May 19th, 2015
The AAUP chapter at Portland State University, first chartered as a faculty bargaining unit in 1978, operates as both a professional association and a collective bargaining agent. PSU-AAUP represents more than 1,200 faculty members and academic professionals employed by Portland State at 0.5 FTE and above.
In spring 2014, PSU-AAUP reached a contract settlement after voting overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. As the strike approached, the bargaining teams entered into a twenty-four-hour marathon session of mediation that ended with an agreement. Thanks to the chapter’s university-wide activism, faculty members were able to win major contract advances after years of cutbacks and concessions.
Academe recently caught up with Pam Miller, the chapter’s president, and Phil Lesch, executive director of PSU-AAUP, to discuss the contract negotiations and the chapter’s continuous work to engage its faculty.
To what do you attribute your chapter’s accomplishment in last spring’s contract negotiations?
It was a deliberate process. We had a tremendous amount of activism within our own membership. That activism was based on the message that the administration was disconnected from the faculty, which resonated with our members.
We planned a very intentional buildup. It began with engaging the membership at varying levels of commitment. We developed a face-to-face network and trained organizers, each of whom was responsible for ten contact points. The idea was that by building concentric circles, we would have a core organizing group that could reach more than 50 percent of the members without having to send any e-mails or letters. That was very effective, and through that network we built greater and greater activism by asking for more and more commitment from our members. Small steps built to larger and larger steps to create a responsive network driven by activism and fueled, in large part, by the antiunion rhetoric coming from the administration.