A “lofty” debate is taking place at the University of Washington, over whether the 6,000-member faculty ought to unionize. According to Crosscut, the debate essentially comes down to academic freedom to pursue excellence versus the political power that unionizing might give professors in Olympia to seek more money.
Those driving the debate to join the Service Union International Union (SEIU) suggest a union “could strengthen their influence in Olympia and help weaken the blow of what many activists consider a nationwide assault by state governments on higher ed.”
A leader in the exquisitely mis-named UW Faculty Forward group, Amy Hagopian puts is simply: “This is the deal: If you unionize with SEIU, you have entree in Olympia.”
Evidently not enough of the liberal activists like Hagopian took any political science classes when they were in school. Otherwise they would understand two key dynamics about Olympia today: as Crosscut pointed out, “some of the strongest support for higher education has come from the Republican-led state Senate.” And, the SEIU has little persuasive impact in the Senate, because it has spent millions in dues money taken from members trying to defeat those Republicans who make higher education (and lower tuition) a budget priority, like Sen. Andy Hill.
Fortunately, there are some professors at the UW who put other values ahead of political power in Olympia. “Underpinning their opposition is a fear that a union could undercut the quality of the university,” according to the “UW Excellence” website.
It seems like a lopsided debate: Academic quality vs. political power. But stay tuned to Shift for more details as the next legislative session approaches.