Collective Bargaining Agreements in Higher Education

How we structure and negotiate our contract at UNM will depend entirely on the priorities and concerns of all UNM faculty. In terms of basic procedure, once we assemble bargaining priorities based on faculty input, we then bargain a tentative agreement with the University. The tentative agreement is then put to our membership, who must then vote to approve the tentative agreement. As we build a strong union at UNM, we will also continue to look closely at what our colleagues at other universities have achieved as models for what is possible in a collective bargaining agreement for faculty. And as we achieve our own goals, we hope to serve as a model for others in turn.  Here are a few examples of what our colleagues at other universities have accomplished:

  • Shared Governance — Faculty representation in shared-governance bodies is designed to allow participation in the administration of the university. Union contracts have bargained additional protections to enforce shared-governance policies, such as those passed by a faculty senate or departmental body.  For example, the University of Oregon has language that allows all “duly adopted” policies to be enforced through the union’s grievance procedure.
  • Employment Security — Faculty unions have negotiated multi-year contracts for non-tenure line faculty at institutions including the University of Oregon, the University of Michigan, the University of California, and Wayne State University.  Faculty unions have also successfully negotiated funds to address issues like salary compression, salary inequities, workload, and professional development for non-tenure-track faculty.
  • Bridge Funding — The University of Vermont faculty union-negotiated access to nine months of research funding if their external funds are terminated. This funding provides salary and benefits maintenance between grants.
  • Family-Friendly Provisions — Faculty unions have successfully negotiated clear paid leave for new parents. For example, Rutgers University has negotiated paid parental leave for faculty, regardless of gender. Faculty unions have also successfully negotiated paid sick leave, and at UC Davis, faculty have secured up to 30 days of paid leave to care for family members.
  • Dispute Resolution — Faculty have bargained grievance procedures that allow faculty to proactively address violations of policy and/or the collective bargaining agreements. For example, faculty at California State University has a two-step grievance process that also includes an optional mediation step as well as binding arbitration. At the City University of New York faculty bargained a three-step grievance procedure and binding arbitration. Grievance procedures help to keep our institutions transparent and work towards resolving issues at the lowest level possible.
  • Tenure Process — Bargaining the overarching framework required in the tenure and/or promotion process is commonly seen in faculty union contracts. While is usually up to the departments or units to create policies for their discipline, the language supports additional transparency into the expectations required to achieve tenure and promotion. Additionally, faculty unions have bargained processes to appeal tenure or promotion decisions, or support appeal systems that already exist.  One example is at California State University, whose contract clearly delineates the tenure process, including the ability to appeal the denial of tenure through grievance and arbitration.
  • Academic Freedom — At the University of Oregon, Emerson College, and Portland State University (FT and PT), among many other institutions, faculty collective bargaining agreements contain provisions that affirm the commitment to the principles of academic freedom, including procedures that protect faculty academic freedom rights.

Click here to read more about comparable universities with faculty unions.