Monthly Archives: May 2011

Another reason you should love your union

If you follow any independent media at all, you’ve likely seen the story breaking over the last few days that billionaire conservative/libertarian activists the Koch Brothers are poking their heads (read: checkbooks) into higher education. The most recent story involves a $1.5M “gift” to the College of Business at Florida State, which comes with some frightening strings attached: the contributors have some veto power over hires that their money pays for; they’re putting pressure on the college to adapt pieces of the curriculum to their radically anti-government agenda.

Here’s a good summary of it from (Wed 5/11):

REPORT: Koch Fueling Far Right Academic Centers At Universities Across The Country

Yesterday, ThinkProgress highlighted reports from the St. Petersburg Times and the Tallahassee Democrat regarding a Koch-funded economics department at Florida State University (FSU). FSU had accepted a $1.5 million grant from a foundation controlled by petrochemical billionaire Charles Koch on the condition that Koch’s operatives would have a free hand in selecting professors and approving publications. The simmering controversy sheds light on the vast influence of the Koch political machine, which spans from the top conservative think tanks, Republican politicians, a small army of contracted lobbyists, and Tea Party front groups in nearly every state.

As reporter Kris Hundley notes, Koch virtually owns much of George Mason University, another public university, through grants and direct control over think tanks within the school. For instance, Koch controls the Mercatus Center of George Mason University, an institute that set much of the Bush administration’s environmental deregulation policy. And similar conditional agreements have been made with schools like Clemson and West Virginia University. ThinkProgress has analyzed data from the Charles Koch Foundation, and found that this trend is actually much larger than previous known. Many of the Koch university grants finance far right, pro-polluter professors, and dictate that students read Charles Koch’s book as part of their academic study:

– West Virginia University: As ThinkProgress reported last year, Koch funds an array of academic programs at West Virginia University, a public university. One Koch-funded academic at WVU, economics professor Russell Sobel, has written a book blasting regulations of all types. He even argues that less mine safety regulations will make coal miners more safe. As the St. Petersburg Times reported, a similar arrangement has been made with WVU as with FSU in accepting at least $480,000 from Koch.

– Brown University: The Charles Koch Foundation funds the Political Theory Project at Brown, which provides funding for “Seminar Luncheons for undergraduates, academic conferences, research fellowships for graduate students, support for faculty research, and a postdoctoral fellowship program.” Amity Shales, a pop-conservative writer who argues that the New Deal made the Great Depression worse, an odd theory promoted by Charles Koch himself, has been a featured speaker at the Koch-funded Project at Brown. Moreover, Koch’s donation of at least $419,254 to Brown has underwritten a number of research projects in the Economics and Political Science deparments, including a paper arguing that bank deregulation has helped the poor.

– Troy University: The Charles Koch Foundation, along with the Manuel Johnson and the BB&T Foundation, provided Troy University, a public university, a gift of $3.6 million to establish the Center for Political Economy last year. The Center’s stated goal is to push back against the belief following the financial crisis that markets need regulation. Notably, the entire Advisory Council for the Center is made up of Koch and BB&T-funded professors at other universities, including Russell Sobel at West Virginia University and Peter Boettke at George Mason University. Currently, the Center’s only staffer, Professor Scott Beaulier, is a board member of the ExxonMobil-funded attack group, American Energy Alliance, and a former staffer for Koch’s think tank at George Mason.

– Utah State University: The Charles Koch Foundation has given nearly$700,000 to Utah State University, mostly for the Huntsman School of Business. The money has been used to hire five new faculty members, and establish a program for undergraduates to enroll and learn about Charles Koch’s “Science of Liberty” management theory. Professor Randy Simmons, the “Charles G. Koch Professor of Political Economy” at the school, helps select students — who must provide information about their ideological interests in their application form — to the Koch program. Simmons also works for several Koch-funded front groups, and writes papers against environmental regulations. Charles Koch’s book, “The Science of Success,” a book Forbes mocked for proclaiming a “Marxist faith in ‘fixed laws’ that govern ‘human well-being,’” is part of therequired reading list for the program. A representative for Utah State did not return ThinkProgress’ calls about conditional strings attached to the Koch grant.

