The UAOSU Bargaining Team met with the administration team on Saturday, March 23 for our first discussion of substantive proposals. The administration team was joined for the first time by Heather Horn, OSU’s newly hired assistant provost for academic employee and labor relations. Forty-eight faculty members came to observe bargaining, along with two graduate employees and a handful of others. In previous sessions, UAOSU stood firm in our demand for open sessions, and today the teams came to agreement on ground rules that codified faculty members’ right to attend bargaining sessions and omitted any infringement on their freedom of expression.
In the morning, UAOSU presented proposals for fourteen articles, ranging from boiler plate contract language to crucial protections for academic freedom, an antidiscrimination policy, and a grievance procedure. We also presented an article on “Academic Classifications,” in which we are seeking to clarify and streamline the broad range of faculty classifications across the institution and to provide new promotion pathways for Research Associates, Instructors (PAC), and Instructors in INTO OSU. In turn, the administration team presented proposals for six articles; these included their own nondiscrimination article and an article on “Management Rights.”
The nondiscrimination article provoked significant discussion at the table. UAOSU’s proposal would prohibit discrimination on the basis of “race, creed, color, sex, religion, national origin, citizenship status, ancestry, genetic information, pregnancy, marital status, domestic partnership status, familial status, age, body size, education level, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or any other extraneous considerations not directly and substantially related to effective performance.” The administration team’s proposal was much shorter and did not include protections for many of those groups. They argued that broader protections would create conflicts with statutory requirements, but our team was not able to elicit a clear and valid explanation for the concern. We will continue to emphasize the need for clear, far-reaching, and enforceable non-discrimination provisions in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
Academic freedom also prompted numerous questions from the administration team. UAOSU’s proposal includes OSU administration’s affirmative duty to protect faculty from pressures from external entities that impinge on academic freedom. The administration team seemed to have difficulty understanding why such protections are necessary. Our team offered numerous examples of potential problems, including industry groups seeking to suppress the publication of research findings, which occurred at OSU several years ago, and political groups demanding censure of a faculty member for their speech, which has happened across the country in recent years.
A larger theme that emerged in our conversations was the purpose of a Collective Bargaining Agreement. The administration team argued that it is unnecessary to include protections in the CBA that are already provided for in OSU policy. Because OSU already has policies protecting academic freedom and non-discrimination, for example, they argued that we do not need to include such protections in the CBA. They did, however, put forward a proposal on management rights which are also already a matter of law, a contradiction they failed to acknowledge. On crucial issues that are of concern to faculty, administrators can change existing policies. Furthermore, the procedures for enforcement of university policies are often opaque and inadequate. It is therefore essential to get protections that guarantee faculty rights enshrined in a CBA. Only then can we be assured that policies will not be changed without faculty consent and that faculty will have legal recourse if such policies are not followed or enforced.
The teams are close to agreement on some standard contract language and have scheduled three bargaining sessions for April: April 22 from 9-1, April 27 from 9-5, and April 30 from 9-1. We encourage faculty members to come observe a bargaining session. It is important for all of us to be engaged in this process and contribute to achieving a good first contract. We very much appreciate your presence at bargaining. Those of you who have had an opportunity to attend a bargaining session know just how slow and frustrating the process can be. Your solidarity and support keep us energized and focused on our common goals. We hope to see you soon and, as always, welcome your feedback.
Proposals Exchanged on March 23: