Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Interview with Wiewel

The Oregonian interviewed Wim Wievel when PSU released the white paper last week, and it's also worth reading. As a tease, I'll quote the piece that most intrigued/alarmed me:
"Ultimately my model is to have quality education; it's not to have cheap education. Given the conditions we are in, we have no choice but to look at tuition as revenue source. And I think we can be more creative about charging more where the market will bear it and where people have very good earning opportunities in their careers, and then using some of that money to provide financial aid to more low-income students."
Go have a look.

The White Paper

Last week, PSU released a white paper outlining several reforms it recommends to governance. There is much to appreciate and something to worry about, too. The whole report--relatively brief and readable--is available here in .pdf. The six central principles are as follows:
  1. State funding floor: Because state funding has continued to decline steadily, it will be important to stop the hemorrhaging. Establishment of a floor below which funds cannot drop is a logical way to achieve this goal. In exchange, PSU would agree to specific performance and accountability goals designed to ensure the university continues to meet the needs of Oregonians and provide the state a good return on its investment.
  2. Tuition Flexibility: With 28,000 students, tuition plays a very important role in determining what programs and services PSU can offer. With greater local control, PSU could more strategically set tuition levels to reflect both costs and market factors and to provide students greater access to scholarships and other financial aid. Increasing the availability of scholarships and financial aid is essential given the number of economically disadvantaged students attending PSU.
  3. Bonding Authority and Assumption of Debt: With the fastest growing student population of any university in the state system, PSU needs the ability to control capital expenditure decisions and issue its own bonds. It will be important, however, that the state continue to repay existing debt that it has issued on behalf of the University over time. Given the tight financial circumstances PSU has faced over the past two decades, absorbing the old debt would compromise its chances of success. A continued partnership with the state on capital projects of mutual interest will also be important. California has been successful in operating under this model, with the University of California system taking responsibility for issuing the majority of its own debt while having the authority to approach the state to obtain state-backed bonds for projects that the Legislature and electorate have a particular interest in moving forward.
  4. Access to the Ballot for Funding Initiatives: Community colleges in Oregon have the authority to appeal directly to voters for funding support. With state support continuing to trend downward, it is important that PSU have similar access to voters. Remaining a traditional state agency could prove an impediment to success at the ballot, however. In informal conversations earlier this year, metropolitan area business leaders expressed interest in helping PSU achieve its goals, but were skeptical about approving local funding for the University as long as it remains a state agency. Many cited the basis for their concern as past experiences in which the legislature had reduced funding for programs in response to such local initiatives.
  5. Student-based Funding Model – Funding should be based on the number of students educated. OUS’s Resource Allocation Model (RAM), which allocates funding based on a combination of student levels (undergraduate and graduate) and cost adjustments for various disciplines (cell values) is one method for accomplishing this goal. Other states employ simpler models which might be more easily understood. Regardless, the chosen model should be statutorily or constitutionally authorized.
  6. Operational Flexibility – Accountability and responsibility for managing operational functions such as information technology services, purchasing, vendor relations, auditing, financial reporting, personnel and benefits are key to PSU’s ability to function in an efficient and cost-effective fashion. OHSU’s experience is instructive. Since converting to a public corporation in 1995, OHSU has realized significant savings and enhanced revenues through its ability to control operations and act quickly to take advantage of marketplace opportunities. Direct management of personnel matters has also proven valuable to both OHSU and its employees, allowing workplace issues and employee benefits to be addressed in a manner responsive to the unique needs of an academic health sciences environment.
In addition to these points, the paper outlines various models of governance that could accommodate these. The whole piece is worth a read. Huge implications should these get further than recommendations.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Frohnmayer's Report

As a follow-up to yesterday's post about Dave Frohnmayer's report to the Higher Board of Education, here's the document he submitted:

Frohnmayer%20Report.pdf

Happy reading.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Frohnmayer Calls for Universities to Become Independent

An interesting development from former University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer. Tasked by OUS Chancellor George Pernsteiner to write a report for the legislature's February session, Frohnmayer recommends making Oregon's public universities autonomous entities like OHSU.
His plan proposes that the 2010 Legislature give the State Board of Higher Education authority to convert one or all of Oregon's three largest universities into public corporations that would have more control over their budgets and operations. In exchange for that freedom, they would be held accountable to rigorous performance goals aimed at better results on outcomes such as student retention and graduation rates.
The Oregonian article also notes that state support for higher ed has declined by 44% in the past 15 years. And in a rather shocking comment on the future, there's this:
The state higher education board has set a goal that by 2025, 40 percent of Oregonians will have a bachelor's degree or higher, 40 percent will have an associate's degree or certificate and 20 percent will have a high school diploma. To meet that 40 percent goal by 2025, Frohnmayer writes, the Oregon University System would have to increase enrollment by 72,000 students to 164,000, which would require three more universities with the capacity of Oregon State.
Change is in the air.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Economic Impact of Higher Education

I ran across an interesting study recently released by the University of Virginia that traced the impact of higher education in that state. While it was state-specific, the results are pretty eye-popping:
Every dollar spent by the Commonwealth of Virginia on higher education produces more than $13 in job-creating economic activity, says a new study conducted by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia.

Each higher education dollar also results in $1.39 in increased tax revenues that flow back to the state's coffers.
The methodology included measuring "the impact of higher education expenditures as well as the economic benefits that flow from investing in human capital (the increased earning power and spending by college graduates)." This latter point (my bold) is an important point for PSU AAUP to highlight: fully a third of the Oregon students educated in public universities in Oregon are educated right here at PSU. Portland State is the main engine for educating Oregon students--those same students who go on to enrich the state for decades to come after leaving college.

That value flows directly from the quality of the teaching and research that goes on here at PSU--and which the state needs to support to maximize this economic boost.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

NYT on the Woes of Public Universities

Not that this is new to members of AAUP, but the New York Times has a lengthy article nicely summed up by its title: At Public Universities: Less for More. This part in particular rang especially true:
“The students are at a point of rebellion, because they’re paying more and getting less,” says Jane V. Wellman, executive director of the Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity and Accountability.
By coincidence, their professors are getting paid less to do more. All in all, a grim time.

