The United Academics Bargaining Team (B-Team) and Executive Council (EC) invite you to review an agreement that would set salary raises for faculty over the next three years. The potential package would see across-the-board (atb) raises for years one and two for bargaining unit members: 5% for 2022 and 2% for 2023. In 2024 (year three of the package), we would receive raises based on a 3% merit pool determined by the total base salary for Career and for and Tenure-related faculty members. The vote to ratify this agreement is scheduled to open for members in good standing early Friday afternoon. Please keep an eye out for a separate email that contains your personalized link to vote on this MOU.
Below the bullet points and recommendation, you’ll find some notes on the background and process, along with a more detailed explanation of our considerations and concerns given the unusual opportunity to settle a salary package now. I also welcome you to zoom in on Friday afternoon or early evening (10 Dec) from 4pm - 6pm where we can address any questions you may have.
A “Yes” Vote:
- Salary raises locked in for the next three years
- Front loaded first year
- Holding off on merit until units can address their implementation of internal governance policies as stipulated in Article 4
- Without competing attention on salaries, focus on CBA’s other economic pieces and revision of key policies and processes
- Form a joint study committee with OtP and HR to stay on top of economic climate and salary inequities for historically marginalized groups
- Raises begin in January 2022
A “No” Vote:
- We bargain salary along with the rest of the CBA
- We settle (typically) in spring term or summer
- We risk settling for less 6months from now. Why?
- A dismally uncertain financial forecast over the next 6months could lead to belt-tightening
- Risk of pandemic outbreaks or mandates could affect next AY’s enrollment numbers
We do not want to take the risk of throwing away a solid package now for potentially less money later on and having had those negotiations take away from the other work we have to get done. The B-Team and EC recommend a vote of “yes” to the proposed three-year salary package.
Background and Process
Many of you may very well be surprised to see us bringing you a salary package now. When we previously bargained our Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), salary negotiations were settled towards the end of the process. Given the circumstances of living and working under a pandemic, UO approached us with the offer to have a conversation on a salary package prior to bargaining in order to offer faculty a meaningful salary increase that would hit our paychecks at the end of January 2022.
Given that our Constitution and Bylaws do not offer direction on this unusual turn our negotiations have taken, the EC first had to consider a process for engaging a salary package deal outside of Bargaining. Furthermore, we felt it necessary to make sure both the B-Team and EC were represented in the process. Most importantly, we also decided that any salary package must be ratified by our membership.
Members of the EC and B-Team have and continue to meet regularly with Janet Woodruff-Borden (Executive Vice Provost for Academic Affairs) and Mark Schmelz (Chief Human Resources Officer and Associate Vice President), sometimes several times per week over this term (bargaining sub-committees; Joint Labor Management; Bi-monthly informal check-ins). They heard from us what we’re experiencing and what we’d like to see happen; they have also been open about where they stand and what they are able to do.
In addition to our scheduled meetings, Scott Pratt (Executive Vice President and Lead Negotiator) and I met with Janet and Mark to specifically discuss salary, with the OA raise package as a general starting point (our OSU cousins having also recently received a similar package). We’ve crammed a lot of meetings and a lot of tough conversations into the Fall term. Inflation, AAU comparison, faculty morale and (in)equity, and a CBA that needs a lot of care and attention, all figured into our concerns.
Inflation / Economic Outlook / Pandemic
Clearly, things are not looking good; we all know that to a greater or lesser extent. The UO is unable to keep up with inflation and we do not yet know what, if any, impact the pandemic will continue to have on our University. Given those two very basic facts, UA asked the administration to front-load the first year of the package and provide an atb raise in the second year, rather than a merit pool. By doing so we can get a little closer to dealing with the consequences of inflation that hit us all, and lock those raises in now, while we’re in a relatively stable position.
While the AAU does not track non-tenured salaries, we know that AAU comparison has and continues to be an important metric for the University and many of our faculty. Full Professors continue to struggle at the UO, with full prof salary average for 2020 at 85% of their colleagues in the AAU (having peaked in 2015 and ‘17 at 89%). However, assistants (93%) and associates (96%) fare better in 2020 though they fared slightly better in 2019 (94% and 98%, respectively).
For my non-tenured colleagues in particular, we considered that many of us are struggling financially in ways many of our colleagues are not. If our average faculty salary is ~70K, some of our salaries are at roughly 50-65% of that average. Those of us in the lower salary ranges are priced out of owning homes in our “college” town, struggle with basic living costs, and are also priced out of childcare altogether (if any can be found). Many of us must take on second jobs to get by. We wonder constantly if the multiple degrees were actually worth it.
And we’ve all been working above and beyond the past couple years to make a go of it. Given enrollment, I think we did well; we’ve proven that we can successfully teach, run labs, and continue to offer academic services. In some cases, circumstances led to innovations that even allowed our programs and students to thrive. UO recognizes we’re all struggling in varying degrees and, recognizing our challenges and work, revised their initial offer by increasing the first year raise, making the second year across-the-board, and increasing the total amount of the raises we will receive.
Reviews, tenure, and promotion. Service. Benefits and accommodations. Shared Governance. Did I say service? Equity for those of us (still) marginalized in higher ed. We’ve got a lot of work to do to make our CBA reflect where we’re at now, at this moment. Merit reviews, for example, have not worked well in the past. From unit to unit, we’ve got policies all over the place and how well they actually address “merit,” has, in some cases, allowed the status quo and toxic cultures to continue. By moving merit raises to the third year, we can actually fix our unit-derived merit review policies and implement them in a precise and equitable manner in time for the third year’s merit pool. Indeed, we along with our UO counterparts hope that settling the raise package now means those dollars won’t be a distraction to the other work we’ve got to attend to in our contract. The salary package we’re asking you to ratify now will not shut down negotiations on other financial and compensation items in the CBA, either, such as any of the other items in Article 26 outside of salary.
Risk and Recommendation
Some of you rightly believe we deserve more. But we’re also cognizant of what’s actually available. We are concerned that if virus mutations continue along with worrisome financial forecasts (yes, inflation, but what else is coming our way?), by June or July, we could easily end up with less than our starting point. We do not want to take the risk of throwing away a solid package now for potentially less money later on and having had those negotiations take away from the other work we have to get done. The B-Team and EC recommend a vote of “yes” to the proposed three-year salary package.
Avinnash P. Tiwari, President UAUO