Faculty win union at Miami University, Ohio

More than 800 faculty members at Miami University officially have a union after the State Employment Relations Board certified that an overwhelming majority of faculty cast ballots saying “Union, yes” on May 17. The union, the Faculty Alliance of Miami, is a new chapter of the American Association of University Professors/American Federation of Teachers and includes tenured and tenure-track faculty members and longer-term contract faculty including teaching professors, clinical faculty and lecturers. Voting took place via mail ballot election from April 18 through May 2. The result was 450 to 241.

Faculty Alliance of Miami University
FAM members voting to form their new union

The FAM has spent more than a year organizing for the union election, motivated by shared governance issues, workloads, and the arbitrary and unfair dismissal of a large number of faculty during the COVID-19 pandemic. The need for a stronger tenure system and more equitable compensation were additional factors that pushed Miami faculty to form a union.

“We are thrilled,” says English professor Cathy Wagner, a lead faculty organizer for FAM. “This win means faculty’s voices will be heard. The teacher-scholar mission that made Miami a great school has been under threat from an administration that does not understand that teacher working conditions are student learning conditions. Now, we have the collective power and legal right to win changes for ourselves and our students.”

“This victory is the outcome of years of hard work,” adds Paul Schaeffer, a biology professor and FAM organizer. “As an organizer, I felt that the outcome was never in doubt after talking to so many of our colleagues and acting on their clear mandate. This victory will give us the pathway to use our collective voice to bring this mandate to fruition, and to ensure that the faculty are heard as we work to improve faculty working conditions and student learning conditions through collective bargaining. We look forward to beginning the bargaining process with the administration.”

“Today, faculty at Miami University voted for a union because they want to teach and be respected for the work they do,” says AFT President Randi Weingarten. “They understand the basic maxim that together we can accomplish far more than we ever can alone.

“Faced with an administration that treated them as expendable widgets—rather than the knowledge creators, researchers and teachers they are—they joined together to demand a seat at the table and a real voice in their work lives,” continued Weingarten. “Now, faculty look ahead to bargaining a first contract with stronger tenure, pay and academic freedom that will improve Miami and the students that it serves. I could not be prouder, and we are honored to represent them.”

Putting the win into larger perspective, AAUP President Irene Mulvey points out its broader implications. “This incredible win at Miami University is an inspiration to the growing academic labor movement,” she says. “Fed up with an administration that treated the faculty like cogs in a machine, our colleagues at Miami University demanded and won the right to have a powerful collective voice on the job to fight for academic freedom, shared governance and a more just university for all. We are thrilled with today’s result, which will promote and strengthen the core academic mission at Miami University.”

Faculty Alliance of Miami organizers say they want to use collective bargaining to promote more stable employment and strengthen the university’s educational mission.