AFT and AAUP Pursue Historic Affiliation

The governing councils of the AAUP and the American Federation of Teachers are pursuing an affiliation to join forces, at a time of momentous challenges to higher education and to democracy. The AAUP Council voted unanimously Sunday to recommend ratification of the affiliation to our June biennial meeting. If approved by the AAUP’s delegate assembly in June, the agreement will bring together two organizations representing more than 300,000 faculty overall, the largest such alliance in the country. The partnership will serve as the basis for enhanced faculty voice with nationwide reach and huge potential for future organizing growth and success.

Detailed information is available for members here (login required)

The partnership comes against the backdrop of increased legislative attacks on teaching and academic freedom, as well as persistent public underfunding that has led to an explosion in student debt and adjunct precarity and poverty. Through the affiliation, the 44,000 member AAUP and the 1.7 million-member AFT will work hand in hand to protect academic freedom and to unify the faculty voice at the state and federal levels.

The AFT and AAUP have a history of partnership and formal joint organizing agreements, including dual AAUP/AFT affiliates currently representing more than 20,000 faculty and staff. The organizing partnership has resulted in several victories at research institutions, colleges and universities where union organizing efforts had not succeeded in the past.

The two organizations also collaborate on the New Deal for Higher Education, an ambitious legislative agenda that seeks to transform the higher education landscape by:

  • Pushing for a reinvestment in higher education at the state and federal levels.
  • Ending the practice of employing low-cost contingent faculty to undercut academic freedom and the tenure system.
  • Increasing affordable access for students of all socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • Challenging the movement to strip faculty of their right to research and teach subjects addressing inequities in American society.
  • Canceling student debt and relieving the pressure on people who were forced to finance their own educations.

The move to affiliate builds on a ten-plus year partnership and strengthens both organizations, while ensuring that the AAUP will maintain its independence and autonomy.

The AAUP has been setting the standards for academic freedom and shared governance in the academy since 1915. Across the academy, AAUP is often the resource faculty turn to when faced with a challenge to academic freedom on campus. Our work defines the fundamental professional values and standards for higher education. The AAUP works through collective bargaining and nonunionized advocacy chapters to enshrine these values and standards in collective bargaining agreements and institutional policies.

The AFT has been instrumental in organizing locals in a wide variety of colleges and universities. The union pioneered collective bargaining in higher education and is committed to organizing faculty across the US. The union represents faculty in community colleges, major research universities, liberal arts schools, and historically Black colleges and universities. Through a strong local and state affiliate structure and a relationship with the AFL-CIO, the AFT impacts legislation at both the state and federal levels.

Joining these distinct organizational strengths will better equip us to take on the challenges facing higher education— anti-intellectual attacks on the teaching of US history, legislative intrusion into the academy, disinvestment and chronic underfunding of public higher education and the resulting casualization of academic workers. Working together, AAUP and AFT can build a more inclusive, organized and powerful academic labor movement.

AAUP members can access detailed information on the proposed affiliation here


Publication Date: 
Monday, March 7, 2022