Thursday, February 2, 2012

Response to Professor Pancho's post

Dear All,
"Professor Pancho" recently posted a very thoughtful series of questions, concerns, etc., to which I wanted to respond.  His text is in black with my answers immediately following in red.

The new contract was not made available until after the second week in January and the faculty was hurried into voting without having access to the entire contract. The union membership needs to be aware of provisions in the contract that have changed.
On the CSU/UPI website (the exact location is is the version of the Contract I sent out in September of 2011, which is what faculty and staff were asked to vote upon (also in September).  (Note that it is not the same as the final version.)  It is the entire Contract (with the exception of changes to the minima tables) and the proposed changes are highlighted. This enabled us to have members review the Contract and in some cases note inadvertent errors, which were corrected prior to the vote; that's why the final version differs from the one sent out in September. 
 I'm not sure what you mean about January.  As far as I know, the hard copies are being printed as we speak; meanwhile, you can see it online on the Contract Administrator's site or the CSU/UPI site.

Grievances won or lost should be communicated to the membership. The grievance process is an important tool that we can use more effectively. In speaking with colleagues in the halls, in meetings and on the faculty voice blog, I have detected a sharp rise in faculty complaints about working conditions. I would suggest that keeping and communicating to the membership an easily accessible record of the types of grievances, their number and outcome would encourage us to use the process more. Such communication would also increase solidarity among our members.
As long as privacy is maintained, we can further publicize our grievance achievements.  There is generally a report on grievances at each membership meeting.  However, we will begin posting the draft minutes of our membership meetings on the website for more public access. Thank you for the suggestion. 

 How did we let the bosses get away with doubling our parking fees without union membership outright approval?
I sent out a survey (below, in brackets) in December of 2010, querying the membership as to their opinion on the proposed increase in fees and the possibility of additional increases in future.  I received ~55 responses, out of a membership of ~400. Parking fees were negotiated based upon the survey responses we received.  We also got agreement that future increases would be small.

[Dear CSU/UPI Members,
As you know, since earlier in the semester, the UPI and the Admin have been bargaining the increase in parking fees implemented in August.  This increase was implemented before it had been bargained, and so we (the UPI) have been attempting to both reduce the amount of the increase, and to bargain language that would regularize any future increases during the life of the contract we are currently bargaining.

The Administration initially responded to our proposal to reduce the amount of the increase by suggesting not only that it would stick to the current fee amounts, but increase them substantially beginning in January of 2011.  We rejected that plan, and hoped that the next counter-proposal would accept our language on reducing the current increase.  The next counter-proposal did withdraw the proposed increase for January 2011, but has left the current fee increases in place.

We therefore decided it was time to poll the membership as to your opinion on the fee increases already implemented.  As we've explained previously, the Administration DOES have a right to raise parking fees; however, the UPI also has a legal right to bargain such increases.  Our questions would be:

1.  Do you accept the current fee structure?       yes   /     no    / don't care

2.  Should we continue bargaining to set what we consider a reasonable rate at which fees will increase over the next 2-3 years?  yes   / no  / don't care

Please respond as soon as possible, as we would like to have an idea how the membership wishes us to proceed.  If you are worried about the confidentiality of your reply, send to from a non-CSU account.  Thank you.

In solidarity,
Your CSU/UPI Negotiating Team]

(Back to Professor Pancho's text.)
I recognize that there are legal barriers and constraints placed on union activity. However, I want to suggest that we should be open to using any strategy that will further our rights and goals as working people.

Again, we should use the grievance process more effectively. Discussion and communication of grievances and outcomes will help us analyze this as a strategy that halts administrative overstep and abuse.  (See above.)

Historically, all sorts of tactics have been used that go beyond rules-based, formal actions that we, as a union, most commonly use. We are a union of professional workers who have a great deal of specialized knowledge that makes us invaluable to the mission of the university. We should be more creative in how we pressure management.
We would be interested in your specific suggestions.

