Notes contributed by OT-AAUP bargaining team member Dr. David Johnston, Natural Sciences, with minor edits by Communications Committee Member Dr. Ben Bunting, Humanities and Social Sciences
The OT-AAUP and Oregon Tech negotiating teams met on Wednesday, June 24, to continue the first bargaining round of the summer. All team members from Tuesday’s session were present for the Wednesday session. OT-AAUP presented counter-proposals on Outside Activities and Sabbaticals, and the Oregon Tech team presented a counter-proposal on Grievances.
The Oregon Tech team began by presenting their counter on Grievances. They explained that while they agreed with the Association’s position that it is better to settle grievances informally, if possible, including a section in the article detailing the informal process, made it seem like a formal process. Thus, their suggestion was to emphasize, in the Grievances article, that both Parties agree that it is advantageous to settle grievances informally, whenever possible. The Association team explained that their main reasoning behind including an explicit informal procedure, was the desire to have a written record that the grievance was addressed and resolved at the informal level. The Association team said they would take this under advisement and discuss the matter in caucus. Following this, there was a prolonged discussion and clarification about what matters could actually be grieved under the Grievances article, and what the timelines should be for such grievances. In the Association’s prior proposal, they had included a time frame of 180 days for filing a grievance alleging prohibited discrimination and a time frame of 5 years for filing a grievance alleging discriminatory harrassment. It was the view of Oregon Tech that, since those matters deal with allegations of a violation of a statute, they would be investigated through a different process. Namely the Title IX process for matters of discriminatory harassment, and an internal process for matters of prohibited discrimination. The Oregon Tech team explained that the Grievances article is meant to address alleged violations of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, NOT violations of University Policy or State or Federal law. The Association thanked the Oregon Tech team for clarifying the issue, and said they would talk about this in caucus and would try to include language to make this issue clear to all bargaining unit members. The Oregon Tech team then went on to raise the issue of how best to balance an individual bargaining unit member’s right to privacy when bringing forward a grievance, with the Association’s right to be notified of a grievance. It was proposed that including language in the section where it states that a grievant can either represent themselves or ask for representation through the Association, that despite their choice, the Association will be notified of all formal grievances. The parties seemed to agree that this would be an acceptable compromise. Lastly, there was discussion over whether timelines would be automatically modified to account for recess in between terms and, in particular, to account for summer break, when many faculty are “off-contact.” The Association’s position was that timelines should be automatically modified to exclude these times in timeline calculations, but that the inclusion of the language stating that the parties could mutually agree to modify the timelines could be used to address the issue of continuing a grievance procedure through a term or summer break. It was Oregon Tech’s position that even though a bargaining unit member is “off-contract” they are still covered by the collective bargaining agreement and are still employees of Oregon Tech. As such, it would not be reasonable to automatically exclude term and summer breaks when calculating timelines. At this point, a member of the Oregon Tech team had an unprofessional outburst, expressing anger at the idea that some faculty do not reply to emails, particularly to students, during breaks. The Association team was greatly dismayed by this extremely disrespectful behavior, and, in particular, at the choice of wording employed by the individual. After everyone calmed down, the Association team said they would discuss the Grievance article in caucus, and would likely have a counter proposal soon.
Next, the Association team presented their counterproposal on Sabbatical Leaves. The biggest discussion occurred around the fact that in Oregon Tech’s counterproposal, they had proposed limiting sabbaticals to tenured faculty. The OT-AAUP team argued that sabbaticals could be equally advantageous for both tenured and non-tenure track faculty. When asked to explain their rationale behind excluding non-tenure track faculty, the Oregon Tech team explained that it was their belief that non-tenure track faculty would not be long term employees, and, as such, it would not be to the University’s benefit to award those faculty members a sabbatical. Additionally, the Oregon Tech team stated that since a non-tenure track faculty member is not expected to engage in scholarly or creative work, a sabbatical would be of little use to those faculty members. In response, the OT-AAUP team pointed out that in order for ANY faculty member to be eligible for sabbatical they must be with Oregon Tech for a full six years. The team argued that anyone who has been with Oregon Tech for six years, whether they are tenured or not, has shown a commitment to the University, so the University should show an equally strong commitment to them. Additionally, the Association team pointed out that, given the unique nature of Oregon Tech, sabbaticals have not only been used to engage in scholarship or creative works. They have been used to earn an advanced degree, to work in industry and then bring that experience back to the classroom, and even to improve a faculty member’s teaching. The Association argued that all of these benefit not just the individual faculty member, but also benefit the University. Lastly, the Association stated that granting sabbaticals to non-tenure track faculty would allow them to be more competitive in applying for a tenure track position that might open up at Oregon Tech, and denying them the opportunity for sabbatical would unfairly disadvantage them. The OT-AAUP team strongly encouraged the Oregon Tech team to seriously discuss this issue and hoped that they would adopt this stance. Then the OT-AAUP team explained their rationale for choosing the pay schedule that was presented in the proposal. The Association team noted that they had brought the rates down a bit, but felt that anything less than what was proposed would dissuade faculty from applying for sabbaticals. The Oregon Tech team did not have any comments or questions about the rest of the article.
Lastly, the OT-AAUP team presented their counterproposal on Outside Activities. The main point that the Association made was their belief that the University should not have any say in what a bargaining unit member does when they are not specifically engaged in work for Oregon Tech. Additionally, the Association argued that, for this first CBA, people who are currently employed outside Oregon Tech and might be in violation of this article, be given 90 days to seek approval for their employment, before they must terminate it. The only question from the Oregon Tech team was whether it was the intention of the Association to limit the ability of Oregon Tech to place restrictions on what type of behavior, particularly criminal behavior, bargaining unit members can engage in during their personal time. The Association stated that it was not their intention to limit that, so it was suggested that including some language stating that as long as a bargaining unit member’s activities did not violate state or federal law the University could not restrict their outside activities. The Oregon Tech team stated they would discuss the article in caucus and would present a counter proposal at a later time.
The next bargaining sessions are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, July 14 and 15. If you wish to join, a Zoom link is available on the OT-AAUP website’s calendar page.