Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What do professors in "business" and "management" think about unions?

The faculty at most Canadian universities are unionized. Faculty unions are important for negotiating fair salaries and benefits but they play a much more important role in defending academic freedom and protecting faculty from administrators who don't understand what a university should be about. I served for many years on the Grievance Committee and I can assure you that conflict between faculty members and administrators is common. In 99% of cases, the issues are resolved by negotiations between the union and the administration.

We don't have a union at the University of Toronto. Instead, we have an "Association" that functions a lot like a union without the right to strike. Right now the University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA)is negotiating with the university to set up ways for faculty to play a more direct role in governance issues. Those negotiations have nothing to do with certification (unionization).

I suppose there's another option. University faculty members could abandon collective bargaining and rely entirely on the goodwill of administrators, much like the situation in the business world where you can be fired if the boss doesn't like you. I suppose it's possible that academic freedom could be protected entirely by the administration and individual faculty members could fend for themselves if administrators ever abused their authority.

That's apparently what some professors in the Rotman School of Management want. They wrote letters to the President of the University protesting an imaginary move toward certification. I assume they misunderstood what the University of Toronto Faculty Association was doing because they don't read the newsletters that all us received.

Here's one of the letters from Roger Martin, Premier’s Chair in Competitiveness and Productivity in the Rotman School of Management. It illustrates quite nicely why schools of management and business don't belong on university campuses.
Dear President Gertler:

I am writing to express in the strongest possible terms how outraged I am by UTFA’s decision to attempt certification. UTFA does not represent anything related to me, nor, I suspect, does it represent the faculty of the Rotman School.

The notion of unionization of employees who make six figure salaries and have job security and protection of the sort enjoyed by professors is ridiculous on its face. It is really an insult to all real laborers who fought for the right to unionize and collectively bargain. Those workers coped with subsistence wages, unsafe and inhumane work environments, and absolutely zero job security. They didn’t have intellectually rewarding jobs in completely safe environments with lifetime job security. Collective bargaining was put in place to protect basic human rights, not to enable highly paid employees to argue for richer dental plans.

It is simply outrageous that that the ideologues who purport to represent us even raise the notion. They should be embarrassed. Sure they can say that it happens at other Universities in Canada. But when ever was that robust logic for doing something incredibly stupid and destructive?

We simply can’t let University of Toronto be ruled and ruined by ideologues. This is a fight for the future of a great institution. UTFA, when not run by ideologues, works perfectly well and creates a positive dialogue with university administration and a pleasant work environment for the faculty.

My fond hope is that this gambit is defeated by the weight of faculty members across the University. Failing that, I believe that my colleagues at the Rotman School will disassociate themselves from the bargaining unit and refuse to be represented by a completely foreign force. But in the end, if that can’t happen, it will be a sad day for me. I can’t insult every brave union activist in history who fought for human rights for workers by accepting becoming a member of one of the cushiest unions on the planet. That is not the way to live a principled life.

Sincerely,

Roger Martin

Premier’s Chair in Competitiveness and Productivity

Rotman School of Management
University of Toronto
In case some of you aren't familiar with unions, let me explain what would have to happen if UTFA ever wanted to certify. There would have to be a vote and a majority of faculty members would have to vote in favor of forming a union. That vote would be called by a group of faculty members and there's absolutely nothing that the President of the University of Toronto could do to stop it. It falls under labor laws of the province.

The current President knows this and I'm certain that he would have no objection to a certification drive if there ever was one. Apparently there are several professors in the Rotman School of Management who think that the President of the University could put a stop to certification. They must think the President functions like the CEO of a big corporation. (But even a corporate boss couldn't stop certification, so I don't know what they were thinking. Maybe they don't think.)

The one good thing about the letter from Roger Martin is the suggestion that the faculty at the Rotman School of Management might want to dissociate themselves from the university if the faculty ever forms a union. That might be a good reason for certification. If we play our cards right, the entire school of management might leave the university.


23 comments :

  1. ...why would anyone go to a school to learn "business" or "management" if the professors demonstrate that they don’t understand labor law or contracts, and refuse to read the materials from their professional organization? Not that I'm exactly a candidate for an MBA — “business education” has always basically been remedial classes for people who slept through high school and then suddenly realized they wanted credentials — but it looks like we can collectively write off Rotman as being a joke even within that field.

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  2. Roger Martin should make his letter available to the Rotman professors who teach business communication courses. Martin's self-righteous letter is a perfect example ineffective business communication.

    BTW: Who makes up these silly titles "Chair in Competitiveness and Productivity"?

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  3. It is really an insult to all real laborers who fought for the right to unionize and collectively bargain.

    And this guy would be concerned about the past and present plight of the "real laborers" in this country? It would seem unlikely.

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    1. His school is probably specializing in explaining why maximizing profits is the only valid objective, that every other consideration shortchanges the shareholders. And how fortunately there are some good ways of dealing with unions -- such as moving production to China and replacing full-time employees with part-timers supplied by contractors, as well as recruiting lots of summer interns who work for free.

      I was (pleasantly) surprised at Larry's statements about how absolute the right of employees to unionize was in Canada. Down here it is under major attack, all the time, with major setbacks to the right to organize and bargain of unions of public employees.

      Of course, being descended from parents (and one grandparent) who were in unions, and as former Secretary of an attempted union of our faculty members (decades ago) I'm probably biased.

