Bargaining Update for May 6, 2022

In our last bargaining session on Friday, 5/6, the administration team presented most of their remaining financial proposals. This included counterproposals on Articles 11 (Release Time), 15 (Academic Classification and Rank), 16 (Notices of Appointment), 26 (Salary), and 32 (Leaves), and an unexpected proposal to eliminate Article 31 (Tenure Reduction Program). We have yet to receive a response to our Caregiving Article. Given the importance of these proposals and the necessary discussion at the table, your UA team did not present any proposals this week.

Discussion began with the administration’s proposed Article 26 (Salary). Section 1 of the Article, as you remember, was already negotiated and signed and led to the 5% across-the-board raises we received in January. Next January there will be an additional 2% across-the-board increase and a 3% merit pool in the following year. The administration presented their revision of the balance of the Article as a package contingent on the elimination of the Tenure Reduction Program (TRP) via Article 31.

The administration’s lawyer opened by explaining that the wage increases negotiated in December represented the totality of what the administration is willing to invest in faculty for this contract period, so any new costs would need to be funded by a reduction elsewhere. As such, they proposed a complete elimination of the TRP (where they would honor existing TRP arrangements but neither enter into new ones beyond June nor institute a new retirement incentive program), with the savings redirected to fund a pool of $250,000 for each of six years to address internal equity issues. The administration would have complete discretion over these funds and would allocate them as they see fit. The proposed elimination of TRP would be immediate, effective at the beginning of the next contract (presumably on July 1 this year) after which no new TRP agreements with individual faculty would be signed.

The administration accepted the union’s demand that Career faculty in the highest rank also be eligible for periodic reviews and raises comparable to the Post-Tenure Review raises for tenure-related faculty. To fund these increases, they also proposed reducing raises associated with successful Sixth-Year Post-Tenure Reviews from the current 8% for exceeding expectations and 4% for meeting expectations to 6% for exceeding expectations and only 3% for meeting expectations. Career faculty members would also earn raises of 6% pr 3% upon a successful “Career Continuous Employment Review.”

Regarding salary floors, the administration proposed embarrassingly low figures for most groups. Reconfiguring the breakdown of employee groups and “accepting” a few of our proposed figures for 2022 as theirs for 2023 did not conceal the fact that these floors represent a reduction from existing floors in several areas – most notably for postdocs not on NIH grants, whose floor would drop from the existing NIH minimum ($54,853) to $43,200 in 2023 per this proposal.

In Article 15, while the administration again struck our proposed classification for funding-contingent Career faculty, we had some good discussion of our interest in further clarifying the parameters of these positions here and in Article 16. We remain far apart, however, regarding the Teaching Professor category. The administration continues to argue for an honorific, provost-controlled program that lacks faculty input or any additional job security for the Career faculty members who would be chosen to participate. UA envisions this as a category that would be attained via demonstrated excellence and a rigorous, peer-driven review process. We do not understand how the provost could be familiar enough with the teaching of each of our 300+ Career instructional faculty to know who should be eligible for this role, and the administration’s vision of this program completely misses our original intent: real job security for our most distinguished Career instructors and lecturers.

Another surprising moment came in the proposal on Article 16, where the administration asserted language that would allow them to require faculty to “move, relocate, travel, or work at” any site, which would currently include Portland and Charleston. This is in direct opposition to our proposed Home Campus Article – the provisions of which seem to more closely align to the arguments their team made at the table than did their language here. We also had a lengthy discussion about faculty’s central role in decision-making around programmatic or pedagogical concerns that could lead to layoffs – a role that the administration team affirms at the table but continues to resist enshrining in the CBA. Recall rights remain the final major point of disagreement in this Article, though Friday’s conversation was helpful in exposing potential compromises on this point.

The final counterproposal put on the table was on Article 32 (Leaves), where we were disheartened to see the administration’s complete rejection of a Donated Sick Leave Pool. Despite not having contacted their colleagues at PSU to talk about how their program has worked over the last five years, the administration determined the system was cumbersome and perhaps unnecessary given the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance program (PFMLI) that will go into effect in September 2023. We argued that faculty need relief now, and that a system where faculty can share excess sick hours with others who could otherwise be forced to consider unpaid leave or borrow against their future sick time is important and worth the work.

Where we Stand and the Road Ahead

The strength of our union is in large part due to our breadth and our depth – over 1,700 faculty across all ranks and disciplines – and we continue to stand together. Arguing that the only way to meet the needs of one group of faculty is by taking something away from another does not send the message that this administration is in any way committed to investing in its faculty. Tenure-related faculty should not have to sacrifice their hard-earned PTR raises in order to create a comparable system for Career faculty. The latter should be a given. Faculty nearing retirement should not have to forfeit the TRP in order to free up funds to address the significant equity issues in Career faculty salaries. The latter should be a given. We reject the notion that austerity budgets are necessary in the wake of a record-setting fundraising campaign.

While the administration team has expressed its desire to wrap up these negotiations in the coming weeks, we see continued resistance to any number of proposals without clear reasoning or constructive alternatives. We are attempting to schedule additional sessions before the end of the academic year, and will keep you posted if additional dates are added.

Thank you to all who have tuned in to support your bargaining team during these long Zoom sessions! We will meet again on Friday, May 20 from 9am to noon, if not before.