The University of California Office of the President (UCOP) has posted a message bashing unions and opposing SB 259, which permits grad students with Grad Student Researchers (GSRs) to form a union. It seems that the administration has been pushing department managers to spread the anti-union message to all faculty, as I’ve gotten pointers to the message from two different department managers.
I’ve not read all the details of SB259, so perhaps there is a poison pill in it, but it seems to fairly straightforwardly extend the right to unionize to a larger set of students than it currently covers. The UCOP statement reads a lot like the union bashing that they engaged in when the TAs unionized and when the postdocs unionized. None of the terrible things that they predicted as a consequence of those unionizations have come to pass, and I don’t believe that GSR unionization will be such a terrible thing either. Of course, our department (and the Jack Baskin School of Engineering generally) has always treated our TAs and GSRs with respect, so unionization merely formalized long-standing practices (and propagated them to other parts of campus).
I’m saddened that the administrators are wasting time on union bashing and making sure that grad students can be exploited, when they should be working on trying to restore state funding and trim the massive overgrowth of administrative positions. I worry about the priorities of University leadership—they seem more in tune with firms like Bain Capital than with public university principles. I also worry that they say “the University of California opposes SB 259″ as if their opinion alone is all that matters—they certainly did not consult widely with the faculty and students who make up the real university, as opposed to the shadowy world of UCOP in Oakland.
So far from supporting the UCOP in calling for an SB259 veto, I think that faculty should be calling the governor to let him know that the UCOP is not speaking for the faculty on this matter.