UHPA Faculty Makes the Case for Affiliation

Why Affiliate?  

UHPA has carried out its work effectively without affiliation since voting to disaffiliate with NEA.

Defend the Attacks on Intellectualism

Even before the Janus decision, it was clear policy makers and big employers across the United States were coming after unions and the ability of unions to organize.  Even though the Janus decision has not resulted in the death of unions, the attacks continue.  Interwoven throughout the anti-union attack is the attack against intellectualism, which ultra-conservatives correctly view as impediments to their concerted effort to remove increasing elements of our long held and hard fought for civil rights. An uneducated population is easier to manage and ultimately rule.

This anti-intellectualism attack is now firmly and clearly focused on higher education.  

Story after story of legislative and executive branch attacks against universities and colleges across the country pepper the news feeds daily.  The picture is clear: too many politicians and their big money supporters believe the time is ripe to redesign higher education, private and public, into campuses that reinforce intolerance for so-called others and advance the continuing dismantling of civil and human rights.

Hawai‘i is Not Immune

Lest we think Hawai‘i is a bastion of blue, think otherwise.  The machinations of a few elected officials, enabled by others who allow these behaviors, has increasingly targeted the University of Hawai‘i in ways that are more subtle than those enacted in states like Florida and Georgia through continuing defunding actions seen in the state budget.  While UHPA has been able to successfully defeat legislation aimed at stripping away tenure and firing specific faculty members by eliminating their positions, the attacks increase every year.  Being on the defensive is not sustainable.  

UHPA Needs What AFT and AAUP Bring

To take on these continuing attacks at the state and national level, UHPA needs help.  Affiliation with AFT provides us with the resources, knowledge, and experience of a vital and active national union which has an entire unit devoted to issues relevant to higher education.  AFT’s affiliation with AAUP gives them the academic and curricular resources merged with AFT’s organizing and bargaining expertise.

To sustain and grow as a member-driven organization, UHPA must take the initiative and be affiliated with AFT.

Karla Hayashi

Director, Kilohana: The Academic Success Center at UH-Hilo

Negotiations Team Chair and Board Vice President, UHPA

Does AFT Offer Any Member Benefits?

(This Q&A is part of a continuing series that we introduced with the “Taking a Hard Look at Our Future Starts with Asking the Hard Questions” article)


AFT offers numerous exclusive member benefits. UHPA has offered a range of member benefits, and as an affiliate of AFT, UHPA will be able to offer more extensive and comprehensive member benefits to our membership. UHPA believes that this is especially important to meet the growing needs of our diverse membership base.

Benefits for Our Age Groups

UHPA membership has changed over the years. Today, 59% of our faculty members are between the ages of 40 and 60; 25% are age 60 or more; and the remaining 16% are under 40. AFT offers benefits that take into consideration the needs of our members throughout their career and lifetime.

Leveraging the Buying Power of 1.7 million members

“AFT recognizes that their membership needs change over time and by partnering with AFT, UHPA  can access greater exclusive membership benefits by leveraging the negotiating and purchasing power of AFT’s 1.7 million members,” said Christian Fern, UHPA Executive Director. “These are benefits that we would not be able to access on our own or be able to offer at the same discount levels as an independent, stand-alone union. The benefits that our members could receive as an AFT affiliate more than offset the $10 dues increase per pay period.” 

Here’s a small sample at what’s ahead for you if UHPA becomes an AFT affiliate:

Long-Term Care Insurance

Beginning January 1, 2024, members and family members will be able to find long-term care insurance solutions at discounted rates that are not available to the public. AFT has partnered with Back Nine Planning to provide members with a dedicated long-term care specialist, who can provide a complimentary, no-cost consultation.

This benefit is especially important for UH faculty members who have been caregivers for their aging parents and know firsthand the importance of planning ahead to manage the cost of care when they may need additional care. Proactive planning is key to establishing the kind of care you want for yourself and your loved ones.

AFT affiliate members can also receive exclusive discounts to LifeStation’s suite of medical alert technology devices. These are ideal for those who are caregivers for aging loved ones, and want to make sure their loved ones have quick access to emergency help at the push of a button.

