Ratification!

One of the main responsibilities of full members of the union is to vote on whether or not to ratify collective bargaining agreements. The provisions bargained by your negotiating team cannot go into effect unless approved by the membership.

United Academics will be conducting a ratification vote October 6th-9th in order to allow all eligible members of United Academics to have their say on the agreement reached in August.

On October 6, eligible members of United Academics can vote at the General Membership Meeting from 5-7 pm in the Ford Alumni Center.

October 7, 8, and 9, eligible members can cast a ballot in the union office at 872 E. 13th Ave between the hours of 9 am and 4:30 pm.

Members eligible to vote are those that were employed by the University of Oregon in the last 12 months and were or are full members when employed. Faculty who are not full members but would like to vote on the CBA can join the union at the General Membership Meeting or the union office.

In order to be an informed voter, you can read a summary of the changes to the agreement or read the full agreement. You can also read all the proposals exchanged between the two parties.

Bargaining Update — August 17, 2015

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to announce that after nearly 7 months of negotiations United Academics and the University of Oregon have reached a tentative three-year agreement. Over the course of these negotiations, United Academics pressed the conversation on fiscal priorities at the University of Oregon, standing by the principal that investing in faculty is investing in our academic mission.

The UO administration initially proposed a raise to faculty of only 1% over two years (with an additional one-time payment of $600). With considerable effort and after countless hours, we were able to move these numbers in a more favorable direction. While some may hasten to point out shortcomings of the agreement (and I am not shy about indicating some of these below), it is a solid contract that establishes five consecutive years of salary increases for all faculty at the UO (those represented by UA and those not) as well as major improvements in job stability for all NTTF.

Numerous gains are layered throughout our tentative contract, some of which are highlighted below. A more complete summary of the contract will be available in the weeks ahead. As soon as the two teams complete copy-edits, the tentative contract will be made available online for your review before a General Membership Meeting at which UA members will cast an up or down ratification vote. Stay tuned for those details.

Before presenting a quick summary of the contract, I want to thank the hundreds of faculty who participated in various ways to mobilize and support our union during the summer months. Your involvement made an enormous difference! Last week, about 100 of you attended our marathon bargaining sessions. In the end, our combined efforts persuaded the UO to accept an agreement that will provide average raises of 8% over 3 years, along with a $650 one-time payment (about $1,000,000 paid out to faculty), increases to promotion raises, significant increases to salary floors, and more. Thank you to every faculty member who took some action to support the bargaining team over the last 7 months!

Contract Highlights

The tentative contract:

● Provides for salary stability (5 years straight, locked in 3 more after 2 good years) and new salary gains averaging 8% over the next three years. Salaries will take effect on January 1, 2016.
o FY 2016: 2% COLA, $650 one-time payment prorated by FTE on November 30, 2015
o FY 2017: 0.75% COLA, 2.25% merit pool
o FY 2018: 0.75% COLA, 2.25% merit pool
● Locks-in the minimum of 8% promotion raises for all TTF. After promotion to full professor, the faculty member whose first successful review “exceeds expectations” will get a minimum raise of 8%. A successful review that “meets expectations” is guaranteed a minimum of 4%. All subsequent six year reviews result in a minimum of 4%.
● Maintains promotion raises of 8% for NTTF.
● Greatly increases contract stability for all NTTF (including funding contingent faculty) – NTTF who are promoted and are consistently meeting the standards of excellence can expect to have their 3-year contract renewed, with exceptions only for programmatic changes, budgetary limitations or the conversion of the position to a tenure-track position.
● Significantly raises salary floors for all NTTF and Postdocs.
● Brings the salary differential between Pro tem (adjunct) and Career NTTF closer to parity, from 80% to 90%.
● Provides a separate 1% equity pool for librarians since the administration remains unwilling to remove “up or out”.
● Improves faculty access to personnel records and files, including specific time limits for access and partial waivers of the copying costs of records.
● Agrees on a Memorandum of Understanding to study all equity issues at the UO.
● Tightens procedures for the Promotion, Tenure, Retention Appeals Committee (PTRAC).
● Agrees to establish committees to assess a sick leave bank and a child-care subsidy.
● Secures the current the 95% employer/5% employee contribution ratio for health-care premiums.
● Simplifies the faculty policy development process.
● Expands the ability of faculty to change department-level governance policies.

