With all of the RTW stuff being posted in the past few days I wanted to share my personal story (and some of my friends) about dealing with the Michigan unions. I don't really care if this is a day late and a buck short I'm gonna post it any way. My story:
So a little bit of my personal background and University of Michigan background. I graduated from Rose-Hulman in 2010 and decided to go to grad school at University of Michigan the following fall to get my MEng degree. Now Michigan is divided into about 5 campus: North Campus (Engineering and Architecture), Central Campus (Liberal Studies and the Arts), South Campus (Sports), Medical Campus and East Medical Campus. The biggest divide is terms of thought and procedure is between Engineering and Central Campus. You see on North Campus we mainly have Graduate Student Research Assistants (GSRAs) who help out in the labs to do research. On Central Campus you mainly have Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs). The GSIs are unionized and the GSRAs are not.
In the Winter Semester of 2011, I was able to get a GSI position teaching an intro physics lab. As I started to sign all the paperwork I noticed that I had to pay at least 1.5% - 2% of my salary to a union (1.5% being the non-representative fee and the 2% being the representative fee). I also got free health insurance (thanks to the union) despite the fact that I had free health care by just going to Health Services on campus. At the time I didn't really care because the biggest thing was I got free tuition for teaching. GSRAs can get this once they pass their qualification exams usually.
Notice that I said at the time, because during my second semester teaching (this time in the Astronomy department) the GSIs decided they wanted more bargaining power. They said that the GSRAs should unionize. Why do you ask? Look at this poor girl who was fired from her research position because she wasn't doing her work (they didn't say the last part obviously). We can't have people being forced to pay their way through school because they don't want to work. What were the benefits? You couldn't negotiate your salary without a union rep there to moderate. You also couldn't be let go for being lazy. Blah blah blah.
Here is where I started getting pissed off. 1st off all of these liberal studies kids knew nothing of how the engineering side of things work and the at contracts can fall through. Teachers can't afford to pay whatever if they don't have grants. To top it off, the 1.5% of my salary was now going to pay union lackies to come by to the GSRA offices and try to talk them into voting themselves into a union. The vote came and the GSRAs were not unionized.
The GSIs were ticked about this, so they ended up taking the GSRAs to court saying they had to be part of their union. The GSRAs were able to get a pro bono lawyer and won the case due to the fact that in the 1950s (I think) the Michigan legislature said the GSRAs didn't have to. Lucky for the GSIs this bill was coming up for renewal.
I have never seen such a concentrated effort to screw people over. They were campaigning all over the place to call representatives and were going to bus people over to the state capital to protest this bill. They wanted these GSRAs, not to protect them but just so they had more bargaining power.
The Michigan Legislature thankfully passed the bill and the GSRAs still aren't unionized. I was happy about this since I was forced to pay the fight I didn't agree with. Other Stories:
This one is my personal favorite. When I first got to Michigan I needed my computer keyboard fixed. I called up Dell and they sent the tech over to fix it. We got to talking and he started bitching about this one union he had to deal with. He had just finished fixing their servers and was going to plug it back in:
Company Rep (CR): Wait you can't do that!
Computer Guy (CG): What? I'm just plugging it in.
CR: Yeah, but that's a union job.
CG: Whatever, go grab somebody.
CR: I can't.
CG: Why not?
CR: It's 11:45. It's 15 minutes before their lunch break so no one will work.
CG: How long is their lunch break?
CR: It's an hour long.
CG: So you want me to wait an hour and fifteen minutes to plug this in?
CG: I'm not doing that.
The company rep then stuck his head out into the hallway and looked around. Came back in
CR: Go ahead and plug it in.
This next one happened to two of my friends who shared an office with two other people. They all worked for the same professor doing some "water on Mars" research. They had a little bit of money left over in their budget and decided to redecorate the office. They started by getting some new furniture and then were going to paint and change the carpet.
The furniture came in just fine and they went to painting their office. Right about the time they finished, the building secretary came in in tears. You see, painting was a union job and they could have just screwed the entire department. So despite having already purchased carpet to install themselves, they now had to buy carpet through the union approved vendor and have the union install it all for roughly 3x-4x as much as they were going to spend doing it themselves. The carpet they ended up choosing was crappier and more expensive then the one they already had, but it was the cheapest offered by the preferred vendor. They then set up an appointment with the union to come and change it. This was in the spring of 2011. Last I heard (this past summer), the carpet is still sitting there waiting to be installed.
Anyway, I know this was long but I really wanted to post it.
if you read it.
TLDR: Unions suck.