Today we are sharing an update on an important initiative that began last August, at the direction of the AAUP’s national governing Council. In September 2021, we announced that the AAUP and the American Federation of Teachers were exploring ways to expand and enhance our very successful ten-plus-year organizing partnership.
We are incredibly proud of the work that AAUP and AFT have done together to organize faculty and graduate employees around the US and to strengthen higher education and the profession. As a result of our partnership, more than twenty thousand faculty and other academic workers are in unions that are jointly represented by the AAUP and the AFT. In addition, we have worked together on important legislative efforts at the federal and state level to expand access to higher education, ensure adequate funding for public institutions, increase Pell grants, and expand academic workers’ right to unionize. AAUP members are already being included in planned student loan debt clinics run by AFT higher ed staff, and AFT members have had the opportunity to attend our Summer Institutes. Since last fall, we’ve been discussing how to best build on our successful organizing work, support our shared commitment to education and the common good, and build a stronger and more inclusive higher education movement.
Our update today is to share with you that a tentative agreement on an affiliation with the AFT has been reached, and that the AAUP’s governing Council has unanimously recommended that a vote to ratify the affiliation be brought to the AAUP’s biennial meeting in June. The tentative agreement is the result of months of work by the AAUP and AFT’s teams, thorough consultation with the AAUP’s Council, and careful review by our legal experts and auditors. It also reflects the four core principles that the Council laid out at the beginning of this process:
● Preserve the AAUP’s independence and autonomy
● Increase the AAUP’s reach and influence among the profession
● Maintain the AAUP’s brand in higher education
● Be fair to the AAUP staff
Under the terms of this affiliation agreement, all AAUP members, by virtue of their membership in the AAUP, will also be members of the AFT/AFL-CIO. All AAUP collective bargaining chapters will become chartered locals of the AFT and all AAUP advocacy members will be part of a nationwide AAUP-AFT local. All CB and advocacy chapters will also continue to be chartered chapters of the AAUP. AAUP members and AAUP chapters will have access to AFT support and services, including specific AFT member benefits. AFT higher ed members will have access to certain services and programs that the AAUP provides as a service to the profession. Current “solo” AFT higher ed members will not become members of AAUP as a result of this affiliation. All new academic organizing—in both CB and non-CB settings—will be joint AAUP-AFT efforts and all new members will enjoy the rights and benefits of, and have access to the services and support of, both national organizations.
This affiliation will not result in an increase in national AAUP dues and, for current AAUP members, AFT per capita will be covered as part of the AAUP dues. Where applicable, AAUP solo CB chapters will become members of the AFT state federation at a reduced per capita rate. AAUP solo CB chapters will also become members of their state AFL and central labor councils (CLCs). While solo AAUP CB chapters will be required to pay per capita to the AFT state federations, the state AFL and the local CLC, we believe these costs will be financially manageable for most solo AAUP CB chapters. (For more information, click here and log in with your AAUP member credentials.) In order to provide support and assistance to our solo CB chapters as they make this transition, the AAUP has set up a CB chapter assistance fund. The national AAUP and its chapters will remain autonomous organizations with full control over their own finances, policies, programs, and staff. The national AAUP will continue to be governed by the AAUP Council; will continue to have its own committees; and will have complete autonomy over the Redbook, our policies and statements on behalf of the profession, investigations, censure, and sanction. The AAUP will continue to employ its own staff and will retain sole authority over management of its budget and programs. While the affiliation with AFT is not cost-free to the AAUP, we do believe that the financial impact on our organization is manageable.
An overview of the agreement, a frequently asked questions document, and the agreement itself can be found here (member login required). The relationship between the national AAUP and its chapters will not be changed. The AAUP will continue to operate as an autonomous entity and will continue to provide the same services and support to our chapters, our members, and the profession.
This affiliation recognizes and builds upon our successful joint organizing agreement and will allow the AAUP to maintain our organizational independence and our reputation in the profession while expanding our influence and reach in higher education. It preserves and memorializes our two organizations’ strong commitment to working together and recognizes that important and distinct role that the AAUP plays in the academy. Crucially, this affiliation recognizes that there is much more we can do together to confront the challenges facing higher education and our nation. It establishes a structure on which we can build a stronger, more inclusive higher education movement. It provides a pathway for our chapters to work more closely in solidarity with their AFT colleagues around the country and in their states and communities. It also allows us to enhance our successful joint organizing work and to expand into sectors of the academy where we have not yet had the opportunity to organize together. We know that the AAUP’s knowledge and expertise paired with the AFT’s reach and resources have been a winning combination at the University of Oregon, Oregon State University, the University of New Mexico, the University of Alaska, the University of Illinois-Chicago, and the University of Vermont, to name a few. We believe that there is much more that we can do together to organize the unorganized in union and non-union settings.
The three of us, along with the Council of the AAUP, believe that this is a truly historicmoment for the profession. It is a truly historic moment for free inquiry in a free society, a truly historic moment for the common good, and a truly historic moment for democracy. We don’t believe it’s an exaggeration to say that democracy is hanging on by a thread right now, and a strong higher education movement is part of what’s needed to salvage and strengthen our democracy. In the few months since we started exploring possibilities for affiliation, the attacks on higher education and the common good have increased. Educational gag order legislation aimed at curtailing academic freedom has been introduced in thirty-eight states. We see administrations acquiescing to pressure from governing boards and state legislatures on fundamental issues such as academic freedom, faculty shared governance, and due process. We see state systems launching full assaults on tenure.
At the same time, we see a renewed interest in organizing to confront these challenges among faculty and other academic workers. On campuses where unionization is possible, we see faculty forming organizing committees and starting union campaigns. We also see a renewed interest in building and strengthening advocacy chapters as a vehicle for campus change. The ongoing challenges facing higher education and this renewed interest in organizing underscore the need for solidarity—with our colleagues and within our own organization, to be sure, but also with other organizations and with the academic labor movement as a whole. This affiliation will help all of us—AAUP and AFT Higher Education members together—achieve this.
The full text of the agreement, along with a summary, can be found here (member log in required) If you are unable to access this material, please email email@example.com, and we will provide the information in an alternate form. We will be sending a formal notice about the affiliation vote to take place at the June 2022 biennial meeting later this week. Please note that we will also hold a question-and-answer session on Thursday afternoon, June 17, at the AAUP Conference and Biennial Meeting. Over the next few weeks, we will be reaching out to chapters and leaders to discuss this proposed affiliation further and to answer any questions they may have. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out to the three of us if you have any questions.
Irene Mulvey, President
Paul Davis, Vice President
Chris Sinclair, Secretary-Treasurer