The Winter 2020 General meeting was held on February 4. Faculty attended on the Klamath Falls campus (Dow E237), the Portland-Metro campus (Room 209) and over Skype.
Statement by the Vice President (Yasha Rohwer)
Yasha thanked Ben Bunting for putting a lot of work into updating the union website. Ben updated many of the navigation links and tools throughout the site, including adding a Google Calendar to track negotiation sessions (with Skype links to those events), a proposal tracking page to view negotiation progress, and information about the bargaining team. Within those resources, faculty can find the status of all proposals — the text of the proposals themselves, counterproposals offered by either side and whether or not they have been agreed to by both sides.
Yasha also announced that Elections will be occuring near the end of Winter term. Nominations will be sought in February, and the elections themselves will run in March. The union executive committee will also survey faculty on their negotiating priorities moving forward to ensure we have the most current understanding of everyone’s values.
Statement from the Negotiating Team (Cristina Negoita)
Cristina gave a brief rundown of negotiations so far, centered on the proposals available on the website. Many proposals have been exchanged, but tentative agreement hasn’t been reached in many places.
Cristina noted that the bargaining “clock” in Oregon runs for 300 days following the opening of negotiations. Ours will end on September 30, 2020. If a contract is not settled at that point, we will need to bring in an outside party to finish negotiations.
Cristina discussed the current method for writing articles/proposals. Where possible and desirable, current OIT policy is being used as the basis for proposal language. Otherwise, faculty with subject-matter expertise are being consulted for specific proposals.
Update on the Status of Chairs
Cristina outlined the current status of the Chairs bargaining unit. When the faculty union first formed, the administration argued that Chairs held a managerial role and could not unionize with the rest of the faculty. Following that, a hearing was held to determine the status of chairs: they were decided to be managerial and therefore not eligible to join a bargaining unit. That decision was appealed to the state labor board, who decided that chairs can form their own bargaining unit (under ORS 243 .682 .2). The administration has appealed this ruling as well, but the labor board’s decision stands until the appeal is heard.
For now, while the Chairs need to act as their own bargaining unit, they may combine their negotiation efforts with the faculty unit, they may join the existing executive committee and they may share most or all of the faculty contract. In effect, the Chairs’ bargaining unit may look like the faculty unit except for some additional articles in their contract.
Encouragement for Participation
Cristina reminded the attendees that all negotiation team members, all stewards, all executive committee members, all article writers and everyone else who has done work with or for the faculty union are OIT faculty volunteering their time in this effort. Faculty are invited to participate in union activity as stewards, proposal writers or attendees in negotiation meetings. All meetings are open to the public, whether by physical attendance (see announcement emails as sessions come up) or over Skype. Attendees are not required to announce themselves unless they are acting as press.
- Bargaining sessions are scheduled for long blocks of time in the middle of the day. Can faculty drop in for a short time and just watch? Can others drop in?
- Yes! If you’ve only got 20-30 minutes to spare, you can still drop in to watch negotiations. These sessions are open to the public, so students and others may watch as well. No one is required to announce themselves or explain their presence (aside from press, who must announce themselves).
- Are Chairs going to be a separate bargaining unit? What does that mean?
- According to the rulings so far, Chairs are their own bargaining unit. However, they can negotiate at the same table as faculty and they can join our existing organizational structure (i.e., have a representative on the executive committee, share a building steward with the rest of the faculty). Because faculty rotate into and out of Chair positions regularly, it would make sense that we would have very similar contract language. Those organizational decisions are yet to be made by the OIT Department Chairs.
- Is the administration negotiating in good faith?
- Generally. Some actions have been done in bad faith or otherwise presented unfairly. For instance, the issue of changing our 2% COLA from settled policy into a negotiating point was first raised by email to the negotiating team at the end of a negotiating session, with seven days of time for the team to respond. The same issue (minus quite a bit of negotiation context) was then brought to the faculty at large in an all-faculty email two days later. While the administration has an interest in settling our contract before the 300-day clock expires, and at times they actively work towards mutual agreement, moments like this do occur.
- The administration is expected to maintain the “status quo” during negotiations. Are they allowed to make arbitrary adjustments to Workload Units?
- We need to be careful when these changes occur or seem like they are about to occur. It is up to us to call out those changes. It is bad form to change policy during the period of negotiations, but it is illegal to change working conditions.