Faculty Union FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

On January 5, 2024, United Academics of KU, AAUP, AFT (Union) filed a petition for a union election with the Kansas Public Employer-Employee Relations Board (PERB). Given the union’s petition, the University has engaged with PERB and the Union to negotiate details surrounding a union election which includes a description of which faculty and academic staff are eligible to vote in such election. Eligible faculty and academic staff will then vote in the election to determine if such employees wish to be represented by the Union.

A union is an organization that serves as the exclusive bargaining representative for a group of employees for the purpose of negotiating the terms and conditions of their employment, such as pay, benefits and working conditions. The negotiation process is known as “collective bargaining.” When a union is certified by the Kansas Public Employer-Employee Relations Board (PERB) as the exclusive bargaining representative, the bargaining must be between the employer and the union, not between the employer and individual employees represented by the union.

An election for eligible faculty and academic staff to determine if they will be exclusively represented for purposes of collective bargaining by the Union will be held by mail ballot election. The election will be conducted by the Kansas Public Employer-Employee Relations Board (PERB). Individuals with questions about their eligibility should contact PERB.

A mail ballot election will take place March 21 to April 25.

You can contact the PERB representative who is administering the election to request a duplicate ballot. This representative is Tim Triggs. He can be contacted by e-mail at Tim.Triggs@ks.gov.

You can contact the PERB representative who is administering the election to request a replacement ballot. This representative is Tim Triggs. He can be contacted by e-mail at Tim.Triggs@ks.gov. Mr. Triggs will provide instructions to you regarding the return of your spoiled ballot and the issuance of a new ballot upon receipt of the spoiled ballot.

UAKU stands for United Academics of the University of Kansas and is an organization composed of KU faculty and academic staff with academic or research job responsibilities who are looking to form a union. UAKU has announced its affiliation with two national labor organizations, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the AFT’s affiliate, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

No. The act of signing an authorization card does not commit the signer to vote in any particular way in a union representation election. Each eligible voter is free to vote in an election either for or against union representation.

No. If your position is included in the bargaining unit, you may – and should – vote.

The University does not take any position on whether employees should be represented by unions. The University supports employees’ rights to determine for themselves whether or not they think unionization is beneficial. By design, union representation would have a real effect on the nature of your relationship with the University. It is important for you to be fully informed before deciding whether or not unionization is right for you. Within these FAQs, we have provided background information about unions as well as some context regarding the potential impact of unionization.

The University has a long history of collaborative labor relations with three labor unions at several of the University’s campuses, some relationships exceeding 50 years dating to the onset of collective bargaining in public employment in Kansas. These labor unions represent approximately 1,400 employees in such areas as facilities, maintenance, dining, parking, the KU Police and graduate teaching assistants. These positions differ in numerous ways from the bargaining unit of faculty and academic staff proposed by United Academics of the University of Kansas (UAKU).

The Kansas Public Employer-Employee Relations Board (PERB) was created by state legislation in 1971 to enforce the Kansas Public Employer-Employee Relations Act (PEERA). PEERA is the state labor law that sets forth the rights of employees, unions and employers in among other things, collective bargaining, representation elections and protected activity in public employment in the state.

If, through the representation process, the union represents you, it also represents all employees in the same or similar job classification throughout the University of Kansas, excluding KU Medical Center employees. The union has the authority and the exclusive right to negotiate with University administration on the amount of wages, benefits and working conditions that the employees will receive.

A union represents employees in an appropriate bargaining unit that has been certified by the Kansas Public Employer-Employee Relations Board (PERB). A “bargaining unit” is a group of employees who have common terms and conditions of employment that the union seeks to organize as one group. The parties, including PERB, have determined that the individuals eligible to vote in this election include faculty and unclassified academic staff with academic or research responsibilities, whether tenure track or non-tenure track, full or part time. Of the employees who fall within this definition, some may be excluded due to their supervisory or managerial responsibilities.

There are several steps to forming a union. Typically, it begins with union organizers seeking to collect authorization cards from potential bargaining unit members, i.e., the group of faculty and academic staff the union seeks to represent. If the union organizers collect signed authorization cards from at least 30% of the potential bargaining unit members, they can file a petition to hold an election as to whether they should be the union representing the university’s faculty and academic staff. This step has been done by United Academics of the University of Kansas (UAKU), and the Kansas Public Employer-Employee Relations Board (PERB) has determined they have met the required 30% threshold for the holding of an election. PERB has determined that voting will be conducted by mail ballot election.

