MU budget plan could draw faculty to join MNEA

Monday, July 23, 2007 | 10:05 p.m. CDT; updated 2:48 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

COLUMBIA — For members of the Missouri National Education Association, MU’s new financial plan, Compete Missouri, could turn out to be one of the organization’s primary recruiting tools.

“At this point, the university is actually helping us because they don’t give faculty and staff realistic opportunities to provide input,” MNEA organizing director Steve McLuckie said. “They are making decisions from a top-down, command style.”

The MNEA is a branch of the nation’s largest professional employee organization, the National Education Association.

The MNEA is hosting a four-day seminar in Columbia this week to help local members build stronger support for collective bargaining, a method of labor negotiation in which representatives for employees and employers come together to draft agreements about working conditions, wages and other employment issues.

“Collective bargaining means that the experts in education — the faculty, the staff, the people who work with students every day — can get to the table and talk about what the priorities in education should be,” McLuckie said.

Paul K. Rainsberger, director of labor education at MU, has done extensive research and writing about collective bargaining in the United States. He said workers look to collective bargaining as a way to gain a voice in determining terms and conditions of employment.

“Whether any group of workers has the interest, power or will to engage in collective bargaining is a question that will change as the law changes,” he said.

The Missouri Constitution grants employees the right to collective bargaining, but it wasn’t until May 29 that the Missouri Supreme Court definitively extended collective bargaining rights to law enforcement officers, public school teachers and university employees.

The right to collective bargaining requires that a majority of employees in a workplace elect or decide who will be the exclusive representative of their rights. Currently, with only 18 members at MU, the MNEA is a long way from gaining the support it needs to negotiate with administrators on behalf of faculty and staff.

“The court ruling fundamentally changes our opportunities on campus and statewide,” McLuckie said. “It changes everything because now we have the legal right, if we get enough people, to come to the table and begin to bargain.”

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