Two state legislators introduced a bill Tuesday that would
give University of Wisconsin faculty and staff the opportunity to unionize and
collectively bargain, a right they currently do not have.

Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, and Rep. Jon Richards,
D-Milwaukee, co-sponsored the bill to give all faculty and staff in the UW
System the right to form a union and bargain collectively for working
conditions and employment arrangements.

"UW teachers currently do not have a seat at the table,"
Hansen said. "They are told what they are going to get."

The proposed bill would give UW faculty and staff the
opportunity to form unions either together or separately.

"[Collective bargaining and unionizing] are tools that
employees can use to improve working conditions," Richards said.

The bill, however, would not force faculty and staff to
unionize, Hansen added.

"It merely gives them the opportunity to decide in a
democratic way," he said.

According to Hansen, 29 other states give university
employees the right to form a union. UW, the University of Indiana and
Northwestern University are the only Big Ten schools that do not let professors
unionize.

However, in Wisconsin, he added technical college faculty
and staff are allowed to collectively bargain and unionize.

With experience in teaching and union contracting, Hansen
said, "forming a union is a universal human right. It is part of a democratic
society."

But Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, said the proposed bill
is "a horrible idea."

"I might be missing something, but I cannot find one first-class
university that unionizes its faculty," Grothman said. "It is a quick route to
making UW-Madison a second-rate university."

But Richards hopes recruiting and retaining top quality
teachers will be an outcome of the proposed bill.

"We are competing with universities around the country and
around the world," Richards said. "We lose people when we don't treat them
right. We can at least give [UW employees] the option to unionize."

UW System spokesperson David Giroux said the UW System has
not adopted a formal position on the bill yet, but commented on the
"exceptionally well-educated workforce in the UW System."

"We have over 40,000 employees," Giroux said. "We need a
workplace that keeps and retains the brightest minds in the world."

UW System faculty and staff compensation is in heated debate
right now, Giroux said.

"Compensation is an issue that President Reilly and the
Board of Regents leadership have been beating the drum on quite consistently,"
Giroux added. "Wages need to improve if we will recruit and retain the best
talent."

Hansen and Richards said employee wages and working
conditions are two major areas they hope unionization and collective bargaining
can improve.

Richards said the proposed bill has considerable bipartisan
support, adding he hopes the legislation passes through the
Republican-controlled Assembly and Democratic-controlled Senate before the Legislature
adjourns in March.