Who could be part of our union at SFCC?
Our union would seek recognition for the widest possible group of full-time instructional employees. Although part-time faculty would not be eligible to be a part of our union, we think building the first union of academic employees at SFCC can help lead the way for other campus groups to pursue collective bargaining. SFCC-AAUP shares the national AAUP’s vision that all faculty should have the right to pursue collective bargaining, and that collective bargaining is an effective means of advancing the faculty voice on campus.
What can a union do for full-time faculty at SFCC?
A union can address many of the concerns that we have heard from our colleagues during the one-on-one conversations that we have had throughout the organizing drive. Our collective bargaining agreement could include provisions for equitable workload and ATA; a fair and transparent grievance policy; a standardized process for evaluations and promotions; policies for preventing cost-shifting in benefits and for encouraging faculty retention; a workplace safety policy; clarification of our job responsibilities, and the policies and procedures affecting full-time faculty.
How does collective bargaining work?
In academic collective bargaining, the union negotiates with the campus administration over a contract that governs pay, benefits, due process, evaluation, reappointment, shared governance, promotion, and other key areas of academic work. Unlike policies set and interpreted solely by the administration or faculty senate, a collective bargaining agreement (or “union contract”) is enforceable through a third-party grievance and arbitration process.
Union members (faculty), not the AAUP National, sets the priorities at the bargaining table according to the will of our members. Typically, a “negotiations committee” will do policy research, compare other faculty contracts, and (most importantly) engage the membership. Members develop contract language proposals and supporting research before negotiations begin. During negotiations, a team of trained faculty volunteers meet regularly with the administration to exchange contract proposals. At the end of the process, members vote to ratify the final agreement. AAUP-CBC provides training and support to chapters as they bargain their first contract. At every stage, the union is us (the faculty), not a third party. We are the ones who will set the priorities of the union, and not an outside authority.
We already have a faculty senate: why do we need a union at SFCC?
Unlike the faculty senate, a collective bargaining agreement is a legally enforceable contract: it can only change if both parties agree. In fact, a collective bargaining agreement can strengthen shared governance. Many AAUP contracts have standard articles that protect the faculty’s role in shared governance and the faculty’s control over academic issues. We can bargain for such language in our contract.
What is the process for becoming a union?
Currently, we are still in the process of having one-on-one conversations with all full-time faculty member at SFCC about whether they would support a union. Once we’ve determined that there is sufficient support, faculty will have the opportunity to sign authorization cards. Authorization cards are confidential and will not be shared with the College administration at any point. Signed authorization cards are then submitted to the New Mexico Public Employment Relations Board (PELRB) and, if there are enough cards to reach the required threshold of support, PELRB will schedule an election. All eligible full time instructional employees will have the opportunity to vote in the election. If AAUP receives a majority of votes cast, it is certified by PELRB as the exclusive bargaining representative for full-time faculty at SFCC.
We have heard that SFCC is facing budget cuts at the state level, and it needs flexibility to confront these challenges. Wouldn’t a contract with the faculty make that more difficult?
A contract can contain improvements to policies that have no financial impact on the college whatsoever, including improvements to workload and release time, evaluations, workplace safety, governance standards, reappointment policy, and a fair grievance process. The collective bargaining process also encourages transparency about an institution’s finances, and faculty can negotiate with the administration to both protect educational quality and provide fair compensation in a way that is best for both faculty and students.
Many AAUP contracts also have language in them that address institutional financial emergencies or “financial exigency”. This language typically requires that the university demonstrate to the union that there is an emergency. Then, the two parties begin to work together according to already established procedures to confront exigency. We all have a responsibility to confront these challenges, but with a union contract we (the union) and the administration can confront them together.
Will the union protect weak faculty?
A union could establish fair, transparent processes and procedures for evaluating faculty and making decisions about their reappointment. Strong contracts also include due process for non-renewed faculty that holds everyone accountable — the administration and the faculty.
If the administration were to violate the policies we negotiate, we would have the right to file a grievance that could be heard and ruled on by a third-party arbitrator. The union would not be in the business of evaluating faculty performance, but would instead be most concerned with protecting everyone’s access to fair evaluation and due process.
Will I have to pay dues? How much will they be?
Yes, all union members pay dues, which will be determined by the union membership, not the National AAUP. Once we have a certified union, we will vote on a dues rate that seems appropriate for us. AAUP dues for other chapters are typically 1% to 1.5% of base salary. For a faculty member making 50,000 a year, that’s a roughly 40-50 dollars per month.
Will the union force me to go on strike?
No. Strikes and lockouts are statutorily prohibited under the New Mexico Public Employee Bargaining Act (PEBA).