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.

United Academics Press Release – July 10, 2015

The State of Oregon’s decision to boost higher education in Oregon is a deeply welcome turnaround from years of cuts to state funding. Faculty from United Academics worked with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT-OR) and American Association of University Professors (AAUP-OR), to shore up support for our state’s universities. We worked with legislators, the Higher Education Coordinating Committee (HECC), and the governor, explaining how academic excellence and access to quality higher education for the next generation of Oregonians requires improving public support. On this, we lobbied in sync with the University of Oregon administration.

However, while UO’s top administrators praised Salem’s decision to give Higher Ed more money, and welcomed the changes to the HECC formula that increased UO’s share of this money, the administration then went to the faculty in today’s bargaining session and reiterated what amounts to a proposal to cut the faculty’s real wages. Despite the good news from the state, the administration is offering a 1% raise in 2016 (delayed until mid-way through the academic year) and a 2% pool for merit raises in 2017. This is just 0.5% more than they were offering back in May, and with local inflation running at about 2.5% a year, it’s a cut to real faculty wages.

The administration’s own analyses show the productivity of the UO faculty. For example, in terms of Bachelor degrees awarded per tenure-related faculty employed in 2011, the UO stood at 5813 degrees awarded per 1000 faculty compared to an average of 4116 for all AAU public universities, and UO’s graduation rates are the highest of all of Oregon’s universities.

“Those graduation rates impressed the heck out of the HECC, because the faculty here work the long hours teaching, grading, advising, and mentoring, all while balancing important research projects. The faculty’s work with students needs to be recognized and rewarded in salaries,” says Michael Dreiling, President of United Academics.

“We trust and understand that most of this money will fill in a variety of fiscal needs and we hope a lot goes to support student scholarships. But if they are not going to spend some of this money on the faculty as well, where will it go? For more overpaid coaches, strategic communicators and administrators?” asks Karen McPherson, Vice President with United Academics.

About 350 faculty recently signed a petition calling on the Board of Trustees to focus UO’s priorities on instructional excellence for our students and on research excellence at this flagship university. The petition is here. We look forward to working with President Schill to move the instructional and research mission at the UO to the front and center as we elevate the long-term academic reputation of this great university.

Sign the Petition: Budgeting for UO’s Academic Reputation

Budgets reflect and set priorities. Unfortunately, UO’s investments in our core academic mission remain uninspiring. Our institution needs a reminder from those of us who do the teaching and research that the university’s budget needs recalibration, not talk of austerity for academics while athletic department was top in the nation on revenues last year. This makes no sense.

In an effort to communicate our concern about budget priorities, United Academics has written up a petition, addressed to Susan Gary, the faculty representative on the UO Board of Trustees.

We want every UO faculty member who sees this note to read and sign our petition, then share it widely. Together, we can reinforce a positive change to uphold and renew the UO’s long-term academic standing.

Link to petition: http://goo.gl/forms/LYt8i8CINQ

Final petition with signatures can be found here.

Statement on the University Administration’s Economic Proposal

First, we’d like to thank Jamie Moffitt, Vice President for Finance and Administration, for her presentation at bargaining today. Jamie presented a wealth of information that will inform our bargaining in the coming months. A small group from the bargaining team had the opportunity to meet with Jamie last month to discuss what kind of information we thought would be helpful to have presented, and we appreciate that she focused on the areas we discussed in that meeting.

Even so, the university administration’s actual economic proposal was, in our view, insulting. Our proposal would provide raises to address the rising cost of living, reward meritorious teaching, research, and service, and address our ongoing equity problem. The university administration’s proposal accomplishes none of these things.

They are offering faculty no raise at all next year and less than 1% merit raise in 2016-2017. Bargaining unit faculty may not even see the full 1%, as the university administration proposed that deans would control 20% of the paltry 1% raise and could distribute it at their “sole discretion.” We have several concerns about their proposal.

First, their proposal does nothing to keep pace with the cost of living. The Bureau of Labor Statistics measured the increase in the consumer price index for our region at 2.4% last year. The annual cost of living increase has averaged 2.28% since 2010. At that average, faculty need 4.56% raises just to keep up with inflation.

Second, a 1% merit raise in the second year does not adequately reward merit or recognize excellence.

Third, their proposal addresses neither our internal nor our external equity issues. While some departments and units have caught up to their comparators across the country, several others lag far behind. Compression and inversion still bedevil many departments and units, and the administration’s proposal would only exacerbate these problems. The university administration’s proposal also ignores our ongoing gender equity problem.

So, we still have a lot of work to do. The university administration’s proposal is not close to adequate, nor did they propose anything to address our ongoing problems. They said they were willing to talk, but so far they have offered no solutions. There will need to be many conversations. These conversations will unfold over the course of the coming months. We will, as always, keep you informed—and we count on hearing from you as well.

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Quality higher education requires investment

The Board of Trustees of the University of Oregon recently approved a new Mission Statement for the University. Its first line declares that the UO “is a comprehensive public research university committed to exceptional teaching, discovery, and service.” The university faculty are primarily responsible for carrying out this core mission. Research and teaching stand at the center of our professional work. Investing in teaching and research excellence builds the long-term academic reputation of a university, something that carries far more value to parents, students, and alums than any other type of branding work.

