Miami instructors working to form faculty union in wake of job cuts

Some of Miami University’s educators are trying to form a union to engage their employer in collective bargaining.

That’s according to a recent announcement made by officials of the Faculty Alliance of Miami University, who said their unionizing effort “was prompted by longstanding issues with working conditions, compensation, shared governance, and academic freedom.”

“As a faculty member at Miami for the last 16 years, I’ve seen the relationship between upper administration and faculty deteriorate,” said Todd Edwards, professor in the Department of Teacher Education and among the faculty members pushing for forming a union.

“Too many colleagues have had their lives upended by misguided policies that put the institution before its people. We need a union to ensure all faculty are treated fairly and with dignity,” according to FAM’s statement.

Cathy Wagner, president of the Miami chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and a lead organizer for FAM, stated Miami’s layoffs in recent years — including those since the onset of COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 — “have disproportionately impacted instructional staff.”

“Miami is bleeding full-time faculty,” Wagner said.

“We are deeply concerned about the huge drop in the number of full-time instructional staff from 2019-20 to 2020-21 — almost 150 full-time (instructors) and over 300 short-term (instructors) overall — a decrease of 13%. That’s nearly double the drop for both non-instructional staff and management.”

“Meanwhile, at the Oxford campus, enrollment of the first-year, incoming class grew by nearly 18%,” she said.

Miami’s main Oxford campus and its two regional schools in Hamilton and Middletown were closed Thursday and Friday due to the winter storm.

Miami officials, however, responded late Friday afternoon to the unionizing efforts, saying: “We are driven by our mission to provide a high-quality education for our students, and we invest heavily in exceptional faculty who bring that academic excellence to life.”

“We have extraordinary faculty and our administration is deeply committed to our system of shared governance in which we work together toward providing a rigorous academic experience to our deserving students,” said Miami Spokeswoman Jessica Rivinius.

“We value our productive and positive relationship with our primary university governing body, University Senate, which is a democratic body and reservoir of knowledge composed of students, faculty, staff, and administrators where we discuss university issues and through true collective decision-making arrive at conclusions on the policies and actions of the university,” Rivinius said.

The university is the largest employer in Butler County.

FAM officials said they currently working to document faculty concerns, which is the first step in their drive to form a union.

If enough Miami faculty sign on to the unionization effort, then an application to Ohio’s State Employment Relations Board will be made to authorize a union formation vote by the school’s instructors.

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