|Patrick Dennis / The Advocate|
The LSU Faculty Senate on Thursday voted in favor of supporting the faculty’s organized labor union, called “LSUnited.”
The faculty group easily approved the resolution — with only a few dissenting votes — after the language was weakened somewhat to urge the faculty to “support” the union, rather than the original language that pushed them to “join” LSUnited.
The faculty union, which is a partnership with the Louisiana Association of Educators, formed last year amid LSU budget cuts and academic program terminations. The LAE is a Baton Rouge-based union representing, its website says, about 20,000 public school teachers, counselors, psychologists, librarians, and other non-supervisory professionals.
But only about 100 of LSU’s roughly 1,200 faculty members have joined thus far.
“The small group we have now can’t get it all done,” resolution sponsor and English professor Patrick McGee said. “The first step is to organize, to put our names down and to work together.”
LSUnited spokesman and LSU libraries instruction coordinator Michael Russo said the union is needed for the faculty to take a stand against the “offensively paternalistic attitude” of the university administration.
“The bottom line of this resolution is to give the faculty a voice in issues that affect the working environment,” Russo said.
But LSU physics professor George Stanley was among those who spoke in opposition, arguing that the Faculty Senate already represents them.
“We have the faculty organization already on campus,” Stanley said. “I don’t see the union doing anything the Faculty Senate can’t do when we put our minds to it.”
LSU biological sciences professor William Stickle was more adamant against unions, arguing that they punish those who outperform their colleagues.
“What you’re doing is protecting those people who don’t contribute,” Stickle said.
Russo said LSUnited can go beyond the Faculty Senate by lobbying the governor, the Legislature and much more.
LSU Chancellor Michael Martin did not attend to participate in Thursday’s debate, nor did any other top LSU officials.
As an example of administrative opposition, Russo said they had a “cordial” meeting with Martin and other administrators about unionizing.
But then LSU refused their request to collect union dues through automatic payroll deductions, Russo said, calling it a simple request for something that is standard practice.
“This is clearly a petty tactic the administration is using to frustrate and possibly kill the union,” Russo said. “It’s not going to happen.”
LSUnited formed last year as the result of an exploratory study by the Faculty Senate’s executive committee.
Faculty Senate President Kevin Cope said there are “adversarial forces at play” in Louisiana and nationally to weaken faculty rights and professor tenure.
“Take a step toward social justice,” McGee urged.
“This is a good time to send a message that we are going to organize,” McGee said.