As part of our initiative called Curious Cornhuskers, an anonymous reader asked The Daily Nebraskan, ”Are there university faculty and staff unions?”
Kevin Hanrahan, associate professor for the Glenn Korff School of Music and former Faculty Senate president, answered the question with a no.
Unions are an organization of workers who come together to work on working conditions, salaries and anything else that affects them, according to Hanrahan.
In order to create a union, staff or faculty would have to organize themselves and take a vote, according to Julia Schleck, associate professor of English. If over half voted to unionize, then they would have a union.
According to Hanrahan, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has never had and still does not have faculty and staff unions. However, the University of Nebraska at Kearney and the University of Nebraska at Omaha do.
UNK and UNO have been unionized since the 1980s, according to Schleck.
UNL faculty previously tried unionizing in the 1970s, but the vote failed. Ever since then, there have been no movements to try voting again, according to Hanrahan.
“There have been some union organizers visiting campus, so it is quite possible that there are movements to finally unionize,” Hanrahan said.
Schleck said in an email forming a union can take time and a lot of work.
“A group of staff or faculty has to talk to everyone and get a sense of whether enough people would like to come together as a union to work on improving their working conditions collectively or continue trying to do that as individuals,” Schleck said. “Talking to everyone is pretty easy if there aren’t too many people in the group, but in UNL’s case, we have large numbers of staff and faculty, so it would take a while to hold all those conversations and make sure everyone has a chance to express their opinion.”
Schleck said that UNL has almost an entirely new faculty since the last time faculty tried to unionize. She said she thinks that it is not clear if all of the faculty would vote in the same way, and if there was a vote held now, faculty might choose to unionize.
Even though UNL does not have a union for its faculty, there is still some support for them, according to Hanrahan. The university has a Faculty Senate, which helps take care of policies, but staff does not have anything similar to a union.