FAQ on HOA Affiliation with AFT

The HOA Board unanimously endorsed affiliation with the American Federation of Teachers. Members must vote to approve the merger.

What is the background of the move for affiliation?

After lengthy negotiations in 2020 and 2023, members of the HOA authorized the Board to examine whether it would be beneficial for our union to affiliate with a larger national organization. While the HOA has been independent for its entire existence — and has done quite well for itself — the sheer size of the University of Michigan Health System and trends in both medicine and higher education have led to some difficulties for us. A lot of the issues we deal with reflect not just local concerns, but larger state and nationwide problems that are tough for an organization with a small staff to fully address. 

After many discussions and after reaching out to a couple of different larger unions, the Board decided to affiliate with the American Federation of Teachers.

Why AFT?

The Board wanted to ensure that the affiliation would strengthen the HOA while maintaining much of the independence that has worked well since our founding in 1972. AFT’s structure would allow the HOA to maintain its office and staff and oversee the budget in a way other larger unions would not. Each AFT affiliate has its own charter and acts semi-autonomously. One of the things our members have come to expect (and deserve) with their HOA membership is an accessible office here at the hospital — an office with staff members who can respond in real time and are solely responsible for House Officers at the University of Michigan. Maintaining this benefit for the HOA membership was a primary concern of the Board. Affiliation with AFT allows us to keep our presence and a level of independence that would not be possible with other unions and their required structural changes.

The HOA has maintained an informal relationship with AFT, often dependent on personal relationships. The Board felt that a formal affiliation would make this more sustainable.

At the University of Michigan, AFT represents a substantial share of the workforce, including Physician Assistants, Medical Assistants, Diagnostic Imaging employees, Behavioral Health employees, Lecturers, and Graduate Assistants. AFT carries a lot of political power with Regents at higher education institutions like UM. Representatives of AFT-Michigan have facilitated communications between the HOA and the UM Board of Regents during our last two contract campaigns, which helped us secure better raises and benefits than we likely would have without that aide. 

AFT is also very strong in the state of Michigan and throughout the Midwest. When the Board was exploring affiliation options, we were not only interested in their familiarity with the University but also their prominence within the state. AFT has a large amount of political strength in the state. They are working with several other health systems in the region; notably, they are actively working to unionize residents, fellows, and attendings at nearby hospital systems. The HOA can provide meaningful assistance to AFT in the healthcare sector in return for strategic political sway during negotiations.

While dues increases are involved in any merger (more on that below), affiliation with AFT would allow the HOA to keep dues as affordable as possible. Other national union dues structures would have led to increases that were more substantial than the Board was comfortable with.

What are the benefits to affiliation?

It is a much different world for medicine than when the HOA was founded in 1972. Since then, the University of Michigan Health System has grown to the multibillion-dollar entity it is today, employing over 1300 House Officers. Even in the past couple of years, UM has conducted mergers and partnerships with other large health systems, increasing its reach throughout the state. Medicine itself has become an increasingly larger business with a very corporate and "bottom line" culture. While we are proud of the work we have accomplished with the HOA as an independent entity, moving forward there are some larger strategic realities we'll have to face.

In order to maintain the HOA's positive trajectory, and continue securing meaningful change for house officer workplace rights, the HOA Board feels it is imperative that we increase our collective power and political influence. Doing that means that it is no longer sustainable to go it alone. Affiliation would allow us to get resources for larger fights that are likely ahead. Affiliation is all about increasing power.

On the day-to-day, the average member will probably not see much change. We will still have the same office with the same staff providing the same services. However, during negotiating years, we will have many more tools at our disposal; we'll have more resources to call upon when experiencing difficulties at the bargaining table. These tools and resources are some of the main reasons behind pursuing affiliation.

Will there be an impact on dues?

Yes. Dues are how a union is able to perform its functions and by joining a larger organization, there are more functions that need to occur. AFT member units pay per-capita costs per member to support the state and national offices of the union. If affiliation is approved the following impacts on dues will occur:

  • AFT has agreed to allow us to phase in our per-capita obligations over a multi-year period. For the remainder of our current contract, dues will stay at the same 0.5% of salary that they are now.
  • At the end of our current agreement (6/30/27) the HOA will have fully phased in our per capita obligations with AFT. At that point, member dues will be raised to 1% of total salary.
  • The same 0.5% will go towards the operating expenses of the HOA just as they do now with the remainder paying for per-caps.

We would still have one of the lowest percentage dues rates at UM. Even for those who will not be here for the final dues phase in, the HOA has always worked best when members feel invested in the long-term health of the organization.

What are the next steps?

According to Article III of the HOA Constitution, if the Board votes to endorse affiliation it then goes to our membership at large for a vote. 

The date for the overall membership vote will be September 23-30, 2024 beginning at 10AM on 9/23 and going to 10AM on 9/30. If a majority of the members who cast a vote approve of the affiliation, then it will go forward. The HOA will immediately form a charter with AFT and the dues rates will be impacted in the ways described above. Should the “no” votes have a majority then the affiliation fails.

The HOA will be having a series of informational meetings to discuss the vote and ensure members feel informed. The dates are:

Info Session 1 (Zoom): 8/20 at 7PM

Info Session 2 (In-Person): 9/4 at 6:30PM, Danto Auditorium, CVC

Info Session 3 (Zoom): 9/18 at 7PM

If you have questions, please contact the HOA office through the help button on our website.