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University of Kansas Card Campaign

By Kelly Hand

In November, faculty members and academic staff at the Lawrence and Edwards campuses of the University of Kansas began a campaign to collect union authorization cards for a secret-ballot vote in early 2023. United Academics of the University of Kansas (UAKU), jointly affiliated with the AAUP and the American Federation of Teachers, seeks to represent in collective bargaining a unit of more than 1,500 tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty, regardless of full-time or part-time status, and other academic colleagues with a wide range of job titles, including librarians and researchers.

The UAKU statement of purpose declares, “We join together to form a union that will speak and act democratically in defense of our interests, in service to our students, and for the betterment of our community.” UAKU leaders have highlighted areas in which a newly formed union could pursue “enforceable solutions” or enhanced protections, including job security for all; greater compensation; diversity, equity, and inclusion; academic freedom; shared governance; and academic excellence.

Mass layoffs of tenured faculty members at Emporia State University in fall 2022—under the “Framework for Workforce Management,” enabled by the Kansas Board of Regents 2021 policy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic—added to the impetus for the unionization campaign. The ESU terminations are the focus of an AAUP academic freedom and tenure investigation and forthcoming report.

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