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Frequently Asked Questions: Collective Bargaining in Higher Education

What is collective bargaining?

Collective bargaining is a process in which faculty and the board of trustees interact as equals and negotiate wages, terms, and conditions of employment. This process results in a legally binding agreement that cannot be unilaterally changed, but may be changed in whole or in part if the parties mutually agree to renegotiate the agreement.

While the faculty senate is an advisory body to the administration and the board, the faculty union is an autonomous advocate for faculty; the faculty union uses collective bargaining as a tool to strengthen faculty input into the decision-making process. The process of negotiating an agreement as equals is fundamentally different than making recommendations.  When a negotiated agreement is reached, the parties, by definition, mutually accept the results. Where collective bargaining statutes exist, the administration must negotiate with faculty in good faith and endeavor to reach an agreement concerning the terms and conditions of employment. The process encourages open and constructive dialogue and flexibility.  A traditional approach involves faculty presenting bargaining proposals covering terms of employment to the administrations negotiating team.  A non-traditional collaborative model such as "interest-based bargaining," involves joint identification of shared interests prior to developing provisions that address the parties' specific concerns.  Some collaborative models utilize a third-party neutral mediator to facilitate the negotiations process.  While it is inaccurate to suggest that traditional bargaining is always confrontational, collaborative models clearly encourage cooperation, joint problem solving, trust building, and other desirable outcomes. In any bargaining model, dispute resolution during the negotiations process, in the form of fact-finding, mediation and/or arbitration, may be utilized if the parties so desire.

Why should faculty collectively bargain?

The fundamental issue is whether faculty wish to continue to address labor relations questions using the faculty senates advisory powers, or whether faculty wish to increase involvement in the decision-making process through collective advocacy in the form of a faculty union; a faculty union would utilize a substantially different process to address salaries, other economic items, and terms and conditions of our employment--the process of negotiating an agreement as equals is fundamentally different than making recommendations.

Those who believe that the status quo ensures that faculty concerns are adequately addressed will likely vote against union representation and collective bargaining. Those who believe that the status quo is insufficient should consider supporting union representation and collective bargaining.
There are four basic reasons to engage in collective bargaining:

Are other faculty members around the nation members of unions?

Yes. Collective bargaining in higher education, while not as extensive as in K-12 or community colleges, is extensively practiced in public higher education. The January 1990 survey report of the National Center for Education Statistics, titled Institutional Policies and Practices Regarding Faculty in Higher Education, reported that 40 percent of public four-year institutions collectively bargain for some or all full-time faculty (page 34). In 1991, 344 four-year higher education campuses, employing 127,563 faculty, engaged in collective bargaining, according to the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions--Baruch College, City University of New York (Volume 18, January 1992 Directory, page 115).

A 1996 study reported that 124,738 four-year faculty and 110,584 two-year faculty in public institutions engaged in collective bargaining, a total of 235,322 higher education faculty on public campuses. Three organizations represent 98% of higher education faculty covered by collective bargaining agreements: The American Federation of Teachers: 168 institutions. The National Education Association: 228 institutions. The American Association of University Professors: 61 institutions. (The National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions--Baruch College, City University of New York. 1996 Directory of Faculty Contracts and Bargaining Agents in Institutions of Higher Education).
Some of the institutions that collectively bargain are: the 20 campus California State University system; the 9 campus Florida State University system; the 10 campus University of Hawaii system; the University of Northern Iowa; the 7 campus University of Maine system; the 9 Massachusetts state colleges and the University of Massachusetts; Michigan's Central, Eastern, Northern and Western, and Ferris State Universities; the University of Montana, the Central, Northern and Central Montana Colleges; the 19 campuses of the City University of New York and the 29 campuses of the State University of New York; Eastern Washington University; SIU- Carbondale; Portland State University; Central Oregon State College; and recently the University of Alaska. (Source: National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions--Baruch College, City University of New York).