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Recently the Chronicle of Higher Ed posted a chart of the salaries of “non-exempt staff in higher education,” data courtesy of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.

Why?  My answer to many of the questions concerning employees in higher ed, whether athletes or faculty: there’s power in a union.

There’s a very interesting trend in the numbers.  Not surprisingly, we find that the highest salaries among higher ed hourly employees are among skilled, supervisory positions at research universities (HVAC supervisors, paralegals, instrument makers, lead electricians, etc.): in other words, the people who are highly skilled at the richest places.  But here’s the intriguing part: the further you go down the list, all the way down to the food servers (who are paid very poorly), the more likely that employees of two-year colleges make the most money in a given category, followed by employees at BA institutions, then MA, then “other doctoral,” then R1.

Why?  Here’s my interpretation: according to CUPA-HR, of the 113 associate degree institutions, “almost all are public.” [emphasis mine].  So, even though we would expect these institutions to be less moneyed than their more prestigious sister- and brother-institutions (should we be gendering these?  I have no idea), their employees are more likely to be allowed to unionize and have management less openly hostile to unionization.

No matter where you work in higher education, as long as you’re not a coach or a muckety-muck, this is further proof that higher ed employees who can unionize end up being better off.  And you know what?  All those institutions are still standing, so unionization is not the end of the world that its opponents suggest.


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