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December 2000 aaUPBEAT
What is a Faculty Union?
The AAUP was founded in 1972 when UD faculty selected the AAUP over other competing unions as their bargaining agent. Although in the decades since the union's inception it has experienced ups and downs in its relationship with the Administration, over recent years the two parties have bargained on more equal footing. Sometimes this has resulted in greater ease of communications, sometimes not. The Administration seems most comfortable when dealing with important, but technical, issues like a health plan's details or a merit pay formula. The Administration seems less at ease when considering more subtle faculty-related issues like the relationship of UD's educational philosophy to Delaware business interests or the educational implications of adopting a corporate model for higher-education development strategies.
These differences spring from the fact that the Administration's main role is to manage the University's infrastructure, whereas the faculty's main role is to make sure our institution?s academic integrity is maintained. Faculty are always dealing with the relationship of what they teach to the world around them. In this light, whether one is teaching chemical engineering or Arabic poetry, the very act of instruction is imbued with the complexity of a piece of knowledge's relationship to the world that piece of knowledge inhabits. On the other hand, the Administration is more managerial: they make sure the organization's accounting, supervisory, public relations and other administrative tasks are in order.
Both faculty and Administration are important, although they entail different responsibilities. As faculty members, we are the ones who create what higher education exists to create: a community of knowledge.
As a faculty union, the AAUP exists to protect and promote the interests of faculty. These interests include salary levels, health care and other benefits, fair workloads, and workplace rights like freedom of expression and the liberty to perform one's job without being hindered by religious, racial, gender or other biases.
Despite these similarities to other unions, the AAUP also possesses objectives unique to itself. One of those objectives is our commitment to developing strategies that promote educational excellence. To us, such excellence is not an abstraction. Quite the contrary, the AAUP sees its role as conceptualizing specific ways in which the University can improve upon the education it provides for its students.
Obviously, the Administration and AAUP have much in common. Still, as already hinted at, we often bring different perspectives to issues of importance. As an example, the AAUP has regularly advised the Administration to use a higher percentage of its ample financial resources for broadening the University's teaching and research options, and also for improving pay scales, so the school becomes more attractive to both students and faculty.
Such issues must be examined regularly. After all, over the last ten years, the Administration spent close to $425 million on campus construction projects, renovations and beautification undertakings. One of the construction projects is a $13 million parking garage, the planning of which assumed the inevitability of continued (and worsening) car congestion on campus and in Newark. Given this assumption, it is reasonable to ask, "Should the garage investment have been thought out more carefully? For instance, would the $13 million have been used better by funding the development of a plan for decreasing campus and Newark car traffic while increasing public transportation, or creating new tenure-track positions in some departments, or setting up a targeted hiring program designed to rectify the University's embarrassingly low number of African-American professors?"
These are reasonable questions. The Administration arrives at its decisions under the influence of many interests, some of which contradict the faculty's best interests. This reality highlights the AAUP's value. Without the union, no campus organization would be devoted exclusively to bringing a faculty perspective to all University matters.
Faculty members, whether or not they belong to the union, benefit from the AAUP's existence. Salary increases, workload limits, campus development, diversity issues, all represent areas of ongoing AAUP activity.
Union with a Long-Term Vision
Although the union never takes its eyes off the bread and butter economic issues important to faculty, our work is also guided by Article X of our collective bargaining agreement. This article mandates that all faculty be treated equally regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.
This commitment to fairness has played a pivotal role in the AAUP's activities over recent years. Our involvement in support of non-tenure track faculty is an example of this.
In 1993, in our first monthly newsletter, we stated our interest in dealing "with nagging problems like the situation of University instructors and lecturers." By 1995, the AAUP had laid the basis for the formation of a joint AAUP-Administration committee which was to review the terms and conditions under which non-tenure track faculty are appointed and renewed. By 1996, a new AAUP-driven University policy was in place. The new policy improved renewal procedures, job security, salary adjustments and the peer review policy for all full-time, continuing, non-tenure track faculty.
