Frequently Asked Questions on Current Threats

FAQs about threats in the US Supreme Court and in state and national legislation to higher ed, educators, and working people. 

Q: Why is it important for faculty to join together in union?

A: Our collective voice is a powerful force to set standards and create better workplaces in our country and in higher education. Together, we can work effectively to ensure safe environments and quality higher education. Together, we can defend academic freedom, shared governance, and due process protections. Standing together also makes it possible for us to negotiate affordable healthcare, a fair return on our work, and the ability to retire with dignity. Our freedom to join together in unions to set standards and create fair rules for working families is absolutely critical at a time when higher education faces unprecedented corporatization, and when educators and our colleges and universities are under siege for the role they play in our society.

Q: What are the most pressing threats we face currently?

A: We are facing unprecedented attacks on our freedom to join together in unions. Attacks by wealthy special interests are playing out in the courts and through state and national legislation. We recognize higher education as a public good, but the wealthiest one percent often views it as a commodity and sees our work as a challenge to their economic advantage and political power. The wealthiest corporations and CEOs have created organizations to attack and undermine our collective voice, our universities, and our scholarship. Where these attacks have succeeded, universities, faculty, and students have all suffered, and the foundations of free inquiry and robust scholarship are threatened.

Several court cases and legislative initiatives being pursued across the country aim to weaken the rights of working people, erode and privatize our public institutions, and further exacerbate the power imbalances in our economy. In particular, a ruling in the Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 case, issued in June 2018 by the US Supreme Court, resulted in workers losing their right to collect contributions from all who are represented. This will ultimately harm working people, our students, our campuses, and our communities.

Q: Who is funding and encouraging these court cases and legislation?

A: The attack on working people and our unions spans many decades and are funded by wealthy CEOs and corporations. Although some court cases are fronted by lone employees, groups like the National Right to Work Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center are funding them. Although legislators introduce legislation to take away collective negotiation rights, tenure protections, and prohibit certain topics from being taught, the efforts are often based on model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and corporate sponsors.

Q: What do these threats mean for faculty, our chapters, and our students? 

We have worked together to set standards and fight for the best values of higher education. By continuing to organize and work together, we can defend academic freedom and shared governance, ensure safe and challenging learning environments for our students, and fight for higher education as a public good. Our work as educators, members of our unions, and activists standing with our students and others in the progressive movement has never been more important.

Q: What can I do?

A: Stay informed. Stay engaged. Continue advocating for your campus community, your students, and higher education as a public good. Help organize your fellow faculty members to create a stronger voice on your campus. Join with the AAUP on your campus and nationally. Our engagement and activism have never been more important.