Thursday, March 21, 2013
One of my favorite bloggers on higher education, Dean Dad at Confessions of a Community College Dean, asks: Should a public college partner with a private company to train scabs? I'd encourage Workplace Prof Blog posts to read the entire post and to comment over at Dean Dad's blog.
Anya Kamenetz has a thought-provoking piece about the Milwaukee Area Technical College’s agreement to run welding programs for Caterpillar. Caterpillar is expecting a strike, so it wants the local technical college to train its managers and non-unit staff to be able to do union jobs if its welders walk off the job. MATC is responding to employer need, offering training in an employable skill and thereby supporting the local economy. Now the Steelworkers’ union is petitioning MATC to refrain from what it considers pre-emptive strikebusting. It’s an ugly, sticky issue.
There’s nothing objectionable about a technical college teaching welding. It has done that for years, and I assume has done it well. And there’s nothing unusual about a college contracting with specific private employers to run classes or training workshops for its employees. Community colleges have done that for decades. * * *
In this case, the union is essentially asking the college to take a moral position that training these workers in this skill at this time is wrong. * * * [T]hinking through the consequences of taking a self-consciously moral position gets complicated quickly. Suppose MATC told Caterpillar to go away. The governor of Wisconsin isn’t known for being particularly union-friendly; I can imagine severe political (and therefore budgetary) consequences for the college far beyond the loss of the contract. Something like that is going on now in Michigan, where some public colleges are trying to sign long-term contracts with unions to beat the “right to work” deadline, and legislators are threatening budgetary retaliation. * * *
Wise and worldly readers, what would you do? If you ran MATC, would you honor the union request, or would you run the program?