Charles Koch Foundation grants, along with direct Koch Industries grants, are distributed to dozens of other universities around the country every year, to both public and private institutions. Some of the programs, like the Charles Koch Student Research Colloquium at Beloit College, are funded by grants of little over $130,000 and simply support conservative speakers on campuses. We have reached out to several of the schools to learn more about the agreements, but none so far have returned our calls.

Budget constraints and other problems at universities have allowed a small set of oligarchs to use school donations to interfere with academic integrity on campuses. A group of hedge fund managers, working through the Manhattan Institute’s Veritas Fund, have created entire departments dedicated to advancing failed supply side ideas and climate skepticism. John Allison, the former CEO of BB&T Bank, a bailout recipient, has used his corporation’s money to force college campuses to adopt Ayn Rand readings into their programs.

Overall, Koch is still a dominate player when it comes to meddling with academic integrity. Part of the effort is coordinated through operatives like Richard Fink, who doubles as a vice president at Koch’s corporate lobbying office. Through an organization called the Association of Private Enterprise Education, Koch organizes these corporate-funded university departments into a powerful intellectual movement. The organization allows Koch staffers in Washington DC to request certain types of studies, interfere with hiring decisions, and reward loyal free market academics with hefty research grants.

So why does this have anything to do with being grateful for a strong union?

Look at that list again.  Notice anything interesting about the schools represented on it? Other than Florida State, which has a union whose power is sharply constrained by right-to-get-fired laws, there’s not a union to be found among them.  Some of them are private, and courtesy of the Yeshiva decision, it’s nearly impossible for them to unionize.  Most of them are in right-to-get-fired states.

The Koch Brothers and their ilk are inhumane and despicable, but they aren’t stupid. One of the reasons they support union-busting is that unions stop them from having their way with anyone and everyone they feel like exploiting.

All of this is to say, when we tell you we need you–for an event, for a phone call/letter-writing campaign, for a job action, for a contribution to CAP, whatever–remember that THIS is why we need to stand in solidarity. Our working conditions and compensation are worth fighting for, and in order to protect them we have to beat back threats like these.


Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, CAP, Collective Bargaining, Follow the Money, Koch brothers, Yeshiva decision

Our own Chuck Bauerlein in the Inquirer!


Our very own Journalism/English faculty member and APSCUF Legislative Assembly delegate Chuck Bauerlein published this excellent letter in the Sunday Philly Inquirer–

In an article Monday (“On college funding, Corbett is half-right”), Timothy R. Lannon argues that slashing assistance to Pennsylvania’s 14 state universities and its state-related universities is a splendid idea – as long as Gov. Corbett shovels a percentage of the savings to students attending schools such as his, St. Joseph’s University, in the form of Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency grants. He figures “$78 million, or about 12 percent of the institutional aid reduction,” would be a nice figure.

This would indeed assist the students who attend private institutions. It would help defray the expensive tuition that schools such as St. Joseph’s charge (between $35,000 and $40,000 a year). It would also be akin to providing school vouchers, and would encourage families to send their children to private or Christian schools instead of public schools.

It would, however, hurt those lower- and middle-class families who cannot afford to send their sons and daughters to private universities. In-state tuition at the university where I teach is still less than $6,000 a year, a bargain compared with St. Joseph’s.

Corbett’s budget cuts will likely mean an increase in tuition at the state’s public universities. But parents who can afford to send their children to private Catholic schools should not benefit from those cuts.

Chuck Bauerlein

Assistant professor of journalism

West Chester University

Thanks, Chuck, for making this case so directly.  “Public money for higher ed” isn’t all created equal.

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Filed under APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Private higher education, Public education, Tom Corbett, Tuition increase, Vouchers/School Choice, West Chester University

Follow the money!

