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50 Years of Higher Ed Unionization in Alaska

50 Years of Unionization for Public Higher Ed
Faculty in Alaska

This year, we celebrate 50 years of faculty unionization in public higher education in Alaska. It started back when Alaska had a separate, public community college system made up of today’s UA extended sites and rural campuses. The community college faculty members decided to unionize, and in 1973 ACCFT was formed. It took them three years and a strike to settle their first contract. They threatened or went on more strikes over the years to strengthen different arts of their contract.

photograph of a 1973 issue of the Anchorage Times with headline "Teachers Vote to Strike."
Photo of a 1976 Anchorage Times front page article about ACCFT's vote to strike for their first contract.
"ACCFT On Strike" sign from previous strike
"On Strike!" Sign from an ACCFT statewide strike 20-30 years ago.

In 1987, Alaska’s community college system merged into the University of Alaska system. Due to details lost by time, UA faculty were not allowed to join their new community campus colleagues by becoming members of ACCFT (which became University of Alaska Federation of Teachers - UAFT). However, UA faculty saw the
advantages their unionized colleagues enjoyed that they did not (for example - pay raises, workload assurances, grievance processes). These faculty soon began
organizing to form a second faculty union: United Academics.

In 1996, those organizing efforts paid off and our union–United Academics AAUP/AFT Local 4996–was certified. It took UNAC over two years of bargaining before our first contract was ratified in 1998. The first contract brought faculty their first pay raise in nearly a decade and ensured many of the same securities our UAFT colleagues enjoyed via their contract. Today, our jobs and compensation are better in several ways compared to non-unionized faculty in the lower 48 and at APU. Without our union, pay would be even lower and workloads would be even higher.

Historical campaign buttons from ACCFT and UNAC

historical campaign buttons 'we make it work' 'teaching Alaska's future' 'negotiate now!'
ACCFT/UNAC/6070 campaign button 'affordable health care for every UA employee'

In 2018, following years of occasional disagreements about which unit new members belonged in, and what they were allowed to teach, UAFT and UNAC forged a historic agreement to resolve these disputes by merging into one, unified union, keeping the United Academics name. Today, United Academics represents approximately 1,100 faculty and post doctoral fellows throughout the UA system, at nearly every location throughout the state. The AACFT and UAFT names are gone, but their history, and the road they paved for us, is not forgotten. Their history is our history, and we are stronger today because of their bravery yesterday. Their slogan remains true, and we will all be better off for remembering it: "Ignore your rights and they'll go away!"

Bumper sticker that says 'ignore your rights and they'll go away'

 Here’s to another 50 years of UNAC and unionization in Alaska's public higher education system!

graphic of a fist holding a pencil

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