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Faculty Alliance of Miami announces next stage in road to unionization

The Faculty Alliance of Miami (FAM), a proposed faculty union at Miami University, announced it would move to the next step toward unionization at a meeting Wednesday, April 13. FAM will begin distributing union authorization cards to faculty members.

FAM started its unionization campaign on Feb. 2 looking for signatures from faculty members in support of the union. The next step involves the authorization cards.

The cards will be confidential and protected in a fireproof box. Faculty members can receive a card by speaking to a FAM liaison, hand-signing a printed PDF version of the card and mailing it to FAM or filling out a contact survey for a card to be mailed. 

Once FAM has collected signed cards demonstrating support from at least 30% of the faculty, it will be able to move to the final stage of unionization: filing for an official vote. 

Cathy Wagner, president of Miami’s American Association of University Professors (AAUP) advocacy chapter, said the organization is looking to exceed that percentage.

“We’re not going to move forward until we have a significant majority of faculty having signed those cards and turned them in,” Wagner told the attendees. “Majority of our roughly 1000-person faculty, that’s a lot of cards to go and get in person, so the more you can do to help us streamline that process, the better.”

Jim Bakken, an AAUP national organizer, explained that the faculty could move to the election stage quickly enough to vote at the beginning of the fall semester.

“The goal is to be able to file for your election shortly after the term ends,” Bakken said. “We’re hoping that the labor board will be conducting your election very shortly after you return to campus in the fall … The faster we get the cards collected, the faster we can file for the election.”

In an email to The Miami Student, Jessica Rivinius, director of news and media relations, wrote the Miami administration doesn’t believe unionization is in the “best path forward” for the university.

“We believe … that collective bargaining would negatively impact both the student experience and the University’s reputation for excellence and academic rigor,” Rivinius wrote. “That reputation has made Miami a university where faculty can build and sustain careers that allow them, and the students they teach, to thrive in our increasingly complex world.”

More than 160 people attended FAM’s meeting announcing the new stage in the unionization process. Wagner said the large number of attendees demonstrated support for the union.

“That’s a kind of measure of what we all know to be true, which is that the union is how we’re going to have an impact on our working lives,” Wagner said. “That’s why we’re all here tonight.” 

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Wagner added that the group aims to have a more active role in the university’s decision-making process.

“We want representation across the university,” Wagner said. “We want it to be a diverse group of people. It’s either a few individuals now that we have making decisions for us, or it could be us making decisions for us. The union is us.”

During the meeting’s open comments, Theresa Kulbaga, a faculty affiliate in American studies and women’s studies for Miami’s Hamilton campus, warned that the university might try to dissuade faculty from voting for the union.

“Based on [Provost Jason Osborne’s] previous emails, I suspect that they might use positive tactics such as, ‘Look at all the fantastic raises we’ve gotten recently,’” Theresa Kulbaga said. “They might even start giving bonuses, trying to make things seem sunnier than they actually are.”

Daniel Gladish, a biology professor, said the faculty hopes the union will allow them to work more closely with the university.

“What we’re asking for here is not just an opportunity for higher wages or something like that,” Gladish said, “but an opportunity to influence the vision of the institution.”