Frequently Asked Questions

What is United Academics?

United Academics-AFT/AAUP is a union led by faculty—for faculty—at the University of Vermont. In 2001, UVM’s full-time faculty voted to organize into a collective bargaining unit named United Academics with part-time faculty voting to unionize soon after. United Academics (UA) gives us a legal basis for defending faculty rights, strengthening faculty voice in governance and fiscal policy, and negotiating competitive salaries, benefits, and workloads. Moreover, through UA, faculty can advocate with students and others for a university and community defined by respect, equality, and social as well as environmental justice.

Why have a faculty union? 

A union upholds the principle of faculty governance, improves salaries, helps make sure salaries better reflect professional accomplishments, gives lecturers better job security and more professional treatment, and helps ensure that UVM operates on a fair, consistent, and transparent basis. For more see http://www.unitedacademics.org/why-a-union/

Why did UVM faculty decide to unionize?

Prior to unionizing, faculty were “consulted” about salaries, benefits, and curricular changes—but with the administration exercising sole decision-making power. The result: stagnant wages, reduced healthcare benefits, and misguided program initiatives implemented by administrators with no long-term commitment to UVM.

What have faculty gained through unionizing?

Through the hard work of faculty negotiating teams at the bargaining table—and the active participation of faculty beyond to promote fair contracts and just conditions—United Academics has accomplished the following:

  • Made significant gains in salary and compensation—resulting in more robust raises for other campus workers as well.
  • Won family and parental leave policies—as a broadly distributed faculty right rather than a gift that deans and chairs may choose to grant or deny.
  • Secured multi-year contracts, professional support (including sabbaticals), and promotion opportunities for lecturers—both improving respectful, equitable conditions for faculty work and decreasing administrative ability to cheapen faculty labor.
  • Safeguarded faculty control over the criteria and process for reappointment, promotion, and tenure (RPT) and prevented unilateral changes to class sizes and workloads.

Am I a member of United Academics? 

Almost all full time and most part-time UVM faculty, excepting chairs and those with Medical School appointments, are represented by UA, enjoying the benefits and protections of our contracts. This makes them part of the bargaining units, but not necessarily members. Membership is optional for bargaining unit members.

A wide majority of full-time faculty —nearly 80%—have joined UA as members, contributing 1% of salary in dues, enjoying a direct voice in our union, and strengthening our ability to advance faculty priorities.  As of fall 2018, those who have not signed a membership card instead pay an “agency fee” (roughly .82% of base pay) for United Academics’ representation. (Agency fees exist in labor law to deal with what economists call the “free rider problem.”)

If I am not a member, how do I become one? 

Print out and sign the membership card in the following link, and return it to your department representative. You can find a list of department representatives under About UA on the banner of the homepage. For the membership card:  http://www.unitedacademics.org/join-us/

Or, after printing the membership card, you can return it by mail to the UA office.

United Academics, Box 31
85 South Prospect St.
University of Vermont
Burlington, VT 05405

What’s the difference between being a member of UA and being a fee payer?

Both members and fee payers are represented by UA in contract negotiations and in the benefits and protections of those contracts. Members are given the opportunity for a direct voice in the union, to vote on contract terms, and to serve on committees which shape UA policies and respond to faculty concerns.

What are the benefits of being a member?

  • The ability to vote on the Collective Bargaining Agreement (employment contract) and serve on committees like the Bargaining Team; having your say on the conditions of your employment.
  • Being a member helps make the union stronger. 
  • National representation through AAUP and AFT on issues of importance to faculty.
  • Participation in Union governance, including the ability to run for Delegates Assembly, Executive Council and executive offices - let your voice be heard.
  • Social events with your fellow faculty from across the University. Union involvement cuts across departments and schools.
  • Legal counsel (1/2 hour free of charge) on non-employment matters.
  • Benefits through AAUP and AFT .

How can I participate in UA?

There are several ways you can participate depending on how active you would like to be.

If you would like to be more involved, volunteer to work on a committee which interests you, such as the Communication Committee, the Contract Bargaining Committee, the Bargaining Team, etc. Working on a committee gives you a chance to make a contribution to UA members and also offers an opportunity for continued professional growth.

You could also run for election as a representative to the Delegates Assembly from your department or school with the number of reps proportionate to the percentage of faculty it comprises. The DA meets once a month to discuss issues and shape UA policy.

For a greater involvement, you could run for election as a member of the Executive Council. These five positions require significant time commitments and, thus, are supported by course releases.

Other ways of staying connected with UA are to attend the Members Meetings held twice a year, or to come to UA Happy Hours which are held several times a year for relaxed conversation.