Monday, October 26, 2009

University of Oregon Unionizing Effort Gets Press

Although professors at the University of Oregon have been quietly organizing for months, the news came out with a bang this week. The AP ran a story that was picked up by the Oregonian, Eugene Register-Guard, and Corvallis Gazette Times.
The effort still is in the informational stage with meetings being held around campus to discuss the idea and hear from faculty members at other universities who have formed unions. Organizers say it’s not certain if or when professors will be asked to vote on the question, but one said an election could be held before the end of the current academic year.
The source of their frustration will sound familiar to PSU faculty:

The UO ranks last in average salary and in average total compensation — pay plus benefits — on a list of nine large public universities the state uses for comparing budgets. The average faculty salary is 80 percent of the average for the other eight universities, and total compensation is 84 percent of the average.

Also, the UO ranks last in pay among the 60 members of the Association of American Universities, an invitation-only group made up of many of the top public and private universities around the nation. In that comparison, the UO’s average faculty salary of $73,300 is 11.5 percent below that of the second-to-last school, the University of Missouri, which has an average faculty salary of $82,600.

We wish the organizers well!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Senate Finance Passes Health Care

Yesterday afternoon, Max Baucus finally got his health care plan through the Senate Finance Committee. He even managed to pick up Olympia Snowe's vote:
With its vote Tuesday, the Finance Committee became the fifth — and final — Congressional panel to approve a sweeping health care bill. The action will now move to the floors of the House and the Senate, where the health care measures still face significant hurdles.
As a political matter, this is very good news. Getting the bill out of committee moves it to the Senate floor, where the debate won't be dictated by a single, moderate Senator from a mostly unpopulated state. As a policy matter, it's not great news: Baucus' bill was thin gruel, and while it would eradicate some of the most egregious sins committed by insurance companies, it would do little to improve the lives of middle-wage workers. This is why the AFL-CIO disapproves of it and why they want to see a public option in place:
The committee bill taxes workers’ health care benefits through its tax on certain premiums. It also does not include a public health insurance plan option that would give working families a choice between private insurance and an affordable, quality public option....

The next step is to merge the bill with the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee legislation that includes a public option and doesn’t tax workers’ health benefits. That could be on the Senate floor later this month. House action likely will come soon after the Senate moves.

How It Affects AAUP

There's another piece here that has downstream effects on our membership. Currently, we are among the worst-paid faculty in the country. In terms of total compensation, however, we do far better. Over the years, we've claimed only modest pay increases in order to protect our health care. So long as we wish to keep our good benefits (which are by no means "Cadillac" benefits), our salaries will forever be hampered. Unless, of course, health care costs are reigned in. Most economists agree that the public option is the best way, short of completely re-designing health care, to contain costs in our current system. So even if our membership don't need the option, reigning in health costs would directly benefit us as the balance of our total compensation begins to shift back toward salary.

The fight's not over, but health care reform prospects are brighter this morning than they have been in months.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Compromise, But Only the Beginning

Signing collective bargaining agreements should be a time of celebration, but this year's was a little melancholy. As I took this photograph, of Ron Narode and Michele Gamburd signing the recently-approved 2009 AAUP contract, I had the thought: this is only round one.

The long-term goals of AAUP are to bring PSU salaries up to national standards, address issues in workload, and continue to provide the best education in the state. We were pleased to partner with the University to cover funding gaps in this unprecedented time. We hope that PSU will be pleased to partner with us in the future to make these goals a reality.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tentative Agreement Ratified

The final vote on ratification of the Tentative Agreement has been tallied. With 64% of ballots returned, it passed overwhelmingly:


Total

YES

NO

Online

406

367

39

Paper

10

9

1

Total

416

376

40

%


90.38%

9.62%


This was no doubt a very difficult vote for the membership to cast--it's a terrible thing to have to vote to endorse a pay cut. We must make sure that the University and OUS realize what a sacrifice this was so they can repay our goodwill down the line once the financial crisis has passed.

Thanks all who worked on this--

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Gary Brodowicz in the O

Below is a letter to the editor appearing in today's Oregonian:
The report "Students cope with tuition hikes, budget cuts at Oregon's universities" (Sept. 27) states "(Portland State University) was the only large university in the system that cut faculty salaries this school year to help balance its budget."

However, many unknown facts remain. The PSU tentative agreement has yet to be ratified, and even if it is, there is no way to know how many University of Oregon and Oregon State University faculty have lost their jobs or have suffered salary reductions as a result of the continued, inadequate state funding of higher education.

It is important for Oregonians to understand that PSU -- unlike UO and OSU -- is represented by a faculty union and many of its employee relation transactions are transparent. There is no doubt that it would be advantageous for the Oregon University System, which controls negotiations with PSU faculty, to do what it can -- in a union-busting sort of way -- to make certain that UO and OSU faculty are perceived to suffer less than PSU faculty, especially since organizing efforts are currently being made on those campuses.

Although class sections and faculty are being cut at other institutions -- and athletics maintain its odd priority status -- I am proud to stand among the PSU faculty who value the education of Oregonians, with the promise from our university President Wim Wiewel -- whose feet we intend to hold to the fire -- that restoring faculty salaries is his highest priority.

GARY R. BRODOWICZ
Beaverton
Brodowicz is a professor of community health at Portland State University.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Agreement reached!

[Note: sorry this is late getting posted. Your blogger was out of town and off the grid immediately following the announcement.]

Your collective bargaining team met with the administration at 2:00 PM on Friday the 9th of September. In a marathon 16-hour negotiating session, PSU-AAUP and the PSU Administration reached a Tentative Agreement (TA) on the 2009-2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement. We signed the paperwork at 4:30 AM on Saturday, 12 September.

Reflecting the country’s unusual economic circumstances, this agreement comes much earlier in the year than it has in the past. If we had not settled when we did, the administration seemed fully prepared to let the 2007-2009 CBA expire, declare impasse, and move as quickly as possible to impose cuts up to the 4.6% level. We made a number of gains through the package proposal phase of bargaining, and we felt that we had much to lose by delaying.

Thanks to the Collective Bargaining team

Many thanks to Jeff Alworth, David Hansen, Bob Liebman, Ron Narode, and Andrea Ogston (the members of the collective bargaining team) and to Phil Lesch for their hard work and commitment over the past 6 months as we met in caucus and with the administration to reach this agreement. The months of August and September have been especially busy and intense.

