Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Union Kudos, Questions, Directions

Kudos to the union leadership for challenging one of the latest administrative oversteps as mentioned in an earlier blog post by Corday. The computer usage policy is a “change in working conditions” and thus must be negotiated with the faculty union. Unfortunately, the administration continues to try to force us to sign the very troubling document with a reminder sent to us via email on January 25. As a union we should stand together and not sign the document until our union and legal counsel has had the opportunity to review and negotiate the policy. Additionally, in an email dated January 24 UPI Chapter President Walter suggested that the campus visit of Minister Farrakhan would cause a parking problem that could be grounds for a grievance.

I hope we can be even more aggressive in using our position as the body that carries out the primary goal of the university. Any number of recent administrative decisions constitutes a “change in workplace conditions.” We can use the union more aggressively to reverse the attack on faculty and the mission to teach our students. In that spirit I offer a set of questions and a set of ideas about union affairs.

First, I have questions regarding intra- and inter-union communications regarding the union contract, grievances and the parking contract Memo of Understanding. Secondly, I have questions about union actions and strategies including the use of grievances. Finally, I suggest some directions that we might explore in order to regain our faculty and worker spaces; all in an effort to further dialogue, develop solidarity and increase our power.


1) Communications

a. 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.

b. 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.

c. How did we let the bosses get away with doubling our parking fees without union membership outright approval?

2) Actions

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.

a. 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.

b. 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.

c. 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.

3) Contract Negotiations

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?

True. We have a signed contract. We approved it. We have to live with it. However, we need to have a more rigorous transparent process including dialogue among faculty so that we have a contract that reflects our central role at this university and so that any irregularities in the latest contract negotiations will never happen again.


1) 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.

2) 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.

3) Unions are successful when the creative energy and skills of all the members are utilized. We must, as a complete body, take ownership over and have responsibility for the union so that we can participate more fully. This should be a democratic process.

Again, this blog is written in the spirit of collegiality and a desire to see our university prosper. The administrative oversteps, bumbling, and attacks on faculty, staff and students have reached such a critical mass that they seriously threaten our workplace, the success of our students and the very existence of our university. Together we can find ways that the union can respond effectively to these threats.

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