How can I join a committee?

Speak with a current member of the committee you would like to join— or contact Tom Streeter, current UA President: thomas.streeter@uvm.edu.

Representatives to the Delegates Assembly and members of the Executive Committee stand for election very two years. Current members would be happy to speak with you and answer any questions you might have:  http://www.unitedacademics.org/delegates/. You may also contact Nominations and Elections Chair Charles-Louis Morand Métivier: cmorandm@uvm.edu,

What is UA’s position on faculty salaries? 

UA has always set as its primary goal making salaries competitive and accurately reflecting merit within disciplines, not making everyone be paid the same. Tenure line academic salaries vary widely from discipline to discipline, typically because of pressures from possible non-academic jobs; computer scientists have higher salaries than philosophers, not because they are somehow better but because they can get jobs in industry with higher pay. UA does not seek to change that.

UA has supported salary increases in the case of outside offers; it is deans, not UA, who sometimes resist matching outside offers, including for new incoming faculty. UA does not prevent higher salaries for new faculty, as long as they are achieved within the rules of the contract; if your dean says they can’t pay a high enough salary to attract someone, that’s the dean’s choice combined with basic budgetary resources. If they say they don’t want to invert or compress existing faculty by paying incoming faculty more than existing faculty, that’s understandable, but it’s not required by the contract. 

What is UA’s position on performance raises? 

UA has always supported a certain amount of performance-based pay increases in every contract. The criteria for determining performance raises and promotions are determined by departments and schools in coordination with the administration; the union, through the contract and the contract administration committee, works to make sure those decisions are made fairly, but does not decide criteria defining performance. 

The biggest performance-based pieces of the contract are the guaranteed promotion bumps that come with being promoted to senior lecturer, associate professor, or full professor. These bumps approach 10% pay hikes. Those are decided on meritocratic terms, requiring thorough evaluations by expert peers, and over time they can have a very substantial effect on an individual’s salary; a 1.5% across-the-board raise for someone post-promotion is a larger dollar raise than the same percentage pre-promotion. 

Every contract has also contained performance pay measures based on annual reviews; contracts typically devote some percentage to across-the-board, and some percentage to performance. Measures of performance are organized and guaranteed by the contract, both in the annual performance pay and the promotion bumps. The contract we are negotiating now will contain performance measures, though exactly what percentage they will be has yet to be determined.

What is a grievance? 

A grievance is a complaint, claim, or dispute arising under the current collective bargaining agreement. Grievances are limited to matters of interpretation or application of provisions of the contract, except for a few provisions within the contract that are specifically excluded from the grievance procedure.

The Union has a number of important functions, but the two most important are negotiating the Collective Bargaining Contract (CBA) and enforcing it.  In enforcing the CBA, the Union has the role of protecting the rights of the members of the bargaining unit under its provisions. Within the environment of UVM, administrators have the contractual responsibility to follow the provisions of the CBA in their day-to-day work. Too often, we find that many of them do not know the provisions of the CBA that are relevant to their work environment. Some administrators have consciously violated the contract for one reason or another.

When a violation of the CBA occurs, the affected member must report it to the Union. Many times, a violation may affect other members of the bargaining unit and the union must follow through with an investigation of the facts of the case. If the complaint has merit, the Union will file a grievance.

The grievance process is a check and balance for the faculty against administrative arbitrariness. As such, it makes UVM a fairer place to work and live.

What happens if I have a grievance?

First, we try to settle the matter informally with a conversation between the Union, the member, and the appropriate member of the Administration. If this works, this is the most efficient way to settle disputes.

If that fails, we assemble the grievance committee to assist in determining if a formal grievance should be filed. If so, a formal letter will be written to the Administration and a timeline within the grievance process begins. It is important to contact the UA as soon as possible to determine if a grievance has occurred.

What should I do if I think I have a valid grievance?  

Please contact UA’s Contract Administration Committee as soon as possible: contract@unitedacademics.org.  There are very strict deadlines and we do not want to miss them. 

If you think you have a valid grievance, you also might go to the Contracts section at the top of the UA homepage. There, you can review the read the Full-Time Collective Bargaining Agreement or the Part-Time Bargaining Agreement for the details of your contract. Or, click on this link:  http://www.unitedacademics.org/current-contracts/

Another place to look for other specifics is in the section on Contract Tips.

http://www.unitedacademics.org/contract-tips/

For more information on what concerns the CAC addresses, see this section:  

http://www.unitedacademics.org/contract-questions/

Who could I speak with about my grievance?

Contact the Contract Administration Committee directly: contract@unitedacademics.org