United Academics Statement on Workload

In recent days a rumor has been making the rounds on campus that United Academics approves of the proposal that every unit in the College of Arts and Sciences should establish a nine-course workload, with an additional service requirement, for non-tenure-track faculty. One version of the rumor holds that United Academics has insisted on this policy as a requirement of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

This is not true. United Academics neither approves of nor requires any such thing. On the contrary, at an early stage of preparations for initial contract negotiations, union leaders reached a fundamental decision, that United Academics should not and would not dictate rigid, standard workload policies for all units, whether in CAS or in other colleges and programs within the university. For wholly legitimate reasons, the number of courses taught by non-tenure-track as well as tenure-track faculty varies greatly from one unit to another; within reasonable parameters, we agreed, workloads for all faculty should reflect the particular needs and requirements of each discipline. Rather, we insisted that each unit should develop clear and consistent workload policies that reflect those needs and requirements.

In the bargaining process, the administration agreed with our position that departments and units should establish standard workload policies internally. The administration and the union agreed that departments and units should retain control over many policies, including workload. We also agreed that faculty in each unit should develop these policies using input from their deans, in the form of general guidelines.

Over the past year, a team of union leaders has been working with the administration to help deans develop their guidelines. Through the course of that work, United Academics has reviewed draft policies that the CAS deans had developed and worked with them to identify areas of potential conflict with the Collective Bargaining Agreement. In the course of these transactions, United Academics emphasized that deans must ensure that workload policies be developed with faculty input, and that the deans’ guidelines are meant only as a starting point for the faculty discussions.

At no point in these discussions did United Academics dictate, let alone approve of, any proposal to impose a standard, college-wide, nine-course load for non-tenure-track faculty. In fact, we were clear with the administration that we thought that this was a new policy in CAS and that CAS was attempting unilaterally to increase the workload for non-tenure-track faculty without a corresponding increase in compensation.

Recently, department and unit heads received notification that they need to begin crafting workload policies for their unit. This will be a major project for our campus and is part of our ongoing efforts to develop and document policies on our campus. While it is true that college deans have the right to modify faculty-developed policies, they may only do this after the departments and units have developed policies internally. If they modify faculty-developed policies, deans are also obligated to meet with faculty to explain their decisions. When the input from deans is in conflict with local or discipline specific practices, we strongly encourage all faculty to substitute the deans’ draft language with whatever workload assignments make sense for your unit and discipline.

300 Non-Tenure-Track Faculty Gain Unprecedented Job Protections

Non-tenure track faculty account for nearly 66% of the teaching and research faculty at the UO. They drive an enormous part of the university’s work and our campus could not function without the intellectual leadership and labor they provide.

A longstanding goal of United Academics has been to ensure that NTT faculty receive the resources, respect, and security to which they have long been entitled.

This week, we have reached a milestone in this effort.

The collective bargaining agreement signed last October provided for a process to reclassify many NTT adjuncts to career positions. As a result of this process, we are proud that a large majority (73%) of adjuncts have been reclassified in longer-term, more stable positions.

For some 300 faculty, the reclassification now promises greater job security, better pay, opportunities for professional advancement, promotion, and eligibility for sabbatical guaranteed by the collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

This transformation is critical for NTT faculty and it is invaluable to the University of Oregon. A highly qualified, stable, committed faculty is imperative to our academic mission.

It is important to note that the UO Administration, Colleges, and Department Heads alone had the authority to make individual decisions about reclassification; the union had no say in such decisions.

Instead, the United Academics implementation committee worked closely with the UO’s implementation team to establish the basic process, as provided by the CBA. Our hats off to those – both union members and administration – who worked very hard on this needed change.

Together with last week’s announcement that some 300 for NTT faculty at the bottom of the wage scale will receive raises because of new salary floors, it is clear that our union is helping to transform the UO in a growing number of ways.

To be sure, important work lies ahead in continuing to raise the standards for NTT faculty and researchers—this is only one important step. But it would not have been possible without the collective work of many hundreds of faculty at the UO who have organized and helped to build our union.

The UO and UA issued a joint announcement about the reclassification process at: http://around.uoregon.edu/content/uo-and-ua-complete-one-time-reclassification-adjunct-faculty-process.

