Where do your UA dues go?
The budget passed at our 2018 spring member’s meeting projected total expenses for FY 2019 to be $425K (down a bit from previous years because of the expected losses due to the Janus decision).
Honoraria: By choice, we have been a heavily faculty-run union, and thus have historically paid more than many unions in stipends (for course releases or equivalents) to facilitate the large amount of work UVM faculty have done on behalf of UA. This budget’s 13% is substantially down from previous budgets, as we have cut the majority of our stipends in half, but the work done by individual faculty is still very substantial. For example, our Contract Administration Committee does an enormous amount of work, almost all of it confidential, helping individual faculty throughout the year. This could not be done without some teaching relief for its most active members.
Staff: For the same reason, our staff costs (13%) are lower than many, perhaps most, higher ed unions. Our staff budget goes largely to our part time 10-hour-per-week administrator, Patti Gannon, and to our consultant, Steve Finner, who has been working for us part time (officially, five days a month) providing expert legal and policy help since he retired from a lifetime career with AAUP.
Other: The “other” category of expenses (18%) is made up largely of negotiation- and contract-related expenses. For example, we occasionally pay for legal advice about specific grievance and contract details, and we needed a lawyer with expertise in Vermont labor law to represent us in the fact finding hearing and related issues in our recently concluded full time contract negotiations.
Dues and Fees: More than half our expenses go to payments to our two affiliate organizations, AFT and AAUP, according to fixed formulae based on our own income from dues and fees. This is typical for higher ed unions. What do we get for all that?
In general, unions have found it efficient to pool resources, so each union is not faced with reinventing the wheel on its own when dealing with legal and policy complexities. Some of that money comes back to us for efforts directly on behalf of UA. For example, Katlyn Morris (UVM PhD 2013, Lecturer since 2012) is serving us in several ways, including as Chief Negotiator for our part time unit’s ongoing negotiations, and her salary is paid for by VT-AFT. We also regularly consult with experts in higher education issues at both organizations on matters ranging from intellectual property policies and the legal and policy complexities of implementing things like the Janus decision. And both organizations keep an eye on political and legal issues in a way that UA could not do on its own: AAUP is particularly engaged with matters of intellectual freedom and trends in higher education policy nationally, and AFT is engaged with legislative issues both nationally, and via AFT-VT, in Vermont. They represent UA’s interests in arenas we are not well equipped to.
Besides direct benefits, there is a “pay-it-forward” logic to union umbrella organizations. Unions help each other, and a stronger union context nationwide helps everyone. When faculty at UVM first organized UA, we received enormous amounts of support dealing with the logistics and legal issues surrounding the creation of our union, and that help was paid for by union membership fees paid for by other unions. So it makes sense that some of our contributions now go to help organize other unions.
Again, all of these matters can be subject to change over the long term. Some (e.g., stipends) are fairly flexible, whereas our relationships to affiliate organizations are determined by a three way contract that would be quite complex and difficult to change. But we are currently exploring alternative organizational structures for the future, and nothing is completely off the table.