Case Update: Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

The Supreme Court of the United States upheld an appellate court decision that found agency fee constitutional. Thus, the law remains as it has for over forty years. This is good news for unions and our siblings throughout working America.

Additional detailed information can be found here on the SCOTUS blog.

Issue: (1) Whether Abood v. Detroit Board of Education should be overruled and public-sector “agency shop” arrangements invalidated under the First Amendment; and (2) whether it violates the First Amendment to require that public employees affirmatively object to subsidizing nonchargeable speech by public-sector unions, rather than requiring that employees affirmatively consent to subsidizing such speech.

Judgment: Affirmed by an equally divided Court in a per curiam opinion on March 29, 2016.


Renewal Success!

One of the most surprising, but positive developments, to come out of bargaining was the proposal from the university that all Career Non-Tenure-Track Faculty on non-funding-contingent contracts would be notified whether their contracts were to be renewed or not renewed by May 1st. When our team expressed surprise and maybe a little skepticism that this could be done, the university backed up their pledge by proposing that for every day past the May 1st deadline that an NTTF had not received a renewal notice, that NTTF would receive a “bonus” day’s worth of pay.

Yesterday, the university let us know that the first test of the new system was a complete success! 100% of departments and units reported notifying all of the Career NTTF on non-funding-contingent contracts of their status for next year. This is a dramatic change from previous years, when NTTF could until the weeks before class to find out if they still had a job at the UO, and a major step forward in professionalizing and regularizing the instructional and research workforce at the UO.

If you are a Career NTTF on a non-funding-contingent contract and you have not received a renewal or non-renewal notice, please notify us at The university implementation team asked us to let them know as soon as possible if there have been any glitches.

While this is very good news and a giant step in our efforts to transform the university, we realize that we still need to smooth out a couple of wrinkles. We realize that some NTTF received a notice of renewal, but not a new contract. The admin team assures us that the contracts are coming, but we will look to fix this loophole of sorts the next time we bargain.

Reclaiming the Promise of Higher Education

At the recent Higher Education Conference, the American Federation of Teachers showed the attendees a video describing the union’s vision of reclaiming the promise of higher education. The video lays out AFT’s agenda for improving our colleges and universities, providing greater access for all of our students, and mitigating against the growing student debt crisis.

It also features two of our union officers right in the beginning.


John Davidson Wins John Connor Memorial Award

At the recent AFT-Oregon Convention, United Academics Representative John Davidson was awarded the John Connor Memorial Award for his selfless, spirited devotion to United Academics and inspiration to his fellow union activists.

John was nominated for the award by VP Ron Bramhall on behalf of the United Academics bargaining team. Ron submitted the following statement when nominating John:

In the course of negotiating our first Collective Bargaining Agreement, we had nine activists sitting at the table throughout the ten-month process. The whole team put in countless hours, exhibited unceasing energy, and dedicated themselves to strengthening the quality of education and research at the University of Oregon through building their union.

One of the team members, however, was doing all of this while also teaching and struggling with kidney failure. Our brother, John Davidson, is our nomination for the John Conner Memorial Award for his service to our union, his ability to elevate us all, his gentle but relentless pursuit of justice, and his selfless dedication to making the university a better place to work.

John first got involved with the United Academics organizing campaign in the summer of 2010. After ratification, John became member #15, signing his membership card on September 26, 2012. He has served as an Organizing Committee member, on the Bargaining Caucus, on the Bargaining Team, and is currently a member of our Representative Assembly.

The thing that really stunned and inspired all of us on the bargaining team was that John largely kept all of this to himself. We know now what he was going through over those months by piecing together bits of information here and there. He’d miss a bargaining team meeting one day and be apologetic about it the next time we saw him. Only later did we find out that John had missed the meeting because he was in so much pain that he couldn’t get out of bed. Only slowly did it dawn on us that our colleague who was doing just as much work as the rest of us, who was putting in just as many hours, who was so bright and so sharp, had a body that was slowly shutting down.

In the middle of the summer of 2013, John received the news that his sister was not going to be able to donate her kidney to him. The news was devastating on so many levels, not the least of which is that he had requested a leave of absence during the Fall term to have surgery. Now that the surgery was not happening, John found himself facing unemployment and without health insurance. Being who he was, he did not make a big deal out of it, but, almost without anything needing to be said, the bargaining team was immediately ready to do anything we could – and we could do a bit, given that the administration had to sit at a table with us 16 hours a week – to make sure John was taken care of as best he could be. Ultimately, his department found a way to keep John on the books to maintain his health insurance and see him though his surgery now scheduled for December.

Later that summer, when bargaining was at its most intense, John missed a couple of weeks of sessions. His loss was felt by the whole team. One of the roles on the team that John adopted was being a tireless advocate for the non-tenure-track faculty at the UO. John had worked as an Adjunct faculty member in the Political Science department for some years, so the subject was close to his heart. His absence made the rest of us more conscious of the need to look out for our non-tenure-track colleagues; it was as if each of us took on the responsibility of filling the hole that John’s absence on our team left – even in his absence he made us better bargainers, better unionists, and better people.

