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Presidential Address at AAUP's 104th Annual Meeting Focuses on Unionization v. Collective Bargai

AAUP President Rudy Fichtenbaum, PhD, Professor of Economics at Ohio's Wright State University addressed attendees at AAUP's 104th Annual Meeting on June 16, 2018. His address, entitled "What Can College and University Faculty Learn from the Teachers in West Virginia?" focused on the state of higher education, the rise of at-will employees and contingent faculty, threats to academic freedoms, targeted harassment of faculty from multiple sources, threats to shared government. The main focus of the address centered on the benefits of unionization even in states which deny collective bargaining rights, and the power of unionization to present a collective front against harmful political and corporate pressures.

Fichtenbaum explained the distinctions between unions and collective bargaining. He stated that "long before collective bargaining, workers had unions—that is, they engaged in collective action to protect their interests" adding that "where we have collective bargaining, we should use it. Where we don’t, we can still organize a union."

Fichtenbaum stated that the WV teachers strike should serve as a lesson about the effectiveness of concerted effort through unionization in a state without collective bargaining. What happened in WV, Fichtenbaum states, was that many of the hidden struggles of teachers in the state exploded "onto the stage of public consciousness" thereby gaining allies and initiating needed change. Fichtenbaum suggested that the same sort of collective action and communication used in the WV teachers' strike could raise awareness of issues of higher education on a state and national level.

Fichtenbaum also spoke about the history of the AAUP, the future of higher education, and current challenges to academic freedom, stating that the AAUP refuses to "stand by and watch our profession and with it higher education, as a public good, be destroyed by super-rich corporate interests and extreme rightwing forces."

Although Fichtenbaum acknowledged that organization is difficult and time consuming, and often faculty are resistant to political involvement, but also stated that "if we don't get involved in politics we will be unable to stop the forces attacking tenure, academic freedom, and shared governance" and will be unable to effectively resist the push to reshape "higher education to serve wealthy corporate interests."

To read the full address, click HERE.

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