Historic Affiliation of AFT and AAUP Will Strengthen Higher Education

The Boards of AFT and the American Association of University Professors are pursuing an affiliation that will help faculty and staff at colleges and universities address some of the major challenges facing higher education and, more broadly, threats to democracy itself.

Rutgers AAUP-AFT is one of many higher education unions that are already dual affiliated with the AFT and AAUP; the new arrangement would broaden the partnership.

AFT fights for a better life for all, especially the next generation, and this includes access to affordable and accessible higher education where all students can excel, and where faculty are respected and enjoy academic freedom. necessary for the prosperity of our country. AAUP has been at the forefront of promoting the principles of academic freedom, shared governance, tenure, and other standards and policies to produce and protect the knowledge and critical thinking skills that support American democracy. . Together, the organizations have combined their missions to create the New Deal for Higher Education, a plan to combat the effects of a pandemic that has deepened structural funding cuts to the sector enacted during the global recession.

If approved by the AAUP assembly of delegates in June, the affiliation agreement will bring together two organizations representing more than 300,000 faculty in total, the largest such alliance in the nation. The partnership will serve as the foundation for an enhanced faculty voice with national reach and tremendous potential for future organizational growth and success.

Unleashing Higher Education Possibilities

AFT President Randi Weingarten hailed the arrangement as a game-changer: “AFT and AAUP come together to unlock the purpose, promise and possibility of higher education in America,” she said. “The idea of ​​the university is to encourage and defend the free exchange of intellectual work because all knowledge and all education creates value, whether social, economic or cultural.

“To ensure that colleges are not just the preserve of the wealthy, we must fight for every student’s right to an affordable education and to ensure that every college worker – from teaching assistant to lecturer to the tenured professor – a workplace with the autonomy, respect, compensation and career stability they deserve.

“Together, we will create a higher education system where all students have the ability to recognize truth, critically reflect on the world they live in, and envision a better future for themselves and our This is what it means to come together, and this is the far-reaching potential that our membership brings – an alliance greater than the sum of its parts.

“AAUP has been the voice and conscience of higher education for over 100 years,” said AAUP President Irene Mulvey. “This weekend, subject to ratification at the biennial meeting in June, the AAUP Board of Directors voted to recommend expanding our partnership with AFT. This truly historic decision builds on our more than 10-year partnership with the AFT and strengthens both organizations, while ensuring that the AAUP will retain its independence and autonomy.

The partnership comes against the backdrop of increased legislative attacks on education and academic freedom, as well as persistent public underfunding that has led to soaring student debt and precariousness and poverty. Through this affiliation, the AAUP, which has 44,000 members, and the AFT, which has 1.7 million members, will work together to protect academic freedom and unify the voice of faculty at the state and federal levels. .

The AAUP Board of Directors voted unanimously on Sunday to recommend ratification of affiliation at its June biennial meeting. Likewise, the AFT Executive Board approved affiliation unanimously, subject to a vote by the AAUP delegates.

Building on success

The AFT has been instrumental in organizing local chapters in a wide variety of colleges and universities. The union pioneered collective bargaining in higher education and is committed to organizing faculty across the United States, where it represents faculty at community colleges, major research universities, schools liberal arts and, historically, black colleges and universities. Through a strong local and state membership structure and a relationship with the AFL-CIO, the AFT influences legislation at the state and federal levels.

The AAUP has been setting the standards for academic freedom and shared governance in the academy since 1915. Throughout the academy, the AAUP is often the resource faculties turn to when faced with a challenge to freedom. academic on campus. Its work defines core professional values ​​and standards in higher education. The organization also organizes faculty into collective bargaining unions and advocacy chapters, working to enshrine these values ​​and standards in collective agreements and institutional policies.

“The AAUP and the AFT have our distinct organizational strengths,” Mulvey said. “Working together, we will be much better equipped to meet the challenges facing higher education – anti-intellectual attacks on the teaching of United States history, legislative intrusion into the academy, disinvestment and under- chronic funding of public higher education and the resulting casualization of workers. By working together, the AAUP and AFT can build a more inclusive, organized and powerful university labor movement.

AFT and AAUP have a history of partnership and formal joint organizing agreements, including dual AAUP/AFT affiliates currently representing over 20,000 faculty and staff. The organizing partnership has resulted in several victories at research institutions, colleges and universities where organizing efforts had not been successful in the past.

“As the most recently formed dual local, the value of being part of both AFT and AAUP has helped us expand and protect academic freedom, enshrine the values ​​of shared governance, and achieve raises at all levels for all faculty at the University of New Mexico. , a first at the university,” said Professor Ernesto Longa, president of United Academics at the University of New Mexico.

“Now, as many more faculty from New Mexico and across the country join us as local duals, we are excited to join them in the fight for investment in higher education funding, sustainable jobs for those who do this work and to imagine a New Deal for higher education in New Mexico and across the country.

Transform the landscape

The New Deal for Higher Education is an ambitious legislative program that aims to transform the higher education landscape by:

  • Lobby for reinvestment in higher education at the state and federal levels.
  • End the practice of employing contingent faculty at low cost to undermine academic freedom and the tenure system.
  • Increase affordable access for students from all socio-economic backgrounds.
  • Challenging the movement to deprive teachers of their right to research and teach subjects that address racial, ethnic and gender inequalities in American society.
  • Cancel student debt and relieve pressure on people who have been forced to fund their own education.

“Combining AAUP’s historic commitment to academic freedom and shared governance with AFT’s deep organization in education creates the structure we need to ensure our colleges and universities continue to play a vital role in our democratic society,” said Professor Rebecca Kolins Givan, President of Rutgers AAUP-AFT.

“As we face crises of contingency and fabricated austerity, and attacks on educators’ ability to teach, it is essential that we work together to demand higher education institutions whose communities and students need.”

[AFT Communications staff]

Helen D. Jessen