Unions Ask Congress to Support Higher Ed Workers

On August 11 the AAUP sent a coalition letter asking Congress to better support higher ed workers in the American Families Plan, signed by national unions with locals and chapters on college campuses. You can read an abbreviated version below or read the full letter here.

Dear esteemed Members of Congress,

Our organizations have all called, in one way or another, for Congress to double Pell grant funding, increase grant funding to institutions, and create a federal-state partnership to reduce college costs. We greatly appreciate your support for these initiatives so far, and we urge you to take the next step to add guardrails to ensure this money is used in ways that support the people who do the work on America’s college campuses. We ask that you consider the following for the FY22 federal budget, and future legislation to drive economic recovery and to create free college programs, such as the American Families Plan:

1. Protect faculty and staff job security by setting a baseline of support for campus workers as a condition of accepting new streams of federal free college funding. Beyond supporting an increase in the share of faculty on the tenure track, where applicable, positions on college campuses should provide a guarantee of good pay, continuity of employment, and parity in wages and benefits between full and part time roles. Institutions should work as much as possible to convert existing short-term appointments of employees to longer-term or tenure-track appointments. Gig work erodes the foundation that has made American higher education among the greatest in the world.

2. Ensure high-quality instruction for students by requiring that new funds be used mostly for post-enrollment instructional spending and student support services. Legislation should require states to keep skin in the game by demanding, at minimum, a maintenance of effort by states for per-student and instructional spending. Furthermore, funds should support a free college education at all public institutions, not only at community colleges.

3. Promote shared governance by making clear in bill and report language that federal emergency funding ought to fill payroll budget shortfalls ahead of administrative costs or debt financing, and that faculty and staff must have meaningful input when administrations seek to cut costs in moments of financial uncertainty, or in starting a partnership with an outside company. If a decision is made to hire an outside company for facilities management, instruction, or student services, the employees of those companies should receive the same benefits and workplace protections as staff formally on institutional payroll.

We would like to thank you for your generous and historic funding to meet the needs of students and institutions of higher education during the pandemic. We look forward to working with you further to help our institutions recover from the pandemic, strengthen our communities and civil society, and create thousands more good-paying, union jobs in the process.


American Association of University Professors (AAUP)
American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
Communication Workers of America (CWA)
National Education Association (NEA)
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

Publication Date: 
Wednesday, August 11, 2021