We fought for a number of additional benefits that the UO rejected, including increased sabbatical support and bridge-funding for research faculty. But our single most frustrating loss was in the area of equity. Beginning with our first economic proposal we argued that persistent inequities affect many faculty and departments at the UO. In our attempt to move the administration to include some kind of equity money, we presented an array of solutions, some large, some small, some targeting specific types of equity problems and some taking a multi-year, multi-pronged approach to a variety of internal and external salary inequities. It became clear that the university was not interested in monetarily addressing equity issues in this contract. We did persuade them to work in concert with United Academics to document and propose solutions to equity issues facing faculty.

Our difficult choice

We heard from a wide range of faculty about bargaining strategies. There were many different opinions about how and when to conclude negotiations. The UA leadership found there were a number of compelling reasons to avoid the continuation of negotiations into the fall term. The university has a new president who needs to build momentum for raising resources that serve the academic mission of our university. We need to keep our eye on that process. By not dragging negotiations into the fall, we averted possible mediation and impasse, which could have had costly ramifications in our relations with the university administration. We look forward to discussing these choices in our Representative Assembly and membership meetings.

What’s Ahead?

There is a lot of exciting work ahead. In recent weeks, I have received requests from faculty at the University of Washington and the University of Minnesota to visit their campuses and share our collective bargaining experiences. On campus, Academic Affairs is working with our union to develop a faculty mentoring program. United Academics will also be working with Human Resources and Academics Affairs to set up the committees agreed upon to explore the feasibility of a sick leave bank and child care subsidies and collaborating on the salary equity studies. I look forward to seeing many of you at the next General Membership Meeting to vote on our contract and chart a course forward.

As we celebrate the completion of our negotiations and prepare to vote on the contract, I hope you will consider supporting the classified staff in their ongoing effort to get a fair contract.

Warm wishes,

Michael Dreiling
President, United Academics

Bargaining Update — August 5, 2015

This is a long update with the intention of alerting you to the very serious gap we face at the bargaining table. We want to offer you an appraisal of where we stand on several outstanding issues.

Last Tuesday, the administration’s bargaining team moved on salaries, suggesting once again that they have no more money for faculty. The administration’s latest offer was only 6.5% over three years, with the vast majority of that money being dedicated to merit raises, and with a significant portion (20%) reserved to the deans to distribute at their “sole discretion.” How does the UO expect to sustain and grow academic excellence with mediocre salary proposals?

Their proposal fails to address equity, keep up with inflation, and will likely fail to match what our AAU peers average in the coming years. With the administration’s proposal, we will surely lose what ground we gained relative to our AAU peers. It is a weak proposal for a university that has ample resources to invest in faculty.

You can read a recap of our last salary package here. After moving substantially in an effort to conclude negotiations this summer, we proposed an average increase to base salary of 10% spread over three years. Our proposal addressed equity raises, across-the-board (COLA) raises, and merit raises. While the UO Administration moved from their initial insulting offer of 0% for the first year, we have consistently moved in a fair and transparent manner at the table.

Stand with us in our call for the UO to invest in faculty and prioritize academic excellence, Wed. August 12 in the Ford Alumni Center (Exec. Board Rm), 10am-6pm.

As we pointed out in our Op-Ed last Sunday, with growing reserves, growing state contributions, and a growing endowment, the UO has ample resources to move faculty salaries above the rate of inflation and to continue closing the gap with our AAU peers. It is a question of priorities, not resources. Please check out our Op-Ed and share with colleagues. The Op-Ed statement reinforces the substance of our faculty petition, with over 340 signatures, which we submitted to the Board of Trustees and President Schill on July 22.

