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Katherine Jellison, a history professor at Ohio University, speaks to the crowd at an event updating the public on the unionization organized by United Academics of Ohio University at Scripps Ampitheater, April 10, 2024, in Athens.

UAOU unites for unionization amid university’s delays

The United Academics of Ohio University, or UAOU, organized a solidarity event and discussion of the current state of unionizing at the Scripps Hall Amphitheater on Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m. to show OU leadership that faculty are ready to vote for unionization.

Around 50 faculty members attended the event, sporting red UAOU buttons and holding signs expressing their reasons for advocating for unionization.

“I want a union at OU to stop admin bullying and to ensure a better learning environment,” read one sign. Other signs featured on UAOU’s Instagram state reasons for unionization such as, “Our working conditions are student learning conditions” and “We need shared governance back!”

The gathering highlighted unity among various union groups present, including the Association of People Supporting Employment First, or APSE, and the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers.

According to a previous Post report, UAOU sent a letter to President Lori Stewart Gonzalez on March 5 stating a majority of full-time employees had endorsed UAOU as their exclusive bargaining representatives. The letter asked the university to remain neutral until an election could be held and requested a response by March 8.

Despite initially expecting a response from university leadership March 26 regarding the request for a unionization vote, UAOU was informed of OU’s request for a 14-day extension, extending the deadline until April 9.

Following the previously granted extension, the university sought an additional 30-day extension, extending the deadline to May 9, a day after grades are due for the semester, postponing their response by over two months.

After the university responds, UAOU has two weeks to respond to the university leadership’s response. Once UAOU responds, if all parties agree, then UAOU progresses toward conducting an election. Faculty members then receive ballots at their home addresses to cast their votes.

Assistant professor in the School of Communication Studies Matthew de Tar said the university's delays seem strategically timed for the end of the semester when attention tends to decrease.

“What we want you to understand today is (the university’s) lack of response is, in fact, their response right now,” Kyle Butler, vice president of OU-AAUP and associate professor of instruction in the Ohio Program of Intensive English, said. “This is not simply the process playing out; this is a strategic delay.”

Butler said the university is continuing to delay the union election process to kill the faculty’s momentum and enthusiasm in the union movement.

“They know that they will never speak to the number of faculty we have spoken to, the one-on-one conversations, the level of understanding and connection that we have built and the solidarity we have built as a faculty,” Butler said.

University Spokesperson Dan Pittman said the university’s request for an extension was necessary because of the overall scope of the matter and the need for continued due diligence. 

Butler discussed UAOU’s strategies to sustain momentum, urging faculty to continue attending meetings, displaying signs of support on office doors, wearing the buttons and staying actively involved in the process.

“We want to keep the momentum going, and we want to recognize that a supermajority of faculty members here at OU support a union,” Katherine Jellison, a history professor, said.

Jellison said for the first time in several decades, there is greater support for unions nationwide.

According to Gallup, 67% of Americans approve of labor unions.

“Our message today to the university is a very simple one,” Butler said. “Let’s vote.”

The meeting concluded with faculty members chanting “Let’s vote,” showing their collective resolve to move forward with the unionization process. UAOU is hosting its next event April 24.


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