Since 1981, when UNO’s faculty won the fight to form a chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), ours has been a union faculty. In Nebraska, a so-called “right to work” state, this means that all full-time faculty, whether they are tenured/tenure-track or not are members of the unit represented by the union, whether or not they pay dues. Of the unit members, a smaller number are union (that is, dues-paying) members. The dues-paying members are those who have a meaningful say in running the UNO chapter of the AAUP. Nevertheless, all unit members (all full-time faculty) are represented by and benefit from the hard work of the negotiating team, Grievance Officer, and members of the Executive Committee.
I joined the AAUP (joined the union and began paying dues) as a new faculty member. I knew enough labor geography and history that I welcomed the opportunity to ally with my colleagues and gain a voice in determining my quality of life. I also thought it was the right thing to do.
Beginning last September and continuing through the beginning of 2015, the AAUP negotiating team met frequently with the administration’s team to agree on a contract for 2015-2017. And what a contract it is! It includes a 3% pay increase in each year, a new promotion stipend for Assistant Instructors, and a special adjustment for the lowest-paid salaries in each rank. While changes in higher education are eroding faculty compensation, working conditions, and governance at many universities, the UNO AAUP is working to ensure that doesn’t happen here.
Unless you’ve had cause to seek his help, you may be unaware of the tireless efforts of the Grievance Officer, Michael Peterson. Mike estimates that he spends over 100 hours each year fielding phone calls and emails, meeting with unit members, and advocating for faculty. His advocacy focuses on issues that are in our contract. Sometimes Mike is able to resolve matters informally. When that fails, he may be forced file a formal grievance. Grievances cost money and are part of why we pay dues.
Not every call to the Grievance Officer involves a contract violation. Sometimes faculty colleagues simply need advice on procedures or on treating one another well; mediation often resolves problems before contractual issues arise. The more contact we faculty have with one another through, say, marching in Omaha’s annual Labor Day parade and at AAUP dinners, the more we can appreciate one another’s work and find solidarity in our shared experiences, interests, and dreams.
Your AAUP Executive Committee includes the Grievance Officer, a Past-president and President-elect as well as a President, a Secretary, a Treasurer, and representatives of assistant professors, associate professors, (full) professors, and other bargaining unit members. The Executive Committee holds lengthy twice monthly meetings during the academic year and meets less often over the summer. The Grievance Officer and President, Past-president and President-elect, also confer monthly with senior UNO administrators. It’s a hard-working group, and there is space for you if you wish to become involved.
Already a union member? Thank you. That’s the single most important thing you can do to support UNO faculty. Not yet a union member? Join today!
Karen Falconer Al-Hindi
UNO AAUP President, 2015-2016; firstname.lastname@example.org