I’m sorry to title this post with such a tired cliche, but dagnabbit, it’s right on target again!

As you’re likely aware, Governor Corbett is attacking not just public higher education but all public education in PA.  There’s legislation pending in Harrisburg that would transfer a huge chunk of the money Governor Drill-and-Kill (Drill the Shale, Kill the Schools) wants to cut from K-12 education into a voucher program.

From my early morning cruise through the blogosphere, two articles that help debunk the notion that vouchers are anything but money-stealers from public schools for private interests:

1. In Testing for Thee, but Not for Me, Kevin Drum reports the results of a study from Milwaukee Public Schools indicating (not for the first time!) that voucher-eligible schools are producing test scores that aren’t any better than their public school counterparts. So, all those lazygreedyunion teachers wouldn’t seem to be the problem, would they?

2. If you follow the KUXchange blog, you’ve seen them developing arguments, based on Naomi Klein’s notion of the Shock Doctrine, which holds (in simplistic terms) that the powerful often use rhetorics of crisis and disaster (shock) as smokescreens behind which they accrete power to themselves while people aren’t watching.  In Monday’s HuffPost Education section, Timothy Slekar from Penn State-Altoona applies the Shock Doctrine directly to Governor Drill-and-Kill’s K-12 budget proposal.  His most interesting finding, in my estimation, is that the voucher program in SB1, along with increased (you gotta be frackin’ kidding me!) testing requirements that add nothing to education, will ACTUALLY COST MORE than the proposed cuts would save.

Sometime later today, I’ll see if I can find this again, but about 6 weeks ago, I found evidence that the second largest individual contributor to the Corbett for Governor campaign is the guy who owns the Charter School Management firm that would profit the most from Drill-and-Kill’s “education reform” package.  Gee.  We’re surprised, aren’t we?


Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Follow the Money, K-12 Education, PA Senate Bill 1, PASSHE, Penn State University, Public education, research, Shock Doctrine, taxes, Tom Corbett, Uncategorized, Vouchers/School Choice

Chronicle of Higher Ed says Faculty Unions don’t help


An article in Monday’s Chronicle reports “new” “research” (note the scare quotes) finding that faculty unions, especially at public colleges/universities, don’t produce discernible advantages for their members.

I’ve read much of the research the author of this piece cites as I’ve been working on an article of my own.  Let’s just say he makes two troubling mistakes.  First, he doesn’t examine the background of his sources; much of that research comes from management and management-friendly folks.  Second, a lot of it analyzes survey data that’s old.  Unless I missed something, none of it’s newer than the early 2000s. 

So we need to be prepared to answer these kinds of arguments, both critically and proactively.  That is, what does our union do for us that we couldn’t do as well without it?


May 1, 2011

What Good Do Faculty Unions Do?

Research sheds little light on quantifiable benefits of collective bargaining

Leonardo Carrizo for The Chronicle

Unions representing public-college faculty members are on the brink of being stripped of power in Ohio, where supporters of collective-bargaining rights gathered last month to protest.

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Leonardo Carrizo for The Chronicle

Unions representing public-college faculty members are on the brink of being stripped of power in Ohio, where supporters of collective-bargaining rights gathered last month to protest.

By Peter Schmidt

As unions that represent public-college professors have come under attack in state legislatures, the unions’ leaders have fought back without being able to define what, exactly, they stand to lose if their right to collectively bargain goes away.

Many union leaders have declared that right essential if faculty members are to be paid adequately, treated fairly, and given a voice in their institutions’ affairs. But the research that tests such assertions offers mixed findings. At most private colleges, as well as at public colleges where faculty members have chosen not to form unions or have been precluded from doing so by state law, many faculty members work without union contracts without feeling particularly exploited.