Highlights of the tentative agreement

Article 30: Salary and Retirement / Letter of Agreement on Salary Reductions for Academic Years 2009-2011

PSU faces financial difficulties in conjunction with the national and state economic crises. The university will take a 13% cut in state appropriations, representing a $20 million reduction. In the event of passage of ballot measures to rescind tax increases, further budget reductions are estimated at $2.1 million. PSU is retaining an emergency fund to cover this contingency. In addition, the Oregon University System has required PSU to set aside $ 2 million in reserves in the face of reduced Federal funding when the economic stimulus package ends. In response to these extraordinary circumstances, PSU-AAUP has agreed to accept salary reductions for our bargaining unit. These reductions will be applied equally across the employees work year and represent a number of mandatory unpaid days off, or leave days, as discussed below.

Snap-back: The text of the salary article remains unchanged from that in the 2007-2009 CBA. The language about salary cuts is contained in a Letter of Agreement that expires at the end of the 2009-2011 CBA. Salary levels in the 2007-2009 CBA will form the basis of bargaining for the 2011-2013 CBA.

No retroactive cuts: Salary cuts will begin on November 1, 2009 and will NOT be imposed retroactively.

Leave days: Number of leave days is rounded up to the next whole number. The first five leave days received in exchange for salary reductions will be used to cover University Closure periods. (People receiving less than 5 leave days will NOT need to use vacation days to cover the closure.) Remaining leave days may be scheduled and coordinated at the unit level, but must not disrupt class schedules.

Proration: Cuts and leave days will be prorated according to FTE.

Special conditions apply to sabbatical leaves and members with visa status considerations.

Salary reopener: By March 31, 2010, if either PSU-AAUP or the University feels that the University’s financial circumstances have changed significantly, then the Salary reduction LOA can be re-negotiated. Otherwise the LOA provisions will continue through the 2010-2011 academic year.

University salary savings: For the 2009-2010 year, cuts from our unit amount to $1.6 million in savings for the university. The aggregate cut for the 2009-2010 year is 2% due to the delay in implementation; a full year of implementation would have provided $2 million, or a 2.6% cut.

Individual salary cuts will be graduated according to the tables below.

For 12-month employees at 1.0 FTE (assuming a full year of implementation):

Annual Pay @ 1.0 FTE

Minimum Number of Leave Days per fiscal yr

% Impact on Salary

<$30,000

3 days

1.15%

≥$30,000 and <$50,000

4.2 days

1.62%

≥$50,000 and <$70,000

5.4 days

2.08%

≥$70,000 and <$90,000

6.6 days

2.54%

≥$90,000 and <$110k

7.8 days

3.00%

≥$110k and <$130k

9 days

3.46%

≥$130k and <$150k

10.2 days

3.92%

≥$150,000

11.4 days

4.38%

For 9-month employees at 1.0 FTE (assuming a full year of implementation):

Annual Pay @ 1.0 FTE

Minimum Number of Leave Days per academic year

% Impact on Salary

<$24,590

2.19 days

1.15%

≥$24,590 and <$40,984

3.07 days

1.62%

≥$40,984 and <$57,377

3.95 days

2.08%

≥$57,377 and <$73,770

4.82 days

2.54%

≥$73,770 and <$90,164

5.70 days

3.00%

≥$90,164 and <$106,557

6.58 days

3.46%

≥$106,557 and <$122,951

7.45 days

3.92%

≥$122,951

8.33 days

4.38%

Article 11: Release Time

PSU agreed to fund three additional course releases each academic year. This doubles the university-paid release time available to the union. With this time, we are better able to recruit people for important jobs, including doing financial research for the salary reopener.

Article 14: Promotion and Tenure

The article was revised to include reference to a document on the promotion of research faculty recently passed by the Faculty Senate.

Article 17: Academic Professional Faculty

This article was revised to incorporate text about flexible work schedules and the application of wage and hour law that was included in Letter of Agreement #2 in the previous contract.

Article 18: Fixed-Term Instructional and Research Faculty

  • The entire article was rewritten for clarity. Many thanks to the Fixed-Term Faculty Task Force for their efforts on this front!
  • Grant-funded research faculty members may receive contracts that run the length of the grant (up to 3 years), as allowable by OARs and OUS policy, with presidential approval.
  • The university agrees to place a minimum of 45% of fixed-term faculty with seniority on multi-year contracts. (The percentage was 30% in the prior CBA.)

Article 20: Intellectual Property/Distance Education

Revisions to this article clarify ownership of intellectual property in our academic context. In particular, the article clarifies that governance and ownership of intellectual property rights and responsibilities do not change as a result of the medium of delivery or storage (e.g., on-line, electronic media). Many thanks to the Intellectual Property Task Force for their efforts on this front!

Article 24: Working Conditions

The revised article includes reference to PSU’s Professional Standards of Conduct policy.

Article 28: Resolution of Disputes

New language addresses the university’s obligations under ‘resort to other procedures’ conditions, and discusses the authority of the arbitrator in nondiscrimination cases.

Article 31: Insurance

We retain our fully paid health insurance through PEBB for another two years. PSU will pay for premium increases of up to 5% in plan years 2010 and 2011. If rate increases exceed 5%, we will petition PEBB to use reserve funds to cover the difference. Bargaining unit members will not be asked to cover increases in insurance costs.

Letter of Agreement: Workload Task Force

The Workload Task Force will continue. Participants will discuss matters concerning workload and with move these discussions forward into appropriate campus venues, including faculty senate and CAE. If you are interested in joining this task force, please contact Michele Gamburd.

Ratification

No member of the bargaining team found this negotiating cycle pleasant, and no member is pleased to present a TA with salary reductions. This was a very difficult environment in which to bargain; the financial challenges facing PSU and the Oregon University System are real. In the end the bargaining team believes they negotiated the best agreement possible. All are proud that the rates of reduction we negotiated for PSU-AAUP bargaining unit members are lower than those accepted by Oregon state and municipal workers, are lower than the cuts imposed at other OUS campuses to date, and are lower than the 4.6% that administrators have had to endure.

