Dear Miami Colleagues,
Congratulations on finishing your grading and on another impactful year of teaching, research, and serving our students and community!
It’s been a singularly consequential spring for faculty and librarians at Miami. In January, Faculty Alliance of Miami concluded almost two years of 1-on-1 conversations during which we listened to the hopes and concerns of the vast majority of Miami faculty across colleges and campuses and learned that our colleagues overwhelmingly support unionizing. On February 2, FAM launched the public stage of the campaign to unionize, confirming the support of a strong majority of the faculty for FAM’s mission. Soon, FAM organizers will be driving your union authorization cards to the State Employment Relations Board in Columbus.
FAM is pursuing a holistic vision to reinvigorate the teacher-scholar model after years of faculty cuts, increased class sizes and loads, and reduced time for research and teaching preparation. We’ve already seen the power of faculty solidarity, as the administration has pivoted toward faculty concerns in their communications and announced—months ahead of the usual timing—an unprecedented 4% salary increment pool.
As the economist Matthew D. Hendricks recently wrote, "Since at least the late 1960s, education researchers have known that the most important factor influencing student outcomes is teacher quality… To improve student outcomes, colleges and universities need to promote policies that will allow them to attract, hire, and retain the best teachers.” Through FAM, you and your colleagues can ensure that Miami acts in its own long-term best interest.
What FAM will bring to Miami
Stronger shared governance
FAM will not solve all problems at Miami; this is a challenging time in higher education. But through a union, faculty perspectives stand a much better chance of informing and influencing Miami’s future.
The collective power of a union gives you and your colleagues a firm stake in decision-making. Through the contract and legal grievance processes, faculty can participate in creating equitable outcomes and make sure that the university follows its own policies. Miami’s University Senate is an advisory body whose recommendations the administration is able to ignore. Only 19 out of 91 faculty seats on standing committees are held by elected representatives. And when 95% of faculty voted in favor of adding two non-voting faculty members to the Board of Trustees, it took the Board under three minutes to hear and dispense with the resolution.
Collegiality—the commitment to shared responsibility and care among colleagues—exists when all faculty have a voice and when the needs and perspectives of the least powerful, as well as the most powerful, can be heard. Collegiality is threatened when faculty employment is precarious, when faculty are afraid to speak out, and when decisions that affect faculty working lives and student learning are made in top-down fashion. Because a union contract offers clear guidelines, collaboratively developed through negotiation, there are fewer opportunities for confusion, disagreement, and strife between administration and faculty.
Through FAM, faculty and librarians in all ranks and categories, on all campuses and of all demographics, will be empowered to improve their working lives. Let’s be boldly collegial!
A pathway for expanding institutional commitments to equity and diversity
FAM is following in the footsteps of transformative diversity and equity efforts underway in other academic unions — achievements in recognizing diversity-related service, protections against bias in evaluation of teaching, equitable salary review processes, and more. Miami AAUP has been committed to active work in DEI for many years, recently holding a chapter meeting and testimony workshop against the anti-CRT House Bill 327 and encouraging faculty to write legislators against the “Don’t Say Gay”/anti-CRT House Bill 616. At Miami, where faculty with the most security and institutional power are currently most empowered to speak up, it’s important to emphasize that FAM is organizing faculty to solve inequities (Figs. 1 & 2), not reproduce them, and that unions offer an unparalleled pathway for creating change.
FAM has launched a conscious process of creating equitable governance and leadership structures to ensure that underrepresented colleagues such as BIPOC faculty, international faculty, AAPI and Desi faculty, faculty with disabilities, LGBTQ+ faculty, and precarious non-tenure-track faculty all participate powerfully in union decision-making. We invite all of you to join your colleagues in the crucial work of building equitable and inclusive union governance, leadership and bylaws so that FAM can be as effective as possible in building a better, more equitable, more diverse Miami. This is your union!
