Delegates to the biennial meeting of the American Association of University Professors voted June 18 to affiliate with the American Federation of Teachers, joining forces to build a more powerful and inclusive academic labor movement that will be better able to take on the challenges facing higher education as well as the threats to our democracy.
The vote brings together two organizations representing more than 300,000 higher education faculty members overall, the largest such alliance in the country. The partnership creates a strong and united higher education faculty union voice with nationwide reach and unleashes enormous potential for future organizing throughout academia.
This historic alliance comes against the backdrop of increased legislative attacks on teaching and academic freedom, as well as persistent underfunding of public higher education that has led to the explosion in student debt as well as 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 unify faculty voices to fight back at the local, state and federal levels.
“The AAUP has been the voice and conscience of higher education for well over 100 years,” said AAUP President Irene Mulvey. “This truly historic decision builds on our 10-plus year partnership with the AFT and strengthens both organizations, while ensuring that the AAUP will maintain its independence and autonomy.”
“Working together, we will be much better equipped to take on the challenges facing higher education—anti-intellectual attacks on the teaching of history, legislative intrusion into the academy, disinvestment and chronic underfunding of public higher education and the resulting casualization of academic workers,” Mulvey added. The AAUP’s governing Council previously recommended the partnership with the AFT in March.
“This partnership is game-changing for the promise and potential of higher education. It brings together the members and the work the AFT and the AAUP do on campuses nationwide,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Through this affiliation, we double down on the work to make colleges and universities excellent places to teach and learn, and to join forces to battle the ongoing threats to academic freedom and democracy. We will marshal forces to better fight for the necessary resources for postsecondary education to thrive, and we’ll organize to make academic jobs more sustainable and the promise of higher education more accessible to all. The AFT and the AAUP believe strongly in the foundational principle of higher education as a public good and look forward to this affiliation as a new frontier for American academia.”
Since 1915, the AAUP has defined the fundamental professional values and standards for higher education. It has always been at the forefront of the profession—advancing principles of academic freedom, tenure and shared governance, and promoting economic security for academic workers in order to protect the teaching and research that guarantees higher education’s contribution to the public good and sustains American democracy.
The AFT has been instrumental in organizing faculty and other academic workers in a wide variety of colleges and universities. The union pioneered collective bargaining in higher education and is committed to organizing faculty across the United States. It represents faculty in community colleges, major research universities, liberal arts schools and historically Black colleges and universities.
Both the AFT and the AAUP, in their New Deal for Higher Education, are fighting for dedicated federal funding streams that prioritize teaching, research and student success as well as for canceling student debt for borrowers who have unjustly shouldered the burden of financing higher education the last 40 years.
The AFT and the AAUP have a history of collaboration and joint organizing, 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 past organizing efforts had not succeeded.
[AFT Communications staff]