New Study Reveals AFT, NEA and AAUP Organizing Primarily FT Faculty Not PTers

by P.D. Lesko

A new study published in the Journal of Collective Bargaining in the Academy presents evidence that suggests the nation’s higher education unions have been focusing the bulk of their respective and collective organizing resources on tenured-line and tenured faculty. Part-time faculty union organizers have repeatedly alleged that the AFT, NEA and AAUP have refused to help organize adjunct faculty groups. These allegations are supported by data compiled by the study’s author, Dr. William A. Herbert, Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions.

According to the study, between Jan. and Sept. 30, 2016, “The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) was the certified bargaining agent in 90% of the 20 recently certified private sector faculty units. Emblematic of the changes in faculty unionization was the certification of SEIU as the representative of a non-tenure track faculty unit at Duke University, the first new private sector faculty bargaining unit in a right-to-work state in a quarter of a century.”

Compare this to the AFT’s organizing record prior its 2006 launch of a state-by-state legislative push to increase the number of full-time faculty. Of the 44 faculty units organized by the AFT between 2001-2006, 12 were for full-time professors, 10 were a mix of full- and part-time professors, and 22 were for professors with part-time positions. In addition, in 2006 as a part of the push for more full-time faculty, the three higher education unions embraced the goal of “pay parity” for adjunct faculty, as opposed to pay equity.

As recently as Dec. 2016, an adjunct faculty group made public an allegation concerning its efforts to organize an affiliate associated with one of the higher education unions. In Dec. 2016, AdjunctNation published an article in which non-tenured faculty union organizers at Kent State University in Ohio alleged that their calls for assistance to organize a collective bargaining unit for the college’s 1,300 part-time faculty had been rebuffed by officials at the AFT, the NEA and the AAUP. During a Nov. 19, 2016 meeting at the Kent Free Library, just under 30 individuals — an estimated 5 percent of the total number of Kent State adjuncts — gathered together to vote on unionizing with the United Steelworkers (USW). The organization chose USW after “receiving disinterest from other professional unions across the state,” said Kent State organizers.

AFT Calls For Organizing Contingent Faculty…and Then Doesn’t

According to the Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions, approximately eighty-nine percent of all organized college faculty is represented by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA). This is perhaps why between 2006 and 2012 the number of college faculty represented by unions grew by just 49,969 faculty members total and the three higher education unions took in over $3.5 billion in dues revenue, spending less than one-third of that money on membership activities. Between 2005 and 2013, the number of faculty employed part-time rose from 600,000 to 800,000, according to a 2016 study by the TIAA Institute. NEA added just 8,804 rank-and-filers and agency fee-payers to the rolls in 2015-2016, which led to a mere two-tenths of a one percent increase over the past year.

On January 28, 2014 the AFT published: “The time is now for organizing contingent faculty.”  That piece begins:

 Despite decades of agitation, action and organizing, the problems of a higher education workforce that is now predominantly contingent outstrip union advocates’ ability to keep up with organizing demands. The AFT represents the largest number of adjunct, part-time and nontenure-track faculty—more than 100,000—and is charting a plan that will lead organizing efforts in new directions.

At the Jan. 23-25 meeting of the AFT Higher Education program and policy council in Washington, D.C., the stories of disillusioned yet still passionately committed adjuncts informed every aspect of the discussion. Nationally, the higher education division is analyzing the results of a Hart Research Associates survey of part-time/adjunct faculty priorities and needs.

However, even as the AFT touted a growing number of part-time faculty members, the trajectory of that growth was small compared to the overall growth of the organization’s membership: 40,000 new part-time faculty members over the past decade out of a total of 800,000 new union members. According to the AFT’s 2016 report filed with the U.S. Dept. of Labor, the organization now has 1.5 million members. The public filing does not include the precise number of non-tenure track faculty represented.

In their book Locus of Authority: The Evolution of Faculty Roles in the Governance of Higher Education, William Bowen and Eugene Tobin write, “In 1969, tenured/tenure-track faculty accounted for over three-quarters of all faculty (78.3 per cent); in 2009, tenured/tenure-track faculty accounted for just over one-third of all faculty (33.%). As many people have noted, the ratio simply flipped.”

The AFT offers up an explanation as to how the pt-ft faculty ratio “simply flipped” in its 2014 news piece. “Despite decades of agitation, action and organizing, the problems of a higher education workforce that is now predominantly contingent outstrip union advocates’ ability to keep up with organizing demands.” In other words, AFT couldn’t keep up with the work of organizing the growing numbers of part-time faculty.

Financial disclosures filed by the union between 2000 and 2015 show the AFT raised dues by 80 percent, tripled its revenue and hired dozens and dozens of new employees. Two hundred twenty-two AFT staffers earned more than $100,000 in 2015-2016, according to the union’s LM-2 filing. Three out of every five staffers at AFT national headquarters earn six-figure salaries.

