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Questions and answers about shared governance at the UW


How does faculty governance affect me?

The UW’s governance structure is designed to ensure meaningful participation by faculty in the day-to-day operations and long-term planning of the University’s priorities and policies. Through close collaboration, the faculty and administration strive to meet the needs of our faculty, students, and community to achieve our shared goals of excellence in all we do.

How well is our system of joint leadership performing?

Thanks to the committed involvement of faculty and administration, the UW’s system of joint leadership is performing well. Together we have made important progress and engage in meaningful dialogue. Here are a few examples:

Increasing compensation: Faculty compensation is a top priority. Since the Great Recession and the state government-imposed salary freeze, we have invested in merit salary increases that include a 4 percent average increase in September 2013, 4 percent average increase in July 2014, a 3 percent average increase in September 2015, and a 4 percent average increase in September 2016. We have also made the opportunity for unit adjustments available in March 2014, October 2014, October 2015, January 2016, and October 2016.

Award-winning promotion process: We are being recognized for our open and transparent promotion process.  As a result of work together, in 2014, 2015, and 2016 the UW was recognized as a “Great College to Work For” by the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Points of recognition have included tenure clarity and process, teaching environment, compensation and benefits, and collaborative governance.

Improving job security: Together we are working to improve career opportunities and job security for our lecturers. Guidelines that promote the recruitment full-time lecturers to appointments that support promotion and multiple year appointments were adopted in 2013. The guidelines were updated in 2016 to address the appointment of part-time lecturers.

Grant for retirement support: Together we won a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for a voluntary retirement incentive (VRI) program, which the foundation recognized as a best practice in supporting faculty during the transition to retirement. This program stemmed directly from repeated discussions with UW faculty about their concerns with health care expenses in retirement.

Can all faculty members participate in this system of shared governance?

Yes. University faculty councils are made up of voting members of the faculty from across the university. Faculty members elect representatives to serve on the Faculty Senate and elected faculty councils. Collaboration between these faculty members and the administration is essential to recognizing, addressing and promoting differing circumstances and needs among all faculty. While not all faculty members are eligible to vote, all faculty members can and do contribute to important UW dialogues.  The voices of our non-voting faculty members help ensure informed decision making.

How would a union impact our system of shared governance?

Union representation would fundamentally alter the relationship between the UW administration and faculty, creating a dynamic not unlike that of a manufacturing company. The administration would be treated as “management” and faculty as “employees.”

Putting a finer point on it, Local 925 wants to become the UW faculty’s exclusive representative on matters involving wages, benefits, tenure and other terms and conditions of employment. Collective bargaining would replace a variety of trusted collaborations achieved through UW’s governance system that allow for, and encourage, multiple voices and perspectives. Instead, the union would act as the sole voice for all faculty on all matters relating to pay, benefits, and working conditions.

Even if the union were to seek input from a range of faculty members, the diversity of opinion would be synthesized into a single union position. Supervisors could no longer directly address faculty employment issues and the Faculty Senate and its extensive branches – councils and committees – would see a diminished role at the University.  The Senate would lose its authority to deal with any issues about salary, workload, and other terms and conditions of employment, since the union would legally become the exclusive representative of faculty on such matters. 

This arrangement neither reflects the management structure of a world-class university nor serves the needs of its creative and independent faculty.

Would a faculty union allow faculty to more easily address workplace issues with the administration – such as health and retirement benefits?

No. If represented by SEIU, faculty members would have to take up their concerns with the union, eroding collaborative decision-making about workplace matters between faculty and the administration, supervisors, and faculty councils and committees. A union would require faculty and the administration to adopt a management-employee relationship for negotiation purposes – a step back from the current cooperative and multi-pronged approach embraced by the UW.

Will a union improve my current wages, hours and working conditions?

These issues would be subject to bargaining. During an organizing campaign, any promises or even speculation by the UW about wages or other such issues would constitute a violation of labor laws and could be construed as an “unfair labor practice.”  Please note that the law does not prohibit a union from making promises, since a union cannot fulfill its promises unless it also achieves agreement with the employer. 

The union promises it will give the UW more of a voice in Olympia. Is this true?

No. A faculty union would diminish the faculty’s voice in Olympia. Coming out of the Great Recession, our faculty, administration and students have united to advocate together for the UW. Our efforts have produced steady reinvestment in the University, and we remain committed to working together to make more progress.

We encourage all faculty members to speak up and engage in the governance process. If the UW and the union are engaged in a contentious negotiation, it is unlikely we will be able to speak with a single, united voice in Olympia. We are greatly concerned that dissonance in Olympia will diminish our ability to make the best possible case on behalf of the UW among legislators.