Union Starts To Organize At Local University

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - A group has started a union drive to organize an estimated 680 University of Akron faculty members.

Members of the American Association of University Professors and others on campus want a greater voice in decision-making, wages and benefits, said Steve Aby, Akron chapter president.

"I think they believe the process in making decisions on campus is increasingly top-down," Aby said.

The union must collect signatures from 30 percent of potential union members before they would be authorized under Ohio law to vote on whether to organize.

A majority of the workers -- full-time instructors and assistant, associate and full professors -- must approve of seeking union representation.

University President Luis Proenza said there was a failed attempt to unionize faculty in 1995. He said the current effort is playing out in a difficult budget year.

"Everybody would like to be better compensated, but the state budget didn't allow it," he said, referring to major cutbacks to the state's higher education budget.

The university has a plan for paying professors more, but officials want to gather information on salaries at universities of comparable size, Proenza said.

Aby said group members and others are concerned they didn't get much say in a merit-raise system, based on staff evaluations, that was introduced some years ago.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)