The Case for a Faculty Union

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Across the United States, public higher education is in crisis, as colleges and universities face steep reductions in federal and state funding. The financial effects of the Great Recession have led many institutions to make up the difference from other funding sources. Troublingly, university administrations have decided to transfer the cost of education to:

  • Students: often in the form of increased tuition and corresponding student debt.

  • Corporations and private philanthropists: whose funding often has strings attached and is less accountable to the public.

  • Faculty: who have faced steep declines in income, security, benefits and working conditions (everything from access to academic freedom, to gender and racial equity in the workplace) as administrators seek cost-savings.

Faculty at the University of Washington want a stronger voice in shaping our university’s direction and priorities, our working conditions, and the future of higher education for our students and the public who we serve. For us, equity is excellence. 

Faculty at the University of Washington in Seattle, Bothell and Tacoma have partnered with SEIU 925 to form a voluntary faculty union, as a first step in participating more effectively in wider efforts to defend the values of public higher education that under attack and erosion. We need an approach to academic work that lives up to the University of Washington’s excellence and values.

A union is a group of employees who come together to accomplish things they cannot accomplish alone. We are stronger together. When faculty members unite, our combined voice can lead to positive changes for all.

University of Washington faculty are forming a union because:

  • We need a stronger voice in Olympia. Faculty have a role to play in advocating with the governor and legislature for increased public funding for the University of Washington.

  • We need more faculty inclusion in university governance. The decisions and priorities being set by the current UW Board of Regents - a group that does not include a faculty representative, but does include a large group of corporate affiliations - have exacerbated the crisis in higher ed. 

  • We need better racial and gender equity in hiring, promotion and compensation decisions. People matter.Too often, faculty of color and female faculty have been faced with less pay, opportunity and security in the workplace, while also taking additional work in the form of student advising and mentoring.

  • We need fair pay, job security and a career ladder for all faculty. This is especially true for contingent faculty who are part-time, non-tenured or without tenure. With our union, we can advocate on workplace issues that deeply affect both our welfare and our ability to be excellent teachers: salaries, health and retirement benefits, teaching loads, sabbatical and leave policies, and the number of tenure-track positions.

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All UW photographs by Curtis Cronn and subject to CC-licenses as indicated on Flickr

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