The exact language of the ballot has yet to be determined, however, generally, when mail ballots are issued you will have two ballot choices:

  • “No Representation” – this means you DO NOT WANT unionization.
  • “United Academics of KU, AAUP, AFT” – this means YOU DO WANT unionization and that you want to be represented by United Academics of the University of Kansas (UAKU).

Whichever option receives a simple majority of the votes cast wins.

No. A majority of the employees voting determines the outcome. If only 100 people vote, then only 51 need to say yes. They would end up deciding for every other employee in the group. This is why you should make sure to vote.

Yes. All members of the proposed bargaining unit are eligible voters and will be free to vote however they want, regardless of whether they previously signed an authorization card or not.

It is your personal choice whether to speak with an organizer or not. Union organizers do not have the right to insist on meeting with employees at their workplace or to disrupt regular University operations. Employees have no obligation to speak with union organizers in the workplace and may address them in the same manner as they respond to any solicitation. If union representatives will not leave after being asked or if they attempt to access restricted university areas without approval, the employee should report the matter to their supervisor, Human Resource Management 785-864-4946, and/or campus police at Lawrence – 785-864-5900, Edwards Campus – 913-897-8700, Wichita – 316-293-2662.

It is your personal choice whether to speak with an organizer or not. Visits by a union representative to an employee’s home or calls to an employee’s personal phone number may be handled in the same manner as any other solicitation.

Dues are the fees that members pay to belong in a union. A union’s primary source of revenue is collecting dues from members. Unions charge dues to their members to fund the operations of the union. Dues can range in amount. United Academics of the University of Kansas (UAKU) indicates that the exact amount of union dues will be determined through a vote of the membership. UAKU further notes that higher education union dues in the United States are typically between 1% and 2% of an employee’s salary.

Kansas is a right to work state, therefore, you cannot be compelled to join the union and pay dues even if UAKU wins the election and is certified as the bargaining representative for the employees within the bargaining unit.

The state public bargaining law (PEERA) requires employers and unions to bargain with respect to salaries, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment – concepts referred to as “mandatory subjects of bargaining.” If a union is certified, it is unknown precisely what issues will be introduced by the union during bargaining. PEERA excludes from bargaining management rights of the University including the University’s right to:  (a) direct the work of its employees; (b) hire, promote, demote, transfer, assign and retain employees in positions within the University; (c) suspend or discharge employees for proper cause; (d) maintain the efficiency of governmental operation; (e) relieve employees from duties because of lack of work or for other legitimate reasons; (f) take actions as may be necessary to carry out the mission of the University in emergencies; and, (g) determine the methods, means and personnel by which operations are to be carried on.

Each union has its own rules about whether all employees or only union members (i.e., dues-payers) can express their views or have a vote on contract matters. The United Academics of the University of Kansas (UAKU) website indicates that only those who become dues paying members will have a say in collective bargaining and the union contract.

It varies. The negotiation process for first labor contracts typically lasts a year or longer, during which time the status quo remains in effect (i.e., nothing changes during this time). However, it is impossible to predict how long contract negotiations would take. A 2021 analysis conducted and published by Bloomberg Law found that first contracts took an average of 409 days to negotiate. Likewise, it is impossible to predict the provisions of any negotiated contract.

Typically, each side — management and labor — appoints a bargaining team to meet and negotiate the contract. Unions have their own internal rules about how members of a bargaining team are selected, and you should familiarize yourself with how that works. In addition, the union usually provides one or more paid union representatives — employees of the union — to lead or participate in the negotiations with management. The background and experience of the union negotiator is something you should become familiar with if a union is selected.

There is no required length of time. However, Kansas law prohibits union contracts longer than three years in length.

The Faculty Senate is an elected governance body representing KU faculty. The KU Governance website provides information on the current structure and charge of the Faculty Senate and its standing committees, as well as its operating policy, the Faculty Senate Rules and Regulations.

A union would be the exclusive voice to the University for all faculty and academic staff it represents on conditions of employment—issues such as grievance rights, pay, benefits and other mandatory subjects of bargaining. We hope that input from the Faculty Senate would continue to be a part of shared governance, however, to the extent that Faculty Senate has in the past handled issues which significantly relate to any mandatory subjects of bargaining, the University would be required to address such matters through collective bargaining with the Union.

This is unknown. While some may believe that current salaries and benefits will only improve through collective bargaining, there is no guarantee this will be the case.  Further, no one can predict the outcome of negotiations. Neither side is required to agree to a particular proposal. Any final contract will be the outcome of good faith negotiations and give-and-take between the parties.