State ruling: Miami University teachers may now have labor union, collective bargaining

OXFORD —A state board has approved Miami University’s first teachers’ union after years of efforts by some of the school’s employees.

The Ohio State Employment Relations Board (SERB) ruled Wednesday to authorize some of Miami’s workers after school employees voted for the school’s first chapter of the Faculty Alliance of Miami (FAM), part of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

The results of the Miami staffers’ vote were 450 to 241 and the election was certified Wednesday by SERB officials.

The new union will include more than 800 tenured and tenure track faculty as well as teaching professors, clinical faculty, and lecturers at Miami’s main Oxford campus and its two regional campuses at Hamilton and Middletown as well as its Learning Center in West Chester Twp.

FAM is also organizing a separate bargaining unit for librarians, whose election will be May 18 through June 2.

“We will soon be participating meaningfully in important decisions that affect our ability to serve our students,” said Theresa Kulbaga, a professor of English at Miami Regionals.

Miami officials said they are waiting for SERB’s official certification of the staff vote tally, which is scheduled for June 8, before any collective bargain actions can begin.

“When the time comes, the university will negotiate in good faith and is committed to supporting our faculty, students, and our mission of academic excellence,” said Miami Spokeswoman Alecia Lipton.

“While we can’t predict how negotiations will play out or how long they will take, we expect it will take some time to establish our first faculty collective bargaining agreement. In many cases, negotiation of an initial contract can take up to or beyond one year,” said Lipton.

“University administration has always recognized faculty’s right to organize and respects the thoughtful consideration our faculty members have exercised throughout this process, along with the election results.”

Leaders of the faculty unionization effort welcomed the news from the state labor board.

“We are thrilled. This win means faculty’s voices will be heard. The teacher-scholar mission that made Miami a great school has been under threat from an administration that does not understand that teacher working conditions are student learning conditions. Now, we have the collective power and legal right to win changes for ourselves and our students,” said English professor Cathy Wagner, a lead faculty organizer for FAM.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, noted in a released statement: “Today, faculty at Miami University voted for a union because they want to teach and be respected for the work they do.”

“They understand the basic maxim that together we can accomplish far more than we ever can alone. Faced with an administration that treated them as expendable widgets—rather than the knowledge creators, researchers and teachers they are—they joined together to demand a seat at the table and a real voice in their work lives. Now, faculty look ahead to bargaining a first contract with stronger tenure, pay and academic freedom that will improve Miami and the students that it serves,” Weingarten said.

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