1435 Morris Avenue - Suite 3A, Union, NJ 07083
Tim Haresign, President


Article IX, Section D. of the State-Union Agreement provides that “the Union shall have the right to appoint one employee observer to each college-wide committee of each State College/University, said observer being selected by a procedure established and administered by the UNION.”

Faculty and staff who serve on a University’s/College’s standing committees may or may not be aware that there is (or should be) a non-voting member on each of these committees who is the AFT or union observer. Committee members also may or may not be aware that the Union appoints this observer rather than being elected by his or her colleagues or chosen by the Senate.  Committee members and committee chairs need to know that the observer’s job is to make sure that the collective bargaining agreement and locally negotiated procedures are enforced.

Without Union representation on these committees — especially reappointment, promotions or reclassification committees—the Union would have no way of assuring its membership that the committees honor members’ rights under the Agreement and locally negotiated procedures, or that University/College policies are being honored. And if you doubt the importance of union observers, be assured that at the last round of negotiations the State fought very hard to diminish the role of the Union observer to the extent that their presence on the committees would have been superfluous. It was hard won, but we prevailed in keeping intact the observer’s relevance to committee work.



Observers should make a folder for your work that contains a copy of the current Agreement and any local procedures/policies governing the work of the committee to which you have been assigned.   Review the relevant section of these documents prior to the beginning of the process, e.g., Article XIII (Reappointment) and XIV (Promotion) of the Agreement and local procedures for faculty and staff. It goes without saying that you should have these documents with you at every committee meeting.


Your attendance at all meetings is critical. Questions of proper procedures and contractual rights may come up at any time. If you cannot attend, contact your local union president as soon as possible so that she or he can arrange a substitute. No committee should be meeting without a union representative present and it’s up to the Union to see that a Union rep is there at every meeting.


Be on the lookout for possible inequities or contract violations. While the Union observer is not permitted to participate in the committee deliberations or make any comments about the merits of a portfolio or application, the observer can take appropriate action if she or he believes there has been a committee violation. Often times committee members and chairs are not that familiar with the contract or local procedures or they are unsure about how to interpret them.  This is where the observer’s role is critical— the observer is permitted to inform the committee of a violation or to answer questions from the committee on interpretation.

Speak up immediately if you think the committee is about to undertake something that violates the Agreement or a local procedure or policy or is inherently unfair. If you are unable to persuade the committee that something may be improper, ask for the opportunity to call the Local Union president or grievance chair for advice. The Agreement states that the “observer’s actions, which include notification of perceived violations, shall not in any way preclude or interfere with the committee’s deliberations.” If a committee will not agree to give you time to consult with the Local Union about a perceived violation during its meeting, you should document as much information about the violation as possible and contact the Union without delay after the meeting.

In general, the deliberations of personnel committees (reappointment, promotions, reclassifications, etc.) are confidential. However, confidentiality is not a bar to dealing with violations of a unit member’s rights and committee members can be required to testify in grievance hearings—and the observer should make the committee aware of this fact.

You should make it clear to committee members that they should bring their concerns about possible contract violations to you and that they should not individually communicate with anyone outside the committee about their perceptions or concerns.

In the event that you believe a committee member violated the contract or a member’s rights, or if you perceive a complaint from the committee that this occurred, report the facts to your Local president or grievance officer immediately.  In the event there is a committee violation, the grievance procedure timelines regarding a “21-day” letter must be considered (Article VII.F.5).

Don’t forget you represent all members of the AFT unit, not just Union members.

Common Committee Violations:

  • Failure to follow local procedures;
  • Working with incomplete files;
  • Not following committee deadlines;
  • Deliberating without a quorum present;
  • Considering factors that are not part of the established, written criteria.