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Compensation & Benefits

This information about compensation and benefits is provided for non-supervisory staff within the bargaining unit, to make an informed choice about voting if the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) holds an election for representation by the union.

Not necessarily. Currently, the salary increase merit pool is set by the Board of Trustees (BoT) as part of the University’s budget process. Staff have input through the University Budget Committee.

If a union is elected, the union and AU would bargain in good faith which means that each side gains something while each would give something up. If a few staff leaders on the bargaining committee desire higher wages, for example, they may make decisions about reducing the fringe benefits for those covered by the union. The university is also not obligated to agree to union demands for higher wages. So, having a union does not guarantee a better overall financial condition for staff. 

The University has long had a Benefits Advisory Project Team, which includes staff and faculty voices in decision-making about benefits. HR relies on the input of the Benefits Advisory Project Team to help shape the fringe benefit package and evaluate options. 

The University also receives regular input from the Staff Council on issues and requests related to benefits, which we either work to resolve or implement. 

Just like with wages or other terms and conditions of employment, the union and the University would negotiate in good faith about benefits, which means that each side gains something while they give something up.  

Unions only enter into a collective bargaining arrangement on a periodic basis – in AU’s previous experience, this has been every 1-2 years but can be up to 3 years. AU has been able, over the years, to be more agile and responsive to staff through the Staff Council and Benefits Advisory Project Team and make changes as issues arise and solutions present themselves. In a collective bargaining situation, benefits could only be changed as part of the bargaining process, which means the University would not be able to be as flexible and responsive as we are now. The role the Benefits Advisory Project Team play in benefits for the staff in the bargaining unit would change because the union would become the sole representative of those staff members for all terms and conditions of employment, including benefits.

Overall, our benefits are highly competitive, and the health and wellness of our staff are important to us. We have a rich tuition remission program, and extensive medical and retirement benefits. Our leave benefits are now on par with, or better than, our competitors. We work hard to keep our health coverage costs low and subsidize at a higher rate for employees who make less than $40,000 per year. We even offer our retirees a medical benefits exchange so that they can still receive medical coverage at a great price. 

We offer flex-work including flexible schedules and teleworking, to provide our employees with the ability to better manage their work/life balance and commutes.

Each year AU uses external compensation and benefits advisor to determine the competitiveness of our benefits. One study was done as part of our new leave benefits, and concluded that we needed to improve in certain areas such as parental leave, which we have done and is now available.

The University has a long-standing tradition of ensuring equity in its pay and benefit practices. AU provides a very rich benefits package to all staff and provides additional medical plan subsidies for staff who earn $40,000 or less. This commitment began in the early 1980s and has continued through the present. The subsidy threshold is updated periodically to reflect changes in staff salary. AU was one of the first organizations in the country to add transgender benefits to the medical plan. AU consistently demonstrates its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion through its policies.

AU’s retirement program offers several investment options including two socially responsible investment options: the TIAA CREF Social Choice Account and the Vanguard FTSE Social Index Fund through Fidelity. These mutual funds screen for certain environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) criteria. In 2000 the university adopted a Wage Policy, which forms the basis of our commitment to pay a living wage to AU staff. It guarantees that the base wage will be competitive with other regional institutions and will be based on the demographics the DC region.

How will a union affect what I currently have at AU?

It depends on what is included in the collective bargaining agreement.

Staff within the bargaining unit will be represented by the union for purposes of negotiating employment terms and conditions, including pay, benefits, promotions, and grievances.

In a bargaining process, each side negotiates in good faith, which means they both ask for things and also give things up, so there’s no guarantee that wages, benefits, avenues for input, and procedures will be retained as-is with more added.

If you have questions or feedback for American University regarding staff unionization, email union@american.edu.