What is UFAS?
We are United Faculty and Academic Staff (UFAS) local #223, a labor union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), AFT-Wisconsin, and the South Central Federation of Labor (SCFL). We represent both faculty and academic staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Context for UFAS
Unions are not as widespread as in some moments of American history, with roughly 10.8% of American workers currently in a union as opposed to 20% in 1984 (per this study cited by the Pew Research Center). And many of us remember the battle over Act 10 in Wisconsin, which decimated organized labor in the state (Wisconsin Public Radio has a helpful overview of what’s changed 10 years on).
Since Act 10, we in UFAS do not have the right to collectively bargain and our parent union, AFT-Wisconsin, shrank from 17,000 pre-Act 10 to 3000 in 2018 (see The Recent Evolution of Wisconsin Public Worker Unionism since Act 10).
What can our union do?
Many people associate union membership with a “service union” model: I have a problem at work, I go to my steward or my union representative, they take it up with higher-ups in the union who challenge management on my behalf, and I go about my business. This model can be effective in a large union with collective bargaining, a significant number of staff members, and a receptive (whether by choice or necessity) management.
In UFAS, where our now over 200 members represent a small fraction of our bargaining unit and we can’t bargain for contracts or wages, we have to work differently: we organize. The “organizing union” model works by engaging as many workers as possible, building power by educating workers about the rights we have and advocating for the rights we need. Standing together, we are speaking up to management and refusing to accept working conditions that we’re often told are “necessary” or “inevitable” due to political climate or budget cuts.
We’ve achieved several wins this way, including better pay for Faculty Assistants, assisting in putting a stop to the catastrophic 2020 UW System President search, and most recently by creating transparency around job titles and salaries in TTC. At the same time, we’re a long way from the numbers and engagement we would need to be ready to demand change by withholding our labor (yes, that’s a strike). Despite that setback, we’ve still managed to accomplish so much.
What can members do?
- Find an area you’re passionate about to join our work, whether that’s equity and diversity on campus and in our union, worker compensation and benefits, learning how to guide folks through the grievance processes on campus, or helping others get to know about our union. (Or all of them!)
- Get involved in our state federation (AFT- Wisconsin, or learn more about the AFT or AFL-CIO, our umbrella organizations), whether through attending convention, trainings, or board meetings.
- If you’re interested in learning more about what organizing means and how it works, check out this blog post from the “Steward’s Corner” at Union Labor News: How to Think Like An Organizer.
- And please connect with us at a meeting, on social media, or on our Discord server– you can find them all via our Linktree here: https://linktr.ee/ufas.
How does UFAS work?
Leadership: The UFAS Steering Committee is the main executive body within UFAS, and the Steering Committee is composed of officers (Presidents, Vice Presidents, Secretaries, and Treasurers) and chairs of the various committees. All Steering Committee members serve one-year terms starting June 1 of each year with elections held near the end of the spring semester, typically in April. Any member in good standing can run for any position. Committee chairs can also be appointed by the Steering Committee mid-term, but later must be confirmed by general membership. Any chair position may be a co-chair position if desired. Committees may also shift, so if there is a committee you’d like to run that isn’t currently active, we can help make it happen!
Meetings: We hold General Membership Meetings (GMMs) typically every month and no less frequently than once a semester. All meetings are open to the public, especially any interested member. We always invite everyone to mobilize with us regardless of membership status! See our Google Calendar for meeting times and Zoom links.
Decision-making: Right now we are still using Robert’s Rules for decision-making because our constitution requires it. There is currently a constitution edits working group that is working on alternate ways of engaging with each other. Members vote to a simple majority on full union decisions (statement sign-ons, spending funds over $500, etc). Individual committees are also held to Robert’s Rules but often internally use consensus or modified consensus.
See more details in our UFAS Constitution (and more useful documents on the Resources page).
Committees: Check out our active committees and work groups on the Committees & Calendar page.
All leadership listed below make up the UFAS Steering Committee (see more on the Committees & Calendar page). In alphabetical order:
Michael Childers, Chair, Grievance Committee
Aaron Crandall, President
Barret Elward, Chair, Equity and Diversity Committee
Chad Alan Goldberg, Vice President
Megan Massino, Treasurer
Emily Reynolds and Andrew Turner, co-Chairs, Shared Governance Party
Dorothea Salo, Secretary
Vacant, Chair, Compensation & Benefits Committee
Vacant, Chair, Organizing Committee
(Some) UFAS History & Mission
UFAS was established August 5, 1930, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus by faculty who felt that the integrity and quality of undergraduate and graduate education and the research which is essential to that education, were seriously jeopardized by faculty inaction regarding University affairs, public and legislative affairs, the conditions under which students live and work, faculty compensation, and other conditions under which faculty work and teach.
UFAS aims to defend and increase the role and effectiveness of faculty and academic staff in shaping University policy and practices. We hope to work through solidarity organizing- in the absence of collective bargaining- focusing on our moral responsibility to work together to address racism, sexism, classism, and all forms of historical and present systematic oppression in the hiring, compensation, promotion, and working conditions of workers. We also aim to devise, propose, and achieve implementation of the solution of these problems while protecting academic, civil, and personal freedoms of all persons in the University and society.
Very useful article about UFAS’ early history:
Influence without Bargaining: Unionization at the University of Wisconsin, 1930 – 1957