Faculty Organizing 101

This document was provided at the faculty forum sessions on February 27, 2018.


This document is intended to serve as a basic primer on faculty unionization and to provide some context around our effort to form a faculty union at Oregon Tech. The specific priorities of our union will be determined collaboratively by all Oregon Tech faculty so cannot yet be set to paper. However, we do hope this 101 provides a vision of what faculty have won through unionization and begins to suggest the possibilities of what we can accomplish together.

Faculty unions are comprised of teaching and research faculty who have come together to advocate for their shared interests and advance their common goals. Unions amplify the voice of faculty within their universities toward the end of improving  working conditions, better serving  students and the research mission of the university, and generally refocusing the priorities of the university. Unionized faculty have the right to bargain a binding contract that protects and expands rights, benefits, and other terms of employment.


Of the seven public universities in Oregon, five already have faculty unions. The faculty at Oregon State University are currently building their union. Faculty union sites are linked below:

    1. Eastern Oregon University (EOU)
    2. Oregon State University (OSU)
    3. Portland State University (PSU)
    4. Southern Oregon University (SOU)
    5. Western Oregon University  (WOU)
    6. University of Oregon (UO)


Comparator Universities with Faculty Unions

Boise State University University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth
Central Connecticut State University University of Michigan-Dearborn
Florida Gulf Coast University University of Wisconsin-Stout
Keene State College Western Oregon University
Minnesota State University Moorhead Winona State University
SUNY at Brockport Worcester State University
University of Maine-Farmington Youngstown State University

The list of comparator institutions is taken from the May 2017 Faculty Compensation Study.

What Faculty Unions Have Won

Promotion & Tenure: Many faculty union contracts, including those of the United Academics of the University of Oregon (AAUP-AFT) and Central Connecticut State University-AAUP, include strong protections around promotion and tenure processes. These contracts define timelines and the parties responsible for developing and evaluating criteria, as well as setting up a process for appealing decisions.

Shared Governance: The contract for the United Academics of the University of Oregon (AAUP-AFT) requires that a number of department/unit level policies be made in consultation with faculty. This contract further stipulates that all “duly adopted” policies – such as those approved by the Faculty Senate, as well as department/unit level policies – can be enforced through their union’s grievance process.   

Due Process: Central Connecticut State University-AAUP’s contract outlines a clear and fair process for investigating and responding to potential disciplinary issues. It describes the university’s burden of proof and outlines a procedure for reviewing these decisions. Similarly, Portland State University-AAUP’s contract defines strong protections for members facing investigations and disciplinary procedures.

Intellectual Property: United Academics of the University of Alaska (AAUP-AFT) have contract language that thoroughly defines intellectual property, work, and inventions; and specifically mandates the division of all rights and proceeds.

Family Friendly Policies: Rutgers University AAUP-AFT’s contract guarantees paid leave for parents – regardless of gender – for newborn or adopted children, and up to six weeks of paid leave for recuperation for birth mothers.

Employment Stability and Security: Faculty unions at the University of Michigan (AFT), Wayne State University (AAUP-AFT), and University of Oregon (AAUP-AFT) all guarantee access to multi-year contracts for their non-tenured members.  Faculty unions have also successfully negotiated around issues such as salary compression and workload.


The Card Check Process

The Oregon Employment Relations Board (ERB) certifies new unions through a legal process called “card check.”  Card check requires that we gather signatures from a majority of all faculty indicating their desire to be represented by our union. In practice, this means that we will print and individually distribute authorization cards to faculty members. This face-to-face process ensures that everyone who signs a card authorizing our union has a chance to talk to a colleague and address any outstanding questions. Once we’ve completed the card check process, we will submit signed cards as a petition for certification. The ERB will compare our list of signers against the list of faculty provided by Oregon Tech. If the employer raises challenges to our petition, the ERB will administer a hearing process where any questions about which positions should be included in union representation will be resolved. The Oregon Tech administration will not know who signed authorization cards; they will only know the number of signers. Once our union is certified, we will move into the process of negotiating our first contract and continuing to build strength within our union.

The Bargaining Process

The collective bargaining process begins by forming a bargaining team that is representative of the faculty at Oregon Tech. The bargaining team will use membership surveys, one-on-one conversations, and group meetings to establish bargaining priorities. Once the team has been trained in the bargaining process and received direction from the membership, the bargaining team will begin the process of negotiating with the university administration. During the bargaining process, the administration and union teams will exchange proposals that address the interests of university faculty. Once the two teams reach an agreement, this agreement is submitted to the membership for a ratification vote. After ratification, members and leaders will continue to work on implementing and enforcing the terms of the agreement. Subsequent contracts will work to improve upon the structures built in the first contract and address any implementation issues.

Internal Union Structure

We are already beginning to construct the scaffolding of a strong internal structure by having a broad based, representative group of faculty leading the organizing process. Once our union is certified, we will build on these structures by electing a leadership team, forming committees and caucuses, and drafting constitution and bylaws that ensure democratic structures and decision-making within our union. This is typically accomplished in faculty unions by having a representative body with members from each academic unit and specific representation for different faculty ranks on the leadership team.

Union Dues

Dues will be set by the membership of our union based on our best judgement of the financial resources necessary to carry out the work we want to accomplish. Our union will require resources to negotiate contracts, enforce the terms of our contracts, hold membership meetings, and provide the basic infrastructure for our union to succeed. Our dues will also cover the cost of affiliation with AAUP and AAUP-Oregon. These dues help cover the cost of national and statewide efforts to improve higher education and for the ongoing support of the state and national organizations.

Dues are most frequently assessed as as a percentage of salary. While rates vary by institution, most faculty unions set a range of 1-1.5% of gross salary. No one will pay dues until the first contract has been successfully ratified. To get a sense of the likely range of dues, here are the rates from faculty unions within Oregon:

Portland State University (AAUP) 1.068%
University of Oregon (AAUP-AFT) 1.1%
Eastern Oregon University (AFT) 1.4%
Western Oregon University (AFT) 1.28%
Southern Oregon University (Independent) $125/year


The American Association of University Professors (AAUP)

Founded in 1915, the AAUP’s purpose is to advance academic freedom and shared governance, to define fundamental professional values and standards for higher education, and to ensure higher education’s contributions to the common good. The AAUP is made up of more than 50,000 members, exclusively in higher education. The AAUP structure consists of both faculty unions and a number of professional associations called advocacy chapters. At the national level, AAUP elects an executive committee and a council, with all of these positions filled by university faculty.

Oregon State Conference of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP-Oregon)

AAUP-Oregon is an organization of members from the faculty unions of Portland State University and the University of Oregon, the Graduate Employees Union at Portland State University, and advocacy chapters from a number of private universities throughout the state.  AAUP-Oregon works to coordinate activity in the state and engage in political advocacy for higher education through their state legislative committee and lobbying efforts.  AAUP-Oregon also provides direct support to locals as they organize, bargain, and advocate on behalf of their members.