Voting Underway at Miami University of Ohio

By David Kociemba

Faculty members in the AAUP-AFT chapter at Miami University in Ohio have been organizing and working toward forming a union for several years. On March 9, 2023, Ohio’s State Employment Relations Board ruled on the composition of a potential bargaining unit, the Faculty Alliance of Miami (FAM AAUP-AFT). Longer-term contract faculty, including teaching, clinical professors and lecturers—a group collectively referred to as TCPL faculty—will be included in the unit along with tenured and tenure-track faculty members. The board excluded from the proposed union full-time visiting faculty, librarians, and those in hybrid faculty-staff positions. (Part-time faculty are already excluded from collective bargaining rights in Ohio.)

“We are one faculty, working together to deliver educational quality to our students,” said Todd Edwards, a professor of mathematics education. The ruling “recognized that for the majority of faculty at Miami, which is a good thing. But we all deserve collective bargaining rights.” Securing those rights is an ongoing project for FAM AAUP-AFT.

One week later, on March 17, librarians at Miami University filed a petition for certification to form a collective bargaining unit. Science librarian Ginny Boehme is confident that Miami librarians have the support they need to win their election when the time comes: “When we filed our original petition to bring our voices together with FAM, we meant it, and we have the full, enthusiastic support of our colleagues.”

Voting for the proposed tenure-line and TCPL faculty union began in mid-April, with votes to be counted on May 17. If the union wins, bargaining will commence after the election. “We will soon be participating meaningfully in important decisions that affect our ability to serve our students,” said Theresa Kulbaga, a professor in the English department who teaches on the university’s Hamilton campus.

Because Miami is the biggest employer in its county, the decision will have ramifications beyond the university’s campuses. Research shows that increased density of unionized workers in a community positively affects local wages, living standards, and democratic rights. FAM organizers say they want to use collective bargaining to promote more stable employment and strengthen the university’s educational mission.

Julie Alexander, a teaching professor in the Farmer School of Business, says she was thrilled to be able to vote “yes” for her faculty union. And she’s excited to support her librarian and visiting faculty colleagues as they organize. “We all work together to educate our students, and we will continue to work together as a union, just with separate contracts,” she said.