Dear Alma| Logical fallacies about really good universities; wacky salary scales

Dear Alma — Is it true that there are no really good universities with unions? — Gotya Thisthyme

Dear Gotya (if that is your real name) — This is a tricky question. Faculty at private universities in all states, and public universities in many states are not legally allowed to unionize, so the universe for comparing unionized and non-unionized faculties inside the US is not the same as the universe of “peer institutions.”  It is sometimes argued that top universities are excellent because they have never had unions – but it’s impossible to prove that negative,  a logical fallacy.   At the moment, among faculties of research universities, professors at Rutgers, UIC, and the Universities of Florida and Oregon, as well as campuses in the SUNY and CUNY system are unionized.  And lecturers (NTTs) are unionized system-wide at the University of California’s ten campuses, and have been for three decades.  Note, too, that most international universities are unionized.   Our administration is constantly urging us to be leaders in the US higher education  community. This is a great opportunity!

– Alma

Dear Alma,

I’ve heard that if we have a union, we’ll all have a rigid salary scale, just like the University of California.  Shed some light on this one?

Signed, Aiming High

Dear Amy,

Whatever is happening in California has nothing to do with a faculty union, because tenure-stream faculty in the U of California system are not unionized (except for a small unit at Santa Cruz), and they have no collective bargaining agreements with their administrations.  The University of California has public salary scales, but they are honored mostly in the breach. In any case, many faculty in the UC system have long since gone “off-scale,” seeking  offers from other institutions as a way to get raises.

No-one wants to create that kind of mess, and so a faculty union at Illinois will bargain for transparent and flexible raise pools – with no kind of salary scale. We love many imports from California, such as avocados and artichokes and Pinot Noir, but we don’t want their salary scale!

Love, Alma