AAUP Loses Major Affiliate at SUNY

February 06, 2012

The union that represents academic employees at the State University of New York has ended its affiliation with the American Association of University Professors, citing a litany of complaints about the AAUP and that organization's ouster last year of its general secretary, Gary Rhoades.

The Delegate Assembly of the union, the United University Professions, on Saturday voted 100 to 98 in favor of a resolution ending the union's affiliation with the AAUP after 12 years. The move followed three years of tension between the leadership of the AAUP and the UUP, which represents faculty members and other academic employees. A year ago, the UUP's executive board narrowly decided to end affiliation with the AAUP, but the assembly refused to go along.

Cary Nelson, the AAUP's president, on Monday said he thought his organization had patched up relations with the UUP about six weeks ago, mainly by making substantial progress in remedying many of the UUP's frustrations with the AAUP on matters such as failures in communication. He called the resolution passed Saturday "very odd" because "it did not seem to acknowledge that the problems had already been solved."

Mr. Nelson expressed hope that the AAUP would be able to persuade the UUP to reverse its decision, but Denyce Duncan Lacy, a spokeswoman for the UUP, said the Delegate Assembly's resolution takes effect immediately and represents the union's final say on the matter. She said the union conceivably could vote on renewing ties with the AAUP as early as the next meeting of its delegates, in April, but she has no reason to believe anyone there would propose reversing Saturday's vote.

The resolution passed Saturday cites the AAUP's removal of Mr. Rhoades as the reason the "UUP holds little or no hope that it can have a meaningful and integral relationship" with the AAUP. Although Mr. Rhoades had come under fire within the AAUP's central office for poor managerial skills, even his critics within that organization acknowledged he was effective in his fieldwork with the association's union locals. The AAUP's Collective Bargaining Congress, which represents the organization's unionized local affiliates, last year passed a resolution criticizing how the group's leadership handled the nonrenewal of Mr. Rhoades's contract and other changes within its department of organizing and services.

The newly passed resolution also said the AAUP had failed to coordinate its government-relations offices in Albany and Washington with those of the UUP, as required by their initial affiliation agreement, and had taken actions that failed to recognize that the UUP was the sole bargaining agent for the collective-bargaining unit representing academic professionals on SUNY campuses. (UUP leaders had objected when an AAUP official publicly weighed in on a debate over proposed cuts in language programs at the State University of New York at Albany.)

In the addition, the resolution said, the AAUP had failed to deliver promised membership and accounting software, misinformed UUP members in ways that caused them to lose benefits, and failed to remedy concerns of UUP members who are nonteaching professionals. The resolution said the UUP had "received no return and no cooperation" for the dues it had paid to the AAUP, which amounted to $190,000 in the current fiscal year and more than $1.5-million since the UUP became an affiliate in 2000.

Mr. Nelson said the $190,000 that the AAUP had collected annually from UUP members represented a significant chunk of his association's $6-million budget. Without that money, he said, "We are going to have to cut back on some of the things that we do." Also damaging to his organization, he said, will be the inability to continue hearing from nonteaching professionals who account for about half of the UUP's membership. Their departure from the AAUP, he said, "is a big loss in terms of our knowledge base."

Mr. Nelson said he did not know of any other AAUP affiliates who are considering breaking off ties with his organization, although, he added, "we have units that are struggling financially that we are trying to help."