Yet in spite of such gains, new problems regularly arise. Recently, about fifty people, whose teaching duties are consistent with that of faculty, had their status changed from professional to clinical or instructional non-tenure track faculty. As a result, UD now currently has approximately 130 faculty members in the non-tenure track category. Needless to say, these faculty members' conditions of employment vary widely. Consequently, the AAUP is concerned that all matters regarding salary, workloads and related issues are handled in an equitable manner. To facilitate this, the AAUP plans to sponsor a meeting for non-tenure track faculty in the near future. At the gathering, we will solicit their input and see if they have suggestions for improving their situation. If so, we will work with them to accomplish their goals.
This kind of practical work regarding equity questions is an important component of AAUP activity. In a number of areas, the work is frustrating and continues for years. One of those areas, as briefly mentioned in our last newsletter, is the domestic partners benefits issue. Another area is the Administration's lack of a targeted hiring policy for rectifying the problem of UD's embarrassing lack of African-American faculty.
As the problems mentioned above show, the AAUP's commitment to faculty includes a wide range of equity issues other than salaries and benefits. Nevertheless, salaries and benefits remain one of the basic reasons we exist as a union. Almost invariably, when we sit down at the bargaining table with the Administration, the union and Administration begin with distinct views of what faculty members are worth in terms of both their financial compensation and how their benefits packages should be structured. Typically, it is only after months of negotiations - and sometimes the solution to a particular problem can take years - that the two sides arrive at an agreement. When such an agreement is reached, the faculty gains it contains don't just appear "out of nowhere;" they have been extracted from the Administration through analysis, argument and negotiating skill. The Administration, which sees itself as the guardian of the University's purse strings and the school's huge endowment, gives the faculty no gifts; whatever we get, we earn through bargaining.
Bargaining for salaries is always connected to the cost of the benefits package. Since the Administration's aim is to diminish salary gains if benefits improve and vice versa, the AAUP's objective is to prevent this from happening by achieving both salary and benefits increases without either being lessened or allowed to stagnate because of gains in the other. Given the complexity of such negotiations, faculty input (see the long-term health care section in the November newsletter) prior to negotiations plays an important role in helping the AAUP identify issues of special importance that must be targeted during collective bargaining. In fact, sometimes our negotiations with the Administration even last beyond the conclusion of collective bargaining, which means that our need for faculty input and support also continues. This is because there are times when a bargained benefit turns out to be different than expected. An example is the retiree dental plan that was agreed upon during the last contract negotiations. Unfortunately, long after the contract apparently was settled, the provider decided its profit ratio wasn't high enough and so the cost to retirees went up. Consequently, the AAUP was forced to renegotiate some of the dental plan's details in between collective bargaining sessions.
The University of Delaware is one of the richest state-supported universities of its size in the United States. Consequently, the AAUP stands on principled ground when it reminds the Administration that it should spend as much for faculty salaries and compensation, and invest as much in solving equity and diversity questions, as it does on construction, renovation and beautification projects and also on developing alliances with the local business community. Just a few years ago, DuPont decided to shift into biotechnology, and already the University is advertising its desire to play a major role in helping DuPont and the state become a national center for biotechnology. Interestingly, it does not take the Administration or Board of Trustees long to move quickly on such projects.
Unfortunately, the Administration and UD's trustees don't always act as urgently when it comes to matters pertaining to faculty interests. Issues of salary, benefits and equity will all be on the bargaining table next year. For us to be successful, we must all work together.
Facts about AAUP Structure
Below is a summary of some key items pertaining to the AAUP's purpose and structure. A full copy of our chapter's "Constitution and Bylaws" can be obtained from the AAUP website.
The AAUP and Collective Bargaining. The AAUP is certified by the Department of Labor as the exclusive collective bargaining representative for UD faculty (known as the "bargaining unit") in all issues concerning conditions of employment. Contract gains won by the AAUP go to all bargaining unit members, whether or not they are dues-paying members of the University's AAUP chapter.
