Are Union Seniority Rules Defensible?

:: Politics

By: John Clements

I’m sympathetic to Teachers’ unions. In fact, I’m in the Teachers’ union. More specifically, I’m a tenure-track associate professor at Cal Poly, and a member of the California Faculty Association.

Many of the faculty union’s actions I find commendable. In particular, I’m thankful that the union supports faculty wages1, and tries to ensure the continued presence of full-time faculty.

However, I find the union’s seniority rules pretty much indefensible. In particular, article 38.16 of the contract (Collective Bargaining Agreement) negotiated by the CFA with the California State University system (or CSU) stipulates (IANAL) that “The President shall establish the order of layoff for tenured faculty unit employees in a unit of layoff by reverse order of seniority.”

Why would this be the case? Is the administration presumed to be so incapable of estimating worth that this decision needs to be taken out of their hands completely? It appears to me that the current goal of the union is to demonize every aspect of the CSU administration’s activity. The level of the CFA rhetoric in its published materials is incredibly low; to take just one example, the idea of paying more money to certain employees based on their performance is described by the CFA as “Pucker Pay.” Please.

Now’s where I should launch into a detailed analysis of the history of labor laws and the role played by seniority layoffs… but I don’t have that background, or that time. If I could build a model using Redex and publish it in POPL, I’d be all over it. Instead, it will just be my opinion.

Here’s another part of my opinion: civil discourse is the basis for forward progress in our government.

I guess I can say this: I voted for Marshall Tuck.

1 though probably not mine, actually