Where do UA dues go?
Staff Support: In 2019 UA leadership voted to hire a full-time staff person to support in organizing and managing UA operations. This was partially in anticipation of the retirement of UA’s longtime consultant, Steve Finner. Our staff budget partially funds our new Executive Director, Katlyn Morris, who is affiliated with AFT-Vermont, and our part-time administrator, Patti Gannon.
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. In 2019 we 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, helping individual faculty throughout the year. This could not be done without some teaching relief for its most active members.
Legal expenses, contract negotiations, other: Other expenses vary year to year and include 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.
Affiliate dues: 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. 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. We receive staff time and support from AFT Vermont. We also regularly consult with experts in higher education issues at both AAUP and AFT on matters ranging from intellectual property policies and the legal and policy complexities at the state and national level. And both organizations help keep UA informed about political and legal issues: AAUP is particularly engaged with matters of academic freedom and trends in higher education policy nationally, and AFT is engaged with legislative issues both nationally and in Vermont.
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 dues paid for by other unions. Today, some of our contributions go to help other unions and faculty in their struggles and to help organize other unions.
Solidarity donations: Each year, United Academics leadership votes to support a variety of organizations with donations. In 2019, for example, United Academics received requests from and donated to: The Peace and Justice Center, Vermont Workers Center, Operation Agua, Scholars for Puerto Rico, UnKoch My Campus, Will Miller Lecture Series, Institute for Social Ecology, L.A.Teachers Strike, among others.
Student Scholarships: United Academics provides annual scholarship awards in honor of United Academics past leaders to UVM students pursuing social and economic justice. Read more here about past recipients and how to nominate a UVM student.
All of the above expenses 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. We are continually assessing the effectiveness of our organizational structures, and as always we welcome feedback from UA members.