Unionizing Higher Ed

Brian T. Johnson

Naomi Schaefer Riley writes in USA Today about the ongoing unionization of public higher education. The sprawling labor force of an ever-expanding academy has become a fertile recruiting ground for the labor movement. The results could be unfortunate for scholarship, schools and the public. Riley and others have cited the recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report indicating that public sector union ranks continue to swell and now exceed the total number of private union members (7.6 vs. 7.1 million). While overall union membership rate dropped from 12.3% to 11.9% in 2010 according to BLS, the writer notes that faculty and graduate student membership in collective bargaining units has increased 17% over the last five years. Educators, administrators and policy actors should resist public university system collective bargainning, as Gov. Scott Walker is doing in Wisconsin. In the long run, higher-ed unionization threatens not only state budgets but the ability of public universities to compete deftly with private counterparts.

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