YEREVAN—Faculty at the American University of Armenia recently formed the AUA Labor Union of the Faculty. The union will serve as a mechanism to protect faculty rights, ensure further equity regarding salaries and contracts, and supplement the other positive steps that have been taken over the past few years at the university.
“This an important precedent for Armenia, especially after the Velvet Revolution,” said Dr. Jenny Paturyan, assistant professor of political science and interim president of the union. “Any healthy society must include a focus on the treatment and rights of workers, which has been lacking in our country for years.”
All faculties at AUA are eligible to join the union. The founding members of AUA Faculty United hope to remedy the lingering Soviet perceptions of trade unions by providing an example of a more European and American union, dynamic and active in addressing worker concerns. The purpose is partly to serve as a model for other institutions and workers in Armenia.
The AUA union is modeled to some extent on the University of California system, where fourteen unions cover 79,000 employees. Various UC campuses also have specific faculty associations that advocate for instructors and researchers. The unions and associations in the UC system work harmoniously with Faculty Senate. The latter is focused on policies and academics while the former addresses economic and employment interests. Outside the US, such unions exist everywhere from the American University of Beirut to Sweden, where the Swedish Association of University Teachers and Researchers has 21,000 members.
“Armenia is currently building a more just and transparent democracy after many years of stagnation. Institutions like AUA—which is a wonderful place full of high quality faculty and students—should be at the forefront of that change, not just reacting to it,” said Dr. Arto Vaun, assistant professor of English literature and chair of the Faculty Senate. “We welcome our colleagues’ initiative and support the union as an additional component of shared governance and healthy discourse at the university.”
AUA Faculty United has plans to reach out to other universities, sectors, and institutions in Armenia in order to create dialogue and raise awareness surrounding labor issues and workers’ rights.