Special Reports

University of Kansas Faculty Overwhelmingly Vote To Unionize, Citing Need for Better Wages and Job Security


In a landmark decision, faculty members at the University of Kansas (KU) have voted overwhelmingly in favor of unionizing.

The vote, which took place with 850 in favor and 132 against, marks a significant shift in the dynamics of academia, particularly at public universities in the United States. The new union, the United Academics of the University of Kansas (UAKU), is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the American Association of University Professors.

University of Kansas Faculty Overwhelmingly Vote to Unionize, Citing Need for Better Wages and Job Security

(Photo : PEXELS / Sides Imagery)

Background and Context

The decision to unionize comes after years of mounting pressure on universities to address issues such as stagnant wages, job insecurity, and deteriorating working conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated these challenges, highlighting the need for a collective voice to advocate for faculty rights and interests.

Kate DeJarnette, a clinical assistant professor in the university's speech-language-hearing department, emphasized the importance of faculty unity in addressing these issues. She mentioned that faculty and academic staff are joining forces to improve KU, and today, they decisively voted to ensure their voices are heard regarding critical university matters.

READ MORE: Kansas Board Of Regents Prohibits Universities From Requiring Diversity Statements 

Scope and Representation

One of the UAKU's defining features is its inclusive representation of faculty members. The union will represent a broad swath of faculty members, including full-and part-time, tenured and nontenure-track professors, lecturers, librarians, and curators. This inclusive approach underscores the union's commitment to advocating for the interests of all faculty members, regardless of their employment status or position within the university.

The AFT, in a news release, highlighted the diverse representation within the union, stating that it "will represent a broad swath of faculty members." This diversity of representation is seen as a strength of the union, as it ensures that the voices of all faculty members are heard and accounted for in decision-making processes.

Key Issues and Demands

Faculty members have expressed various concerns that they hope the union will address. Chief among these are better wages, job security, and improved working conditions. The AFT also noted that faculty members have expressed a need to fix "unkept classrooms and buildings," indicating a broader concern for the overall working environment at the university.

The union's formation comes at a time when higher education institutions across the country are grappling with similar issues. The pandemic exposed vulnerabilities within the higher education system, leading many faculty members to question the sustainability of current working conditions.

Implications and Future Outlook

The formation of the UAKU will likely have far-reaching implications for both faculty members and the university. For faculty members, the union represents an opportunity to significantly impact decision-making processes and to advocate for their interests more effectively. For the university, the unionization of faculty may lead to changes in how it operates and interacts with its employees.

A university representative expressed positivity regarding collaboration with the new union, mentioning the provost's anticipation of working with them and faculty, staff, and students to advance KU's mission.

The decision by University of Kansas faculty members to unionize reflects a broader trend within higher education towards collective action in addressing long-standing issues. The formation of the UAKU represents a significant milestone for KU faculty members and underscores the importance of collective bargaining in ensuring fair treatment and working conditions for all faculty members.

RELATED ARTICLE: Kansas House Committee Passes Bill Penalizing Colleges For Diversity Statements 

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