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Plymouth State tenured faculty members aim to form union

Union Leader Correspondent

March 06. 2013 10:58PM

PLYMOUTH - Following the example of the adjunct facility, the entire Plymouth State University faculty has filed documents with the New Hampshire Public Employees Labor Relations Board in hopes of forming a union.

Tenure-track faculty members, aided by the State Employees' Association of New Hampshire, are hoping to become the newest bargaining unit of the SEA, the state's largest labor union.

Becoming a union requires an election process, said SEA communications manager Andrew Toland. To succeed, 30 percent of the potential union members are required to sign authorization cards in favor of unionizing.

If successful, the tenure-track faculty will be the second SEA bargaining unit at PSU. The adjunct faculty voted to form a union in late 2011.

The faculty provided the labor board with the required cards and documents and now await a decision, Toland said. The faculty members believe forming their union will provide the means to positively affect issues such as their health care benefits, job security and working conditions.

"For me, this unionization is all about making sure there is a strong faculty voice," said Cathie LeBlanc, professor and chair of the Communication and Media Studies Department at PSU.

"When we are making decisions about how the university should work, I would like the faculty to have a clear mechanism for having input."

Faculty members say they are not taking the action because of any governance or budget issues with the university's administration.

In fact, they think their already good relationships with the university administration will grow stronger. Administration officials were either unavailable or had no comment Wednesday on the faculty's plans.

"Collective bargaining of a legally binding agreement can ensure that the processes and procedures that are working for us continue to be used, even after this administration is gone," LeBlanc said.

Gary McCool, associate professor and coordinator of reference services at Lamson Library and Learning Commons, agreed.

"The formation of a faculty union can be a win, win, win for all parties - students, faculty and administration," he said. "Students win when the faculty are empowered to ensure the quality of education.

"The faculty win when there are clearly defined and legally binding policies and conditions of employment. The administration wins by gaining a stronger partner in advocacy for increased state funding, and by strengthening a shared governance system with faculty."

The PELRB will determine the number of eligible members will be in the new bargaining unit, Toland said. Those eligible members will then have the opportunity to cast a vote to join SEA in an election later this spring.

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