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Why We Need Dues Reform

The following is a somewhat condensed version of my column for the May-June issue of Academe.

In my travels around the country, I regularly ask two questions: “How many faculty members on your campus earn less than $60,000?” and “What do you pay new assistant professors?” All too often, the answer to the first question is “everyone” or “everyone in my department” and the answer to the second question is “$45,000.” Convincing these individuals to pay almost two hundred dollars in annual AAUP dues— substantially more than they would pay for membership in a disciplinary organization with a progressive dues schedule—can be very difficult. As our members eager to sign up their colleagues tell us repeatedly, we need dues reform.

The AAUP once had progressive dues based on income, and the disciplinary organizations that set dues by income find that faculty members are reasonably honest in reporting their salaries. Progressive dues work. They help attract younger members and ensure that those whose salaries remain low are never penalized by a sudden large dues increase, as currently happens when AAUP members lose their eligibility for the entrant dues rate that applies to new members and new full-time faculty members without tenure.

In order to reform and simplify AAUP dues, staff and leadership together explored more than a dozen sets of dues structures based on annual income. Our goal was to keep dues as low as possible for all members, keep overall AAUP revenue the same, and give us a means to recruit more young members. A system with nine dues levels proved the best way to do this.

The initial dues rates, subject to your approval at the June 2010 annual meeting, are as follows, with salary ranges followed by the proposed dues rate: salary under $30,000, $45 annual dues; $30,001–$40,000, $60; $40,001–$50,000, $80; $50,001– $60,000, $100; $60,001–$70,000, $140; $70,001–$80,000, $165; $80,001–$100,000, $185; $100,001– $120,000, $205; above $120,000, $225. Some AAUP members would see a major dues reduction under this plan, while the dues increases at the top would remain modest.

State conferences that collect extra dues from their members directly could still do so, but the national office would be able to pay state conferences the money collected on their behalf with less time spent on burdensome mutual calculations. Our dues would still be indexed for inflation, but that would not have a major impact in the near term.

The Collective Bargaining Congress is working on simplifying dues collection for our unionized members as well, but for now we are addressing dues only for advocacy members.

Cary Nelson
AAUP President