The UD Bargaining Unit. The bargaining unit includes all UD's full-time voting faculty, as specified by the Trustee Bylaws. The bargaining unit does not include administrative officers, department heads, part-time and adjunct faculty members.
The bargaining unit has final voting power over all contracts negotiated by the AAUP with the Administration. For a proposed contract to be ratified, bargaining unit members must pass it by a majority vote during a secret ballot. Before a vote can be held, bargaining unit members must either (1) be given, in written form, the full terms of the agreement or (2) be invited to a bargaining unit meeting at which the contract's terms will be discussed.
AAUP Executive Council. The AAUP's executive council consists of the union's president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer and two members-at-large. The immediate past president is always one of the members-at-large. No member of the executive council is allowed to serve in the same capacity for more than two consecutive negotiating periods. No one may serve on the executive council in any capacity for more than four consecutive terms. The contract maintenance officer and the aaUPBEAT editor are an ex-officio members. The executive council is authorized to act on behalf of the union when it judges such actions to be necessary.
AAUP Steering Committee. The AAUP's steering committee consists of 21 members. Those members include the AAUP executive council, the president of the University/Faculty Senate, and representatives from each of the University's Colleges. One of the steering committee's primary tasks is to review the work of the union's bargaining team.
AAUP Bargaining Team. The AAUP's bargaining team consists of the union's chief negotiator and at least four other people selected by the AAUP steering committee. The bargaining team possesses the "sole and exclusive power" to negotiate a contract with Administration representatives. During contract negotiations, the bargaining team must regularly report back to the steering committee regarding the negotiations' status. The bargaining team must follow any written recommendations made by the steering committee. Before a proposed contract (that has been negotiated by the AAUP's bargaining team) can be submitted to UD faculty for ratification, the steering committee must first approve the proposed contract by a formal vote.
Departmental Representatives. In order to make communication between the bargaining unit and the steering committee as fluid as possible, each department is authorized to have, and should have, an AAUP departmental representative.
Mt. Vernon College: A Sign of the Times
When George Washington University (GWU) "affiliated" with Mt. Vernon College in Washington, D.C. in 1999, the same thing happened as frequently happens when multinational corporations merge or buy each other out: a downsizing process that resulted in job losses, in this case faculty job losses.
What was unique in this instance was that the dismissed faculty were either tenured or tenure track professors. Unfortunately, neither the protections supposedly offered by tenure, nor the contractual guidelines that supposedly prevented the arbitrary firing of Mt. Vernon College tenure-track faculty, were sufficient to protect the thirteen terminated professors. As a result, they filed a lawsuit charging Mt. Vernon College, now controlled by GWU, with breach of contract, breach of good faith and fair dealing, age discrimination and wrongful interference in contractual agreements.
At a pre-trial hearing in September, a Superior Court judge ruled that the facts in the case merited a trial, which has been scheduled for April of next year.
As business and government pressure increases to compel institutions of higher education to become more "efficient" by following the corporate model, tenure, like seniority in other industries, finds itself under attack more frequently than ever before. In this light, the Mt. Vernon situation is a sign of the times.
But it isn't only the tenured professor who must fear the corporatization trend. All faculty members must be wary, since the corporate vision of higher education faculty is the same as their vision of today's factory workforces: CEO's want fewer workers performing more tasks, thereby increasing productivity. The "housecleaning" that occurred when GWU took over Mt. Vernon College is an example of corporate Americas's movement in the direction of a mergers and downsizing. Toward this end, proponents of higher education reform insist that faculty job protections be discarded and workload agreements rethought.
The attack against the Mt. Vernon faculty is also an attack against us.
In our November newsletter, in an article concerning the union's relationship to United Way, we wrote that our "yearly endorsements... will be withheld unless the United Way reevaluates its financial contributions to the Boy Scouts of America, which discriminates against openly gay scout leaders and scouts."
It has been brought to our attention that the Boy Scouts' policy in question relates specifically to gay scout leaders and not to individual scouts. The words "and scouts" therefore should not have been included at the end of the sentence quoted above.
We regret the error.