Bargaining update for November 19, 2021

Greetings Colleagues,

Today, November 19th, United Academics (UA) and representatives for the University of Oregon administration (UO) came back to the bargaining table. I’ll briefly update you all on what we’ve accomplished today, as well as sketch out the sub-committee meetings I spoke briefly about at our Fall General Membership Meeting.

UO presented some changes to three articles.

Article 9, Union Rights, establishes UA’s ability to meet with bargaining unit members. No major points of contention here, as we’re trying to hone in on the details that allow us access to our members and clarify how access protocols across areas of campus do, and unfortunately in recent history, don’t make it possible to connect with faculty. We’re also making sure this article adequately reflects the spirit of HB2016 (in effect since January 2020), which protects our Union rights on access to members as well as release time for Union representatives.

Article 11, Release Time, clarifies how many course releases the Union will have available. This is a change from FTE time that was then, sometimes problematically, converted to course releases. The UO accepted this change offered by UA and proposed updated time frames for release time notification. However, we still need to make sure we are not in any way limiting the release time that covers our Research and Libraries faculty and that the process for notification - from UA to HR to Colleges to Units - runs smoothly and in a time frame that allows for Unit and faculty planning.

The UO also presented Article 13, Health and Safety. For the most part, the UO’s presentation centered on house-keeping of the article. However, we were also able to clarify the work and scope of the University’s Safety Advisory Committee and UA’s guaranteed place on that committee. [In fact, we’d love to develop a “bench,” as it were, of faculty who would like to serve on this committee; if you’re a Rep or Steward and interested, let us know.]

UA presented four articles this morning.

UO presented a thoughtfully edited and condensed version of Article 4, Unit-level Policies, and UA accepted nearly all those edits. We also had a good opportunity to clarify how important the initial step of shared governance is - the ability of even a single faculty member to raise concerns or issues to their unit leadership and ensure the faculty in the unit have a timely process to address those concerns and issues.

UA offered some slight but important changes to Article 28, Fringe Benefits. We do not expect faculty to have to pay for access to their buildings and offices. We expect faculty in Portland to have a similar subsidy for public transportation as we do here in Eugene. We also want to make sure that in the case of spouses working at the UO, the tuition benefits each faculty member receives is actually honored.

UA also presented two new articles. One, “Hiring Information,” addresses the lack of a salary range offered by the UO to potential faculty members and articulates the ability for potential faculty to negotiate their salary and compensation package. For those of you surprised that this isn’t already the case, there was some surprise on UO’s team, as well. While this article benefits all of our future and potential colleagues, it is especially important for faculty from particular communities, groups, and backgrounds who may very well feel that such negotiation would harm their chance to be hired or simply did not know they could do so.

Finally, UA presented our “Home Campus” article. Currently, hiring contracts give the University a very broad scope to reassign faculty at their choosing. Some of us may remember how that broad scope was abused in dealing with particular faculty members over the last five or so years. We are not asking for the University to never move faculty, but rather that faculty have a say and consent in the process. If faculty members need to temporarily work from a campus other than their designated home campus, then they will be compensated for reasonable travel costs.

I am grateful for those of you who were able to show up today on the webinar. I hope you too would agree with me that today’s opening session back at the table went smoothly and collegially.

Sub-Committee Meetings

Promotion and Tenure:

Maram Epstein, David Luebke, and Scott Pratt; Janet Woodruff-Borden, Mark Schmelz, and Gabe Paquette.

Career Faculty:

Josh Razink, Jerry Rosiek, and Mike Urbancic; Janet Woodruff-Borden, Mark Schmelz, Ron Bramhall, and Gabe Paquette.

Caregivers and Equity:

Lynn Fujiwara, Deborah Green, Nathan Whalen; Janet Woodruff-Borden, Mark Schmelz, and Sierra Dawson.

Given that we hit such a long pause on bargaining at the table, and given that those previous sessions were not necessarily as smooth as what we saw today, UA approached UO to set up a series of sub-committee meetings throughout the Fall term with a small group of faculty and administrators from HR and OtP. Our goal was and is to have conversations on some of our thornier areas of the CBA. Each sub-comm has met four times already, with two more scheduled in December. We’ve found common ground on shared values within those areas and discussed our visions, goals, and roadblocks. In all three sub-committees we’ve taken on the issues with a focus on equity, especially for our faculty struggling to find a place and home here at the UO where they are supported so they can be amazing.

Clearly, such goals are complex, and even more so given the constituencies represented within the tenure track and Career side. We all know the incredible strains on childcare writ large and small at this moment; additional and other caregiving responsibilities also weigh heavily. Operationalizing and codifying “equity” across all of these areas is a challenge to say the least. But I’m grateful for the opportunity and willingness by all to engage faithfully and honestly in these conversations. It may not always seem to be so, but we do have a lot of shared values and goals on both sides of the table. How we get there is obviously tricky but we’re moving, we’re not stagnant, and for that, I’m grateful.

Finally, we are still in conversation about a potential salary package that would begin in January 2022. If UA and UO can come to an agreement that honors you, our members, we will bring it to y’all for a ratification vote. We know inflation is kicking butt and will do so for a while. We know y’all have taken hits along the way. And we know it would be great to see something in your paycheck at the end of January.

Let us or me know what’s on your mind. And thank you again to our colleagues who joined us for our session today (especially my dear colleagues in Composition and English, y’all always come so well represented!!). And I am especially grateful for our B-Team led by our lead negotiator Scott Pratt. Y’all are awesome and stepped up big time in a difficult year. Thank you.