August 22, 2011

The end of an era for UW T.A.s.

Inside Higher Ed reports:
The Teaching Assistants’ Association at the University of Wisconsin at Madison dates to 1966. In 1970, following a four-week strike, the graduate students at Madison became the first T.A. union to win a contract. Over the years, the union -- affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers -- has been a leader in the drive to promote collective bargaining for graduate student workers.

Last week, after hours of debate, the union’s members voted not to seek state certification to continue to act as a collective bargaining agent. Union leaders said that the vote was a close one (they declined to reveal the totals), and taken with very mixed feelings by both those seeking to continue state certification and those arguing against. Those who carried the day argued that the new state law designed to limit the power of public employee unions made it impossible to operate effectively, and that the organization will be able to do more for T.A.s by not seeking to be certified as an official union.

Union leaders said that they couldn’t function well if they had to effectively be in a perpetual organizing drive for the annual union votes, and also if they had to pay annual fees to be certified. "Our membership was keenly aware of the sort of resources and energy it would take in order to hold on," said Adrienne Pagac, co-president of the union and a doctoral student in sociology at Madison....
The TAA was central to the protests that took place at the Capitol last February and March, as I summarized here. More here. A photo (by Meade) from March 1:

DSC_0391

70 comments:

NYTNewYorker said...

The jig is up, they can be more effective siphoning public monies in other ways....and they will.

One at a time, the public employee unions will all slither on to the next best "way".

Pogo said...

"Union leaders said that they couldn’t function well if they had to effectively be in a perpetual organizing drive for the annual union votes"

1) I thought perpetual organizing was all the union ever did.

2) The nail in the coffin was no longer having "union dues ...automatically deducted from the paychecks of the 2,700-2,800 graduate teaching assistants at Madison".

If in fact they "are still a collectivity of graduate student workers who have decided to come together to represent our interests", getting those dues from members should be no problem.

3) From the article: "Typically, once unions win a vote to represent a bargaining unit, they do not need to return for elections year after year -- if ever."

I don't think that's true on a federal level. In any case, how weird that one vote can make a union Permanent without ever needing another vote. Is that how union democracy looks?

Scott M said...

Is that how union democracy looks?

No, but that's how Adolf got his cushy position, isn't it?

MarkG said...

I thought unions liked having elections every year. Isn't that what the recalls were about?

Curious George said...

Wait...what was all this Solidarity Forever shit I've been hearing?

Well, this should help them in the real world when they finaaly move on and open their Women's Studies stores.

Jay said...

Good riddance.

Also, the Wisconsin Education Association Council announced it will lay off about 40% of its staff.

Lincolntf said...

I love the spin they put on it (and their refusal to release the "close" vote totals). Big Labor desperately wanted all those young people cowed into Union membership, and the young people told them to fuck off. Now they spin their defeat as a new strategy. They live in a world where truth and reality never intrude.

Curious George said...

"What if they held a collective bargaining negotiation and nobody came?"

AJ Lynch said...

The union leader is a doctoral student in sociology. But not real smart I bet.

MadisonMan said...

Wouldn't they have had to get 50% + 1 Yes votes from All TAs, not just from all voting members? That's a pretty high bar.

I wonder how many members of Congress would be elected with that kind of requirement.

Scott M said...

I wonder how many members of Congress would be elected with that kind of requirement.

That kind of echos a comment from one of the union officials I read late last week. My initial thought is that if the members of Congress jobs depended on the vote, it wouldn't be that high at all. Panic can focus one's thoughts remarkably well.

Phil 3:14 said...

Now I fully understand the phrase:
This what democracy looks like

Elections are such a bother!

-OR-

Voting IS the problem

m00tpoint said...

The union leader is a doctoral student in sociology. But not real smart I bet.

Good bet. After all, how smart is it to get a PhD in Sociology? Last I knew it was just polysyllabic BS masquerading as a serious endeavor.

m00t

Bob_R said...

When I was in Madison the TA union was famous for famous for working harder for the "professional grad students" who ran the union and screwing the grad students got their degrees in a timely manner.

juandos said...

Oh please stop with the bad news Ms. Althouse, you're going to make me cry!

ROFLMAO!

Calypso Facto said...

Wouldn't they have had to get 50% + 1 Yes votes from All TAs, not just from all voting members? That's a pretty high bar.

But the fact that they won't release the election results suggests that they couldn't even win a majority of those who DID vote. Otherwise I think they'd be loudly denouncing those "unreasonable voting requirements" in the press.

Michael Haz said...

Near the end of the article...only one in ten members are willing to pay union dues.

