Two items for town meeting day, a statement in support of striking teachers in West Virginia, and, if you are one of those who might wonder what a strike in WV has to do with professors in Vermont, some comments about the value of other unions to us as professors. (If you need no persuading on that, skip to number 2 below.)
1) Why should UA care about other unions? The obvious effect of collective bargaining is that it creates a counterweight to the concentrated power of management. Collective bargaining is shown systematically to result in higher wages and better benefits, and comparisons of UVM pre- and post-union bear this finding out. That need for a counterweight to
concentrated power is why some conservatives support unions (and perhaps is why Vermont’s former Republican Governor Jim Douglas spoke out in favor of of United Academics during his first run for governor in 2002).
There is a less obvious but nonetheless real effect of unions as a whole on the economy and society. Unions are rarely all of one mind, and the disputes between unions about political and policy issues are sometimes fierce, but the general experience is that if unions support each other around core issues, everyone benefits, including non-unionized citizens. Union activists like to point out that now universally-respected practices like the weekend, health benefits, retirement programs and more can be generally traced back to union activities. And there is a pay-it-forward ethos to unions in general; the organization of United Academics was done in part with some help from the outside paid for by other unions’ dues payments to AFT and AAUP, and our union dues subsequently helped with the unionization of local nurses, with whom we now share an umbrella organization, AFT Vermont. For these reasons, UA sometimes chooses to provide various kinds of support to other unions when that relates to our core values and interests. For these reasons and more, UA occasionally chooses to speak out on behalf of other unions.
2) Resolution in Support of Striking West Virginia School Employees
Whereas, some 33,000 members of the West Virginia Education Association, AFT West Virginia and the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association have been on strike across the state, and Whereas, these brave public employees have taken a stand for their communities, their families and the children in the public school system of the entire state of West Virginia, anD Whereas, their strike has already successfully extracted concessions from the legislature in the form of a 5% raise, far above the initial offer of a 1% raise, and
Whereas, West Virginia school employees still have much to win, with the issue of health care costs remaining unresolved, and
Whereas, by taking such dramatic action to fight for what’s right contrary to the legal restrictions on public employees in the state of West Virginia, these 33,000 strikers deserve the material support and solidarity of the entire US labor movement, and
Whereas, a victory for the union movement in West Virginia would be a victory for the entire union movement across the United States,
Be it resolved, the Executive Council of United Academics stands in solidarity with the striking public employees of West Virginia, and commits to supporting them through to a final victory by publicizing this statement of support, and donating $250.00 to the publicly administered strike fund to support the teachers. We also encourage those who would like to make their own contributions to the teachers strike fund: https://www.gofundme.com/wv-teachers-strike-fund
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President, United Academics
United Academics is the union of full- and part-time faculty at University of Vermont, with over 700 members from departments and colleges across the campus. We represent faculty in negotiating and upholding contracts, and we advocate for fair labor practices within and beyond our academic community. We are a member-led union committed to academic freedom, shared governance, social and environmental justice.