AFT Colorado • AAUP
why collective bargaining matters
Higher education staff in Colorado deserve collective bargaining. While state workers were given the right to collective bargaining in 2020, most public employees, including the faculty and staff at Colorado’s state colleges and universities, still do not have that right.
It’s about students. Collective bargaining rights give faculty and staff the ability to advocate for students at the bargaining table and beyond without fear of retaliation by the employer. This gives them a protected voice on key issues, from pushing back against skyrocketing tuition and fees, to fighting for better pandemic safety on campus,2 to taking bold steps to cut the overwhelming burden of student debt.3
It’s about the quality of a Colorado education. Unions don’t just negotiate pay and benefits. They work to achieve the promise and purpose of our public higher education system—to help students succeed and thrive. Unions can serve as quality watchdogs and social justice advocates, by, for example, fighting program cuts4 and raising awareness to address student poverty and food insecurity.5
It’s about better-run colleges and universities. Unions have helped colleges spend more wisely, whether working with management to save on healthcare benefits6 or urging caution before administrators waste money on outside contractors.7 Numerous studies have concluded that collective bargaining agreements improve effectiveness and efficiency.8,9
It’s about accountability. College administrators need to remember that they serve the people of Colorado and the students and families who choose our schools. Unions work in coalitions to give not just faculty and staff, but also students, parents and communities, a voice in decision-making and the power to raise issues in the media, the Statehouse and other public forums.
It’s about doing the right thing for poverty-level adjunct faculty. Adjuncts (nontenure-track faculty) teach a substantial share of classes in Colorado colleges and universities—in fact they account for 73 percent of instructors at the 13 colleges in the Colorado Community College System10—and are paid less than half what full time community college instructors receive for teaching the same class loads.11 Most adjuncts work without benefits, sick leave or job security, despite the majority holding the same credentials as full-time faculty.12
It’s about Colorado’s economy. Public colleges and universities are key economic drivers for their communities.13 What’s more, federal education dollars invested in higher education have a proven multiplier effect that increases local income by 2.4 percent for every 1 percent in federal grant dollars.14 So we can’t afford to let the quality or reputation of Colorado schools decline. But that will happen if the instructional workforce increasingly becomes poorly paid, ill-treated temps.
- Virginia Myers, AFT Media Affairs, “AFT Launches Massive National Campaign to Fund Public Education,” Maryland Professional Employees Council, 2019. See also Virginia Myers, “CUNY Rising Alliance Rallies to Save NYC Colleges,” American Federation of Teachers, March 11, 2016.
- Colleen Flaherty, “When to Go Remote,” Inside Higher Ed, August 2021.
- American Federation of Teachers, “AFT Settles Student Debt Lawsuit, Wins Big Gains for Borrowers,” October 2021.
- Rutgers AAUP-AFT, “‘We Didn’t Take Austerity for an Answer,’ Say Union Leaders,” September 2020.
- American Association of University Professors, “AAUP Joins Higher Education Groups Supporting the College Student Hunger Act of 2019,” August 2019.
- Marshall Allen, “In Montana, a Tough Negotiator Proved Employers Don’t Have to Pay So Much for Health Care,” ProPublica, October 2018.
- Rutgers AAUP-AFT, “We Need Answers about Rutgers Athletics’ Financial Disaster,” September 2021.
- Mark Cassell and Odeh Halaseh, “The Impact of Unionization on University Performance,” Journal of Collective Bargaining in the Academy 6, no. 3 (2014).
- D.M. Pohler and A. A. Luchak, “Balancing Efficiency, Equity, and Voice: The Impact of Unions and High-Involvement Work Practices on Work Outcomes,” ILR Review 67, no. 4 (2014): 1063–1094.
- Based on the AFT’s analysis of 2020 data from the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/datacenter/DataFiles. aspx?gotoReportId=7 on March 17, 2022.
- House Committee on Education and the Workforce Democratic Staff, “The Just In-Time Professor: A Staff Report Summarizing eForum Responses on the Working Conditions of Contingent Faculty in Higher Education,” January 2014.
- House Committee Democratic Staff, “The Just-In-Time Professor.”
- Anna Valero and John Van Reenen, “The Economic Impact of Universities: Evidence from across the Globe,” Economics of Education Review 68 (February 2019): 53-67.
- Maarten De Ridder, Simona M. Hannon, and Damjan Pfajfar, “The Multiplier Effect of Education Expenditure,“ Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2020-058, Federal Reserve Board, 2020.
Tell your lawmakers to pass a public employee collective bargaining bill and give ALL Colorado higher-ed workers the right to choose to unionize!