A look at the AFT’s LM-2 public disclosure for the year 2000 shows that in that year the union had 706,000 members and total revenue of $130 million. Regular dues were set at $10.25 per month. The union spent $1.8 million in compensation for its officers and the 2000 LM-2 lists 59 pages of employees whom the union then employed and to whom the AFT paid over $23 million in salaries. The AFT’s 2016 LM-2 shows that the union had 1.5 million members and total revenue of $303.7 million. Between 2000 and 2015, regular dues rose 80 percent to $18.78 per month. In 2000, the AFT had no automobiles and the 2015 federal disclosure notes $265,901 worth of autos owned by the union as well as $3.5 million worth of office furniture and other office fixtures, up from the $619,704 claimed in the 2000 disclosure.

The 2015 LM-2 shows the AFT with nearly triple the number of employees the union had in 2000. In 2016, the AFT spent $17.4 million on a host of benefits for its directors and employees including health insurance, life and disability insurance, tuition assistance, paid vacation, severance pay, prescription benefits and pension payments of over $9 million.

Meanwhile, adjunct faculty pay union dues to AFT locals whose negotiated contracts provide no health benefits, disability insurance or pensions.

AAUP Loses Members….Including Part-Time Faculty

Likewise, in the September-October 2014 issue of the AAUP’s magazine Academe, David Kociemba, president of the Affiliated Faculty of Emerson College AAUP chapter and the chair of the AAUP’s Committee on Contingency and the Profession, penned: “Overcoming the Challenges of Contingent Faculty Organizing.” In that piece Kociemba writes:

Now is the time for contingent faculty organizing. The drumbeat of publicity in popular and higher education publications means that contingent faculty on your campus know not only that being a college professor is no longer an almost certain path to the middle class, but also that they are not alone.

The AAUP’s website includes an Issues section and under that heading a statement about contingent faculty and the AAUP’s efforts on behalf of its part-time faculty members: “The One Faculty campaign, designed to help collective bargaining and advocacy chapters or state conferences to make concrete gains for faculty with contingent appointments, grows out of the AAUP’s long history as an organization seeking to improve working conditions, shared governance, economic security, and academic freedom for all those who teach and do research in our universities and colleges.”

AAUP’s 2014 salary survey revealed that pay for part-time faculty in the U.S. was 10 percent of the pay earned by full-time faculty.

Since 2008, AdjunctNation has published several articles (here, here and here) about the lack of success of the AAUP’s elected leadership and staff in both organizing and representing non-tenured faculty. AAUP has over 40 employees and LM-2 disclosures show the organization spends the majority of its revenue on operating and overhead costs. Between Between 2002 and 2015, office and administration costs for the AAUP rose from $1 million to $3.3 million per year. Between 2000 and 2015, the AAUP’s membership dropped from close to 50,000 to 38,826 members while its revenues rose from $5.1 to $7.8 million.  In 2000, dues ranged from $10 to $125 per member per year. By 2015, AAUP dues for the members earning the least had quadrupled to $49, while dues for full-time members had risen to $258 per year. Between 2011 and 2015, the AAUP added 532 new part-time faculty union members.

Overall Growth in Unionization Efforts Observed

The study’s author writes, “Over the past four years we have seen a significant growth in unionization efforts and collective bargaining relationships in higher education. By far the biggest area of organizational and bargaining unit growth has been with respect to non-tenure track faculty, particularly at private non-profit colleges and universities including religiously affiliated institutions. The growth in private sector faculty representation and bargaining constitutes a major new shift in higher education. There has also been continued growth in the number of bargaining units in the public sector among tenured/tenure-track faculty, non-tenure track faculty, and graduate student employees.”

One interesting observation made by the study’s author concerns why there has been a rise in the number of non-tenured faculty union drives: “Another significant factor leading to the increase in contingent faculty unionization has been the alt-labor activism of organizations like the New Faculty Majority and the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor, the coordinated nationwide faculty organizing campaigns by SEIU’s Faculty Forward, and organizing by other unions including AFT, NEA, and AAUP. ”

The New Faculty Majority’s Advisory Board includes individuals from the AFT, NEA and AAUP, but not SEIU. Likewise, COCAL’s Advisory Committee is populated by members affiliated with the AFT, NEA and AAUP and includes no one affiliated with SEIU.

Short URL:

Leave a Reply

Keep in Touch With AdjunctNation

Graphic Graphic Graphic



Recently Commented

  • AdjunctNation Editorial Team: @Jeffr thanks for pointing out the distinction.
  • Jeffr: Note that adjunct faculty are considered to be on a “term” basis and receives no protection except...
  • Scott: I believe Sami is correct in that this no reasonable assurance language will allow adjuncts continuing access...
  • Nancy West-Diangelo: It’s as if we’ve lost the ability to listen critically. If the point of the work we...
  • Freddi-Jo Bruschke: An excellent description of this editorial.