As the first national AAUP president from a collective bargaining chapter, I frequently heard the Association described by some as “just another union” and by others as an irrelevant and ineffectual vestige of a less complicated and more innocent time. There are those who view the staff and the elected leadership as either politically naïve obstacles to progress or as fire-breathing radicals who will bring dishonor to a revered institution. The same act is viewed by some as too much, too soon and by others as much too little, much too late.
The AAUP is now a tripartite organization that serves the needs of the entire professorate in a unique fashion. Pursuant to the restructuring effort that I initiated in 2004, as of January 2013 the Association now comprises a professional organization; a labor organization, the Collective Bargaining Congress; and a foundation. Our approach to collective bargaining is a principled one, relying on the core values articulated almost a century ago and codified in our policy documents–academic freedom, shared governance, and tenure. Our unionized chapters maintain an enormous amount of autonomy, and our national organization is the only one exclusively devoted to post-secondary education. All of our individual members, unionized or not, belong to the professional organization. Despite our tripartite nature, we are one. Only if we forget our commitment to the needs of the entire profession, including those unable or unwilling to participate in collective bargaining, will we become “just another union.”