Faculty Labor Divorce

SUNY's academic union drops its affiliation with the American Association of University Professors.

February 6, 2012

United University Professions, the union that represents faculty members and other academic employees at 29 campuses of the State University of New York, is dropping its affiliation with the American Association of University Professors.

The Delegate Assembly of the UUP -- which has for several years been debating the wisdom of maintaining AAUP ties -- voted 100 to 98 on Saturday to disaffiliate from the AAUP. The UUP retains its affiliations with the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. (The AAUP, best known for its work as a professional association, also acts as a union for collective bargaining at some campuses, and it was in that context that UUP has been affiliated with the AAUP.)

The resolution pushing for disaffiliation set out a number of criticisms of the AAUP, saying that it had "not addressed the concerns of our professionals," had "failed to coordinate government relations" efforts, had failed to always recognize UUP's status in collective bargaining at SUNY, had been too slow to fix communications and elections problems, and had provided "no return" on UUP funds sent to the AAUP. According to the resolution, spending by the SUNY union on the AAUP was $190,000 this fiscal year, and more than $1.5 million since the affiliation agreement was made.

A year ago, the UUP Delegate Assembly rejected a proposal to drop the AAUP affiliation. That vote was 154 to 78.

One of the grievances noted in this year's resolution was not present last year. The resolution says that "with the departure of Gary Rhoades as general secretary, UUP holds little or no hope that it can have a meaningful and integral relationship with AAUP."

Rhoades's contract was not renewed when it expired last year, and word of his impending departure leaked about two months after last year's vote by the UUP. While AAUP leaders and Rhoades have both shied away from describing the reasons why his contract wasn't renewed, many say that Rhoades was much more popular with campus leaders than with the staff of the AAUP headquarters. After last year's UUP vote in which the AAUP relationship survived, Rhoades was among those who pledged to improve the relationship between UUP and AAUP. And his supporters have generally said that coalition-building was one of his strengths.

Cary Nelson, the national president of the AAUP, said he was disappointed by the vote. He said real progress has been made (and is continuing to be made) on some of the issues the resolution cited, and he said that AAUP always recognized UUP's status as a union. I am somewhat puzzled by several of the whereas clauses in the resolution," Nelson said via e-mail. "I remain hopeful that this vote can be reconsidered. We value our UUP members and the wide experience they bring to our work."

Asked about the financial impact of UUP's departure, Nelson said that "$190,000 out of a $6 million budget is not fatal, but it does represent $190,000 worth of work organizing campuses and protecting academic freedom and shared governance that we will now not be able to do."


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