That's what (democracy and) a free market looks like. The services that union provided its members were not sufficient to justify the expense.

Cato Renasci said...

Ode to Joy:

Freude!

Freude, Schadenfreude blumen....

The Crack Emcee said...

My suggestion:

They should turn to religion.

Hey, sometimes it works!

Holmes said...

So what's the thought- that now, the other members of the teacher's union, the professors, will go back to terribly abusing their fellow man? Say it ain't so.

Mike K said...

One would think a Sociology doctoral student would know that the union was toast as soon as they failed to recall enough Reps.

Skookum John said...

Makes me wonder how many other noisy left-wing institutions are in fact deserted Potemkin villages built in the days of Roosevelt and LBJ, and propped up ever since by a friendly media, captive politicians, extorted funding, public indifference and ignorance, and the disorganization, reticence, and distraction of their natural enemies. Now is the time to redouble our efforts and really kick the Left hard while they're down. Imagine the country with no Davis-Bacon Act, for example, or a wall on the southern border, or an end to all affirmative action, or a national right to work law.

Curious George said...

I know this is sad for the TAA, but they at least can take comfort that they had a big part in the recalls, which was a HUGE win for the Democrats.

The Sanity Inspector said...

Well, at least all these union affairs will no longer interfere with their educations.

...what? Did I say something funny?

David said...

So the little rascals think the union is crucial, but won't volunteer to pay a few bucks a year to keep it going?

That tells me all I need to know about the sincerity of their convictions.

SteveR said...

A ridiculous and unnecessary organization. Really. Also tends, I would think, to keep students in school when they need to go out and get a real job.

Scott M said...

which was a HUGE win for the Democrats

Without securing a majority in the house they were shooting for?

Calypso Facto said...

Without securing a majority in the house they were shooting for?

Scott hasn't turned on his sarcasm detector for the week yet.

wv: redfogi. What ginger Scott will one day be.

TosaGuy said...

Even humanities majors understand this type of math:

Beer Money > Union Dues

Chip S. said...

Recount!! Chain of possession!!

Where was Kathy Nickolaus when the votes were being counted?!

Gabriel Hanna said...

My experiences with grad student unionization worked like this:

The STEM grads are there on TAs for a few years but once they figure out what they are going to do, and if they are any good at it, they get research assistantships.

Once they do, they are getting paid to do their OWN scientific research, not grading papers.

The grad students in the humanities are stuck with grading papers though.

So the STEM students dont feel the same need for a union that the humanities students do. Suppose there was a strike--the STEM students strike against THEMSELVES. And they know that the more they take out of the grant in salary, the less they can take out for other tings and the grant runs out sooner, because a grant only has so much money in it.

That's why if the grad students are unionized they have to seperate them out somehow. They don't all have the same interest.

Scott M said...

What ginger Scott will one day be.

Yet another melanist hater.

Syl said...

"(Unionization at private colleges and universities is governed by federal labor law, and the National Labor Relations Board is currently considering the issue of collective bargaining of T.A.s. The union rights of public university T.A.s are determined at the state level.)"

Sigh.

TosaGuy said...

I was a non-unionized TA at a private university -- free tuition plus a stipend (no benefits). I taught classes, created quizes, graded tests and papers and interacted with students. I was getting paid to learn the nuts and bolts of teaching at a university. I left that university with an advanced degree, some unique job skills and no student loans.

I didn't know I was supposed to feel oppressed. I guess I would have felt oppressed if I had been forced to hand my beer money to some "grad students" who had the time to run a union in addition to all the grad school work they were supposed to do.

RPD said...

"Michael Haz said...
Near the end of the article...only one in ten members are willing to pay union dues."

I bet most grad students don't plan to be grad students long enough for unionization to be worthwhile.

Webrider said...

The real lesson to learn from the failure of the unions, once the government doesn't coerce the payment of their dues, is that they can't survive. I have always maintained that if we had to pay our income taxes, FICA, Medicare tax, capital gains taxes et al at the end of the year by writing a check, our government would be the right size, and spending would not be a problem. However, once one gets used to the amount left over, and forgets the tremendous amount that is confiscated by withholding, it becomes less pressing than day to day issues.

Webrider

Harsh Pencil said...

My first academic job was as an assistant professor at Madison. I was put on some committee to evaluate the TA's for our department. The committee had on it TA's who had been around a while, a senior professor, a few department administrators, and me, a junior professor.