One indicator of our success in our mission is the university’s membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU), a collection of 62 research universities across the United States and Canada. The AAU only admits universities that demonstrate a serious commitment to research, graduate training, and undergraduate education. One of the yardsticks the AAU uses to measure a university’s commitment to excellence is its ability to recruit and actively retain an excellent faculty.

The academic labor market works like many others. Universities compete to attract bright scholars to their campus by offering them a variety of inducements, from research labs with the latest technology to the prospect of working with the best graduate students. Unfortunately, when it comes to salaries the University of Oregon consistently ranks near the bottom. This hurts our ability to recruit new scholars who bring new energy, new ideas, and new research ideas to campus.

It also undercuts our ability to retain the excellent faculty we do have. Each year, faculty members are poached from the UO to institutions that better support their faculty. Replacing those faculty is costly and takes precious time away from our research, teaching, and students.

Higher education in Oregon has struggled in the last few decades with declining fiscal support from the state. As state support has dwindled, Oregon’s community colleges and universities have taken the brunt of funding cuts. According to the 2014 State Higher Education Finance Report, Oregon now ranks near the bottom—47th out of 50—in public spending per student. The UO has made up for declining state support by raising tuition, relying on students to borrow in order to pay for what used to be considered a public responsibility. At risk from these cuts is a legacy of high quality, affordable higher education for all Oregonians. With overall student debt at over 1.3 trillion dollars in the United States—more than all credit card debt combined—we are fast reaching the limit on the new dollars we can reasonably ask students to spend on public higher education. And yet, our core mission and our responsibility to affordable, quality higher education in Oregon are as important as ever.

We believe that sustaining excellent universities for the state of Oregon requires finding ways to avoid tuition increases while committing fully to the excellent faculty who are necessary for fulfilling our core mission. The absence of a robust state budget for higher education is the greatest challenge facing the University of Oregon, but it is no excuse for not prioritizing the investments that serve the university’s academic mission. We urge our state legislators and the UO Board of Trustees to reinvest in our children’s future, so that we can maintain the excellence demanded of an AAU institution and elevate the academic reputation of our great university.

Over the coming months, United Academics, the union representing 1,800 faculty at the university, and the administration will be engaged in a conversation about investing the resources we have to address this challenge. The union has proposed a wage package that would bring salaries more in line with AAU comparator institutions, making the UO more competitive by investing in faculty who fulfill the university’s core academic mission. We have ideas on how to do this with minimal impact on budgets.

How we resolve this issue may well determine whether we can live up to the goals of the mission the Board of Trustees has set for our university and the future of higher education in the state of Oregon.

 

Michael Dreiling

President, United Academics of the University of Oregon, AAUP-AFT Local 3209, AFL-CIO

 

Bargaining Update — March 16, 2015

Our fifth bargaining session did not see many proposals exchanged, but was a full session with meaningful discussions.

The University Administration team began by explaining why they were not ready to respond to our salary proposal. As we explained in our last update, United Academics recognizes the administration’s belief that little money remains in the budget for bringing faculty salaries closer to average. Our team had expressed the hope that both sides would find ways to address the ongoing salary problem. The administration team explained that they wanted more time to work on creative solutions to the problems we face, and we are happy to give them the time they need. Our conversations can certainly be more productive if we receive the financial information we have requested from the administration.

The two parties also exchanged proposals on promotion policies for Non-Tenure Track Faculty and Tenure-Track Faculty. At this point, our differences seem mostly grammatical or technical. The main obstacle to agreement, at this point, has to do with determining when part-time NTT faculty are eligible for promotion.

After the exchange of proposals concluded, we entered a wide-ranging discussion of externally-funded research on campus and how it can be enhanced while also protecting the rights of those who work in them. The parties discussed ways to integrate wage packages into preexisting grants and to guarantee “grant contingent faculty” as much job security as possible.

One of our longer discussions was the problem of OPE (Other Payroll Expenses) for post-doctoral scholars. In contrast to most universities, the University of Oregon considers post-docs to be faculty and affords them the same retirement and health-care benefits that “regular” faculty enjoy—although because they will never be able to vest in PERS, that money spent on their behalf does not benefit them. While our arrangement is not unique, it is unusual and it can cause our Principal Investigators difficulty when competing for grants. If PI’s are unable to recruit post-docs, less research gets done. These constraints can also inhibit our ability to work on joint projects with other universities, which can often bring more people to the project for the same amount of money. The relatively high cost of post-docs here also limits their numbers and the AAU considers a robust post-doctoral program an essential marker for AAU membership.

We made it clear to the administration team that United Academics is eager to engage and seek solutions to these problems. We also made it clear that we were open to discussing any option with them. We have as much interest in ensuring a strong research program as they do. We did stipulate that our goal of enhancing scientific research at the UO can generate tension with our goal to ensure that all faculty enjoy the working conditions and compensation they deserve. To their credit, the administration team agreed with us that these were joint goals for which we should work together to find creative solutions.

We also agreed that, as far as the post-doc OPE is concerned, we may need a legislative solution, because the biggest drivers of employee overhead – PERS and PEBB – were mandated by state law. We told the administration team that if we could work together on a legislative solution, we would be happy to flex our muscle in Salem to realize our shared agenda.

At this point, we do not know the schedule or location of the next bargaining session, but we will alert you as soon as we do.