In 1975, Public Act 75-566 was passed allowing state employees to bargaining collectively for their wages, hours and working conditions. At the time, small chapters of AAUP existed on each of the CSU campuses. After the Governor Meskill years when state employees lost their salary increments by gubernatorial dictate, and Governor Ella Grasso’s layoff of 500 state employees in December 1975, CCSU Biology Professor David Newton saw the need for faculty to bargain collectively. Newton began a campaign to select AAUP as the exclusive bargaining agent for the faculty (including coaches who were categorized as instructional faculty), counselors and librarians on the four campuses of the Connecticut State University System.
The bargaining unit was defined by the State Board of Labor Relations by “commonality of interest” and a hotly contested election took place between AAUP, AFT, CSEA and “No Agent” supporters. AAUP won a close runoff election against AFT. The first CSU-AAUP Contract was negotiated in 1976 and ratified on April 1, 1977. Subsequent contracts, typically spanning two to four years, have either been negotiated or arbitrated. In 1983, CSU-AAUP petitioned the State Board of Labor Relations to represent part-time faculty (including coaches), counselors and librarians and on March 9, 1983 part-time faculty gained the right to participate in collective bargaining.
During the 1970s and 1980s, CSU and CSU-AAUP faced tremendous challenges due to the effects of the lingering recession and inadequate budgets adopted by a state government that was hostile to public higher education. Although Connecticut was one of the wealthiest states in the union, governors and legislators from both political parties ensured that Connecticut remained at the bottom of the list when it came to spending on its public colleges and universities.
CSU-AAUP worked diligently throughout this period to enhance salaries and fight off the damaging effects of budget cuts. As early as 1979, CSU-AAUP led a successful campaign to restore budget cuts while successfully negotiating CSU’s second contract that provided significant salary increases as well as enhanced health and pension benefits.
CSU-AAUP has consistently been an active participant in the efforts to preserve and enhance state funding for Connecticut’s public colleges and universities while fighting for better salaries and benefits for the state’s employees. CSU-AAUP was one of the first organizations to form a political action committee dedicated to electing more pro-higher education candidates and has consistently had a strong lobbying presence at the State Capitol. CSU-AAUP’s political efforts have successfully defeated a number of measures that would have been devastating to CSU, including Governor Rell’s proposal to freeze tuition at all state colleges and universities without increasing the institutions’ budgets to make up for the loss of revenue.
CSU-AAUP has worked closely with the other state employee unions to enhance and expand healthcare and retirement benefits. In 1986, a coalition of state employee unions was formed, which subsequently became SEBAC or the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition. This group collectively bargains with the state of Connecticut on healthcare and pension benefits. From day one, CSU-AAUP has played a leadership role within that organization. Through its joint effort, Connecticut’s public employees were awarded some of the best health care and pension benefits in the nation, which are secure until 2022.
The CSU-AAUP Contract, currently in its tenth version, is often cited as a model contract by the National AAUP as it contains not only the typical components of a collective bargaining agreement, but it also includes portions of the AAUP statements on academic freedom and shared governance. This makes the CSU-AAUP Contract one of the most comprehensive in the nation.
Many challenges still lay ahead for CSU-AAUP. Effective July 1, 2011, the Board of Regents for Higher Education (BOR) became the governing body for Connecticut State University System (CSUS), the Community-Technical Colleges (CTC), and Charter Oak State College. The reorganization was approved as a means to save money. While some savings were realized, the new Board had many scandals in its first year and lead the resignation of its first President, Robert Kennedy, and Executive Vice President, Michael Meotti.
Issues such as an escalating faculty workload, the corporatization of universities, decreasing state support for colleges and universities, and declining numbers of full-time faculty threaten to damage the integrity of higher education institutions across the nation. It is only through collective action that we can hope to defend ourselves against these threats. CSU-AAUP is aptly poised to defend the rights of CSU faculty, librarians, coaches, and counselors and the integrity of our institutions as we move forward.