If anything, the research shows that the gains derived through collective bargaining are difficult to measure. Factors such as regional differences in the cost of living and market-related variations in what colleges are willing to pay their employees have confounded most attempts to determine whether faculty members with union contracts are better off than others. At four-year colleges, the financial payoffs from collective bargaining appear modest at best. At two-year colleges, such financial gains might be bigger, but they remain little studied and poorly defined.

The chief benefits of unionization appear to have less to do with getting faculty members more bread than in giving them some say over how it is sliced. Those who belong to collective-bargaining units have been found by researchers to have more say in the management of their institutions and how the faculty payroll is divvied up.

“At institutions where a substantial number of the faculty are represented in collective bargaining, you are much more likely to have a substantial faculty voice in governance,” says Marc Bousquet, an associate professor of English at Santa Clara University, regular blogger for The Chronicle, and co-chairman of an American Association of University Professors committee on the working conditions of adjunct faculty members. “It is not necessarily the case that collective bargaining addresses governance procedures directly,” he says, so much as it gives faculty members more power within their institutions than they might otherwise have.

“Across the broad spectrum of institutions of higher education, faculty unions do make a difference,” says Philo Hutcheson, who has monitored research on faculty unionization as an associate professor of educational-policy studies at Georgia State University. While unions can bring about improvements in faculty members’ pay and working conditions, he says, “they are far stronger, in general, in terms of protecting faculty members” from arbitrary management decisions.

Related Content

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Public-employee unions in Ohio are urging voters to repeal a new law limiting the rights of many state workers. The gains made through collective bargaining by public-college faculty members, however, have proved hard to measure.

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Leonardo Carrizo for The Chronicle

Lingering Threats

It is common for state lawmakers to respond to economic downturns by calling on public employees to sacrifice pay or benefits to help close state budget gaps. This year, however, lawmakers in some states have gone beyond trying to extract financial concessions from unions and mounted all-out assaults on the unions themselves. Although the battles are hardly over, unions representing public-college faculty members are on the brink of being stripped of much of their power in Ohio and Wisconsin, and continue to face threats to their existence in Florida.

In Ohio, public employees’ unions are urging voters to repeal a measure, signed into law by Gov. John R. Kasich in March, that would sharply limit the collective-bargaining rights of many state workers and specifically renders most public-college faculty members ineligible for union representation by reclassifying them as managerial employees. The campaign against the law has until late June to gather enough signatures to put a referendum to repeal it on the November ballot. If either the petition-gathering effort or the referendum fails, the new law will take effect.

Although the debate in Ohio has been highly partisan, pitting the state’s Republican governor and lawmakers against Democrats and their union allies, the  proposed reclassification came not from some conservative think tank, but from the Inter-University Council of Ohio, an association of the state’s public universities. A similar provision was recently put forward by top Democratic lawmakers in Connecticut at the behest of the Democratic governor, Dannel P. Malloy, only to be killed by a legislative committee at the urging of groups representing public colleges’ faculty members.

Faculty members and academic staff at the University of Wisconsin are denied the right to collectively bargain, under a law signed by Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican. The measure remains tied up in court, however, as a result of lawsuits alleging that a legislative committee violated the state’s open-meeting laws in passing it. The Wisconsin chapter of the American Federation of Teachers is going ahead with union elections on the system’s campuses, out of a belief—untested by any research—that such unions can be a major voice in their campuses’ affairs even without collective-bargaining rights.

A bill pending before Florida’s Legislature would revoke the certification of any public-college employee union that represents less than half of the workers eligible for membership unless those workers vote to recertify it by July 1. Union representatives have argued that the measure would stack the deck against them by affording little time for recertification votes and requiring the elections to be held during months when fewer faculty members are around.

Seeking More Say

Much of the research on the effects of such faculty unions was published in the 1970s and early 80s, and focused on the initial wave of unionization efforts made possible by states’ adoption of laws letting public employees bargain collectively. In an exhaustive research review published in the journal Higher Education in 2008, Christine M. Wickens, then a graduate student at York University, in Toronto, cautioned that the research on fledgling unions from two or three decades ago might have little application to the current era, when faculty unions are more entrenched on college campuses and, at the same time, face comparatively more opposition from political conservatives.

