The UAOSU bargaining team and the administration team met on Wednesday, August 21 from 12-4 in the LaSells Stewart Center. There were 33 faculty members in attendance.
The session began with a lengthy discussion of university policies and how best to include those policies in the collective bargaining agreement. There are a number of significant issues to be resolved. At the most basic level, we must first agree on what constitutes “policy” as we have been told in previous sessions that just because something can be found under the heading of “policy” in the university policy library, it does not necessarily rise to the level of actual policy and may in fact be just a “procedure.” This could be a crucial distinction in those cases where the administration prefers contract language indicating that they will “follow applicable policy.” What precisely are they agreeing to in those instances? Will they be able to avoid doing things we thought they had agreed to by arguing that those things are not really policy? The administration team has expressed reluctance to include, by reference, all existing policies and procedures in the CBA. In the absence of such inclusion, UAOSU will need to be very explicit in our contract language around important issues such as tenure and promotion, access to personnel records, and so on. When not specifically delineated within the CBA, these policies (or “rules,” “standards,” or “procedures”) are subject to change without meaningful input from faculty. Moreover, when not part of the CBA, violations of university policy would not be subject to the grievance process. The existing policies are hard to find, sometimes poorly written, and often confusing, as anyone who has looked at the promotion and tenure guidelines, for example, can attest. An important goal of our first CBA will be to make university policy more accessible, easier to understand, and enforceable. What we are seeking to change is the current situation in which faculty must abide by university policy, and are subject to discipline when they do not, but the administration does not have a corresponding level of accountability.
The administration brought a counter to our original proposal on Health, Safety, Facilities, and Work Spaces which notably left out “Facilities and Work Spaces.” While the administration team asserted their commitment to pcroviding adequate working conditions for faculty, they expressed “no interest” in contract language that guarantees such things as private office spaces to meet with students (as required by FERPA), appropriate employee training, safe workplaces, necessary equipment, or a joint committee on deferred maintenance. Also dropped from their counterproposal were UAOSU provisions that would require, in most cases, one term’s notice before moving faculty to new offices or labs and that would prohibit the administration from unilateral decisions to permanently relocate faculty members to other campuses. While we have no reason to doubt their good intentions, the whole point of a contract is to set up enforceable agreements. If not included in the CBA, their good intentions can, and probably will, be set aside whenever they become practically or financially inconvenient. This is particularly problematic when issues of health and safety are concerned. The language proposed by the administration team states that they will “attempt to resolve” health and safety issues but does not include an actual requirement to do so. If the administration is truly committed to providing faculty with the spaces, equipment, and training necessary to do their jobs, then the administration needs to be willing to make those commitments in writing. Good intentions and vague promises are insufficient, and we will continue to have these important conversations at the bargaining table.
The administration team also presented a package proposal on management and union rights. These are crucial issues that go right to the heart of faculty governance. As is generally the case, the administration wants a very expansive enumeration of their rights but not their responsibilities. Not surprisingly, they want the exact opposite for faculty in which our responsibilities, but not our rights, would be clearly detailed in contract language. Faculty governance issues also require a consideration of the Faculty Senate role in establishing academic standards and curriculum. The administration team has so far expressed opposition to any mention of Faculty Senate and its prerogatives in the CBA. UAOSU recognizes the important role of the Faculty Senate and believe that our interests will be best served by working cooperatively with one another, UAOSU on employment issues and Faculty Senate on academic issues. We are academic employees so there is considerable overlap between employment and academic matters and we believe that the achievement of shared governance requires the robust participation of both UAOSU and Faculty Senate. Faculty Senate currently exists as an advisory body only. By specifying their role in the CBA, we can safeguard their authority and enhance the role of faculty in university governance.
Our website includes a table with links to the various proposals and counter-proposals that have been exchanged thus far.
The next bargaining sessions is from 12–4 on Today, August 26 and 9-1 on Wednesday, August 28 in the LaSells Stewart Center. We hope you will join us. Even if you can only drop by for half an hour, your attendance matters; show the administration that faculty are watching this process and expecting a strong first contract.
We appreciate your support. You can find a full calendar of Summer Term bargaining sessions on our website.