Forming a Higher Ed Union
Frequently Asked Questions
What does it mean for us to form a union?
Forming a union allows you and your colleagues to come together and advocate for yourselves.
As union members, you’ll decide what priorities you share and how to address them. While you
will elect your own officers and board, that’s just the beginning. The more participation there is
from everyone, the stronger your voice will be, especially as you enter into collective bargaining
with your employer to establish a contract.
Who does MEA represent in higher education in Michigan?
In addition to the 817 tenure stream faculty at Central Michigan and Ferris State College, MEA
represents 2,000 administrative professionals at Michigan State University, and 15,000 other
higher education faculty and staff employees throughout Michigan.
Where else are tenure stream faculty organized?
Tenure stream faculty are organized at Wayne State, Central Michigan, Ferris State College,
Northern Michigan, and Eastern Michigan. Tenure stream faculty are also unionized at
numerous R-1 universities such as Rutgers, UMass Amherst, Oregon, Oregon State, the
University of Pittsburgh, the University of New Mexico, as well as throughout the entire SUNY,
University of Florida, and Cal State systems.
If we form a union, will we still receive merit pay and be able to negotiate our own
Yes. Unionized faculty still have merit pay, the ability to negotiate higher starting salaries and
retention increases. Unionized faculty typically also negotiate across the board raises as well as
minimum base salaries and promotion adjustments.
How do faculty senate and a faculty union work together?
In universities where the faculty are unionized, the faculty senate continues to play an important
role. Many faculty who have worked in both union and non-union colleges and universities find
that the faculty senate’s role is enhanced when there is also a union. Faculty decide where best
to pursue their interests, and often utilize both the senate and their union to support their goals.
At MSU for example, fixed-term faculty are unionized and are also highly active in faculty
How much are dues?
Dues are essential to building and maintaining a strong organization and faculty voice. As a
union, you’ll vote as a body on your local dues. Dues are typically about $1000 per year, which
include local (faculty), state (MEA), and national (NEA). MEA has a graded dues structure which
is a percentage of your annual salary capped at 1.6% or $655, whichever is less. Salaries at
$46,406 or higher are capped at $655 annually for MEA dues. NEA dues are fixed at $200
annually. Membership is voluntary under federal law. Members will begin paying dues only after
you have negotiated and voted to approve a contract with MSU.
What does signing a union authorization card mean?
By signing a union authorization card, you are indicating your desire to join your colleagues in
forming a union. By doing so, you will be able to negotiate collectively with your university
administration over your wages, hours, and working conditions, and to have representation in
The authorization card is not a membership card, and does not obligate you to pay dues. The
authorization cards will not be seen by MSU administration. A third party and/or the Michigan
Employee Relations Commission (MERC) will validate that a majority of your colleagues have
signed cards and MSU will recognize your union.
You then begin to build your union by signing membership cards. Successful unions start with
strong membership levels. The more members you have, the more power you will have at the
How do I join the effort?
If you are a tenure stream faculty member at Michigan State University, the first step in joining
your colleagues is to download and print an authorization card. After signing the card, take a
photo of it and submit it to MSUunion@mea.org.
If you’d like to learn more and help engage your colleagues about what forming a union means
for faculty at MSU, please include a message in your email and a member of our faculty
organizing committee will contact you.