We’re writing today with information about how the latest Supreme Court Decision, Janus v. AFSCME, impacts you, and to remind you why membership in the UFA continues to be important.

Overview of the Janus Case

At the heart of the Janus case are “fair share” fees, fees that unionized public sector workers must, by law, pay if they choose not to be union members. Unions are legally required to represent and negotiate on behalf of all employees in represented workplaces; these fees have ensured that they have the resources necessary to do so. That is, until five justices on the Supreme Court changed four decades of law.

Prior to the Janus decision, employees who chose not to be union members paid fees equivalent to roughly 80% of union dues. Now they are required to pay nothing, but are still legally entitled to union representation.

How will Janus impact unions? How will it impact the UFA?

Some UFA members have been asking whether the Janus decision will destroy unions and/or the UFA.

The answer is definitely not. If people decide to opt out, Janus will certainly make it more difficult for unions, including UFA, to negotiate wages, benefits, and the kind of working conditions that set standards for everyone.

The UFA will continue to bargain for all eligible faculty at UM, but our effectiveness depends on our strength and our strength comes from how many members we have, and how involved our members are.

Benefits of membership in UFA

Membership in UFA provides a wide range of group and individual benefits for eligible UM faculty.

First, we have a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The CBA ensures our right to representation and establishes procedures for promotion, tenure, and merit raises. In the past year we used the CBA to negotiate a new contract that includes pay raises and merit raises, including merit awards for lecturers. The CBA made it possible for the UFA to fend off an attempt by OCHE to weaken tenure protections (re-read UFA member communication on April 26, 2018 here: https://montanafaculty.org/ufa-board-votes-to-send-new-contract-for-ratification). The CBA also establishes procedures for grievances, appeals, and enforces a clear process for reductions, when applicable. We used these processes numerous times in the past year, for example when responding to administration’s efforts to fire lecturers.

Several membership benefits are provided by MFPE (formerly MEA-MFT), our state affiliate organization. Every UFA member has access to MFPE’s $1 million professional liability insurance fund, in the case of criminal charges or civil lawsuits. MFPE provides the UFA with legal and strategic advice in our dealings with administration and OCHE. For example, MFPE assisted us in filing a grievance and assisted us in preparing an unfair labor practice claim when the administration tried to fire lecturers this past year. Finally, MFPE works to impact state, regional, and national policy, much of which affects education, and higher education in particular. UFA members have a strong voice in how MFPE approaches these policies and legislation.

UFA continues to ensure that faculty have a real voice on campus. The working environment and conditions at UM are better than they would be without a union. You don’t have to imagine what public higher education would look like without collective bargaining; Wisconsin and Indiana provide cautionary examples (https://www.chronicle.com/article/Plan-to-Phase-Out-2-Dozen/241643).

After the Janus decision, we fully expect UFA members will receive mailings from anti-union groups interested in diminishing collective bargaining in higher education and beyond. Groups funded by the Koch brothers and others who oppose academic freedom and collective bargaining hope to use Janus as a means to weaken or eliminate unions. Please let us know if you receive one of those mailings or if you have questions about the claims those mailings or calls make. We are committed to countering false claims and providing a complete and accurate picture of how the UFA works on your behalf.

A great deal is at stake with the Janus decision, including faculty’s ability to have a voice at UM, the protection of rights ensconced in the CBA, and defense from administrative whims. The union is only as strong as our membership. Let the UFA board know what you think our priorities should be in the coming year. And let us know if you want to get more involved in the UFA in the coming year. We look forward to working with you!