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Health Center faculty votes
not to form union
July 19, 1999

By a vote of 250 to 169, faculty members at the Health Center last month said no to unionization. With 419 ballots cast, nearly 87 percent of the 485 faculty members eligible to vote turned out for the two-day election.

"We are gratified the faculty rejected the unionization effort," said James Walter, associate vice chancellor for communications at the Health Center, who was involved in the administration's effort to prevent unionization. "We're especially pleased the outcome represents the collective decision of so many faculty," he said.

"It's not the outcome we hoped for," said Donald Kreutzer, a professor of pathology and one of the proponents of the faculty's effort to gain representation by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). "We gained one of our goals: the right to unionize," he said. "We can have another election in a year and that gives us time to educate the faculty."

The State Labor Board affirmed the faculty's right to unionize last month. The administration had argued in the hearings before the board that faculty members were managers and so were not eligible to form a union and engage in collective bargaining.

Faculty unionization efforts began in 1996 when a majority signed union authorization cards with the American Association of University Professors. The AAUP, which represents faculty at the Storrs and regional campuses, filed a petition with the State Labor Board, but withdrew after months of hearings. The faculty then turned to AFSCME, one of the largest labor organizations in the country, which represents primarily state and municipal employees.

Unionization was opposed by Peter Deckers, dean of the medical school. "To adjust, academic health centers must change and change rapidly," he said in a message to faculty before the vote. "I believe if we are restrained from change by another layer of process or bureaucracy (any union), we will forever lack the flexibility needed."

Kristina Goodnough