The collective bargaining team recommends that the Tentative Agreement be ratified.

Everyone who is a union member as of September 21, 2009 will be eligible to vote on the ratification of the contract.

Fair share fee payers are not eligible to vote.

We will be using the Helios Online Voting System for the ratification vote. Members will receive an email message with a link to the election site by Monday September 28, 2009. If you do not receive an email with the link, please let Phil know at phil(at)psuaaup(dot)net. Voting will close one week later, at the end of the day on Monday, 5 October.

The full text of the Tentative Agreement is available online here. We encourage members to evaluate the TA before the vote opens, and to vote early.

Bargaining update meeting

PSU-AAUP will hold a bargaining update meeting on Tuesday, 22 September from 1-3, location TBA. (Note: Our meeting is immediately before Convocation.) Snacks will be served, and the bargaining team will be present to let you know more about the tentative agreement and answer questions. Please also feel free to contact me at gamburdm(at)pdx(dot)edu for further details.

In solidarity,

Michele Gamburd, VP Collective Bargaining
For the PSU-AAUP Collective Bargaining Team

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Important Announcement: Fall Membership Drive

I wanted to pass along this very important communication you may already have gotten via email from our director, Phil Lesch. It speaks for itself, but as a member of the bargaining team, I'd like to throw in my two cents. Unions live and die by one simple metric: the degree to which we can hang together. Sometimes we forget the adjective "collective" when we talk about bargaining, but it's actually the key part of the phrase. Together--collectively--we have a voice and some measure of control over our jobs. The more of us their are who are signed up as full members, the more influence we have at the bargaining table. I've seen it, and I want to let you know that it's not just a talking point.

Okay, enough from me; here's Phil...

As you know, contract negotiations are hitting a critical stage. OUS is proposing LARGE salary cuts, along with draconian changes to contract language that will make it difficult for us to negotiate restoration of those cuts next year, or ever.

Our success at the table depends on solidarity. Membership in PSU-AAUP is that solidarity.

  • We stand for parity with other state workers: we seek an equal shared sacrifice across the system.
  • We stand for a fair contract that does not force the risks of management onto the backs of faculty.
  • We stand for quality. The financial crisis must not be used to exacerbate compression and inversion that would compromise the education PSU delivers.

If we are going to be able to deliver on these goals, we must have everyone in the unit standing with us as we fight. We need the Fair Share Fee Payers in your department, in your school, as members.

And we need YOU to recruit them.

For every Fair Share Fee Payer that you sign up as a member, we will load $10 onto a gift card at a local merchant for you. There is no limit. If you recruit every Fair Share Fee Payer in the unit, we will load $10 for every last one of them. We are that serious about building solidarity NOW.

If you would like a list of Fair Share Fee Payers in your department or in your school, send me an email at phil(at)psuaaup(dot)net.

This offer is available to all bargaining unit members. To get credit for a member recruit, write your name on the referral line of the application. You can download an application from http://www.psuaaup.net/Application(w-referal).pdf Keep a copy of the application in case our records get screwy, and then send it to us at address below. We will provide the gift cards at any time you ask: after one recruit loaded with $10, or you can wait until you have $1000 to spend. It’s up to you.

We are offering training on how to approach your co-workers with a PSU-AAUP application in hand. The Collective Bargaining Congress of AAUP National will be hosting its Fall Conference at PSU October 2-3, 2009. It is free, and you are welcome to attend any and all of the events. Session 2A, which is Saturday morning October 3 8:45-10:15AM is “Organizing Training: Boosting Faculty Activism/The Office Visit.” Registration is required for all events. Download the registration form: http://www.psuaaup.net/2009CBCFallRegistrationForm.doc. The Deadline for registration is September 25.

This is the most severe negotiating climate we have ever faced. We must organize, we must demonstrate, and we must succeed. Everyone in the bargaining unit must be working toward that end.

Thank you for your support, and for your effort. Together, we can succeed in delivering a fair settlement.

Keep the Faith,

Phil Lesch

Executive Director

Sunday, September 6, 2009

PSU-SEIU Settles with Portland State

The announcement came out at about 5pm Saturday night. SEIU calls the deal "substantially equivalent to the agreement that DAS workers reached with the Governor six weeks ago." Details, from the SEIU website:
    1. We protected fully paid health care premiums for full-time employees and froze premiums for the part-time plan. We are now one of only two states in the country where full time state employees don't pay for part of their health care premiums.
    2. Instead of management's plan for a two-year step freeze, we won back steps in the second year of the contract. Members who get steps in July, August, or September 2009 will have those steps rolled back on October 1, 2009, but those steps will be restored on 10/1/10, when the step freeze will end and regular step increments will resume.


    3. We forced management to withdraw proposals for unlimited furloughs and an across-the-board pay cut!


    4. Furlough days will be scheduled as follows:


    Monthly pay of $2,450 or below: 8 days


    Monthly pay $2,451 to $3,105: 12 days


    Monthly pay $3,106 to $5,733: 14 days


    Monthly pay $5,734 or higher: 16 days



    "These tiers are similar but not identical to those in the DAS contract. We tried hard to get rid of the fourth tier, but in this area, we could not move the management bargainers. However, we note that because the threshold for the top tier is quite high, these tiers actually result in a lower average number of furlough days than the DAS contract requires."

    Next up: bargaining between PSU and AAUP on Friday at 2pm.

    Saturday, September 5, 2009

    "The Great Pumpkin is Not Coming"

    Some bad news delivered badly:
    All seven Oregon public universities would lose state money over the next two years, but some, including Portland State, Oregon State and the University of Oregon, would lose more than others in a distribution plan approved Friday by the State Board of Higher Education's finance committee.

    Even with federal stimulus money, the universities will see an overall 8 percent drop in their 2009-11 general fund budget from the previous biennium -- to $820 million. But the decline would be 16 percent for the University of Oregon and 11 percent each for Portland State University and Oregon State University under the distribution plan.
    This is obviously a blow to workers and faculty hoping to see some equity in the way cuts strike state workers. What adds insult to injury is the way OUS Chancellor George Pernsteiner delivered the news--mockingly. Noting that universities are going to have to get by with less state support, he chided universities with this one-liner: "The Great Pumpkin is not coming."