Travel and Entertainment

For younger UHPA members and those with young children, AFT, in partnership with SWABIZ®, opens the door to travel throughout the world. It starts with discounts on Southwest Airlines, which offers a number of routes from Hawaii at competitive rates.

AFT affiliate members can also enjoy discounts when staying at Hilton and Wyndham properties, car rentals, vacation packages, including discounts at Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Six Flags, SeaWorld, LEGOLAND, and other theme parks through AFT’s partnership with Abenity. Plus, you and your family can receive big, exclusive discounts for shopping, restaurants, movies, concerts, and more!

Student Loan Forgiveness Program

AFT, in collaboration with Summer, helps student borrowers navigate the student loan repayment landscape and obtain access to accurate, quality information. Summer, which started as a group of student loan borrowers who wanted to help others, is an online platform that harnesses public policy experts to optimize borrower options, and uses technology to make the process simple and secure. This is a free benefit for AFT affiliate members. 

AFT was a leader in addressing student debt and proactively reached out to UHPA to offer free clinics to help faculty access student loan repayment information. Dr. Camonia Graham-Tutt, CHES, University of Hawaii-West Oahu Associate Professor of Community Health, signed up for the AFT-sponsored clinic and the information and advice she gained changed her life: her $272,000 in student loans were completely forgiven and she can now use the extra funds to invest in her daughter! Altogether, UHPA members have saved a total of $850,000 in student loans, thanks to AFT.

Pet Insurance

UHPA members who have pets know how veterinary bills can be shocking and can create a financial setback. AFT offers pet insurance to reimburse you for your veterinary bills when your dog or cat is sick or injured. You can be confident about providing the best care and treatment that your pet deserves instead of basing your decisions on your budget. Through AFT’s partnership with Pets Best, a leading U.S. pet insurance provider, you can receive up to 10% off your veterinary bills from a veterinarian of your choice and other benefits. 

New Benefits Always Being Added

In the last few years, AFT has added new benefits such as trauma counseling to support recovery from personal and workplace challenges, and LifeBrand subscriptions that help protect members’ online reputations. You can expect new AFT benefits to be added in the future.

Learn more about these and other AFT+ Member Benefits and explore the rich array of discounts, services and benefits. Many of these services are available to family members, too.

More than Just a Benefits Program: Financial Support for Maui Faculty

It is also important to note that AFT reached out to UHPA after the Maui wildfires and without hesitation provided $10,000 to support faculty who were impacted or displaced from their homes. UHPA was able to support faculty and the generous unexpected gift from AFT was used to replenish our UHPA relief fund that was established after Hurricane Iwa to provide support for faculty affected by natural disasters.

Feedback is Always Welcomed

As always, we’re open to feedback from our members, so please don’t hesitate to email those suggestions to feedback@uhpa.org.

Thankful for the Value of Unions

Aloha UHPA Members:

Hawaii’s high cost of living can make living in paradise a living hell and a financial struggle for many in Hawaii. It’s not easy to make ends meet when wages are not commensurate with the high costs for housing, food, fuel, and other essentials.

But it’s fair to say that without unions and its engaged members, wages would be even lower, leading to the unfortunate reality of seeing more residents leaving our state in search of greener, less costly pastures. We can all be thankful for the positive presence of all labor unions here in Hawaii. 

Hawaii’s High Union Ranking

According to data compiled from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and UnionStats.com by SmartAsset, Hawaii is ranked as one of the top 10 states with the strongest unions in 2022. This was based on total union membership percentage by state and the change in membership over the last four years. There was an important correlation to wages: those states with a higher number of union jobs in comparison to the total workforce also enjoyed higher wages.

Here are two key findings from the data:

  • States with higher union membership rates have higher wages. Six of the top 10 states have average worker wages that rank in the top fifth of states.
  • Although union members make up only about 10% of the nation’s workforce, it exceeds 20% in two states. In Hawaii, total union members in 2022 22.36% of the total workforce, and in New York, union membership was 22.24%.

Mahalo to all of our UHPA members for contributing to a better quality of life for all in our islands. 

