The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) are pursuing a closer partnership to fight back against threats to tenure and shared governance — and legislative attacks on academic freedom.
The AAUP governing council voted unanimously in March to recommend the affiliation to its biennial meeting, and the AFT Executive Council did likewise. If approved by the broader membership, the agreement will bring together two organizations representing more than 300,000 faculty, the largest such alliance in the country.
The partnership comes against the backdrop of increased legislative attacks on teaching and academic freedom, as well as persistent public underfunding that has led to an explosion in student debt and adjunct precarity and poverty.
According to the proposed affiliation, each group would keep its independence and autonomy, but the two organizations would work closely to strengthen their unionization and advocacy activities.
The move builds on more than a decade of organizing partnership, including the New Deal for Higher Education — a legislative campaign to push for more investment in post-secondary education, cancel student debt and end the practice of employing contract academic staff to undercut academic freedom and the tenure system, among other things.
“The AFT and AAUP are coming together to unleash the purpose, promise and possibilities of higher education in America,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a media release. “The idea of the university is to encourage and defend the free exchange of intellectual labor because all scholarship and teaching create value — whether it is social, economic or cultural.”
“To make sure colleges are not just the province of the rich, we need to fight for the right of every student to have an affordable education and to ensure every academic worker — from adjunct teacher to lecturer, to tenured professor — a workplace with the autonomy, respect, compensation and career stability they deserve.”