The American Federation of Teachers Convention in Boston this June was a historic meeting for labor in higher education, as it finalized the affiliation of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) with the AFT.
The new AAUP-AFT affiliation creates the “largest higher education alliance” in the country, uniting “more than 300,000 faculty, graduate assistants and others,” Politico reported. The AFT-AAUP agenda “includ[es] pushing for more investment in higher education; ending employment of low-cost contingent faculty; and cancelling student debt.”
The PSC has long been an affiliate of both national organizations.
Nivedita Majumdar, a professor of English at John Jay College who serves on the National Council of the AAUP, said “We at the PSC have been an integral part of both the AFT and the AAUP. The affiliation of the two organizations is a historic moment for academic labor. It has increasingly become clear that organizing and unions are indispensable, not only for labor justice, but also for the defense of freedom of thought and expression. AAUP has a century-old history of fighting for academic freedom and professional standards, and AFT with its formidable organizational muscle provides the necessary ground to wage that fight. The two organizations have had a successful organizing partnership for the past 10-plus years, resulting in increased unionization all over the country.”
Majumdar, who previously served two terms as PSC secretary, added, “The affiliation allows us to continue organizing higher ed workers, strengthen local chapters and fight legislative battles from a stronger and more unified platform. Given the resilience of the forces that are stacked against us, we need an organized higher ed with the resources and the vision that makes it possible to not only wage battles but also win them.”
AAUP President Irene Mulvey, from Fairfield University in Connecticut, said in a statement that the new united organization will be “much better equipped to take on the challenges facing higher education,” such as the “anti-intellectual attacks on the teaching of history, legislative intrusion into the academy, disinvestment and chronic underfunding of public higher education and the resulting casualization of academic workers.”
AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement, “Through this affiliation, we double down on the work to make colleges and universities excellent places to teach and learn.”
ATTACKS ON HIGHER ED
As Clarion and other news outlets have reported, a concerted effort by right-wing politicians and media outlets has sought to suppress the honest teaching of racial history in the United States, ban books and intimidate teachers from addressing any topics that might make students feel uncomfortable.
Marcia Newfield, a PSC Retirees Chapter activist, reported on the convention for the PSC Retirees Chapter newsletter, noting that several PSC-endorsed resolutions were considered by AFT delegates. One PSC resolution, originally submitted by the union’s Retirees Chapter, was widely embraced after being folded into an AFT resolution to divest pension plans from fossil fuels and reinvest in workers and communities.
“It was enthusiastically endorsed,” said Newfield. “The AFT Climate Justice Task Force initiated a special follow-up meeting, [in] which 26 people, including most of [PSC’s] delegation, attended. Plans have been initiated to build a labor network to support climate justice.”
PSC President James Davis said, “At a time when academic unionization is resurgent, the AAUP-AFT affiliation promises new organizing at campuses around the country. As importantly, in states without enabling legislation to support collective bargaining, the affiliation will give so-called “advocacy” chapters access to a labor federation with political influence.”
Published: September 28, 2022
Last Modified: November 9, 2022