It is true that current ESEA membership is about half of the fulltime faculty. Of course, we'd like it to be higher. Recent informal surveys show that the #1 reason more don't join is financial - dues are expensive, and given our druthers, most of us would rather spend that money on toys or gas or grandkids. Some few cite ideological or political objections to our affiliates the OEA or the NEA. So be it.
However, and this is a BIG however, membership is OPEN to all fulltime faculty. "Not participating" is as much a choice and an action as "participating." When a faculty member makes the decision to sit it out, they are taking action to cast their lot with the membership, however that may turn out. They are saying, "In exchange for the money I would have spent in dues (or because I disagree with a plank in the NEA platform) I hereby cede my vote on any contractual matters."
For a "majority" of faculty to make the decision, we would need some combination of membership percentage and voting margin that totals more than half of all faculty. So, a 51% vote margin would require 100% membership. (Perhaps The Prez is making our case for a "fair share" shop, where everyone contributes the dues amount, regardless of whether they join up. Right.)
Or, let's say the vote is unanimous - then we need membership exceeding 50%. If we have a membership of three-fourths of faculty - which would be awesome, by the way - we'd still need an overwhelming vote margin of 68% to satisfy the Prez's lame logic. I'm not sure he's really thought about what life would be like with a union representation of 75% and a voting block of two-thirds majority...
Regardless, there is no evidence to suggest that the non-members would have voted significantly differently from members. More votes cast does not automatically mean a different outcome. His intimation that it would is a straw man.
Perhaps, to be ultimately fair, we should open up pay votes to ALL employees, not just ESEA members and not just fulltime faculty. How well do you think that vote would have gone in 2007 when administrative staff were smacked in the face with a 1% increase?
At no time in my employ here has the ESEA been more vital or more necessary. The issues we have tackled on behalf of the faculty contract have wide-reaching effects, not just for faculty, but for all staff. Case in point - for months the administration stuck by an erroneous and illegal statement of the college's Family Medical Leave Act policy, naively combining two of the four allowable options into one muddled policy statement. They denied there was a problem even when it was unambiguously and definitively shown to be incorrect, and even after the correct language was shown in the Department of Labor's own documents. It was only after relentless pressure by the ESEA that the language was changed, affecting ALL employees of the college, and potentially relieving the college from the threat of future legal sanctions, for which they should be grateful.
Issues such as FMLA policy don't just affect faculty, or the membership, or the percentage of members who vote for or against a language proposal. They affect everybody. That some faculty are willing to spend their time, their money and sometimes their goodwill to monitor conditions and effect change is fortunate for all, if thankless.
And two can play the polemic game. Where do we see unanimous votes? Well, in May 2001, Iraq's Baath Socialist Party unanimously re-elected Saddam Hussein as president. How did that work out?