In summing up the research to that point, Ms. Wickens said there was little consensus on the influence of unionization on college governance, and little evidence that unionization promoted academic freedom. She found a fair amount of agreement among researchers that faculty members believe they benefit from unionization when it comes to job security, tenure, promotion procedures, and due process. The research she cited included a 1999 article, in the Journal of Labor Research, which concluded, based on an analysis of data from seven of Ohio’s public universities, that belonging to a union appeared to increase a faculty members’ chances of earning tenure and rising to full professor.

More recently, however, a study of more than 340 four-year colleges, presented last fall at the annual conference of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, concluded that unionization did not appear to give faculty members significantly more power over tenure-and-promotion decisions, despite the attention given such issues by collective-bargaining agreements.

The paper nonetheless painted a fairly positive picture of unionization’s effect on the working conditions of faculty members, finding that unionization “greatly increases faculty influence” over pay scales, the salaries of individual faculty, and the appointments of department heads and of members of institutionwide committees, and shows some signs of giving college faculty members more say over curriculum and faculty teaching loads.

Stephen R. Porter, an associate professor of research and evaluation at Iowa State University, and Clinton M. Stephens, a graduate student there, conducted the study by analyzing the results of a 2001 national survey of faculty-senate leaders and college presidents.

Salary Crunching

Efforts to measure the financial benefits that public colleges’ faculty members derive from unionization are complicated by factors that invalidate dollar-for-dollar comparisons of pay packages.

Among the chief obstacles to salary comparisons is the geographic distribution of unionized campuses, which are concentrated in states with relatively high costs of living. About half of unionized faculty members work in California or New York, and most work at colleges in the mid-Atlantic, Midwest, and West, according to data compiled by the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions.

Where public colleges in such states are found to pay faculty members more, it is hard to tease out whether their doing so stems from collective bargaining or the need to offer more so that faculty members can afford to live there. Further complicating the picture, colleges do not operate in isolation but in labor markets where they compete for talent, so the gains made by unionized faculty members at one college through collective bargaining might then be offered by colleges without unions to keep their faculty members from being lured away.

Also confounding such studies is the chicken-and-egg problem of differentiating unionization’s causes and effects. A finding that unionized faculties are paid less than nonunionized faculties, for example, might reflect that collective bargaining does little to improve wages, or it might reflect that frustration over low wages often leads to unionization.

In a paper published in April in Industrial and Labor Relations Review, four economists—David W. Hedrick and Charles S. Wassell Jr., of Central Washington University, and Steven E. Henson and John M. Krieg, of Western Washington University—describe how they fashioned a study of full-time faculty at four-year colleges that sought to account for the effects of unionization alone. They mathematically accounted for cost-of-living differences as well as other factors, such as professional background and institutional classification, that influence how much faculty members are paid, in analyzing data based on about 24,000 faculty members and 1,060 colleges collected from 1988 through 2004 as part of the National Study of Postsecondary Faculty. They concluded that the increase in wages associated with unionization was so small it was statistically insignificant.

The article, “Is There Really a Faculty Union Salary Premium?” cautions that “the weak effect that unions have on salaries does not necessarily indicate that they are ineffective advocates for their members,” because it is entirely possible that unions win other gains, such as better benefits and improved working conditions.

Ronald G. Ehrenberg, a professor of industrial and labor relations and economics at Cornell University, says he is not surprised that the faculty members covered by the study did not reap significant financial gains from collective bargaining. Most states that let faculty members at public colleges engage in collective bargaining do not give them the right to go on strike or have salaries set through arbitration, and without either tool, he says, faculty members “have limited bargaining power.”

Typically, Mr. Ehrenberg says, labor unions have won major wage gains for their members in industries that can tap into big profits—and state higher-education systems hardly fit such a bill.