If you have questions about the reclassification process, please contact United Academics at
info@uauoregon.org

For decades, the push to drive down faculty costs has changed the face of higher education and has come with a human cost. Critics of faculty unions have no answer to the growing share of faculty earning low salaries, 10 week contracts, minimal benefits, and denial of professional respect. Salary floors for adjuncts and nontenure track faculty, alongside this reclassification, are the first steps towards correcting this problem.

At our campus and beyond, it is not too difficult to understand how interests in cost-cutting have eroded job security for faculty. Popular among consultants, decades of “improving cost efficiency” has meant meeting student enrollment demands with more low-paid, part-time faculty – and less tenure-line faculty – across the U.S. Taking advantage of labor market insecurity to manage the budget woes of departments and universities brings a toll to our academic and professional missions – and our colleagues. Our local problem is part of a longer term, nation-wide problem. Our union, like faculty unionizing elsewhere, is part of the solution.

Renewal Success!

One of the most surprising, but positive developments, to come out of bargaining was the proposal from the university that all Career Non-Tenure-Track Faculty on non-funding-contingent contracts would be notified whether their contracts were to be renewed or not renewed by May 1st. When our team expressed surprise and maybe a little skepticism that this could be done, the university backed up their pledge by proposing that for every day past the May 1st deadline that an NTTF had not received a renewal notice, that NTTF would receive a “bonus” day’s worth of pay.

Yesterday, the university let us know that the first test of the new system was a complete success! 100% of departments and units reported notifying all of the Career NTTF on non-funding-contingent contracts of their status for next year. This is a dramatic change from previous years, when NTTF could until the weeks before class to find out if they still had a job at the UO, and a major step forward in professionalizing and regularizing the instructional and research workforce at the UO.

If you are a Career NTTF on a non-funding-contingent contract and you have not received a renewal or non-renewal notice, please notify us at info@uauoregon.org. The university implementation team asked us to let them know as soon as possible if there have been any glitches.

While this is very good news and a giant step in our efforts to transform the university, we realize that we still need to smooth out a couple of wrinkles. We realize that some NTTF received a notice of renewal, but not a new contract. The admin team assures us that the contracts are coming, but we will look to fix this loophole of sorts the next time we bargain.

When are we getting those salary floors raises, you ask?

As we related via email and webpost, we agreed with the university to set salary floors and provide affected faculty with retroactive pay, as the floors are effective as of September 16, 2013.

We know that everyone, including ourselves, was hoping that the raises and retroactive money would be in the April paychecks. Alas, no. Inquires to administration reveal that Unclassified Personnel Services is working hard to get all of the relevant information entered, sort out who gets what, and make sure everything is accurate before releasing the money. As eager as we are to get everyone the money they have already earned, we sympathize with our hard-working colleagues in UPS who are dealing with a flood of new processes that challenge our not-exactly-state-of-the-art systems.

The money is coming. It will be here. It will be great.

The office has also been fielding calls from faculty who are being asked to sign contracts for next year that list salaries that are below the salary floors. Again, we talked with our administrative contacts and they assure us that contracts will be updated to reflect the proper salaries when everything is sorted. This was going to happen for almost all faculty anyway, as the FY15 raise goes into effect on July 1, 2014.* You are not locking yourself into a lower salary by signing a contract that offers a salary lower than the contractual floors.

We recommend that you sign the contracts if you want the job. The salary levels will work themselves out over the summer, although you may be asked to sign a new contract with the appropriate salary at some point in the future.

*We are still discussing with the university implementation team how the timing of this raise will impact 9-month faculty who are working on summer contacts. The FY15 raise impacts base salary and most summer salaries are not based on base salaries and summer salaries/workloads/expectations have traditionally been treated very differently than during the academic year.

Raises, NTTF reclassification and more

CONTRACT IMPLEMENTATION

A joint committee of University Administration and United Academics leadership continues to meet weekly to implement the considerable changes that the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) calls forth.

Beginning with the series of first round raises (averaging 5% for all tenure track and non-tenure track faculty), and the reclassification of hundreds of faculty from adjunct to career positions, and on to implementation of internal governance and merit policies, the United Academics implementation team has worked to assure that the terms of the contract are followed.

