We invite all faculty to attend our third and final faculty conversation on unionization at Penn on Friday, October 20, at 12 noon on Zoom. This is a chance to learn about unionization and about how anti-union campaigns operate, and to discuss questions and concerns that faculty might have and/or to equip yourself to answer colleagues’ questions about GET-UP. 

Please register here for the meeting link or use the final QR code below. Hope to see you there!

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This Wednesday, October 4th, Penn graduate student workers in GET-UP will publicly announce that they are filing for an NLRB election to officially win their union, now that a majority have signed authorization cards. This exciting news comes close on the heels of an overwhelming 142-22 win by RAs United in their own union election.

GET-UP members will be calling on the Penn administration to remain neutral and to agree to a fair election process. They are counting on a strong show of support from faculty, staff, and students across Penn and allies in the Philly community to amplify that call. So, can you come out to rally with GET-UP on Wednesday at 12 noon at the Button in front of Van Pelt?

Hope to see you there!
AAUP–Penn Executive Committee

P.S. To discuss any questions you or your colleagues may have about grad unionization and about what a fair election would look like (as distinct from the anti-union campaigns Penn has been running against GET-UP, RAs United, and other recently organized unions), please join us for a faculty information session Tuesday at noon in Fisher-Bennett 135 or October 20th at noon on zoom (register via the QR code below for a meeting link).

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Our campus is in the midst of an extraordinary wave of organizing, with RA’s United holding an election next week and GET-UP preparing to file the following week. Since Penn’s central administration has launched anti-union campaigns against student workers (crafted by the law firm Cozen O’Connor) and is attempting to enlist faculty in their anti-union messaging, this is an important time for faculty to educate ourselves and each other about unionization.

To that end, AAUP–Penn is holding a series of fall conversations with faculty to offer some background on the nature of unions in higher ed and on the process of unionization, address any questions or concerns you may have (or that you’ve heard expressed by colleagues), and clarify some misleading information coming from the administration. The next two sessions will take place on October 3 at noon in Fisher-Bennett 135 and on October 20 at noon on zoom (register via the QR code on the flyer below for the meeting link). Please come to one and bring a colleague!

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AAUP–Penn chapter President Amy Offner and Vice President Emily Steinlight contributed a guest column to the Daily Pennsylvanian, published on August 31 during the first week of classes, calling on faculty not to allow themselves to be used in Penn’s anti-union campaigns against student workers in GET-UP and United RAs at Penn. You can read our op-ed here.

This spring, we have been inspired by the growth of union organizing at Penn. Resident advisors who work in the dorms filed for a union election in March; graduate research assistants and teaching assistants in GET-UP went public with their organizing drive in April; and residents at Penn Medicine won their union election in May. Meanwhile, Penn Museum Workers United is pushing ahead with their campaign to win a first contract.

The university administration has launched anti-union campaigns in response to all these mobilizations and is now trying to enlist faculty in anti-union activity.  Just last week, all standing faculty in the School of Arts and Sciences received an email from administrators directing us to websites that present anti-union talking points for us to pass along to graduate student workers.  It is wrong for the administration to attempt to make us conduits for anti-union messages. Moreover, it is wrong for the administration to run anti-union campaigns at all.

Our Response

This week we delivered a letter to administrators calling on them to take down all anti-union websites and end the anti-union campaigns. We hope you’ll read and share it.

Together over the next several months, we will work to educate colleagues about anti-union campaigns to make sure that we do not pass along anti-union messages. As many of us know, anti-union campaigns can be subtle: employers present their communications as purportedly neutral answers to frequently asked questions.  As a result, even faculty who support unions might not immediately recognize these websites for what they are.  

To educate ourselves and our colleagues, we have created an annotated version of the Provost’s guidance to faculty. Please read it, share it with colleagues, and stay tuned for upcoming information sessions and opportunities to get involved. 

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Penn Museum Workers United need your support in their contract negotiations, so they are holding a Rally for Fair Pay on Thursday, June 8th starting at 5:30pm outside the main entrance to the Penn Museum. All are welcome!

AAUP–Penn members as well as friends in other campus and local unions are urged to attend and help send a clear message to Museum management and to Penn that the whole community is watching and it is time to negotiate a fair contract now. All of us who work at this University have an interest in seeing all Penn employees paid enough to live securely in Philly, and in seeing the Museum keep the talented staff whose work it relies on every day.