And if you’re a faculty member who has enjoyed the salary increases and benefits of faculty members who are shouldering the responsibility of investing their own personal time in being active and involved in union activities, including contract negotiations through their membership in UHPA, please consider sharing the responsibility and becoming a UHPA member if you haven’t already done so. Our strength lies in the solidarity and unity of our membership and the purpose of pursuing a cause greater than themselves by serving for the benefit of all. 

Thankful to all of you in our UHPA ‘ohana,

Christian Fern
Executive Director

How Will AFT Augment UHPA?

While a national union can offer great insights and expertise, shouldn’t we also look at building our own capacity at the local level?

(This Q&A is part of a continuing series that we introduced with the “Taking a Hard Look at Our Future Starts with Asking the Hard Questions” article)

Yes, building local capacity and ensuring there is a transfer of knowledge adds another dimension to affiliation. 

AFT knows the importance of training for local unions and faculty members. AFT has conducted countless training sessions to help faculty become internal organizers who grow membership on campuses, develop campus-based campaigns, and provide tactics that can help reach even the most remotely based faculty. That’s important to reach faculty who may be employed at one of the UH campuses on the neighbor islands.

AFT Has the Resources We need

AFT affiliates have been bargaining collectively for nearly 70 years and have amassed a wealth of experience and expertise on negotiating innovative contracts that are fair for their members and good for the people they serve. AFT also has dedicated higher education staff who provide collective bargaining support—including research, developing contract language, costing out proposals, financial analysis of an employer’s ability to pay, and more.

They Work With UHPA

AFT leverages these experiences, expertise, and resources to help with collective bargaining by working alongside collective bargaining committees of local unions. This helps to give faculty a real voice on the terms and conditions of employment, as well as power to improve the higher education institutions where they work.

Featuring Formal Training Programs

Through partnership with the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations, AFT also offers affiliates training on the art and science of collective bargaining and contract negotiation. Based on an affiliate’s goals, this program is designed to help bargainers at all experience levels build strategies and skills to engage membership, use leverage and build relationships.

Feedback is Always Welcomed

As always, we’re open to feedback from our members, so please don’t hesitate to email those suggestions to feedback@uhpa.org.

Why is AFT the Best Fit for Affiliation for UHPA?

(This Q&A is part of a continuing series that we introduced with the “Taking a Hard Look at Our Future Starts with Asking the Hard Questions” article)

While it’s easy to see how affiliation will broaden our influence and strengthen our collective strength and voice as faculty, choosing an affiliation that will best represent UHPA requires due diligence. In the past, UHPA has disaffiliated from organizations such as the National Education Association (NEA) because they weren’t focused on higher education issues; didn’t understand how to engage in our local politics; and failed to understand the nuances and subtleties of our local ways of doing business. 

The governance structure of NEA has not changed. 

Within the NEA national governance structure, UHPA was — and still is —  considered a “chapter” of the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA). NEA will only affiliate a higher education faculty union under the auspices of the NEA state affiliate, which is in Hawai‘i the HSTA. In other words, UHPA would again fall under HSTA.

Now as UHPA re-examines affiliation, should UH faculty be concerned again about making a decision that doesn’t meet our current and future needs and our desired outcomes? After all, we’re in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and K-12 public education is always front and center for the public so it’s easy to be overlooked.

AFT’s Answer

AFT is fully invested and understands higher education.  In June 2022, AFT created a more powerful and inclusive academic labor movement in higher education by affiliating with the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).  Combined, AFT and AAUP represent more than 70% of all unionized faculty in higher education across the nation.  Moreover, as the only AFT affiliate in the state of Hawai‘i, UHPA would have a direct line to the AFT Leadership team, all while maintaining its autonomy.  

AFT has a dedicated State Legislative Initiatives Department, and in conjunction with their Organizing and Field Services, works closely with local unions to craft political and legislative campaigns to fight back against any and all attacks on faculty, union members, tenure, academic freedom, and maintaining consistent institutional funding. These campaigns have included the anti-higher education; anti-tenure; and anti-diversity; equity and inclusion bills in Florida, Ohio and Texas, as well as funding attacks against college and university systems in Connecticut and New Jersey.  As we have recently experienced, UHPA has faced similar challenges over the past several years by our local legislature.

