UA Submits Demands to Bargain Over Campus Reopening

Dear Colleague,

Yesterday, we issued two “demands to bargain” to the administration. A demand to bargain is a process provided for in Oregon state law when a public employer is planning to implement a material change to working conditions when there is a collective bargaining agreement in place. In that case, the union can “demand” that the employer engage in collective bargaining over the proposed changes and their impacts on working conditions.

On the advice of our attorney, we issued these demands because the administration has not responded positively to our requests that union representatives be included in the planning process for reopening campus. When the faculty voted to form a union, they voted to have UA represent them in matters related to their wages and working conditions. Planning to open campus obviously impacts our working conditions, so we believe that they cannot legally plan to reopen the campus without negotiating with us.

One of our demands requests negotiations over the administration’s requirement that faculty identify sensitive medical issues to the employer or risk their health by being assigned to in-person teaching in the fall. We would like to delay this deadline until we can bargain over how sensitive medical information will be handled and implement protections against that information being used in a retaliatory manner.

Our second demand requests negotiations over the reopening of campus in the fall. In addition to the obvious health and safety issues raised by a plan to reopen the campus, we believe our academic freedom is also implicated. Academic freedom guarantees our right not only to decide what to teach, but also how to teach. Many decisions being made right now may impact where our teaching takes place, the pedagogical techniques we can use, how we grade, and whether we will have to offer our courses remotely, in-person, or a combination of both.

Our goal is to follow AAUP guidance and ensure that faculty are primary in making decisions that impact our academic working lives. We agree that the University Senate’s Academic Council should take the lead in making decisions about the coming academic year, so long as that process includes consultation with the faculty about specifics, but we believe that it is our right to bargain over a structure that ensures this happens. In other words, we might be looking to bargain an agreement  that requires that the Academic Council have the final and deciding vote on how hybrid classes are offered, who is remote when the quarter starts, if the campus goes remote after the term begins, etc.

We have not issued many demands to bargain to the administration before. Normally, we have found productive ways to discuss issues of importance to the campus without making a demand. Unfortunately, the administration has not been responsive to our efforts regarding making plans to reopen campus. Last night, the administration indicated that they wanted to engage with the unions so we could review the plans being made and provide feedback and input. We believe that these issues are so central to our working conditions for AY 20-21 that faculty must have more than just input or the ability to give feedback; we have to be central to the planning efforts.

We will keep you up to date on developments related to our requests to bargain over these important issues. 

In solidarity,

Dave Cecil, UA Executive Director
and the Executive Council of UA