The John Connor award seeks to recognize a member who exhibits selfless, spirited enthusiasm, and devotion to the cause of the union, and serves as an inspiration to fellow union activists. In nominating John Davidson, we are nominating a man who matches these qualities exactly. There is not a single bargaining team member who does not feel that we are all better for having worked with John and that our union would not be the same without all that he did. We miss him very much and look forward to his return to activism.

John was not able to make it to Sunriver to accept the award in person, but sent the following statement, which was read to the assembled Delegates:

Dear AFT Oregon,

I’m deeply honored to be receiving the John Connor Memorial Award and very sorry that I cannot be there to receive it in person.

I wish I were half as deserving of this honor as my colleagues have suggested in the nomination form that they submitted. But the truth is: there has very rarely been much sacrifice involved in my recent union activities. Whether the time was spent on bargaining, organizing, constitution drafting, or other work, the rewards almost always exceeded the inconvenience.

As best as I can tell, the creation of this union has been profoundly inspirational for everyone involved in the effort. The respectful, democratic energy of the meetings, the empathy, the openness; the pleasure of manifesting shared principles alongside such skilled and committed colleagues – all these things have made this effort one of the most nourishing and rewarding experiences of my life. And I’m sure I don’t just speak for myself.

I’m happy to accept this award on behalf of everyone who’s been working to create this powerful new voice and vision for University of Oregon faculty. I know that we all wish to thank AFT and United Academics for the passionate and skilled staff assistance that was indispensable to the effort’s success. We will attempt to return the favor, by acting with strength, maintaining an independent voice, and adhering to an ethic of justice. And by supporting our colleagues throughout both academia and the public schools in their efforts to restore security, dignity and academic freedom to the educational environment.

Congratulations, John! We look forward to working with you in the coming years to continue building our union.

Election Results, Convention Delegates, March 3rd, 2014

In accordance with the UAUO Constitution and Bylaws, the election for delegates representing our union is now closed.  The elected delegates serve to give the union a voice at meetings of the state and national unions with which we are affiliated: the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). 

These bodies have been our statewide and national advocates for decades, and their effective advocacy was part of the reason there will not be an anti-worker initiative on the ballot in Oregon this fall. Below are the election results.

American Federation of Teachers Oregon Convention

United Academics will pay for Top 8 vote-getters.

  1. Michael Dreiling
  2. Debra Merskin
  3. Bill Harbaugh
  4. Deb Olson
  5. Yvonne Braun
  6. Ron Bramhall
  7. Eric Mentzel
  8. Karen Creighton
  9. Carmen Rivas

American Federation of Teachers National Convention

United Academics will pay for Top 5 vote-getters.

  1. Michael Dreiling
  2. Debra Merskin
  3. Bill Harbaugh
  4. Yvonne Braun
  5. Ron Bramhall
  6. Eric Mentzel
  7. Karen Creighton

AAUP Annual Conference

United Academics will pay for Top 5 vote-getters.

  1. Michael Dreiling
  2. Debra Merskin
  3. Bill Harbaugh
  4. Yvonne Braun
  5. Eric Mentzel
  6. Carmen Rivas
  7. Nathan Dunn


At the UO’s recent celebration luncheon for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., our bargaining team was awarded a 2014 Equity and Inclusion Innovation Award. The award honored the team’s efforts to include in the contract a requirement that all faculty (tenure-related and non-tenure related) include a discussion of their contribution to institutional equity and inclusion in their promotion statements.   

Text of the speech given by Professor Yvonne Braun on behalf of the United Academics Bargaining Team on accepting the 2014 Equity and Inclusion Innovation Award:

Thank you, Vice President. I am deeply honored and humbled to accept this award on behalf of my tremendous faculty colleagues on the United Academics bargaining team, and I also want to recognize our two chief negotiators, Dave Cecil and Mike Mauer.

I know I speak for the whole team when I say this award is particularly meaningful to us as our whole approach to bargaining was rooted in the values of equity, transparency, fairness, and inclusion. Our hope was that we could play a small role in bringing greater alignment between these values and institutional policies and practices in our university community.

One specific way is having faculty include contributions to institutional equity and inclusion in their promotion statements. For us, this was in response to a series of interrelated concerns.

First, we were concerned about issues related to service. As you all know, service expectations are not uniformly applied nor are the obligations to serve equally shared.

Second, and relatedly, we were concerned about the patterns associated with disproportionate service, such that women and faculty of color often do much higher levels of service. Specifically, institutional strategies to diversify and be more inclusive have relied on the work of a small group of committed faculty to support these institutional goals.

Considering both of these points, we wanted to create avenues for greater recognition of faculty work that serves these institutional goals, in recognition of their importance to the institution and our university community.

We also aimed to regularize service expectations for all faculty by creating mechanisms that serve to incentivize, validate and reward such service via inclusion in critical institutional policies such as promotion. 

In the longer term, our hope as faculty and as members of United Academics is that this will encourage all members of our university community to consider how we all share the responsibilities, the opportunities, and the benefits of building a more equitable and inclusive institution.

Thank you again for the honor of this award.