AFT has also proactively helped fund contingent healthcare in California, streamline unemployment insurance for adjunct faculty in New Jersey, and improve access to healthcare for adjunct faculty in Oregon. 

The Kind of Partner UHPA Needs

AFT is clearly not afraid to roll up their sleeves and do what it takes to help their affiliates tackle their issues. We can see the potential of AFT and UHPA partnering to develop strategic campaigns to proactively engage in impactful legislation, and training UHPA members for political advocacy.  Their modus operandi is very different from other national unions and something that molds well into UHPA’s mission, initiatives, and goals.

Here’s a letter that AFT President Randi Weingarten wrote to the West Virginia University Board of Governors in August 2023. Imagine if someone of her stature wrote a letter to the UH Board of Regents and the attention this would receive locally and nationally!

Feedback is Always Welcomed

As always, we’re open to feedback from our members, so please don’t hesitate to email those suggestions to feedback@uhpa.org.

Isn’t it true national unions are really structured to benefit themselves, not the local unions?

(This Q&A is part of a continuing series that we introduced with the “Taking a Hard Look at Our Future Starts with Asking the Hard Questions” article)

AFT’s Model Is Different

This may be the case for some national unions, but in our exploration and examination of AFT, we found a different model.  In our in depth discussions with AFT, it was clear that their focus is creating and expanding the labor movement, not to support themselves, but the greater good of the working middle class. AFT President Randi Weingarten stated, “the more density we have, the more of a foothold we have in the fight.” 

The combined financial resources of AFT enables a more robust local union, which includes funding support when necessary. For example, AFT has a Militancy/Defense Fund that supports many areas of the union’s work and priorities. Funding goes directly to affiliates to bolster efforts to protect the rights of members and to counter extremist attacks on the services our members provide. The Militancy/Defense Fund has helped affiliates confront campaigns to defund and destabilize public higher education and target educators, as well as the legal fight to take on predatory loan servicers, like Navient.  As you recall, even without an affiliation, AFT reached out allowing UHPA to participate in their Federal Public Loan Forgiveness Program which has now saved UHPA members a total of $850,000. 

AFT also has a Solidarity Fund, which supports member engagement around key issues and campaign support to defeat dangerous ballot measures at the state levels. This fund helps AFT’s state affiliates counter initiatives and attacks designed to weaken public higher education, public services, bargaining rights, healthcare, retirement security, etc.  Again, without an affiliation, AFT contributed $10,000.00 to help UHPA members who were adversely affected by the Maui wildfires that occurred in August of this year. 

Specifically, an affiliation with AFT will provide the following:

  • Access to membership organizing support and expertise  
  • Access to dramatically enhanced membership benefits  through AFT+ Member Benefits combines the purchasing power of our 1.7 million members to provide a rich array of discounts, services and benefits that go beyond the workplace. Discounts on travel, car rentals, mortgages and more help make life easier. Many of these services are available to family members, too. In the last few years, the AFT added new benefits that meet the moment, such as trauma counseling to support recovery from personal and workplace challenges, LifeBrand subscriptions that help protect members’ online reputation, and Summer to minimize student loan payments.
  • Access to the policy expertise of AFTʻs Higher Education Department for research 
  • Access to the policy expertise of AAUP, the organization that developed the principles of tenure and faculty governance for higher education 
  • The AFT has already provided support for faculty who were eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program UHPA members saved a total of $850,000 thanks to the partnership with AFT
  • The AFT provided financial support for faculty impacted by the Maui Wildfires by sending UHPA $10,000
  • The AFT currently represents faculty and higher ed staff at nine University of Hawaii peer institutions and nine benchmark institutions that have bargained to protect and expand academic freedom, and to raise salary minimums and bridge funding
  • Access to enhanced legislative and political support  through AFT’s State Legislative Initiatives Department, in conjunction with Organizing and Field Services, works closely with affiliates to craft political and legislative campaigns that fight back against attacks on faculty, union members, tenure and institutional funding to name a few. Such campaigns have included the anti-higher education; anti-tenure; and anti-diversity, equity and inclusion bills in Florida, Ohio and Texas, as well as funding attacks against college and university systems in Connecticut and New Jersey.

