Some KU faculty are considering unionizing, citing Regents policy, other issues

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World File Photo

Strong Hall on the University of Kansas campus is shown on Sept. 13, 2018.

Some faculty members at the University of Kansas are considering unionizing, according to an email sent to KU employees.

Rachel Schwaller, a lecturer in the departments of History and Religious Studies, emailed faculty members this week inviting them to a meeting about “our shared concerns and experiences.” Schwaller included a working mission statement for a union called Kansas Faculty United.

According to the draft mission statement, the union would work together to bargain in defense of faculty interests and employment rights. The need for a union became increasingly clear, the statement reads, after the Kansas Board of Regents’ decision to pass a controversial policy that could temporarily remove tenure protection. The statement also cites decisions made by the university during the pandemic.

“When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the spring of 2020, University of Kansas administrators made a series of decisions that revealed just how little power we, as faculty members and employees at KU, are able to exert over our workplace and the conditions of our labor,” the statement reads.

The Journal-World reached out to the KU administration Thursday evening for comment.

Concerns listed in the draft statement include a need for transparency, shared governance, fairness and truthfulness at KU. The draft states that Kansas Faculty United is committed to recruiting and retaining outstanding and diverse faculty and supporting the job security of graduate students.

The draft states that a union could negotiate for a salary scale with baselines, parental leave policies and job protection. It specifically states that a union could “offer the protection of a binding legal contract that supersedes KBOR policy to protect workers’ ability to keep their jobs or be offered legal due process should the university attempt to terminate that employment.”

The statement also focuses on nontenure track faculty and staff, saying that they deserve better salaries and other benefits such as health care, maternity leave, bonuses for developing curriculum and more.

Schwaller said the document was only a working mission statement. In her email, Schwaller invited faculty members to a meeting about the union next week.


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