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U of Akron Union Alleges Labor Law Violations

August 3, 2020

The faculty union at the University of Akron filed unfair labor practice complaints against the institution, weeks after Akron announced it intended to lay off 97 full-time professors out of a current total of 518 full-timers. The first complaint alleges that the university has attempted to influence the ongoing faculty vote on the layoff proposal by making misleading, false or threatening comments to union members about the possibility of more cuts. The American Association of University Professors-affiliated union also says Akron violated state law by not providing certain documents and information it requested. A second labor charge is about contract negotiations, specifically the union's understanding that furloughs for four faculty members until they turn 65 this academic year and tuition remission benefits were not contingent on contract ratification. Members say they always knew that severance pay for their departing colleauges was tied to ratification. There are additional concerns about laid off professors being asked to sign general release of liability agreements.

Akron president Gary Miller said in a statement that the university “has acted appropriately in its communications with bargaining unit members. Regrettably, we continue to see misinformation and mischaracterizations being disseminated by the Akron-AAUP and we will continue to utilize all our legal options to set the record straight.” The university also says that general liability release forms are commonplace.

The unions argues any assertion that it "agreed at the table that any benefit for laid off faculty, apart from the severance pay of up to $12,000, was contingent upon signing a release is completely false," according to the union. "The proposed agreement specifically refers to a release being required for the severance pay and for no other benefit. No other provisions require the signing of a release." The union is also filing a grievance on behalf of professors losing their jobs.

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Colleen Flaherty

Colleen Flaherty, Reporter, covers faculty issues for Inside Higher Ed. Prior to joining the publication in 2012, Colleen was military editor at the Killeen Daily Herald, outside Fort Hood, Texas. Before that, she covered government and land use issues for the Greenwich Time and Hersam Acorn Newspapers in her home state of Connecticut. After graduating from McGill University in Montreal in 2005 with a degree in English literature, Colleen taught English and English as a second language in public schools in the Bronx, N.Y. She earned her M.S.Ed. from City University of New York Lehman College in 2008 as part of the New York City Teaching Fellows program. 

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