As the saying goes “Action speaks louder than words.”

Feedback is Always Welcomed

As always, we’re open to feedback from our members, so please don’t hesitate to email those suggestions to feedback@uhpa.org.

Taking a Hard Look at Our Future Starts with Asking the Hard Questions

It’s a Good Time to Revisit Affiliation

Since 2013, UHPA has been functioning as an independent union without a national affiliation. The UHPA board of directors voted to disaffiliate with the National Education Association (NEA) back in 2013 because it was the right thing to do at that time. Now 10 years later, the landscape is changing and perhaps it is a good time to revisit an affiliation with a national union.

Affiliation with a larger, national union offers multiple benefits. However, deciding which one to affiliate with requires due diligence and a deep understanding of UHPA’s needs and direction.

We’ve been Exploring with NEA and AFT

Coincidentally, in 2022, both the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) started reaching out to UHPA to assess if UHPA was interested in affiliation. UHPA executive committee members of the board of directors agreed it would be worth looking into what the unions could offer UHPA and its members. UHPA executive committee members of the board gave UHPA Executive Director Christian Fern approval to explore what this would mean for UHPA.

Christian Fern and the UHPA leadership team have been holding multiple conversations and collecting information for the UHPA board of directors to review. UHPA is sharing the findings of these conversations to keep our members updated.

NEA focuses on K-12. AFT Focuses on Higher Education

We have learned that the NEA continuously focuses primarily on representing public education educators for grades K-12 since it represents the largest base of their membership. By contrast, higher education faculty is one of AFT’s focus areas and this is one of the fastest growing segments of AFT’s membership base. It is also important to note that AFT’s constitution is designed so that the rank and file members and leaders actually run the union.

Expect a Series of Key Questions and Answer Articles

We will be publishing a series of questions and answers over the next few weeks to stimulate conversation and discussion over the topic of affiliation with a national union. Leaving no stone unturned, the UHPA Executive Committee intentionally asked questions designed to address the changes to the national as well as local environment affecting higher education, asking uncomfortable questions, challenging the status quo thinking, and inspiring new solutions and ideas.

Feedback is Always Welcomed

As always, we’re open to feedback from our members, so please don’t hesitate to email those suggestions to feedback@uhpa.org.

Should UHPA Consider Affiliation with the American Federation of Teachers?

This Q&A is part of a continuing series that we introduced with the “Taking a Hard Look at Our Future Starts with Asking the Hard Questions” article

University faculty across the nation are facing an increasing number of threats to academic freedom and equitable treatment, yet at the same time, there has been a decline in dues-paying union members. This has put faculty in a precarious position. The intersection of these dangerous trends has caused forward-looking local unions to look at ways to bolster their strength by affiliating with national unions such as the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

Is this something UHPA should consider to ensure UH faculty receive the support they need, now and into the future?

Yes, circumstances today make it difficult for local, stand-alone, independent unions to successfully fulfill their mission and to support and represent their membership. Through an affiliation with AFT, the largest higher education union in the country, UHPA can gain the strength and influence of a larger movement to protect and promote academic freedom, shared university governance, and economic security.

AFT Represents Majority of Higher Education Faculty

AFT represents more than 70% of all unionized faculty in higher education across the nation. Currently, AFT represents more than 300,000 college and university faculty and professional staff on campuses and in university systems across the continental United States and Alaska, including all of UH’s peer and benchmark institutions. It’s safe to say that AFT is in tune and connected to the challenges facing university faculty, as well as, the ability to bring the fight on a local and national scale.

1.7 Million Members Strong

The AFT recently affiliated with the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which UHPA was once affiliated with before. Altogether, AFT’s membership is staggering. As the largest and fastest-growing union in the AFL-CIO the AFT now has 1.7 million members, and faculty unions represent a growing percentage of this membership base.

A Powerful Partnership

AFT affiliates also preserve their local autonomy which is part of AFT’s core values, and an alliance with the national AFT creates a powerful partnership that can improve the lives of UHPA members and the students that they serve. 

