United University Professions—Local 2190 Administrative History
United University Professions (UUP) is the collective bargaining agent for the faculty and non-teaching professionals of the State University of New York (SUNY). UUP is currently affiliated with NYSUT, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the National Education Association (NEA), and the state and national AFL-CIO. As of November 2011, there are 33,610 individuals in the UUP bargaining unit, as well as 3,936 retiree members.
Since 1973, there have been six elected presidents and one appointed president of UUP. The presidents, their campus affiliation, and years in office are:
• Lawrence DeLucia (State University College at Oswego), 1973-1975
• Samuel Wakshull (State University College at Buffalo), 1975-1981
• Nuala McGann Drescher (State University College at Buffalo), 1981-1987
• John M. (Tim) Reilly (State University at Albany), 1987-1993
• William E. Scheuerman (State University College at Oswego), 1993-November 2007
• Frederick Floss (State University College at Buffalo), Acting President, November 2007-February 2008
• Phillip H. Smith (Upstate Medical University), February 2008-June 2013
• Frederick E. Kowal (State University College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill), June 2013-present
UUP has an administrative office headquartered in Latham and chapters based at each SUNY state-operated campus, as well as at SUNY System Administration in Albany. Each chapter elects delegates to attend the Delegate Assemblies held three times each year. The delegates in turn elect six statewide officers (President, Vice President for Academics, Vice President for Professionals, Secretary, Treasurer, and Membership Development Officer) and 12 members of UUP’s Executive Board. The union’s retiree contingent elects a chair of the Committee on Active Retired Membership (COARM), who serves as a delegate and since 2002 as a non-voting member of the Executive Board. Statewide officers and board members are elected for two-year terms, and until the Scheuerman administration were limited to six years in office.
UUP’s history can be traced back to 1968, when white-collar unions were just beginning to be formed around the nation. Public employees won the right to bargain collectively for terms and conditions of employment with the 1967 passage of the Public Employees Fair Employment Act (more commonly known as the Taylor Law). One year after this historic legislation, the State University Federation of Teachers (SUFT) files a petition seeking collective bargaining rights for faculty at five State University of New York (SUNY) campuses. In 1969, the State University Professional Association (SUPA) is created to represent the non-teaching professionals at SUNY.
Recognizing that SUNY academic and professional faculty need one united voice, employees in the spring of 1970 form the Senate Professional Association (SPA), which combined elements from the university-wide Faculty Senate and SUPA.
In the fall of 1970, the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) orders a SUNY-wide, single unit election. SPA, SUFT, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA), and “no agent” are contenders. In January 1971, SPA becomes the first elected bargaining representative at SUNY and soon receives certification from PERB.
SPA then enters into negotiations with the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations (GOER), the state’s primary bargaining representative. In August 1971, the state of New York and SPA sign their first contract.
SPA (affiliated with the NEA) and SUFT (affiliated with the AFT) merge in 1973, creating SUNY/United. The name is later changed to United University Professions. Coincidentally, the New York State Teachers Association (NYSTA) and the United Teachers of New York (the New York affiliate of AFT) also merge that year to form New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), UUP’s state affiliate.
In its early years, UUP concentrated on establishing its membership and creating a position for itself as the collective bargaining agent for all SUNY teaching and non-teaching professionals, addressing a concern expressed particularly by professionals during the establishment of SPA and then UUP about whether it was possible for a union representing both professional and academic staff to adequately address the concerns of each group. The diverse nature of the SUNY campuses included within the bargaining unit—including university centers, technology sector colleges, four-year institutions, and health science centers—has also contributed to the challenges faced by UUP in representing the bargaining unit as a collective whole.
UUP has twice had its position as bargaining agent challenged. In 1974, CSEA unsuccessfully sought to become the bargaining representative for non-teaching professionals at SUNY, and in an election conducted by PERB in late 1978, UUP defeated the NYEA, a New York state affiliate of the NEA, which sought to replace UUP as the representative for the entire SUNY bargaining unit.
UUP’s main purpose is to improve the terms and conditions of employment of those it represents. The primary forum for addressing these issues is the contracts that UUP negotiates with the state on behalf of its bargaining unit members. Debates over salaries and employee benefit packages have figured prominently in past contract negotiations. Specific issues of concern have included job security, maternity leave, tuition waivers, hiring and tenure policies, sabbatical allotments, teaching workloads, student/faculty ratios, grievance procedures, parking fees, and expanding retirement investment options.
In 1974, UUP achieved permanent appointment status for professionals, which is the equivalent of tenure for academic employees. In 1977, it turned its focus to family sick leave and sabbatical leave, and in 1978 to the creation of minimum salaries for full-time employees. Benefits and sick leave for part-time employees also attracted UUP’s attention in the late 1970s; pay equity and disparity issues were a focus between 1982 and 1985, and geographical differences in cost of living were a concern in 1988. In the early 1990s, domestic partner care and day care coverage were of particular concern to UUP. In the 2000s, new challenges were seen in distance learning, rapid changes in technology, privatization issues, the growing use of contingent employees, and the diminishing of state support for SUNY.
Under the Taylor Law, UUP is forbidden to engage in work actions such as strikes. Instead, it uses public demonstrations and publicity when contract negotiations stall. UUP also uses these measures to make members of the state Legislature, SUNY management, and the general public aware of issues of concern to it, particularly cuts in the portion of the state budget allocated to SUNY. The prohibition on work actions has also meant that, from the beginning, UUP has devoted itself to political action for advancing the interests of those it represents. It has registered state lobbyists; sponsored its own, and participated in NYSUT-sponsored “advocacy days” in Albany; and devoted significant resources to monitoring legislative activity and making its positions known to the governor and state legislators. UUP also expresses itself politically through candidate endorsements. UUP’s affiliation with NYSUT broadens its legislative outreach and impact.
UUP’s other defined goals include advancing education in a democracy and democracy in education, and promoting the principles of unity and collective bargaining in higher education. Its broad range of concerns, primarily expressed through resolutions and motions adopted by its statewide Executive Board and Delegate Assembly, have ranged from issues related to the environmental and social justice, to freedom of expression and academic freedom, and the affordability and accessibility of public higher education.