    In other words: "Quit your whining. Suck it up. You've been living large for a long time, and now the salad days are done."

    (PSU faculty and staff, you have been living large, right? Regular raises, salaries competitive with other universities, that kind of thing? Oh, wait.)

    You might also find President Wim Wiewel's response less than reassuring. While acknowledging that PSU has "enjoyed" massive growth in the past five years (15%, 3,500 students), that it will experience growth again this year (though the University refuses to use the added revenues from that growth in budget models), and that it has therefore suffered disproportionately, Wiewel offered a tepid, "Everyone has to share in the sacrifice."

    These are people's jobs; their lives. These decisions have real-world consequences. You'd think the Chancellor and President would reassure their valuable university faculty that they understand that.

    Stay tuned.

    Thursday, September 3, 2009

    Oakland University AAUP on Strike

    Members of the Oakland University chapter of AAUP (in suburban Detroit, MI) went on strike this morning.
    Among the issues on the bargaining table are details of how the medical school will be integrated into the contract, cuts in summer pay, no new increases in salary, elimination of some health insurance plans, hiring of non-tenure track faculty and elimination of research leaves, according to the union.
    This is a troubling situation--but, unfortunately, by no means unique. The Oakland administration has used the troubled economy as cover to enact brutal cuts to faculty. In the locution we at PSU have become used to:
    "The university hopes to reach a feasible and equitable settlement shortly," the University said in a press release. "The difficult economic circumstances we face, however, necessitate the university be extremely prudent."
    Yet this isn't about prudence. Figuring the professors were in far too weak a position to fight back, the university decided to see how many concessions they could force. According to the AAUP chapter, in addition to money-saving concessions mentioned by the Detroit News, the University is also pushing to weaken governance provisions.

    And all of this is unnecessary:

    An earlier meeting, sponsored by AAUP in Dodge Hall for faculty and students, included presentations which discussed the financial picture of the university based on audited financial reports. The point was to illustrate that the university can afford to provide pay raises to staff.

    "My conclusion is that Oakland University is in excellent financial condition and is in better shape than just about any other institution in Michigan," said Professor Rudy Richtenbaum, university finance consultant for the national AAUP.

    It would be nice to report that the Oregon University System isn't using these same tactics. But, based on the recent offers by the PSU administration, it looks like this is par for the course.

    Things may get worse before they get better--

    Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    Bargaining in the News

    Last week, David Steves wrote a clear, fair article in the Eugene Register-Guard about the negotiations between OUS and university workers. It's principally about SEIU's dealings--mainly because the University of Oregon is the paper's focus, and OU professors aren't unionized--but Steves points out the head-scratching difficulty in getting contracts signed:

    Until now, a labor agreement by the state’s biggest public employees union and state government smoothed the way for a quick settlement between Oregon’s public universities and its unionized classified workers — mainly those who hold clerical, custodial and maintenance jobs.

    Despite the ratification last week of such a contract between the state of Oregon and the Service Employees International Union Local 503, the Oregon University System has so far been unwilling to use the statewide labor contract as a model for an agreement with its 4,000 union-represented classified workers.

    As we gear up to put pressure on OUS/PSU for our own contract, this point is central: we want parity with other state workers. If one deal is good enough for Oregon state workers (SEIU-DAS), why should other workers get a worse deal? More to the point, why should university workers, whose paychecks are only partly paid by taxpayers, take a larger hit?

    Bargaining Update for August 31, 2009

    Bargaining has reached a critical stage. As you will read below:
    • At the table on 28 August, PSU-AAUP and the University exchanged proposals on salary and a number of other issues, the details of which follow below.
    • The University is anxious to proceed quickly with salary cuts. The tone at the table reflects their urgency in this matter, and we will have only a short period of time within which to wrap up negotiations.
    • It is clear that OUS wishes to use the current economic situation as an opportunity to eviscerate key elements in the CBA.
    • Read on to learn how you can participate in mobilizing against disproportionate and unequal salary cuts!

    PSU within the Oregon University System
    • In contrast to the situation at UO and OSU, where we hear that faculty face few if any cuts, PSU employees are being asked to take pay reductions that greatly exceed those experienced by other state workers in Oregon.
    • Inequity in salary cuts suggests that OUS is yet again trying to force PSU to subsidize other OUS institutions. Your bargaining team is fighting to limit unnecessary cuts to your wages.
    • The bargaining team also suspects that OUS is shielding UO and OSU instructional faculty from cuts in an attempt to discourage unionizing drives on those campuses, while simultaneously trying to weaken bargaining units at other OUS institutions (including our own).

    Key issues at the bargaining table

    PSU-AAUP has consistently made clear to the University that we are willing to work quickly to help the administration face the current budgetary crisis. The University has in turn been relatively open with the bargaining team's salary subcommittee regarding university finances. Discussions have revealed the following key points:
    • The University's salary model is conservative. It includes a large reserve for possible future budget cuts and other unanticipated shortfalls. In addition, it models enrollment growth at 0%, even though the forecast calls for 3.3% growth. (1% enrollment growth is roughly equivalent to $1 million in tuition revenue.)
    • The University's chosen strategy is to build reserves from salary savings. The administration suggests that should these reserves not be needed, they will be spent according to the priorities of the President and the Provost. (Note that restoration of faculty salaries is not at the top of this list.) In addition, the administration has indicated that OUS can "sweep up" financial reserves held at member campuses. This means that reserves generated by salary savings might not even be spent on our campus.
    • PSU-AAUP's chosen strategy is to offer speedy and generous cuts up front, but in amounts that do not exceed PSU's current needs. We have made clear our willingness to discuss further cuts should they prove necessary. We are leery of accepting extra cuts on the unwritten promise of possible later restoration, particularly given PSU's disadvantageous position within OUS and the probability that PSU's disproportionate sacrifices will be used to support other institutions.

