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Collective Bargaining

Academic collective bargaining includes the unionization of all sectors of the higher education workforce—from tenure-line faculty to graduate student employees, and from academic professionals to support staff. The growth of academic collective bargaining has occurred in two waves. The first was the expansion of faculty and support staff collective bargaining fueled by the changes in federal and state labor laws during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The second was the rapid increase in graduate-employee unionization during the 1990s in response to the increased use of graduate-employee labor.

Private vs. Public Institutions

In recent years, most academic unionization has occurred at state institutions rather than private colleges and universities. The expansion of faculty collective bargaining into private institutions was, for all intents and purposes, halted in 1980 when the U.S. Supreme Court, in National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) v. Yeshiva University, held that faculty at that institution were "managerial employees" and thus excluded from the coverage of the National Labor Relations Act. More recently, the NLRB in 2004 held that graduate student employees at Brown University are not employees because they are “first and foremost students.” Despite the chilling effect of this decision, a good number of private-sector AAUP chapters continue to maintain the benefits and protections of collective bargaining.

AAUP Collective Bargaining Chapters

Local AAUP chapters began pursuing faculty collective bargaining in the early 1970s as a means to protect professional standards and improve the economic status of the faculty. In 1973, the AAUP adopted the Statement on Collective Bargaining, recognizing that collective bargaining is consistent with the AAUP’s defense of such important standards as academic freedom, shared governance, and due process. The AAUP’s approach to collective bargaining is unique in its focus on faculty and other academic professionals; its commitment to protecting academic freedom and shared governance; and its emphasis on grassroots organizing and local autonomy. Currently, eighty local AAUP chapters have been recognized as collective bargaining agents representing faculty, graduate employees, academic professionals, and contingent faculty from all sectors of higher education.

If you have questions about academic collective bargaining, e-mail our national staff.

See more resources on collective bargaining.