Labor relations on campus underwent marked change between 1968 and 1979. When Fleming arrived on campus there were only two small local unions involved with the University — the building trades union and the operating engineers union. Both involved small numbers of employees. Major change was to occur. The American Federation of State and Municipal Employees organized hospital employees; nurses formed a union and the interns and residents in the medical complex were organized. Clerical employees were organized, although the union was later decertified. The graduate students who serve as teaching assistants in many departments were organized as the Graduate Employees Organization, and pressed contract demands in 1974-75.
One enduring legacy of these changed relationships is a greatly enlarged professional staff of lawyers and personnel managers, charged with the responsibility for negotiating labor contracts and with administering those contracts with fairness to both unionized and non-union employees. That strikes were few and short indicates the success of those professionals, and President Fleming's expertise was clearly an asset in handling those developments. He recognized that having organized units bargaining for diverse constituencies on campus (along with demands by students for greater participation in University governance) might alter the quality of higher education. "How these questions are resolved in the next few years," he said, "will determine the nature of higher education in the United States."