a variety of issues to prevent, or at least delay, the elections, according to the ‘Frequently Asked Questions about the BGSU-FA/AAUP and Unionization’ document. Once an agreement is arranged, an election will be held to decide the fate of a collective bargaining unit at BGSU. The group hopes for an election by late fall of 2009, Muego said. While 106 faculty members have decided to actively support the process, there are other members at the University who are not in favor of faculty unionization. Some concerns are the tension it may cause between faculty and administration, a decrease in merit recognition and allocations of finances. ‘Faculty raises are a top priority, but we can’t stop defaulting on our other obligations,’ Sociology Department Director Gary Lee said. ‘We still need to provide students with financial aid and we can’t stop paying the electric bill.’ Since Lee is considered to be in an administrative position, he will not be able to vote for the election or he would not be represented by the union if elected. However, Keith Bernhard, associate professor of visual communications and technology and BGSU-FA interim communications director, was once on the BGSU Faculty Senate budget committee and said the budgeting process needs more planning. ‘We need to prioritize the budget for the faculty,’ he said. ‘I feel the faculty budget has been built on a residual.’ Last year, BGSU faculty received a 1.5 percent salary increase. BGSU has ranked 11 out of 12 in the state for faculty salaries since 1997. The University also ranks the lowest out of its ‘four corner peers’ – Kent State University, Ohio University and Miami University – for full-time faculty salaries and benefits, according to the March 2008 BGSU Senate Executive Committee minutes. ‘The faculty is the University,’ Muego said. ‘This is why our first goal is faculty salaries.’ With a collective bargaining unit, the University would be legally responsible to uphold negotiated salaries with the faculty, along with other negotiated items, Muego said. There are currently 11 other Ohio universities with collective bargaining units, according to the Ohio Conference American Association of University Professors Web site. Such universities include Kent State University, University of Akron, University of Toledo and Wright State University. The idea to unionize began in fall of 2008. Muego and Bernard, along with six other faculty members, contacted the Ohio AAUP and revived the chapter because the believed there was a lack of shared governance at BGSU, Muego said. ‘ To learn more about the BGSU-FA visit the Web site at