American Association of University Professors 
University of Nebraska at Omaha Chapter


President's news blog

  • 27 Apr 2016 9:57 AM | Anonymous
    From Karen Falconer-Al Hindi, our President for 2015-2016:

    All full-time faculty members at UNO are part of the bargaining unit; that is, whether or not they are (dues-paying) union members, they enjoy the benefits and protections offered by the collective bargaining agreement between the union and the UNO administration. All full-time faculty members are also served by the Executive Committee, including the Grievance Officer. The simple principle of fairness suggests that all UNO faculty members should be (dues-paying) union members.

    Prospective members sometimes hesitate to join around the issue of dues. They wonder what the dues pay for, and why they are 0.75% (.0075 x) salary. For some perspective, this means that a faculty member making $55,000 pays $34.38 per month, and a faculty member making $80,000 pays $50 per month (typically via convenient payroll deduction). As professional expenses go, this is a bargain: Compare what one receives with union membership to the cost, for example, of participating in a 3-day professional conference.

    Dues-paying members enjoy not just one but three memberships: 1) the UNO AAUP; 2) the national AAUP; and 3) the Nebraska Conference of the AAUP. They receive a subscription to Academe, and enjoy several members-only events during the academic year (events this year have included the annual Salute to Labor parade, two chapter meetings, two dinner events, and a family afternoon at Pump It Up). In addition, members are welcome and encouraged to attend membership development events such as happy hours at the Brazen Head Pub. All events are offered at no additional cost. Finally, members take pride in knowing that their dues support the important and demanding work of the union bargaining team.

    The three most expensive union undertakings, and thus the primary destinations for member dues, are: Dues (to the National AAUP, AAUP State Conference, and the National AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress); Membership development; and preparation for collective bargaining.  Membership development includes recruiting new members, and just as important, offering time and space for members to connect with one another. Preparation for collective bargaining is a time and money-intensive process.

    When the Nebraska Unicameral rewrote the public sector bargaining law, it removed our ability to use a “special master” who was forced to choose between the UNO AAUP and the UNO administration in the event of disagreement over the contract. Now, by law, the best our AAUP can get is the midpoint in a list of peer institutions, and any impasse over any single mandatory item in the contract (wages, hours, and terms of employment) can open the entire contract to scrutiny by the Commission of Industrial Relations (CIR).

    The cost of going before the CIR can quickly add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars (as another Nebraska public sector union recently discovered). So, it is extremely important that the UNO AAUP enter the bargaining season very well prepared with data, analysis, and a well-researched and easily justified peer group of institutions. In addition to members of the UNO AAUP executive committee who prepare research and analysis, the union pays our attorney as well as an expert witness to do so. In recent years the UNO AAUP executive committee has budgeted $20,000 for these expenses and this has been adequate. In the event that we were forced to go before the CIR we would be prudent to set aside $200,000. Clearly, collective bargaining requires substantial resources and potentially deep pockets.

    Where do our dues go? To support the important work of the AAUP.

     

    Karen Falconer Al-Hindi wishes to thank Joe Brown, John Kretzschmar, Dana Richter-Egger and James Shaw for help with this post. Any errors or omissions are hers alone.

  • 15 Jun 2015 7:44 AM | Anonymous
    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; kfalconeralhindi@unomaha.edu


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