At some point we were discussing the second worst TA (in terms of ratings) but not the worst. I asked why were we not talking about the worst. I was told that he had passed his "probationary period" was guaranteed a TA position as long as he was a grad student. Since admins at Wisconsin are basically impossible to fire, and I just learned this was basically the same for grad students, I blurted out "Holy shit. I'm the only one in this room without tenure."

Scott M said...

I have always maintained that if we had to pay our income taxes, FICA, Medicare tax, capital gains taxes et al at the end of the year by writing a check, our government would be the right size, and spending would not be a problem.

Ditto. I've been saying this since the first year I owed taxes.

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

The newly-passed Wisconsin law on public employees unions is a success. Unions have always taken for granted that once their members are in thrall and locked into paying perpetual dues, there shall be no second thoughts about membership - despite what the members might think. But see how they now vote, under the new law! This is what Democracy looks like!

The preferred Union principle has a direct parallel in the European Union: you're going to vote again and again on this Lisbon Treaty until you get it right, then no more of this silly voting. The EU needs a counterpart of Governor Walker to unleash real democracy there.

gutless said...

What a beautiful day! First I get to chuckle about the collapse of a bogus "union" and then I learn that a key actor is a doctoral student in the laughable, intellectually barren and wholly useless field of sociology -"would you like fries with that?" All is well.

edutcher said...

They may call Walker the Giant Killer when he eventually runs for POTUS.

He will scare the Demos worse than the Tea Partiers.

richard mcenroe said...

Maybe they can get in on that sweet Pigford action...

Glenn Howes said...

I was a TA at UW when the union got their power to collect dues (on TAs that came to the university after the vote). As a Chemist, my primary view of the union was the union holding my pay and benefits hostage to keep the physical science and engineering TAs from being paid more then the humanities or social science TAs. I could have really used the extra cash.

Oh, and mandating diversity training in order to get the pay bump of experienced status.

So good riddance.

bagoh20 said...

Doesn't this remind you of a child having a tantrum over not getting something they want, just because it's there, and then throwing it down as soon they get it.

The right probably could have accomplished this quicker by insisting that the TAs have a union.

Skookum John said...

I like Webrider's call to abolish withholding and make taxes payable once a year. However, I'd make Tax Day be the day before Election Day.

John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John said...

I remember the year the state made an offer and the TAA negotiated that the T.A.s would get what the state offered, plus six hours of nominally paid sexual and racial harassment training. I say "nominally paid" because in reality it was unpaid, since there was no real reduction in other responsibilities.

The key lessons I remember are that if a student says they will "do anything" to pass the course, the proper action is not to get up and shut the office door and that it was very, very, very important for me to have a gender neutral writing standard for my calculus students. Let me emphasize the importance of the gender neutral writing standard.

Well, those and the fact that the union viewed its primary duty as negotiating to create "jobs" for right thinking union toadies who could create and run laughable classes at the expense of the actual people they were supposed to represent.

My other fond memory of the TAA was when I discovered that they notified non-union T.A.s of their right to not have money deducted from their paychecks spent for political purposes via a note buried inside the union newsletter placed in T.A. mailboxes during finals week just before Christmas. All you had to do was send a letter to their office prior to Jan. 15 of the following year. Assuming you, a non-union member, opened and read the union newsletter in the middle of finals grading or during the break afterwards and acted in time.


I deleted and reposted to correct a couple of grammar/spelling errors that were bugging me.

Triangle Man said...

What sort of opportunities for exploitation of TAs does this open up? Can we skip the 8 hours of mandatory training/instruction? Can we accept offers from students who volunteer to TA for free to get experience?

Lincolntf said...

Removing the mandatory and accepting the voluntary = exploitation?

EDH said...

"Going Galt" as it were?

Faced with some of the hurdles that confront most small businesses, they quit.

Proving once and for all these people have no sense of what it's like to operate a business.

Union leaders said that they couldn’t function well if they had to effectively be in a perpetual organizing drive for the annual union votes, and also if they had to pay annual fees to be certified. "Our membership was keenly aware of the sort of resources and energy it would take in order to hold on," said Adrienne Pagac, co-president of the union and a doctoral student in sociology at Madison....

MadisonMan said...

Oh, and mandating diversity training in order to get the pay bump of experienced status.

Getting experienced status only means you've been a student waaay too long.

In my department, being a TA meant you had been around too long -- as in the grant that supported you was out of cash. Good incentive to graduate.

Notes said...

Does anyone else see the parallel with the South's "Peculiar Institution?" Unless the government passed laws to support and protect it, slavery couldn't survive, either.

SDN said...

