Unions and the Future of Proprietary Schools

I was happy to hear that the National Labor Relations Board is proposing new rules that would make it easier to conduct union elections at private colleges (“NLRB Proposes Speeding Up Unionization Votes at Private Colleges”). I expect that there will be the usual howl of disapproval from the usual sources: those libertarian business types who believe any restrictions on their ability to conduct business is harmful. It’s an outdated, dysfunctional idea.

I’ve said before that unless the proprietary education embraces strong certification processes and reasonable regulations, we’ll never mature into a legitimate sector of the higher education market. These certifications and regulation are far from archaic; they are the institutional structures that underwrite the legitimacy of what we do. We cannot compete in the educational system until we accept the necessity of rules. You can’t play baseball without baselines and umpires.

The fight over unionization is sure to be protracted and it’s utterly unnecessary. The proprietary schools ought to take a leadership role in promoting unions and in creating a culture that emphasizes workplace democratic institutions. We won’t be able to compete for the best teachers unless we have the best working conditions. We rely on public funding and that is not going to change; public money mean public responsibility. We cannot afford to repeat the corporate past.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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