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    2. Joe,

      I'm sorry for interfering.. but my response reg. the testing of human vs chip genome just disappeared... I'm going to try again, as you know... I wanna get to the truth the host of this bloc doesn't for some reason,,,,

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    3. His school is probably specializing in explaining why maximizing profits is the only valid objective, that every other consideration shortchanges the shareholders.

      Yes. And everybody knows about fiscal responsibility and solvancy but I wonder if adminstrations would learn from failure and try an alternative to:

      Cut costs, which inevitably leads to loss of quality, leading to loss of revenue, which leads to further cuts, which leads to further loss of quality, which leads to loss of revenue, which leads to....

      The sense of a death spiral is palpable. How about active investment for a change.
      I understand why politicians adopt this destructive paradigm -they fear for their political skin every election cycle. University admistrators, however, do not suffer this same situation.

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    4. There are countries, many of them, that so persistently underfund their higher education that it becomes very hard for anyone to train to do first rate science without leaving for somewhere else. I don't think that I should feel too superior to them, since many U.S,. states have the same attitude.

      The payoff for first-rate science is not immediate, so legislatures and parliaments are very tempted to not fund it.

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    5. @Quest: will await with eagerness your answer to the question I posed you.

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    6. @Quest: I have no knowledge of anyone moving comments of yours. I very much doubt that anyone other than Larry can do such a thing. You'll have to ask him, providing evidence as to why you think they have been moved.

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    7. @Joe

      I'm deleting all of Quest's posts that contain inappropriate swear words and all those that make unwarranted accusations about the personal affairs of people who comment here (or me).

      That doesn't leave very much.

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    8. @Larry: Thanks for clearing that up. Since "Quest" can answer the question I posed without any bad language or personal accusations, I guess that does not at all stop him from answering my question.

      Also "Quest"'s accusations against John Harshman are seen to be ... bizarre.

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    9. Quest and JoeG manage to pollute every thread with nonsense and immature profanity.

      Delete
    10. Re Larry Moran

      I'm deleting all of Quest's posts that contain inappropriate swear words and all those that make unwarranted accusations about the personal affairs of people who comment here (or me).

      Long overdue. There is no necessity for Prof. Moran to put up with personal insults directed at him on his own blog.

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    11. He thought you were moving his comments. Larry has since deleted that comment of his. As far as I know you don't have any ability to administer anything here, and I don't either.

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  4. Right now the University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA)is negotiating with the university to set up ways for faculty to play a more direct role in governance issues.

    A good thing. Because we are unionized here, we just had a strike (the first in the 200+ year history of the university) that centered largely around comparitive compensation and loss of faculty positions. But one thing that strike disclosed is the broad concern and dissatisifaction amongst the membership with our university being turned into a business that calls students "bums in seats" and marginalizes quality of teaching and a commitment to supporting research.
    It has sparked the creation of a (so far) informal "association" that is orchestrating an interest in, and a demand to be involved in, governance issues. Taking back the university, so to speak, in a responsible way.

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    1. I should clarify that we didn't strike because we are unionized, but rather we were able to do so because we are unionized. The union has existed for 34 years, with this the first strike in it's history.

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  5. Good - so it is not just the business/management profs at my university who are tools...
    A few years back, our provost left unexpectedly and the dean of the business school was made interim provost. He immediately went on a bean-counting crusade, and was on the verge of closing the math department - the MATH department! - because it had so few majors and thus a low expense to revenue ratio (of interest, the two programs with the absolute worst expense to revenue ratios at the time, computer engineering and - yup - business, were not considered for the chopping block...). I guess the fact that EVERY student entering our university has to take at least 2 math classes didn't enter into his calculations.

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    1. I guess the fact that EVERY student entering our university has to take at least 2 math classes didn't enter into his calculations.

      Not to mention that everybody majoring in physics, chemistry, or engineering has to take at least 2 years of math courses.

      As for business schools, it says very little for Harvard's school of business that Mitt Romney and George W. Bush were graduates or that Bibi Netanyahu was a graduate of the Sloan School of Management at MIT.

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    2. Departments like Mathematics or Statistics do immense amounts of "service teaching". At our University they introduced a new Activity-Based-Budgeting system that gave credit only for teaching the department's own majors. I think they have backed off on this now, but for a while it looked as if departments like Math or Stat would suffer greatly. That would have created an incentive *not* to teach those service courses.

      In a report my department wrote to the administration once, we compared ourselves to the Math department and proudly pointed out that we had many more grad students per faculty member. Which was incredibly unfair to the Math department, which has few grad students because no one hires mathematicians. And which of course does tons of service teaching, which was left out of the comparison.

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    3. Re Joe Felsenstein

      I can't speak for other universities but when I was an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, the math department there offered a number of courses for non math majors at the junior/senior level.

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  6. That depends on each and every university's community & compatibility because we have different kinds of concerns and issues. It also has different kinds of solutions. Therefore, these business advisers/professors depend on it. Other businesses in Australia for example such as this company www.easyabnregistration.com.au where their services was subsidized from their government I suppose, it can help its government including every public business sectors hasten their processing. These businesses all have different views and ideas towards their unions. If its union's goal has a good and positive outcome, then it can really help any business that they belong to. In contrary, the same effects goes to absorbing such business concerns.

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