Oh, Unions lie like rugs. I was in Ralph's grocery at the deli counter and the two (union) employees were talking about the recent strike vote. Neither of them wanted to strike; both of them and about 20 people they had talked to voted not to strike; the union leadership is putting out press releases saying 90% favor a strike. Hmmm.

Both of them were saying they'd show up anyway.

Glenn Howes said...

At the time, an experienced TA was one with (I think) 2 semesters of experience. While it's true, I spent way too much time in graduate school most of it was on an RA, so it was hanging out at the synchrotron, instead of grading lab assignments.

I would think regardless of graduation velocity, 3 semesters of TAing wouldn't be uncommon.

Glenn Howes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pogo101 said...

Are any pro-union critics actually arguing, "Yeah, after a single certification vote is won, there shouldn't be regular/annual elections (unless a formal de-cert' vote sought and won). Yeah, that's exactly what I'm saying."

Read the comments at the source article. It's interesting how the union goons avoid this topic:

- The first comment is a detailed cry of pro-Walker triumph.

- Several later comments attack the first, but not a single one of them makes the "missing arguments" I asked about above. No one has the courage to say, "Yeah, dammit, you SHOULDN'T get regular votes to maintain the union's certification. You SHOULD be required to pay in dues money, even if you don't like the union and don't think it's worth the money."

Peter said...

From the article: "Typically, once unions win a vote to represent a bargaining unit, they do not need to return for elections year after year -- if ever."

" how weird that one vote can make a union Permanent without ever needing another vote. Is that how union democracy looks?"

I think that’s how it looks, at least for unions covered by the National Labor Relations Act. For thsse, thirty percent of those represented by the bargaining unit must sign a petition before the NLRB will consider a decertification election.

Perhaps the unions really need a Napoleon III Bill (aka “You Doan’ Get No Revote” Bill). To accompany Card Check.

buckofama said...

Gosh, what a blow to the "middle class" the Democrats are fighting to save or something.

TMink said...

I was a TA for my masters and doctorate. Never joined a union to do it though. You would think if union membership was so essential and useful people would pay their dues all by their lonesome.

Just not that essential or useful after all I guess.

Trey

SunnyJ said...

Apparently none of this is any fun unless someone else is paying for it.

What they mean is that they can't win on an even playing field, so they are taking their ball and going home.

Lance said...

@Skookum John
Imagine the country with...a national right to work law.

I've been wondering about that. Given the SCOTUS' expansive view of the Commerce Clause, why hasn't someone challenged the states' rights to enact labor law? Don't these laws have a huge aggregate effect on interstate commerce?

raf said...

Just not that essential or useful after all I guess.

I imagine it might be if you are a "career TA."

purplepenquin said...

From what I understand, there are some things...like work stoppages/slowdowns...that may be illegal for "unions" to take part in, but nothing much can be down to "associations" that do 'em.

Gonna be interesting to see how the next few months play out...

sorepaw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kev said...

I like Webrider's call to abolish withholding and make taxes payable once a year. However, I'd make Tax Day be the day before Election Day.

Skookum John, you beat me to the punch; I wholeheartedly concur.

wv: tatihi. An island paradise that's not to be confused with the Bamahas.

B said...

purplepenquin said...From what I understand, there are some things...like work stoppages/slowdowns...that may be illegal for "unions" to take part in, but nothing much can be down to "associations" that do 'em.

You are obviously implying that the TAs will do this sort of thing. What you are missing is that there will be no union buffering them from the university firing them. They would be under intense pressure to do so.

Curious George said...

"purplepenquin said...From what I understand, there are some things...like work stoppages/slowdowns...that may be illegal for "unions" to take part in, but nothing much can be down to "associations" that do 'em."

LOL

Methadras said...

The welcome mat has been lifted and the little union critters are all scattering. Tax payers are the fucking raid.

sarge said...

"purplepenquin said...From what I understand, there are some things...like work stoppages/slowdowns...that may be illegal for "unions" to take part in, but nothing much can be down to "associations" that do 'em.

"You are obviously implying that the TAs will do this sort of thing. What you are missing is that there will be no union buffering them from the university firing them. They would be under intense pressure to do so."

sarge here most of them public unions is not reserting cuz then they can negotiate for whatever they need beyond cost of livin wage increases to an the agencies for which these employees work will have to sit down wiv em evn if not required to by law

sarge said...

Methadras said...
The welcome mat has been lifted and the little union critters are all scattering. Tax payers are the fucking raid.

8/22/11 11:54 PM

harhar sarge is been gone some weeks to thar jungles of chiapas now returned sarge sees meth head is no less a ignerant moran