    Our offer
    • In reply to a salary offer made by the University on 14 August 2009, your bargaining team proposed tiered one-time salary cuts for the 2009-2010 academic year. In our initial counter-proposal, we proposed cuts ranging from .77% - 1.35%, reflecting between 2 and 3.5 mandatory unpaid days off for 12-month employees (prorated for 9-month employees). Salary reductions would be deducted in equal amounts across the member's work year.
    • In their initial offer on 8-14, the administration had proposed to rewrite Article 30: Salary and Retirement with reduced minimum salaries for ranked instructional faculty and with reduced salary ranges for APs. PSU-AAUP counter-proposed that the text of Article 30 remain as in the 2007-2009 Collective Bargaining Agreement. We proposed that salary cuts and/or FTE reductions should be handled in a Letter of Agreement (LOA) that expires at the end of the academic year. This strategy would preserve the gains made in the past contract negotiations.
    • We further proposed that revenue increases from any enrollment growth over the first 1% or $1 million be used to offset cuts to faculty salaries.
    • In addition, we proposed that special conditions should govern certain categories of employees, for example people paid from grant money or student fees, people on sabbatical, people with visa-status issues, people near retirement, and people who would drop below .5 FTE should not be affected by cuts.
    • Finally, we proposed that the terms and conditions of the Letter of Agreement governing salary cuts be renegotiated in April 2010, with each side bringing 2 more articles to the table (a well-established bargaining strategy that facilitates settlement). To accommodate this extra service, we asked the University to fund buy-outs for PSU-AAUP members to take part in the bargaining re-opener.

    University's counter-proposal
    • PSU received our proposal mid-morning and countered at 1:00 PM with a package offer. Their offer showed some movement on salary. In contrast to their prior proposal in which $6.1 million would be realized on salary savings across campus (from members in all three labor unions), the savings would be $5.2 million under this model. Note that this figure is still greater than the $3.9 million figure we have heard on campus during the past year. Note also that the University's model suggests that PSU-AAUP is in effect bargaining for all three campus unions (PSU-AAUP, AFT, and SEIU).
    • The University's proposed salary cuts range from 1.9% - 4.6%, reflecting between 5 and 12 mandatory unpaid days off per academic year for 12-month employees, prorated for 9-month employees. Under the University's proposal, cuts would continue for a second year, unless renegotiated. Under this proposal, such negotiations would discuss only salary, without opening other articles.
    • Despite voicing no arguments against placing language on salary cuts in a LOA, the University persists in making reductions in the text of Article 30 itself. This move erodes on a permanent basis the salary gains won in the last contract negotiations.
    • Also of concern are proposed changes to Article 11: Release Time. In the past the University has recognized that collective bargaining benefits both the administration and the union, and it has paid for half of the release time provided for the bargaining team. In this proposal, the University would no longer pay for any release time. This proposed change diverges radically from past practice and carries strong overtones of union-busting. The bargaining team believes that OUS is using the current economic situation as an opportunity to eviscerate the contract. Only our effective mobilization can counter their move.


    What happens next?

    It's time for a bit of political action! The members of the bargaining team need you to add your collective voice to ours.
    • August 31st marks the end-date of the 2007-2009 Collective Bargaining Agreement, which has been extended until 11 September 2009. It is entirely possible that the University will refuse to extend the contract beyond 9-11, forcing us to mediation, impasse, and the imposition of their final offer.
    • In the next month, we need to put pressure on the University to let them know that we refuse to let PSU subsidize budget shortfalls at other OUS institutions, and that we are unwilling to allow the University to accumulate large reserves from salary savings with no clear mechanism for restoration.
    • Faculty support for and participation in union activities will be key to our success!
    • Here's what you can do: Spend a couple of hours in the next month to write letters and emails to the PSU administration, members of the State Board of Higher Education, the Oregonian, Oregon State legislators, and key figures at the Chancellor's Office; volunteer to design and post posters; attend PSU-AAUP rallies; and urge fair-share dues payers and new faculty to sign up as AAUP members.
    • In addition, The OUS chapter of SEIU (Service Employees International Union) is being offered terms significantly worse than those that other state SEIU workers have accepted. For more details, go here. Support our local SEIU chapter members in their mobilization efforts! SEIU will hold a rally in the Park Blocks on Tuesday September 1st- please attend and show our solidarity!
    • Check back at the blog or contact me (gamburdm(at)pdx(dot)edu), Jeff Alworth alworth(at)pdx(dot)edu, Phil Lesch phil(at)psuaaup(dot)net, or Susan Harlan harlans(at)pdx(dot)edu to find out how you can get involved.

    Bargaining update meeting

    A bargaining update meeting will be scheduled soon - time and date to be announced. Please attend and bring a colleague with you!
    Keep posted

    In solidarity,
    The PSU-AAUP Bargaining Team

    Monday, August 31, 2009

    SEIU Files Unfair Labor Practices Complaint

    Amid much news that will soon be coming out about the various unions and universities bargaining with the OUS, note this down:

    A union representing 4,500 non-academic employees at Oregon's seven public universities filed an unfair labor practice complaint this week accusing university negotiators of refusing to include 14 student recyclers in contract talks.

    SEIU Local 503 says the undergraduate students, who collect recycling at Portland State University, voted to join the union in July and should be part of negotiations on behalf of the entire unit.

    Later in the article, OUS's Rick Hampton is quoted as saying that this "is not fair to us." Hampton has been leading negotiations of the unions dealing with OUS, and fairness has definitely not been a hallmark of the discussions so far. It is especially rich that Hampton/OUS are the ones claiming to be the wronged parties. A harbinger of things to come.

    Tuesday, August 18, 2009

    Bargaining Update, August 18

    A salary subcommittee of members of AAUP and PSU's bargaining teams met on Friday to discuss salary issues. Several key pieces of information emerged, and these are summarized below.


    Contract Extension
    In the previous salary subcommittee meeting, AAUP was alarmed to learn that, under pressure from OUS, PSU was considering letting our current contract expire on August 31. Fortunately, following discussion with President Wim Wievel and Carol Mack, PSU's lead negotiator, OUS has backed off this drastic threat. OUS acknowledged that every negotiating table is different and has agreed to allow PSU to extend our contract on a meeting-to-meeting basis after August 31 to facilitate bargaining.


