Hello AAUP Oregon!
I hope you are enjoying the transition from autumn colors to wintery mists. With everyone’s busy-ness in mind, I will try to be brief and informative on some of the important work that your AAUP Oregon staff, leaders, and members are doing to support academic labor and advance the values of academic freedom, shared governance, and access to high quality higher education.
First, it is a relief to report that the Employment Relations Board of the State of Oregon ruled in favor of our appeal of the previous decision by a single judge that department chairs at Oregon Institute of Technology are not allowed to be part of a bargaining unit. I offer my congratulations to the faculty at Oregon Tech who worked alongside our staff and lawyers to assure department chairs can enjoy the collective bargaining rights of their working colleagues. The decision rested on factual details that distinguished the work of department chairs from true administrators. Chairs were deemed non-supervisory and therefore may now join their union! Two people deserve a big thank you: Jim Bakken, AAUP’s Pacific Northwest staff organizer and our Executive Director, Ashley Bromley. They facilitated the numerous commitments across the state that were needed to coordinate and advance the legal efforts and make this all happen.
Second, I offer a few glimpses into our legislative priorities for the coming short session in Salem. Most importantly, we continue working with the Higher Education Coalition to make health care benefits a reality for faculty who teach part-time at multiple public colleges or universities in Oregon. As we enter the short legislative session, this will be a priority for us. A legislative fix will greatly improve the lives of faculty who experience unjust levels of precarity and uncertainty as they juggle teaching demands at multiple institutions, often working more than full time but enjoying no healthcare or dental benefits. On other legislative news, we will continue to work with allies to put a greater onus on the State of Oregon to better fund our public colleges and universities. The situation in Oregon remains disgraceful in a society that expects education to be a great leveler of opportunity in an otherwise deeply unequal system. More will be shared on these initiatives in the months ahead.
Third, we are about to enter into a period where faculty will be bargaining at every AAUP affiliated campus in Oregon. If you are at the Oregon Institute of Technology, University of Oregon, Portland State University, or Oregon State University, bargaining is already happening or about to begin. This is an unprecedented moment in Oregon, one to celebrate and one to inspire action. Our efforts are stretched by the attacks that have targeted collective bargaining in the USA, both before and since the Janus ruling by the Supreme Court. These attacks mean our staff, members, and allies will need the support of all members more than ever. This is why it is crucial to step in and sign up for a task with your local union chapter and help make this bargaining season a period of faculty rising and sustained union strength. When I think about the troubling political and social environment in the United States, there are few items that rank as more important as an antidote to the atomization and division that threaten our social progress as a nation than strengthening the power of people in the form of labor unions.
Fourth, I want to call out the University of Oregon for persisting with a problematic approach to faculty relations and institutional governance. The ongoing efforts by the UO to deny a pay equity claim by Professor Jennifer Freyd have now hit the basement floor. The attorneys hired by the UO – advancing arguments no doubt supported by the General Counsel and President of the UO – have made problematic dismissals of research methods used by Professor Freyd while making spurious and exaggerated claims about the value of research methods by other faculty in the department of psychology. Different research methods used by faculty in the same field are not a basis for entrenching pay inequities. The arguments being made by the UO have negative implications for how all professional organizations will approach pay equity claims. As a result, the national AAUP has drafted an amicus brief on behalf of Professor Freyd’s case. You can read more here. Also at the University of Oregon, we witnessed another case where a Trustee was appointed without courtesy public announcements or process. We expect better engagement with the civic and institutional stakeholders to whom the UO and its future matter a great deal. This contrasts sharply with the positive example of shared governance witnessed at PSU in a recent trustee appointment. Trust that we will be working with allies to encourage the Governor to facilitate greater transparency and accountability in the appointment of university trustees.
Finally, we send our congratulations to the members of the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation for reaching an agreement with the University of Oregon. Their dignified fight to preserve hard won healthcare benefits from a university administration seeking to force cuts on those benefits was an inspiration. We know it was hard work and that putting forward a strike vote, which members voted overwhelmingly to support, is not something anyone begins negotiations with. You were pushed to that difficult position and we honor your efforts, in solidarity.
On other exciting national news, the University of New Mexico Faculty are unionized. Organized as United Academics of the University of New Mexico, a clear majority of faculty declared their support for unionization. Like UO and OSU, the chapter is affiliated jointly with the AAUP and the American Federation of Teachers. The bargaining unit comprises more than 1,600 full- and part-time faculty on five campuses—UNM’s main campus in Albuquerque, and campuses in Gallup, Los Alamos, Taos, and Valencia.
President, AAUP Oregon