It is critical that we have as large a turnout as possible at our next bargaining session, scheduled for August 12, Ford Alumni Center, 10 am to 6 pm. A large presence will send the message that the faculty is watching and is not happy with the administration’s proposals. The administration team has said that we need to stop listening to the complainers and listen to the majority of faculty. Let’s show them that dissatisfaction with faculty salaries and budget priorities is not limited to just a few “complainers”!

Here are the details of the latest administration proposal: A 1% across-the-board raise for next year (FY16) for all faculty; a 2.5% merit pool for Career and TT faculty in FY17; and a 3% merit pool for Career and TT faculty in FY18. They also proposed raising the salary floors by 6% in FY16, but no increases after that. They maintain the “Adjunct” differential: a minimum salary floor for temporary faculty of only 80% of the corresponding non-temporary floors.

While we are modestly encouraged with the improvement in their overall economic package, unfortunately there are still several areas where we have not found agreement. A strong faculty presence at bargaining will help push the administration team to sense our resolve on these important issues. If you agree with our thinking below, we urge you to come to bargaining and represent your interests. Our team will push as much as they can on your behalf, but your presence in the room would add immeasurably to the effort.

One of the important proposals we have presented is that if a faculty member has an appreciable increase in workload, then he or she should receive a corresponding increase in FTE or base salary. As we have stated at the table, an increase in work with no increase in pay is the same thing as a decrease in pay. We are also proposing that if faculty have a decrease in FTE, but no decrease in workload, then they should receive an increase to base pay. The principle is the same: Our work and salaries should be adjusted so that no faculty member sees an appreciable increase in work without an increase in pay or a decrease in pay without a decrease in work.

We are proposing, and insisting, on this language because some units have been trying to make “adjustments” so that faculty don’t really receive raises. After our last round of raises, one college implemented widespread decreases in FTE that were precisely calibrated to offset raises. We have also heard of incidents where classes have been added to faculty workload with no increase in FTE or salary. These situations are often localized and some faculty, especially our NTTF, have felt pressured to just silently accept these insults. When your job is up for non-renewal every year, you tend to keep your mouth shut.

So far, the administration team has agreed with us in principle, yet still refuses to allow protective language into the CBA. The administration’s main concern is that some faculty might not be working as hard as the admin thinks they should be, and they need the “flexibility” to adjust “historically under-assigned FTE” for these faculty with no increase in FTE. The admin, of course, will not identify the faculty or the units that have “historically under-assigned FTE,” so they want to maintain the flexibility to assign more work to any faculty member at any time with no adjustment to FTE or salary. We insist that if in fact there are under-assigned faculty on this campus, the administration would still have the ability deal with those on a case-by-case basis while still explicitly protecting the contractual rights of all faculty to be paid proportionally for work they perform.

The second issue where we can find no common ground is on the issue of equity raises. We have proposed twin pools of 1.5% of salary for TT and NTT faculty. Our proposal calls for a committee to develop guidelines and for deans to distribute the money according to the guidelines. We propose this money be used to address both internal and external equity problems. Some units have internal equity problems, while others are still very far behind their comparators. We think it is important to address our very real equity problems before we institute merit raises in the following years.

The administration has flat out disagreed with us. Not only do they claim there is no money to address equity concerns, they fail to even perceive these equity concerns on campus. For example, while both teams celebrate the rise of the average tenure-track faculty member’s salary to 94% of our AAU peer salaries, the union team has repeatedly pointed out many of our departments lag seriously behind their comparators. The administration has responded to this by suggesting that maybe some departments should be well behind their comparators because they are just not very good. The administration, of course, has declined to name the specific departments that deserve below-average salaries.

You can see if your department is lagging behind the AAU peers here: http://ir.uoregon.edu/sites/ir.uoregon.edu/files/UOwithAAUPublicsbySchoolRk_2014-15.pdf Judge for yourself whether your unit deserves to be behind its comparators.