A commitment to reducing precarity
Pandemic classes would have been challenging for students and faculty even if we’d had a full roster of faculty — but when roughly 150 full-time faculty lost their jobs in spring of 2020 (Fig. 3), remaining faculty ended up with larger courses and higher loads at a time when students needed more attention, not less.
At unionized institutions, faculty can negotiate formally or informally to mitigate or prevent emergency staffing cuts like those that happened at Miami. At one institution where large layoffs were threatened, unions formed a coalition to propose an alternative that saved even more money—and succeeded. Where cuts did happen, unionized schools were able to negotiate severance packages and right of rehire for short-term contract faculty. At many schools, projected shortfalls did not manifest, so cuts were not needed. Students benefited from continuity. Faculty kept their jobs and health insurance during the pandemic.
By contrast—and despite faculty efforts to find alternatives—Miami’s decision to cut faculty was made abruptly in a top-down fashion. Union negotiations could have softened or prevented the harm to our valued colleagues and to our capacity to provide high-quality education for our students. FAM can also negotiate to protect tenure from erosion at Miami—as attacks on tenure nationwide threaten to increase precarity further. FAM looks forward to the opportunity to defend educational quality at Miami by negotiating to strengthen academic freedom and reduce precarity.
Improved salaries and benefits
Through a union, you and your colleagues—informed by detailed, transparent budget data—can negotiate raises and benefits Miami can afford and you deserve. The evidence is overwhelming that unions have a positive impact on worker compensation. Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that unions raise wages across industries; in 2021, union workers in education occupations made an average 24% per week more than their non-union counterparts—far outstripping the cost of dues (Fig. 4).
When a fiscal emergency is projected, unionized institutions can negotiate for cuts to compensation or staffing to take effect only if projected budget shortfalls come to pass. In many cases, projected COVID shortfalls were less severe than projected, so following through with planned raises proved affordable.
Miami faculty are overall paying higher deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums and receiving skimpier medical and family leave than our peers at unionized schools (Fig. 5). Democratically elected faculty negotiators will address the full compensation package, including benefits and merit raises (yes, merit pools are typically included in faculty contracts), to ensure that you and your colleagues come out ahead.
With a vote to unionize, Miami faculty will join unionized colleagues at highly research-intensive schools such as Rutgers and the California State and SUNY systems (which include over a dozen R1 schools); the R1 flagship public universities of Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Oregon; 10 out of 14 Ohio four-year public universities (such as R1 University of Cincinnati); and numerous highly research-active, teaching-focused universities all over the country (such as R2 peer schools University of Rhode Island and University of Vermont). Over 120 universities have unionized in the past decade, and the trend is growing. Unionization can be a pathway to sustaining the teaching quality Miami has been known for. A study of 23 years of data from 433 four-year public universities found that “unionization improves efficiency and effectiveness.”
Anti-union rhetoric has contributed to a long trend of worker disempowerment in the US that has increased precarity and flattened real wages across industries (including higher education). But in what’s being described as a “union boom,” new union filings are up by 57%.
The tide is turning—to the benefit not only of Miami faculty, but the entire community. Increased density of unionized workers in a community have demonstrably positive effects on local wages, living standards, and democratic rights.
The power to take positive action for yourself and for your students
Faculty working conditions are student learning conditions. As a union, you and your colleagues will have the legal right to negotiate with the university on terms and conditions of your employment—including benefits, terms of appointment, salaries, and anything else the membership has voted to prioritize. FAM can negotiate binding agreements that support shared governance, economic security, academic freedom, and student learning. You and your colleagues deserve to participate in creating working conditions that support Miami’s educational mission and protect our teacher-scholar tradition.
If you haven’t signed on to the FAM mission and submitted your union authorization card, do it now! Be part of this historic moment at Miami.
Have a great summer!
FAM Organizing Committee
PS: For more educational graphics, follow FAM on Instagram and on Twitter @famiamioh.