Knowledge Gaps

Mr. Hedrick says he and the other authors of the paper on full-time faculty at four-year colleges are conducting similar studies looking at both two-year and four-year colleges and covering other types of faculty members, including adjuncts. They hope to publish results within a year.

Research on unionization’s effects on two-year colleges is sparse, and the research on its effect on adjunct faculty is virtually nonexistent.

Full-time faculty members at community colleges in states that allow them to collectively bargain were found to earn substantially more than community-college faculty members elsewhere in a 2006 analysis of data from more than 1,000 institutions. The study was conducted by Jose F. Maldonado, then a doctoral student at the University of North Texas, with the assistance of David E. Hardy, an associate professor of higher education at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, and Stephen G. Katsinas, a professor of higher education there.

The three researchers broke out their results, which they have presented at higher-education conferences but never published, by institution size and by whether colleges were rural, suburban, or urban. They found that the pay advantage for faculty members in collective-bargaining states ranged from 11 percent, or about $4,300, for full-time faculty members at small, rural community colleges to 48 percent, or about $20,200, for those at suburban community colleges that were not part of a system. On average, community-college faculty in states that allowed collective bargaining earned nearly $13,900, or about 32 percent, more than those who were in states that did not. Moreover, the community colleges in states that allowed collective bargaining spent an average of about $4,300, or nearly 50 percent, more per head on benefits for full-time faculty members.

The study only gathered raw numbers dealing with compensation and made no effort to account for cost-of-living differences or other factors that could have skewed its results. In a recent interview, Mr. Katsinas expressed doubt that any such factors could fully account for the pay differences that the study associates with laws allowing collective bargaining, but he acknowledged that such gaps cannot be attributed to collective-bargaining laws alone.

On the question of whether unionization has helped adjunct faculty members, Keith Hoeller, a longtime advocate for adjunct-faculty rights and a co-founder of the Washington Part-Time Faculty Association, is skeptical. Although unions that represent solely adjuncts have cropped up at many colleges, the chief national unions that they are affiliated with represent a mixture of adjuncts and tenured and tenure-track faculty members. Mr. Hoeller, who teaches in Washington State, complains that adjuncts have relatively little say in negotiations involving tenured and tenure-track faculty members, whose interests often are at odds with theirs. “When the dust settles,” he says, “there are almost no gains for adjuncts from these bargaining teams.”

Speaking From Experience

Public-college faculty members are themselves hardly in agreement on unionization’s benefits, as evidenced by the failure of some votes on unionization and the inability of faculty unions to gain much of a foothold among the nation’s most prestigious universities.

“The best and the brightest of the faculty don’t feel they need a labor union. They feel they are professionals. They feel they are competing in a national market. They don’t want to get bogged down by collective bargaining,” argues Richard K. Vedder, a Chronicle blogger who is director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and a professor of economics at Ohio University, one of three public universities in that state where faculty members never went the unionization route.

But Rudy H. Fichtenbaum, a professor of economics at Wright State University and a member of the board of the Ohio conference of the AAUP, says he is convinced that the state’s faculty unions are worth fighting for.

“We can definitely point to a lot of tangible benefits from collective bargaining,” he says. At Wright State, he argues, it has led to a fairer distribution of raises, clearer tenure requirements, faculty input on annual evaluation criteria, and better benefits for faculty members. “There is no question that this is a better place to work.”


Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Chronicle of Higher Ed, Collective Bargaining, Public education, research, Shock Doctrine

You Pay, Corporations Don’t (repost from KUXchange)

Yet another score from our friends at the KUXchange.  The CLEAR Coalition explains one reason why tax revenues in PA aren’t higher. If the link to the vid doesn’t show up in your e-mail (for those of you who get posts by subscription), just click through to the blog post itself and the video is there.

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Filed under Advocacy, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Communities, Follow the Money, Shock Doctrine, taxes, Tom Corbett, Uncategorized