You can read AAUP–Penn’s letter of support for PMWU here, calling on President Magill, Director Chris Woods, and museum management to accept their reasonable wage proposals. Come show up for our museum worker colleagues and stand in solidarity with PMWU this Thursday afternoon!

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Our friends and colleagues in Penn Museum Workers United (AFSCME DC47 Local 397) are currently negotiating their first contract. They have waited long enough to do so (having organized in May 2021 and endured a relentless anti-union campaign), and there is a lot at stake: above all, wages that would allow them to live in dignity in Philadelphia. A third of PMWU members earn between $15.75 and $20 per hour; they are underpaid compared with their counterparts at other museums, as well as with Penn library workers who perform similar types of work and with Penn housekeeping workers in Teamsters Local 115. If the Museum can afford to spend $100 million on capital projects, it seems clear that it can also afford to pay its workers fairly. In fact, we believe that it can’t afford not to do so. It is in the interest of the institution to retain talented staff and prevent the high rates of turnover and instability that currently result from inadequate pay.

On June 4th, AAUP–Penn’s Executive Committee sent a letter to Penn President Liz Magill, Penn Museum Director Chris Woods, and Penn Museum Chief Operating Officer Genny Boccardo-Dubey calling on Museum management to accept the reasonable wage proposals of our colleagues in PMWU. You can read our letter below.

We stand in solidarity with Penn Museum workers, and we are committed to seeing that the University and the Museum meet their demands and negotiate a fair contract.

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Dear Penn Community,

Penn’s AAUP chapter welcomes all Penn community members back for the 2022-23 year! Please reach out to us at aaup.penn@gmail.com, and please mark your calendar to attend our first general meeting of the year, scheduled for 11am – 12:00pm on Friday, October 14https://upenn.zoom.us/j/98007289840. We’ll discuss, among other things, plans for a compensation survey focused on contingent faculty in connection with the “Who Teaches at Penn?” project, political education for undergraduates about contingent faculty working conditions to broaden our base of support, and any new issues you want to raise. The elected members of our chapter’s Executive Committee are listed below, and we are eager to work with you this year!

AAUP–Penn represents all Penn faculty, and we take “faculty” in its most expansive sense: all those who teach or research at Penn, including tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty, full-timers and part-timers, librarians, grad workers, and postdocs. If you do the work, then you are faculty, regardless of titles assigned by the administration, and without concern for hierarchies imposed from on high. As we have learned in our efforts over the last two years to improve pandemic-era working conditions, to advocate for greater equity and job security for all instructors, to make institutional governance inclusive and collective, to push Penn to pay its fair share in local taxes, and to defend local residents against gentrification, the best way to improve our living conditions is to use our collective strength to fight for all our working conditions and the lives of our diverse communities. 

The last few months have been busy, so here are some updates!

In June, AAUP affiliated at a national level with the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO. All AAUP members are automatically AFT members, and while we retain our independence we also add to our strength across and well beyond higher education. 

Two AAUP/AFT chapters just reached tentative contract agreements after difficult negotiations, at Eastern Michigan University and Rider University—back in the classroom with great student support, stronger because together! Another, at the New School, is currently working “overtime” to help their unionized colleagues secure basic, fair working conditions. 

The fight to preserve the UC Townhomes at 40th & Market as subsidized, affordable housing continues to gain momentum. Residents are calling on Penn, Drexel, area hospitals, and the City to contribute to a preservation fund to help acquire the site. Recently City Councilmembers Helen Gym and Kendra Brooks issued a statement in support of residents’ right to remain in their homes.

You can also read our article on contingent academic labor at Penn and on the threat of casualization to higher ed more broadly in this year’s Penn Disorientation Guide. Over the summer, in addition to standing with campus and local unions in several contract rallies, we held two Labor Solidarity Happy Hours with Penn and area union members to learn more about each other’s campaigns and as a first step toward building coalitions to support organized workers on our campus and around the city. 

Last but not least, every THURSDAY we will host weekly AAUP-Penn happy hours outside at New Deck Tavern on Samson Street from 4:00-5:30pm. All AAUP-Penn members and friends are welcome, so please come if you can!

In Solidarity,

AAUP-Penn Executive Committee

  • Chi-ming Yang, President
  • Jessa Lingel, Vice President
  • Rupa Pillai, Treasurer
  • David Kazanjian, Communications Secretary
  • Heather Hughes, General Member-Elect
  • Fabian Arzuaga, General Member-Elect
  • Sam Layding, General Member-Elect