Press Release

University of Kansas Faculty Vote ‘Union Yes’

More than 1,550 Workers Join AFT and AAUP to Win Voice at Work, Better Pay

For Release:


Alexis Lopez

LAWRENCE, Kan.—Faculty at the University of Kansas have voted overwhelmingly for a union. United Academics of the University of Kansas (UAKU) represents more than 1,550 full-time and part-time tenured and nontenure-track faculty; teaching, research, clinical and online professors; lecturers; curators; librarians; grant-funded research scientists and other academic staff.

After a month of mail-in voting, ballots were counted April 25 in Topeka. The result was 850 to 132. Faculty cited competitive wages, job security, and safety and health concerns around aging, as well as unkept classrooms and buildings as major issues informing the vote.

“Faculty and academic staff are coming together to fight for a better KU; and today, we voted resoundingly to have our voices heard on the critical issues facing our university,” said Kate DeJarnette, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing. “We’re eager to get to work making KU a better place to study, teach and perform world-class research.”

With this victory, the union will now bargain a first contract with the KU administration to improve compensation, strengthen job security, and protect academic voice during tumultuous times on campus and higher education writ large. KU’s salaries currently rank 34th out of 38 public institutions that belong to the Association of American Universities, and ninth out of 11 smaller peer institutions.

“This is a really exciting day for us. By voting overwhelmingly to unionize, we now have a seat at the table to advocate for the needs of our university and the students we serve” said Lisa-Marie Wright, associate teaching professor in the Department of Sociology. “Our students deserve excellent, well-supported faculty, and that’s what we’ll fight for.”

UAKU is affiliated nationally with the AFT and AAUP (American Association of University Professors). UAKU joins more than 325,000 AFT higher education members, comprising 70 percent of all organized faculty in the country.

AFT President Randi Weingarten hailed the victory: “Today, KU faculty voted ‘union yes’ because they understand that joining together is the best way to improve their lives and the lives of their students. These professors, researchers, librarians, lecturers and scientists help young people be the next generation of leaders, teachers, doctors, innovators and entrepreneurs, but are too often denied a say in the decisions that shape their work.

“At a time of great anxiety, as reflected on our campuses, it is crucial that faculty members have the fairness and academic freedom that only a labor contract enables. This victory will forge a more democratic, vibrant, equitable KU so faculty can teach and research, and students can learn and thrive, knowing that the union has their backs.”

AAUP President Irene Mulvey added: “Faculty and staff at KU have shown the way forward toward a workplace that will be guided by equity, fairness, transparency and meaningful shared governance. This union will safeguard teaching and research that will ensure a robust and open learning experience for KU students.”

“On behalf of AFT-Kansas and union members all across the state, I am thrilled to welcome KU’s faculty and academic staff to our union,” said Ron Hobert, president of AFT-Kansas. “The vital work these dedicated educators and researchers do every day has never been more important, and by unionizing, they’ll have a stronger voice to advocate for their students’ needs and educational excellence at KU.”

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.