The ongoing college reorganizations have been discussed in committees, faculty conversations and on this blog. This reorganization is a substantial “change in working conditions” and the processes have no input from faculty or a representative body of faculty. A faculty entity “with teeth” must weigh-in strongly about these ill-conceived changes. We have to reassert that such academic matters must be the primary purview of the faculty. The union can be a place for such a challenge.
The Contract guarantees discussion of proposed reorganizations; it does not guarantee that reorganization may not take place.  We will continue to insist on discussion with affected faculty for any future planned reorganizations.

I would also like more information regarding the process of contract negotiations. I have heard from many sources that there were irregularities during the process including that the majority of the negotiating committee was sidelined during final negotiations which were then conducted by the chapter president and the UPI president. I would like to know if this is true and why this occurred. While it is true that the faculty voted approval of the contract, how did the tenure review clause get inserted into the contract to begin with? What was the trade-off? Who has a record of the union proposals on the contract and the Administrative counter-proposals?
Based upon meetings held with the full team to discuss the outstanding issues, a small group met with a small administrative group to work out the remaining issues.  Our group included the chief negotiator, the chapter president and the Local president.  The CSU administrative group included the President,  the Provost and the CSU legal counsel.  We reached agreement on the outstanding issues.  This did include “annual evaluation of tenured faculty.”  This was based upon a proposal from the Administration which was very punitive and had a very short proposed time from start to termination; we modified it considerably to make it constructive, rather than punitive (based on language from Western Illinois University, where it has worked very well).  We felt that some sort of enhanced annual evaluation was inevitable and wanted to be proactive, to prevent it from being far more potentially damaging to faculty.  Note that under the current language, a faculty member would have to both 1) fail to meet the "adequate" standard in a single area of evaluation for two consecutive years and 2) refuse to participate in development of a plan for improvement, in order to be vulnerable to sanctions.  We also "stretched out" the time course.

There was no direct "trade-off" for the enhanced review language.  The "trade-off" was a generally favorable Contract in very difficult times.  There was a modest raise, going up in future years, and commensurate increases in minima.  The rate for override CUEs will go up by 33% in 2013-2014 and, for the first time in my memory, will be equalized between tenured/tenure-track and non-tenure track faculty, which is a matter of basic fairness.  Also, Composition faculty (who are overwhelmingly non-tenure track) will be paid 4 CUEs per course if they teach four such courses per semester; recently, they received 4 CUEs per course if they taught three sections but only 3 per course if they taught four, which needless to say made no sense.  Again, these gains (except for the basic raise) do not apply to all members but are important for some members and for solidarity.

Improvements in language include that a faculty member who receives the maximum advanced standing towards tenure does not have to apply for tenure by exception, which has sometimes been the case in recent years--of course, that doesn't apply to every member but it matters to the people affected.  Faculty applying for a second PAI award can apply after five years, not six (which is what the language said all along--but again, there had been problems of administrative interpretation recently).  Again, that may not seem major but it is important to people applying for PAIs.  And in a year when all the other unions and administrators had their bereavement leave reduced from five days to three--with the loss of an uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, or cousin no longer eligible for any leave--we retained for our members the five days for all relatives except the aforementioned, and three days for these.  We also have Pharmacy language (for the first time) and a revision of the Distance Education language written by one of our members.
There were also several disturbing administrative proposals that we were able to fight off.  These included abolition of the CUE range (everyone to work 24 CUEs unless excused by the Provost), no differential pay for summer school (in other words, a flat rate), and anyone covered by Civil Service not having access to the contractual grievance process--this last would have applied to most of our Academic Support Professionals and Information Technology Professionals and would have made it more difficult to fight sanctions or termination aimed at members of these units.

Overall, I believe we can be quite proud of this Contract.

