The UAOSU bargaining team and the administration team met 12–4 on Wednesday, September 18 in the LaSells Stewart Center. Twenty-five faculty members observed the session.
The session began with UAOSU offering to accept the administration’s most recent counterproposal on the Recognition article. Although Recognition is a small article consisting of boilerplate contract language, this nevertheless represents a small step forward in reaching a collective bargaining agreement.
The administration then presented counterproposals on Arbitration, Discipline and Termination, and Academic Freedom. In each case, they had accepted some of our language from our latest counterproposal; however, our discussion of these articles demonstrated that areas of significant disagreement remain.
With their Arbitration counterproposal, the administration continues to try to limit the authority of an arbitrator to remedy violations of university policy and the collective bargaining agreement. For example, their language prohibits the reinstatement of a faculty member who has lost their appointment without the due process prescribed by university policy and the collective bargaining agreement. Furthermore, in their proposal, an arbitrator finding that a faculty member was entitled to back pay and benefits would only be able to award them retroactively up to 30 days before the date of a grievance. The rationale provided for this short time limit is that it is the responsibility of faculty to know how much they are paid each month. However, as the UAOSU team pointed out, grievances can be used to address inequities in pay, which requires a faculty member to be aware of how their salary compares to that of their colleagues. After absurdly positing that faculty members should know their colleagues’ salaries and observe any inequities immediately, the administration admitted that their language was crafted to protect the monetary interests of the university, rather than to serve the interests of fairness and equitable treatment of faculty.
While we are moving closer to agreement on the Discipline and Termination article, the administration’s counterproposal still contains a few ambiguities. Notably, their contract language appears to allow for the administration to use disciplinary sanctions normally reserved for policy violations as tools for addressing performance issues. The examples used by the administration team during our discussion of the proposal seemed to confirm that they see this as a possibility. However, mechanisms for handling performance issues through annual reviews and through the promotion process already exist in university policy, and are addressed in other articles proposed by UAOSU. Our goal with the Discipline and Termination article is to have clear language that describes reasonable, progressive discipline to address violations of policy by faculty members. We will continue to work with the administration to find that clarity in upcoming sessions.
The administration’s Academic Freedom counterproposal weakens the language that UAOSU has proposed to protect extramural expression and the right of faculty to speak on matters of university governance. They have also removed our language that protects the right of faculty members to assign grades without having them arbitrarily or capriciously changed by the administration. Particularly troubling is the administration’s language that exempts matters of academic freedom from the grievance process. Academic Freedom is one of several articles in which the administration has employed this tactic to weaken protections for faculty in the collective bargaining agreement. The bargaining team provided multiple examples of ways faculty rights to academic freedom and participation in university governance could be violated, and why members would want to grieve such instances. It is the position of UAOSU that a robust collective bargaining agreement must provide the basis for handling disputes involving violations of the agreement. Carving out sections of the agreement that are exempt from grievance and/or arbitration makes them unenforceable, and weakens the contract as a whole. The UAOSU team will continue to push back against this tactic in future bargaining sessions.
UAOSU presented counterproposals on Non-Discrimination, Union Rights, Release Time, and Grievance Procedure. The administration team had previously collapsed UAOSU’s proposal on Non-Discrimination and our proposal on Sexual Harassment, Bullying, and Discrimination into a single proposal, and moved our language calling for the formation of a Labor Management Committee on Respectful Workplaces into a separate Letter of Agreement for a Committee on a Respectful Workplace. We accepted most of the language in their Non-Discrimination proposal and added language to their Letter of Agreement to strengthen the mandate of the committee and to ensure that its recommendations will be negotiated by the administration and UAOSU for the purposes of incorporating them into the collective bargaining agreement. We look forward to reaching a tentative agreement on this article soon.
The Union Rights and Release Time counterproposals were submitted to the administration as a package. These are brief articles consisting of standard contract language designed to define some of the interactions between the administration and UAOSU, and to structure time for faculty members who are union representatives to perform union-related duties.
In our Grievance Procedure counterproposal, UAOSU has accepted most of the language from the administration’s last proposal; however, a major sticking point remains in the administration’s insistence on exempting grievances involving discrimination from the arbitration process. Attempting to find some common ground with the administration on this point, we sought to define circumstances in which both sides could agree that arbitration would not be appropriate, as well as circumstances in which arbitration would be both warranted and necessary.
UAOSU concluded the session by reminding the administration that we are still waiting on counterproposals for the majority of the articles currently on the table. While we appreciate that the administration team has, of late, been engaging with our proposals more meaningfully, the fact remains that they have responded to less than a third of our proposals. To date, our tentative agreements have been in areas of standard contract language. We need their engagement and counterproposals achieve a contract that addresses workplace issues, job security, and economics. We will continue to hold their feet to the fire while we await their counterproposals; in the meantime, you can do your part to hold the administration accountable by attending one of the upcoming bargaining sessions with a colleague. Numbers matter, and we can send a clear message to the administration by packing the room with engaged faculty.The next bargaining sessions are from 1–4pm on Monday, September 23 and from 10am –2pm on Wednesday, September 25, both in the LaSells Stewart Center
.Even if you can only drop by for half an hour, your attendance matters: show the administration that faculty are watching this process.
We appreciate your support. You can find a full calendar of upcoming bargaining sessions on our website.
Proposals Exchanged on 18 September