This has not always been easy or straightforward, and there have been several instances where the salary increases were not implemented correctly, compelling us to file a class action grievance. In the weeks ahead, we will report on the progress with this and other grievances that United Academics has initiated on behalf of faculty in the bargaining unit.

RECLASSIFICATION OF NON TENURE TRACK FACULTY

A primary aim of the CBA was to transform and improve the working conditions of Non-Tenure Track Faculty (NTTF).  For too long at UO, and institutions across the country, the disinvestment in higher education has come at the expense of faculty and the academic mission. Provisions in the CBA provide for longer contracts for Career NTTF, an equitable voice in shared governance, eligibility for promotion, and NTTF merit raise pools. In addition, the CBA mandated the campus-wide reclassification of adjunct faculty into the Career NTTF track so that the more than 400 adjunct faculty, most of whom — by the University’s own policies — should have been Career NTTF, could benefit from the gains in the CBA.

The reclassification process has not been without challenges–as would any change of this magnitude in a large organization like UO. We have not yet seen all the results of this process. United Academics leadership has worked hard to make sure the administration follows not just the letter of the CBA, but also our shared agreement to create stable and predictable employment with better than living wages for the more than 700 NTTF.  

We will continue to challenge attempts to return to the old ways of doing business.  Delivering on the promise of academic and research excellence dear to the University leadership demands that we treat all faculty better. Throughout bargaining, United Academics made it clear that departments and units were responsible for hiring decisions, appointments, and assignments; what we always hoped for with reclassification was more stable, living-wage jobs for more Career track faculty and fewer contingent adjunct positions.

If you are an NTT faculty and disagree with the outcome of the reclassification process in your unit, you may have the right to file a grievance. Many union leaders have been working on this issue for many months and are dedicated to making sure that all units on the campus honor the agreement. If you need someone to talk to about the process or need help with a potential grievance, please do not hesitate to contact the United Academics office at info@uauoregon.org or 541.636.4714.

OUR UNION DEMOCRACY: FIRST REPRESENTATIVE ASSEMBLY HELD, March 5, 2014.

United Academics is a democratic organization with elected members on the Executive Council and in the Representative Assembly. Our constitution and bylaws define the contours of a robust democratic union, calling on members from every faculty classification and rank across every unit on campus in a proportionately structured decision-making body.

Representatives are elected by members in their units. Stewards serve as voluntary contacts for members in local units and help relay important information between local units and the executive and legislative leadership of the union. Every faculty member in the bargaining unit is materially invested in this organization through the dues or fair share fees you pay to sustain the union. We welcome every faculty member to join this body and to assert their interests, no matter where one stood as we organized our union.

The Executive Council has been meeting frequently to build the operational features of United Academics, hiring an Executive Director (David Cecil) and an Administrative Assistant (Kristy Hammond), developing election procedures for delegates to our state and national affiliates, developing accounting and office procedures, and much more.

The Representative Assembly is comprised of faculty from every major unit across campus and every classification of faculty. On March 5, the Assembly met for the first time and conducted our first legislative efforts. In the months ahead, this body will work with members and the executive leadership to form the bargaining platform for the next round of contract negotiations. Stewards will play an important role in communicating with Reps and members of the Executive Council. If your department does not have a steward, consider nominating yourself or a colleague.

RAISES: MOVING US TOWARD OUR AAU COMPARATORS

After years of stagnation, the faculty’s first union contract has produced significant raises. Here are the results for tenure track faculty. Historical data on NTTF’s are hard to get, but the percentage raises for union NTTF’s and researchers are similar.

The final raises from this contract will show up in the paychecks of 9 month faculty in September. Despite the raises, we forecast that salaries will be about 9% below the average of AAU publics as of next fall. The gap is particularly large for full professors in certain departments. And we know that many NTTF’s are still paid very low salaries.

What will raises be in 2015 and 2016? We don’t know; the chart below just shows a projection of 8% per year. Bargaining will start in earnest in December. We look forward to hearing your priorities as we begin caucusing through the Collective Bargaining Committee and the Representative Assembly in the spring.