Miami University faculty organizes to form bargaining union

Madeline Mitchell
Cincinnati Enquirer
Upham Hall on the campus of Miami University, April 9, 2019.

Miami University's faculty is forming a union to address "longstanding workplace issues," compensation discrepancies and a lack of academic freedom, officials announced Wednesday.

"As a faculty member at Miami for the last 16 years, I've seen the relationship between upper administration and faculty deteriorate,” Todd Edwards, a professor in the Department of Teacher Education, said in a news release. "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.”

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Miami is the largest employer in Butler County, with approximately 3,720 full- and part-time employees. Of Ohio's 14 other four-year public universities, 10 have collective bargaining agreements with faculty, including the University of Cincinnati.

The Enquirer is awaiting comment from Miami leaders on the faculty's announcement.

Miami faculty does have an organization currently, the American Association of University Professors, Miami University Advocacy Chapter, comprised of university distinguished professors, adjunct faculty, department chairs, teaching professors and clinical faculty, visiting assistant professors, graduate students, emeriti and tenured or tenure-line professors. 

But Miami does not bargain with this group – according to the university's website, it only recognizes the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) as bargaining unions.

Miami's AAUP President Cathy Wagner said faculty members have been working for several months, having hundreds of conversations to find common complaints and wishes to improve working conditions at the university. Almost universally, she said, people have expressed a desire for shared governance and more transparency from Miami.

"An overwhelming majority of you strongly support organizing a union," Wagner said Wednesday during an AAUP meeting, to a Zoom audience of over 100. "That is a sentence I cannot believe that I can say at this point because about five years ago I never would have thought it was possible."

In the spring of 2020, a majority of Miami's contingent or visiting faculty were told their contracts would not be renewed at the start of the last school year. Wagner said more than 150 full-time faculty lost their jobs at that time, with only a fraction of those positions reinstated. At the same time, she said, the university's main campus saw an 18% enrollment increase for its incoming class.

The loss of those faculty members has put additional stress on remaining professors, Wager said.

"If Miami wants to remain an economic driver of the community, it has to make decisions that are in the best interests of its people – its students and faculty. We want to make Miami University the school Miami students deserve," Wagner said in the Wednesday release.

The Faculty Alliance of Miami, which was formed in January and Wagner helps lead, is currently documenting faculty concerns as a first step towards forming a bargaining union. Faculty can sign on to support the creation of a union using an online survey form.