Another issue over which we have found no agreement is over raises for adjunct and postdoctoral faculty. While we have proposed that all bargaining unit faculty should receive raises and share in the raise pools, the administration has insisted that adjuncts and postdocs only receive the first 1% across-the-board raise and that they not be eligible for merit raises in subsequent years. There are more than 400 adjunct and postdoc faculty at the UO and it is unconscionable that the admin is insisting that they receive only a 1% raise over three years.

The last issue where we have no agreement is how the merit pools would work. We propose that a percentage—4% in FY18—of all the salaries of eligible TT faculty in a department or unit would be put into a pool and that money would be distributed to the TT faculty according the policy developed last year. The same process would work for the NTT faculty.

The administration proposes that the deans of each school or college be allowed to keep 20% of the total pool money to distribute to the departments or units they want at their sole discretion. The administration claims to need this holdback to address unnamed departments where all or most of the faculty are so meritorious that asking them to split a small amount of money is not fair. In other words, it’s possible to that one unit may have a bunch of faculty who are all meritorious in relation to each other and would get an average merit raise, while another unit could be filled with amazing faculty but would also receive an average raise.

Unfortunately, as in almost all other cases, the administration cannot or will not name these exceptional units. How many of them are there? How would we know they are truly exceptional? What prevents a dean from just giving money to his or her favorite unit or faculty (or not giving money to the units that may have been a bit too argumentative during the policy development process)? The administration has no answers to these questions.

We have tried working with the administration team to address what could be a legitimate issue. We have pointed out that our CBA already has a process for distributing retention raises. We have pointed out that there is absolutely no bar to deans distributing “extra” money to departments if they wish. We have argued that the if the problem is one of “small pools”, as they say, then the most obvious solution is to increase the size of the pools. They have rejected all of these suggestions.

We share their concern that the raise proposals are not large enough to reward truly outstanding faculty for their meritorious work. We do not, however, believe that the best way to recognize this work is allow deans to take money out of one department’s pool and put it someplace else without any guidelines. We will not allow deans to rob Peter to pay Paul when both have done outstanding work.

We have spent eight months at the table talking. We have made real progress, but these unresolved issues are critically important. The administration team needs to understand that all faculty are concerned about these issues, so we need your help to bring the university to reason. Please help us bargain a contract that is fair to all faculty and that will help this university realize its academic potential.

August 12 – Ford Alumni Center – 10 am to 6 pm – come for as long as you can make it. Bring a book or laptop and stay longer.

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1. The pools of money are based on a percentage of the total salaries of all eligible faculty members in a unit. So if your unit has 5 faculty members who have total base salaries equaling $400,000, then a 2% pool would be $8000. This money would be distributed based on your unit’s policy. We always propose separate pools for tenure-track faculty and non-tenure-track faculty.
2. We have agreed to start calling “adjunct” faculty “pro tem” faculty, but because this is new, for the purposes of this email we will stick to the old “adjunct” label.

Bargaining Update — July 22, 2015

We had a productive bargaining session on Friday, exchanging a total of ten articles between us.

The main focus of the session was our economic proposal. Over the past few months, the two teams have been talking about how we can find a mutually satisfactory agreement on economics. We maintain that the university has plenty of resources to provide faculty robust raises and that doing so would demonstrate a willingness to walk the talk of academic excellence. So far the administration’s paltry proposal of 3% over 2 years shows no such intention of honoring the hard work of faculty. The administration team continues to suggest that there is not a lot of money to be had for faculty raises over the next two years. We have consistently replied that faculty deserve a salary increase and a cost-of-living adjustments so we don’t lose what ground we’ve gained relative to our peers. We have also consistently bargained to address uncompetitive salary floors, internal and external equity problems, and the need to reward meritorious work.

When two parties in collective bargaining find they have competing interests that appear unresolvable, there are two main options: finding creative paths to a middle ground, or making bargaining about power. The power of a labor union, of course, comes from the unity of the membership and their willingness to act together to show their employer that not meeting the union’s demands will be damaging to the employer. This shift from problem solving to power brokering typically happens when the two parties just cannot reach agreement at the table. The exercise of this type of power can be fraught with conflict, long-term loss of good will, and other unintended consequences.

