AAUP Unionism: Principles and Goals

Academe, January/February 2006 | Go to article overview

AAUP Unionism: Principles and Goals


In November 2005, the AAUP Council endorsed the adoption by the Collective Bargaining Congress of the following document as a statement of principles of the Collective Bargaining Congress.

Over the past thirty years, faculty and other members of the academic community have increasingly turned to unions to protect their individual rights, their shared role in institutional governance, and the standards and practices that guarantee the quality of American higher education. Unions have proven effective in struggles to defend tenure, protect academic freedom, and secure "a sufficient degree of economic security to make the profession attractive to men and women of ability."' In this phrase from the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, the American Association of University Professors and the Association of American Colleges (now the Association of American Colleges and Universities) made clear the connection between the well-being of the nation's faculty and the integrity of its educational system.

Because of our understanding of the importance of the faculty and other academic professionals in the maintenance of democratic ideals in American higher education, the AAUP has been the public voice of the academic profession since its founding in 1915. Consistent with our articulation and defense of professional standards, and after a decade and a half of engagement by local AAUP chapters in collective bargaining, the Association formed the Collective Bargaining Congress (CBC) in 1985 to help organize and strengthen the efforts of newly empowered AAUP collective bargaining chapters throughout the nation. Since then, collective bargaining chapters of the AAUP have developed a distinctive kind of unionism that responds to the missions of American colleges and universities.

This document describes the context and the character of AAUP academic unionism and articulates the aspirations that guide our activities. Although local AAUP union chapters vary from place to place, they all strive to develop a model of unionism that embodies the finest aspects of academic tradition.

Unions and the University

Over the centuries, academics have considered it an honor and a duty to defend the autonomy and integrity of their institutions against outside threats. Historically, academics continued to create new institutions-for example, medieval collegia and modern faculty senates-to protect the profession and to promote free inquiry against efforts to censor curricula, violate institutional autonomy, and intimidate individual scholars.

Academic unions are the most recent in a long line of collegial structures forged to protect the rights and professional roles of academics. Increasingly, tenure-track and contingent faculty, academic professionals, and graduate assistants have formed unions to ensure their professional standing and protect themselves from the threats and challenges presented by the corporatization of American colleges and universities.

Academic unions provide many benefits.

* Unions enable faculty and other members of the academic community, who would be powerless alone, to safeguard their teaching and working conditions by pooling their strengths.

* Unions make it possible for different sectors of the academic community to secure contractual, legally enforceable claims on college administrations, at a time when reliance on traditional advice and consent has proved inadequate.

* Unions provide members with critical institutional analyses-of budget figures, enrollment trends, and policy formulations-that would be unavailable without the resources provided by member dues and national experts.

* Unions increase the legislative influence and political impact of the academic community as a whole by maintaining regular relations with state and federal governments and collaborating with affiliated labor organizations.

* Unions reinforce the collegiality necessary to preserve the vitality of academic life under such threats as deprofessionalization and fractionalization of the faculty, privatization of public services, and the expanding claims of managerial primacy in governance. …

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