Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The War on Conservative Teachers

by Al Katman

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is having considerable success in its drive to organize American college and university faculty members. Often the Union is able to gain a toehold at a university by organizing a portion of the faculty. The Union will hold multiple elections, and after each vote it loses winnow out those segments of the faculty who voted against having to join a union, until it comes up with a subset of the faculty who vote to turn the university into a Union Shop.

At the George Washington University, part-time faculty members were attracted by the promise of increased compensation and work rules that limited the University’s ability to terminate them for poor performance. The SEIU, by excluding all others employed by the University, was able to win a certification election that made the Union the sole and exclusive collective bargaining representative of George Washington’s part-time faculty.

The contract that the University signed with the SEIU requires that all part-time faculty members must either voluntarily join the Union or, as a condition of continued employment, pay to the Union each month an agency fee (a service charge as a contribution toward the cost of administering the contract and for representation by the Union). The agency fee is set by the Union, and the current fee for George Washington University faculty is 79% of the monthly Union dues.

There are some exceptions to the requirement to pay the Union an agency fee. Judges, diplomats, presidential appointees, and employees of the IMF are not required to join the Union or pay the SEIU an agency fee. However, the only hope a part-time faculty member who is a Conservative has of avoiding the requirement to pay the agency fee is to qualify under the conflict of interest exemption. But for all practical purposes that is a forlorn hope since the exemption is very narrowly drawn.

Only “faculty members who affirm, through a written statement, that they or their firm provide representation to clients in their relationship with the Service Employees International Union, or its affiliated bodies, and that financial support of the Union will have a material adverse impact on that client relationship, because of an actual, potential, or perceived conflict of interest” are exempted from the requirement to pay the Union agency fees.

As a practical matter, a Conservative faculty member has to either stop teaching or pay money to support a radical left wing organization. Some may pay the agency fees; most will not, but either way either way the SEIU wins. Even sadder is the reality that distinguished Conservatives even if they were available to teach a course at George Washington would be unwilling to do so because of the requirement to pay the SEIU an agency fee.

As the SEIU continues to rack up organizing successes, the opportunities will disappear for someone like Newt Gingrich to teach a course in American History or David Horowitz to teach a seminar on freedom of the press. Conservative voices, already in short supply, will no longer be heard on American campuses. If the SEIU is successful in driving Conservative faculty members out of our colleges and universities, our institutions of higher learning will increasingly become little more than indoctrination centers for liberal ideologies. Freedom of thought and expression, already under attack, will vanish, and what was once the finest system of higher education in the world will, thanks to the SEIU, continue to decline.

Al Katman

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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