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The Mass Media

3-4-24 PDF
March 4, 2024
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February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Why I Left The Union

While I have never been anti-union, I have always resented that I have been forced to be in a union over the years I have worked at UMB. The ability for a union to force me to pay for something I did not want felt like a major violation of my constitutionally guaranteed freedom of association. So when the Janus decision came down, I was happy to finally have the choice to be responsible for my own path.
The unions here at UMB are particularly unable to represent staff well. Their tactics are ridiculous, stale, and ineffective. The wrong issues are almost exclusively focused on at the expense of issues that are much more detrimental in the long term to the very existence of unions. Allow me to explain:
From a tactic perspective, everyone knows that at nearly every major event on campus, there will be a group of Union members protesting something. University administration has a playbook for this and they are very effective at implementing it. Union presence at key events is planned for, and administrators know how to give the appropriate lip service to any protest. Then, the protest ends, the event goes on, and nothing changes. The problem with overusing a tactic is that it loses effectiveness. People become accustomed to allowing a protest to occur and it begins to melt into the background. I’ve been at events when members of the Union—including myself, when I was a (forced) member—were embarrassed by how ridiculous and unsophisticated such tactics are, and how easily they are defeated.
I have also seen the Union react to issues without properly researching them or understanding them. Last year, for example, a member of the Union got fired; and without having any facts the Union went on with the attack, publicly accused the supervisor of the fired staff member of being racist, and spread misinformation about the issue all over campus. Here’s the kicker: the supervisor of the fired staff member was also a member of the same Union. That’s right— without bothering to learn any facts, the Union went on offense, and in the process, publicly shamed one of their own members, who eventually left UMB, in part because of this. If I am going to pay an organization to represent me, I want, no, I DEMAND better.
There is probably a reason the University hasn’t settled the parking issue. The Unions have been spending so much time and resources on the cost of parking at the expense of focusing on other, more existential threats. This allows administrators to work on other issues that are likely more controversial without having to deal with the Unions. While more than doubling the cost parking is troubling, to a member of the general public, even the new, higher parking rates are CHEAP for Boston. This is not an issue that is going to gain traction with a broader audience, and the messaging tactics the Union is using actually make their members look greedy and ridiculous to the general, tax-paying public.
Finally, the Unions focus too many resources on the wrong issues. The greatest threat to those who like the status quo is the trend of utilizing private-public partnerships to provide services on campus. The new residence hall was built with this model, and does not employ Union workers for most functions as a result. This is a trend that is not going to go away. I would bet my entire annual salary that the University system has other (probably many other) such projects in the works. This model is an easy, legal workaround to having to deal with Unionized workers. A generation from now this model will be incredibly common, and if Unions haven’t died out by then, the number of Union jobs on campus will be significantly reduced. This is really the issue Unions should be focused on; with the right messaging strategy, this is an issue that can catch on with a broader audience once the tradeoffs of such arrangements are understood. If they don’t navigate this well, Unions will gradually lose whatever clout they have, because they will represent fewer and fewer people over time. I have absolutely no faith that campus Unions have the leadership, vision, level of sophistication, or strategy playbook to navigate this trend.
If the Unions become capable of providing me with better representation than I can provide myself—if they make a compelling case that they are the best answer to trends such as the gradual privatization of a public institution—I will gladly rejoin. I hope that the lack of guaranteed income will force Unions to reform. If major trends such as privatization are to be stopped, it is going to require building a broader coalition of people and other organizations to join the fight, and public opinion is going to have to be swayed to be against such a trend. I am sorry to say that the current iteration of Unions are not capable of leading such a fight.