Feedback is Always Welcomed

As always, we’re open to feedback from our members, so please don’t hesitate to email those suggestions to feedback@uhpa.org.

UHPA: 50 Years of Strength In Numbers

Next year, UHPA celebrates its 50th anniversary as the exclusive bargaining agent for UH faculty. It’s a huge milestone. While UHPA has evolved over the years, it has and always will be driven by the fact that there is strength in numbers and that delivering competitive wages, better working conditions, protecting academic freedom and governance for faculty must be of foremost importance.

Recognizing The Need to Organize Since 1970

A historical trip back into time shows that when the Hawai‘i State Legislature passed Act 171, and adopted HRS, Chapter 89 (aka Hawaiʻi’s Collective Bargaining law) in 1970, this opened the door to form unions for public sector employees and introduced historic legislation such as exclusive representation and the right of public employees to engage in legal strikes. Initially, there were mixed feelings about unionization among faculty. However, when other bargaining units received a pay increase as a result of their collective-bargaining efforts, UH faculty immediately saw the benefits of banding together as a union in solidarity. There was no longer any ambivalence. Faculty wanted to have one loud, clear voice.

In 1972, there were four competing organizations on a ballot placed before faculty:

  • University of Hawai‘i Faculty Association–UHFA, an alliance of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and UH-Manoa Faculty Senate, which was opposed to unionization;
  • Hawai‘i Government Employees Association (HGEA), affiliated with the AFL-CIO;
  • College and University Professional Association (CUPA), affiliated with the Hawai‘i Education Association/National Education Association (HEA/NEA); and
  • Hawai‘i Federation of College Teachers (HFCT), affiliated with the AFL-CIO. 

It was a tight race that required multiple rounds of voting, but in the end, HFCT became the UH faculty’s first exclusive bargaining agent in November 1972.

Faculty Defending Tenure Gave Birth to UHPA

That was not the end. During the subsequent two years, HFCT could not successfully negotiate and ratify a contract. Faculty did not ratify a tentative agreement because they felt it weakened the role of tenure track positions for new hires. After the rejection of the tentative agreement, CUPA members initiated meetings with the UH-Manoa AAUP Chapter members. This led to an agreement to protect the principle of tenure in any collective bargaining agreement negotiated on behalf of faculty. These meetings culminated in the 1974 formation of a coalition organization supported and affiliated with both the national AAUP and NEA. Thereafter, the UHPA was born and has been the exclusive bargaining representative for the University of Hawai‘i  faculty bargaining Unit 7 ever since. By the following year, UHPA, in collaboration with the NEA-AAUP coalition, entered into its first contract for faculty (i.e. 1975-1977).  Since then, UHPA has successfully negotiated a total of seventeen (17) successor collective bargaining agreements on behalf of University of Hawai‘i  faculty and intends to do so with upholding the cornerstone principles of academic tenure and academic governance.

Continuous Evaluation: A Key to Strengthening UHPA

Over the years, UHPA has had to constantly evaluate the value and significance of its power partners in representing and protecting its faculty. In 1992, UHPA discontinued its affiliation with the AAUP, primarily because the relationship was structured so that the local affiliates would support the national organization but receive virtually no services in return.

UHPA then became a direct affiliate of the NEA. UHPA continued to be affiliated with NEA to retain some of the member benefits. However, in 2013, UHPA voted to disaffiliate with NEA and has operated independently for the past decade.

J. N. Musto, UHPA executive director at the time, wrote on disaffiliating from NEA :

“We are uncomfortable taking money from our bargaining unit that cannot be directly tied to our purpose as a public sector union in the state of Hawai‘i. We believe that emerging challenges here at home have a stronger claim on our resources. Retirement and medical benefits are under attack.This is very much a local issue, requiring local expertise and local relationships, and UHPA has proved its effectiveness in the realm of local politics.

As we have seen from recent pop events with our sister union, and NEA state affiliate, the Hawaii State Teachers Association, there is no substitution for local expertise, especially when it comes to collective bargaining. Affiliation with the NEA is not necessary for UHPA to effectively carry out its responsibilities as the exclusive representative of the UH faculty. This is what our mission requires. This is where our attention and resources should be focused.”