    PSU Salary Proposal
    The administration also offered their first salary proposal, which finally gives us a starting point for concrete negotiations. Although we welcome the progress, we find PSU's initial offer troubling. The proposal is based upon a new model of cuts called the "Chancellor's model." PSU characterizes the numbers it contains as more realistic than the "Governor's model"-- which was presented to the university community at several public forums and which we have been working from since bargaining began back in April. The Chancellor's Model allows OUS to hold back $10 million per year of state funds in case further budget reductions (termed Phase 2 cuts) are needed in the future. Twenty-one percent of such a system-wide cut would come from PSU.

    In a nutshell, the PSU salary proposal based on the Chancellor's Model does the following:

    • It increases the proposed PSU salary cuts from $3.9 million to $6.1 million. The bargaining team finds this backtracking dubious, given that the $3.9 figure has circulated on campus for a number of months now. Since its first appearance, enrollment forecasts have risen and economic conditions have improved, not worsened.
    • It fails to shelter lower-paid members from significant cuts; instead, PSU's offer requests 3.27% cuts from 12-month employees making less than 30K and 4.6% cuts from those making more than 49K
    • It specifies graduated "President's Leave Days" during non-teaching time and closure days (between Christmas and New Year)
    • It excludes any mechanism for a "snapback" or the restoration of salary cuts. Under this proposal, all cuts in salary would be permanent. Although the PSU-AAUP bargaining team recognizes the extent of the current financial challenges facing PSU, we do not see this crisis as reason to permanently undermine the hard-won salary gains achieved during the last round of negotiations.
    The PSU-AAUP bargaining team has repeatedly pointed out that none of PSU's models has mentioned the possibility of enrollment growth, which could conceivably improve the university's financial situation. (For more information, see the current enrollment forecast here.)


    Next Steps
    Your bargaining team will continue to press the Administration on these and other points surrounding salary, while continuing negotiations on other important issues. The Administration's bargaining team clearly stated that this was an initial proposal and they fully expected to bargain on the percentages, the salary banding, and the president's days. We anticipate that bargaining will continue swiftly and in a cordial manner. The next full bargaining session will be held on August 28th, and we will communicate with you before then about how you can support the Collective Bargaining Team at this important meeting.

    In solidarity,
    The PSU-AAUP Bargaining Team

    Monday, August 17, 2009

    Bargaining Update for Friday, August 14

    Note: below is a bargaining update sent via email on Friday. It appears not to have reached some (most?) of you. We're looking into what the problem might be.


    Contract Extension in Question
    On Tuesday, August 11, during a subcommittee meeting between members of the union and university bargaining teams, AAUP learned that the PSU administration, under direction from the Oregon University System (OUS), is prepared to let the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) expire at the end of this month (August 31). The CBA contains clauses important for the settlement of grievances, the collection of Fair Share dues, and other labor-management relations.

    During bargaining for the 2007-2009 contract, when raises were in order for the PSU-AAUP bargaining unit members, the administration engaged in an unprecedented 16 months of negotiations and extended the contract for 11 months beyond its original expiration. Now, in a time when freezes and cuts are likely, the PSU Administration is poised to break with tradition, letting the contract lapse despite the fact that negotiations have been progressing cordially and productively on all open articles.

    Your bargaining team has from the start of negotiations clearly and consistently informed the Administration of our willingness to work with the administration during this time of financial crisis to speedily craft an agreement that enables the campus to meet its financial constraints while distributing any necessary cuts in an equitable manner. The Administration’s unwarranted move to let the contract expire displays a lack of trust completely inconsistent with the current tone of negotiations and suggests that the PSU Administration has little control of what happens at its negotiating table.

    The bargaining team will work to make sure that OUS does not rush the bargaining process and trample campus autonomy with an inappropriate one-size-fits-all attempt to impose cuts that are out of proportion with those being taken by other state workers. Because at least three other OUS contracts are on extensions right now, we would see the failure to extend the PSU CBA as targeted ill will.

    Below is an update about recent progress at the bargaining table and in the joint AAUP-Administration subcommittee on salary issues.


    Current Bargaining
    Since our last update, we have learned some important information that has allowed AAUP and the university to begin negotiating in earnest over salaries. We now know that the legislature cut funds to PSU in the amount of $21 million. This is less than earlier worst-case scenarios, but still a large amount. According to PSU's revised budget, the administration still wants to trim $3.9 million in payroll (to all personnel), unchanged from earlier figures. We are also watching other state unions to see what kind of deals they are negotiating.

    With these numbers, our bargaining team has been meeting both within formal sessions and in subcommittee with members of the administration.


    Salary Concessions
    The administration has been consistent in asking for salary concessions, though they have not forwarded any proposals. This is a difficult situation. On the one hand, administrators are already taking cuts in their own salary, and other state unions have agreed to furloughs. As members of the university community, we want to be supportive of the mission. On the other hand, the administration has received greater salary increases in recent years and will feel one-time cuts less. In contrast, bargaining unit members’ salaries remain far below those of our comparators. The bargaining team is committed to crafting a salary agreement that does not disproportionately disadvantage our constituency. The targeted method from both sides is in FTE reduction rather than salary cuts or furloughs.


    Balancing Risk
    The Administration has made clear their concerned about two uncertainties in the coming year: how long the economic crisis will last and whether a ballot measure will succeed in repealing $733 million of tax increases. The question is, who takes on this risk and who will enjoy the benefit if adopted worst-case scenarios do not come to pass? Unfortunately, it seems that the university wants the union to take on all the risk while sharing none of the rewards if things don't get as bad as they predict. Two things concern us:
    • The deficit for the budget is projected to be $21 million, but PSU has written in an additional $4.1 million to cover possible shortfalls related to the economy and ballot measures. In effect, PSU is asking us to take salary cuts so that they can build reserves in case of emergency.
    • PSU has not included increased enrollment in their budget, though they know there will certainly be more students.

    Administrations' Own Cuts
    In the coming year, upper administrators (deans and above) will take an FTE reduction of 4.6%. This will not affect PEBB enrollment, but will affect retirement (because effective base pay is reduced). In exchange, however, participating workers will receive one "president's leave day" each month. These are effectively vacation/sick days, though they have no real value--they can't be cashed out. However, unused vacation days can be banked while Administrators take these leave days. All of these new leave days would need to be used up by June 30, 2010. This deal has not been extended in bargaining to our membership, and mechanically, it's not necessarily a good fit. But the bargaining team will bear this arrangement in mind as we seek an arrangement for our unit members.