Our bargaining team does not believe negotiations have broken down to the point where bargaining has become about who has the power and who can compel the other side to accept a proposal. We are still having productive conversations. But, unfortunately, we are quickly running out of negotiating room on economics. So far, as we have seen, the administration has only proposed a 3% raise over two years. This is laughably inadequate, frustrating, and insulting. In an effort to continue to have productive conversation and find agreement this summer, the bargaining team decided to explore creative options before declaring an end to productive bargaining.

One of the key themes of our bargaining platform is stability, normalizing raises instead of relying on the “boom and bust” cycle that existed at the UO for so many years. At one point in our conversations with the administration team, it was suggested that maybe we could add a third year onto the contract so that we would not “always” seem to be in bargaining mode. We decided to propose adding a third year to the collective bargaining agreement, both so we could feasibly secure our COLA, equity, and merit goals, but also so we could achieve some stability in knowing that we would be securing a decent raise for a third year.

The following is an outline of our new wage proposal (full proposal here):

FY16 (July 1, 2015-June 30, 2016) – 2.0% COLA, 3% increase to salary floors
FY17 – 1.5% COLA, 1.5% equity, 3% increase to salary floors
FY18 – 1% COLA, 4% merit, and a 4% increase to salary floors

This would be an average of a 10% total raise spread out over 3 years, with a concurrent 10% increase to the salary floors.

We believe that this is a healthy and sustainable wage package. However, this is also close enough to our very bottom line that bargaining could wrap up quickly, which is the goal. But if that is not the case, we will be looking to carry bargaining into the fall and trying other tactics. Stay posted. The administration team seemed amenable to a third year on the Agreement, but we will not know if our attempt to resolve bargaining this summer was successful until we see their next proposal.

Our next session is scheduled for July 28 at 9 am in the Knight Library Collaboration Center, Room 122.

Bargaining update — July 14, 2015

Bargaining Update

On Friday, July 10, United Academics and the University resumed negotiations. We discussed all outstanding issues and made some progress.

For the most part, we agree on all but three issues:

  • contract security for NTTF;
  • contract length for funding contingent faculty; and
  • salary increases for all faculty.

We are still discussing what to call temporary faculty (the University proposed “pro tem”), access to faculty records, the degree of redaction of external review letters, and the role of General Counsel during a tenure denial appeal. The ongoing conversation mainly centers on word choice or fine details, with general agreement about principles. We agreed that faculty who work less than part-time should be eligible to purchase parking permits and use bus passes.

As for the three important issues bulleted above, in Article 16, we continue to insist that all NTTF should have a right to expect their contracts will be renewed if they have passed their performance review, there is funding for their position, their position is still needed in the unit, and there is no plan to replace the NTTF position with a tenure-track position. We clearly voiced our resolve that NTTF job security provides a foundation for shared governance, academic freedom, and NTTF collective bargaining rights.

We also returned to our earlier proposal that funding-contingent faculty have contracts of the same length as all other NTTF. We restated our agreement that should a unit lose funding mid-contract, then the contract could be terminated, but we remain skeptical that there are other justifications for a mid-contract termination outside of disciplinary factors. We did, however, invite the University to craft language explicating other legitimate reasons.

The University made their third salary proposal. We found their first proposal, 1.5% over two years, insulting. We found their second proposal, 2.5% over two years, disappointing. Unfortunately, their third proposal, 3% over two years, does not offer significant improvement, particularly in light of recent news that the University will see a windfall of dollars from the Legislature. The increase in their proposal represents an additional cost of only $500,000 over two years, despite an increase of $10 million in state appropriations for this next fiscal year alone.

The University’s proposal also failed to increase our appallingly low minimum salaries. Instead, the University offered that salaries should be (and are) dictated by “the market.” The UO’s quest for academic quality will not be well served by low-balling our dedicated and talented faculty, while suggesting they leave if they can do better elsewhere.

Bargaining is set to resume on Friday, July 17 in the Collaboration Room of the Knight Library at 9 am. We plan to counter the University’s economic proposal. Please join us!