We need to become more aggressive in our relationship with administration. We should be much more pro-active. We have been too reactive in the past. The special events parking lot crisis serves as a good example. Since Dr. Watson’s arrival and push for more special campus events we have heard complaints from students, faculty and staff about not being able to find parking on campus during special events. As a union we should have already addressed this problem with the administration and developed a workable plan for these occasions instead of grieving the issue after the fact.
  My remark concerning grieving parking applied only to people who have paid a premium to have a parking place available 24/7--not to say it couldn't be widened to include all who park on campus.  No one has ever complained about parking during special events to us, until now.  Again, we would welcome your specific suggestions.

We need to recognize ourselves as part of the working class and strengthen our relationships with other unions and other working class people on this campus. Given that we all work at the same institution and are aggrieved by the same bosses, we should support each other more and ally together. While the conditions on our campus have deteriorated, we are not an isolated case. University workers all across the country and workers in other sectors are being attacked by the same anti-worker mentality that exists at CSU.
We agree.  We began those meetings with the leadership of the other campus unions a couple of years ago;  we have met as needed since.  The leadership of UPI and Local 743 have been in communication frequently, especially during negotiations. 
Thanks to the blogmaster for giving me the chance to communicate in this forum.  And if there is anything additional you'd like to see on the chapter website, please let me know.


  1. Thanks, Laurie. Expect a response soon. This is what democracy looks like. I'm glad we got a chance to start this dialogue. I hope others join.

  2. I believe a major failure of the current chapter leadership has been a failure to encourage participation of union members in the formation of agendas and in discussion during the meetings. Specifically:

    1. Meetings have been held rarely instead of on a monthly or bi-weekly basis that would facilitate member involvement.
    2. Faculty members are not asked what they would like included on meeting agendas.
    3. Meetings are conducted like the worst sort of classes; I have felt the leadership talked to me as if I were a child.
    4. When important issues have arisen, the lack of democracy has frustrated our addressing them: specifically a few years back a faculty member at another campus was under attack from his administration for speaking out in support of students who had opposed David Horowitz by trashing publicity for his appearance; when I asked Laurie whether our chapter might address this, I was told no meeting was planned and therefore we could not do anything about it.
    5. During the recent city colleges strike, faculty organized to go to picket lines at Olive-Harvey without help from the chapter leadership. When a city college student was brought up on charges for supporting the strike, our chapter leadership thwarted bringing that issue before the membership.
    6. The chapter leadership has tried to marginalize those who disagree with it: when an Arab-American group's office was firebombed after 9/11, I proposed that the union send a letter of solidarity to the group and a check; the chapter leadership did not agree but the resolution passed. When I asked later how the resolution was implemented, I was told it had been done by the chapter leadership; the authors and supporters of the resolution were left out.

    I believe that union leadership should try to give membership a voice in running the union and should develop practices that encourage participation and controversy, the lifeblood of democratic process. We should have bi-weekly or monthly meetings with agenda items solicited in advance; committees should be developed to address mistreatment of students by the administration, local issues of social justice and racism, and international issues of U.S. intervention around the world (which eats enormous resources, resources which are not devoted to education). The union should help to sponsor campus-wide forums to address racial injustice, gender injustices, police practices that negatively affect our students, as well as national and international issues, such as the current economic crisis.
    There was a time in the 1930s and 1940s when unions, under communist leadership, were social action organizations, not narrow business unions. Those were better times for working class organization. We need more of that approach.

  3. I should add to my previous comment that when, in 2006, I was elected to the Faculty Senate, it was a delight to be part of a body that met regularly and predictably, encouraged participation by Senators, solicited agenda items, and gave a voice to each Senator. When the exclusion of faculty and staff from the process of selecting a president was protested, it was no accident that it was the Senate, and not the union, that led that protest.
    But there is no reason that the union cannot be a true voice of the faculty. The union can offer even greater opportunity for faculty to participate and have a voice than the Senate can. I would love to see our union chapter imitate the democratic, participatory practices that the Senate, under its current leadership, has implemented.