Planning for the Future

Over the past decade, UHPA has demonstrated that it can fend for itself and its members. UHPA remains dedicated to the achievement of excellence at the University of Hawai‘i in instruction, research, and service to the community through collective bargaining, legislative advocacy, civic education, and public engagement.

However, there are rising threats to higher education at both the national and local scene. 

Attacks on academic freedom and tenure, funding, intellectual property rights, diversity, and other issues are putting higher education and faculty at greater risk. As democracy is slowly dismantled at the national level, we see state legislators across the country enacting laws that undermine public schools, community colleges, and universities through curriculum bans, eradication of diversity, equity and inclusion programs, attacks on science and public health, funding cuts, attacks on tenure, and voucher and privatization schemes.

Fewer Students Entering Higher Education

While enrollment is up at certain universities and colleges and graduation rates may be high, a significant and growing number of high school students — nearly 40% — do not pursue secondary higher education because it is not affordable, among other reasons. This is another challenging factor.  

It’s Time To Strengthen Our Position

As UHPA prepares to enter its 50th year of representing and servicing faculty, we continue to focus on our mission, assess the landscape, and look at what is looming on the horizon. It is becoming evident that it may be time to reevaluate how we can bolster our strength and add more value for our members, now and into the future. At a time when there has been post-Janus declines in membership in public-sector unions across the country, UHPA is taking a hard look at creative ways to gain strength through numbers and enhance our influence.

If you have suggestions, we are open to your ideas. Please email your thoughts to feedback@uhpa.org. Mahalo.

Let’s Prepare For The Coming Battles

Our higher education colleagues across the nation are being put through the wringer, and it has not been easy to stomach. There is a haunting feeling that the University of Hawai‘i faculty will one day find themselves immersed and directly facing these same types of situations.

Faculty Increasingly Affected by Labor Disputes

Labor disputes are on the rise at universities across our nation over concerns about inflation, working conditions, academic freedom, and other governance issues. Many of these battles have intensified to the point of faculty walking off their jobs and crippling entire university systems. According to a May 2023 Inside Higher Ed article, about 60 percent of the nearly 225,000 employees who engaged in work stoppages in 2022 were educators, researchers, and other academic professionals.

Unrest on University Campuses Abound

We don’t have to look far to find an abundance of strife. Last year, 48,000 postdoctoral scholars, teaching assistants, and graduate student researchers of the 10-campus University of California system walked off their jobs for nearly six weeks because of disputes over working conditions, compensation, protections against harassment, and unfair labor practices.

The battles are relentless with no end in sight. Earlier this year, the week-long faculty strike at the University of Illinois at Chicago led to the cancellation of classes for thousands of students. The faculty union and administrators finally agreed to a tentative four-year agreement, which has since been ratified. Very recently, the West Virginia University Board of Governors voted to discontinue 28 academic programs and to cut 143 faculty positions as a result of an anticipated $45 million budget shortfall. There have been rallies and other solidarity actions at Florida State University, Indiana University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Chicago and University of Texas.

UH Not Immune from Labor Battles

Sadly, the University of Hawai‘i is not immune from any of this. We have struggled with our own battles right in our backyard. On the home front, hardly a legislative session goes by without certain lawmakers brazenly ignoring UH’s constitutional autonomy with ongoing attempts to micromanage the UH. These legislators overstep their defined roles and justify their meddlesome intrusion under the thinly veiled cover of “accountability.” We believe their attacks will not only continue, but will intensify due to the activity occurring on the national scene.

Plotting Our Course of Action

As we prepare for the upcoming legislative session in January 2024 and the unprecedented challenges that faculty will likely face in the years ahead, UHPA is now exploring various options to aggressively protect the UH faculty from the onslaught of those intent on decimating the very institution that helps to drive our local economy forward. UH faculty single handedly attract extramural funding, help generate new jobs, conduct groundbreaking research to improve our quality of life and extend our lives, and cultivate the next generation of experts in various fields. They are the heart of the University system and must be protected.

It’s time to take action, do something differently and see new results. As always, we’re open to feedback from our members, so please don’t hesitate to email those suggestions to feedback@uhpa.org.