    SEIU Deal
    In late July, SEIU-DAS (the state component of SEIU, not the OUS component,) reached a deal with the State of Oregon--important because they provide a template for all other negotiations in the state, including ours. Here are the highlights (full details can be found here).
    1. Protected fully paid family medical coverage. The State will pay for premium cost increases of up to 5% in each year. Increases between 5% and 10% will be paid partly by the State and partly from PEBB reserve funds.
    2. There will be a one-year step freeze from 9/1/09 through 8/31/10. Employees who receive a step in July or August 2009 will have that step "rolled back" on 9/1/09 and then restored on 9/1/10.
    3. SEIU-DAS protected the new 10th step. This means that all bargaining unit members will get one step increase (raise) at some point during the life of the contract.
    4. There will be no cost of living adjustments during the contract.
    5. SEIU-DAS will take 10, 12, or 14 furlough days over the next two years--much less than the 24 days the State had proposed, and less than employees of many other states have taken. Higher-paid workers are expected to take more days off. Furlough days will be pro-rated for part-time and seasonal employees and will count as time worked for accruals and insurance.

    Keep informed

    To stay informed and share your view, visit the PSU-AAUP Labor Blog. We will keep it updated as bargaining continues.


    In solidarity,
    PSU-AAUP Bargaining Team

    Friday, August 7, 2009

    Bargaining Issue: Balancing Risk

    Times are uncertain: on this we can all agree. Every budget contains a certain amount of guesswork, but the next two years have more than usual. Among the things we don't know are two biggies: how long the economy will stay bad; and whether a ballot measure will succeed in repealing $733 million of tax increases. The question is, who takes on this risk and who will enjoy the benefit if adopted worst-case scenarios don't come to pass?

    As bargaining proceeds, the answers to these two questions will go a long way toward deciding whether we can find a deal we can live with.

    On the bargaining team, our philosophy has been that we're willing to share risk with the University, but we want to share the rewards, as well. Moreover, we feel its critical that after this crisis passes, we're not worse off than we were before it arrived. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that the University shares this philosophy. Two things concern us:
    • The deficit for the budget is projected to be $21 million, but PSU has written in an additional $4.1 million to cover possible shortfalls related to the economy and ballot measures. In effect, PSU is asking us to take salary cuts so that they can build reserves in case of emergency.
    • PSU has not included increased enrollment in their budget, though they know there will certainly be more students. Disconcertingly, it appears that this additional cushion is not being considered as an offset for salary cuts--no matter how large the enrollment increase.
    The bargaining team's concern is that this budget shifts all the risk to workers and hedges all the rewards.

    We are continuing to bargain over the summer, and a subcommittee made up of members of AAUP and University bargainers has been busy trying to resolve some of these issues. Our next bargaining session is scheduled for August 28th--just days before the current contract expires. Keep checking back to the blog; we'll keep you posted as we learn more.

    Bargaining Issue: The Administration's Cuts

    Bit by bit, we continue to learn more about the ways in which PSU hopes to address the $21-million shortfall in the 09-11 budget. I have gotten emails and had conversations with members who wonder whether we'll be taking pay cuts and if so, what they'll look like. So far, the bargaining teams for AAUP and PSU have not arrived at a proposal. However, we wanted to pass along information about the plan the upper administration (deans and above) were offered. Along with recent deals by SEIU and others, it's one more data point.

    In the coming year, this group of upper adminstrators will take an FTE reduction of 4.6%. It won't affect PEBB enrollment, but will affect retirement (as effective base pay is reduced). In exchange, however, participating workers will receive one "president's leave day" each month. These are effectively vacation/sick days, though they have no real value--they can't be cashed out. However, unused vacation days can be banked while folks take these leave days. All of these new leave days would need to be used up by June 30, 2010.

    This deal has not been extended to members of our membership, and mechanically, it's not necessarily a good fit. Still, it's good to know the deals PSU has already struck as we continue to bargain. As always, we'll keep you in the loop, so check back for more.

    Tuesday, August 4, 2009

    Poll: Oregonians Favor Legislative Tax Increases

    We're a long way and a lot of special-interest spending away from dodging this bullet, but a recent poll shows that Oregonians would reject a repeal of the tax increases if the vote were held today...
    62 percent of likely voters would vote “yes” to uphold the legislature’s actions, compared to 26 percent voting “no,” with 11 percent being unsure how they would vote.

    Grove Insight conducted the poll on July 29 to August 2, interviewing 500 Oregon registered voters likely to participate in next January’s election, should it take place. The poll carries a margin of error of 4.4 percent. Read Grove Insight’s short analysis (PDF)
    This is definitely good news. Spending by pro-repeal forces (with deep, deep pockets) will do a lot to balance that number. If it were closer to 50-50, it would foretell doom. But a 36-point margin is a lot of cushion.


    Why This Matters
    The bargaining team is currently negotiating with the administration to manage a $21-million cut in state funding to PSU. On the admin side, they're understandably concerned about how to manage the risk of this ballot measure. However, this poll suggests that that risk may be lower than the admin calculates--something we'll have to consider as we look at any proposed compromises on salary.

    Wednesday, July 29, 2009

    Health Insurance and the SEIU Deal

    I wanted to highlight one element of the SEIU agreement mentioned in the post below. It involves health insurance coverage, and since this deal will be a template for subsequent deals (including ours), it's highly pertinent. First, the good news:
    The health benefits state workers receive will remain intact under the tentative agreement, said Leslie Frane, the executive director of SEIU Local 503. The state covers all premium costs for state employees, a perk the unions have fought and sacrificed to keep over the years.
    Now the bad:
    The state will pay as much as 5% each year for premium increases to maintain existing health insurance coverage. The Public Employees Benefit Board will be asked to use its reserves to cover any increases above 5 percent and below 10 percent.
    When we started bargaining this year, we learned of this proposal. What it means is that if health care costs rise more than 5% a year, it will come out of members' salaries. In the past contract, we had language that protected us from cost increases of up to 12%:
    "For plan year January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2009, the Employer will increase its monthly contributions by up to twelve percent (12%) of the actual monthly composite resulting for plan year 2008."
    The contract called for both parties to share the expense of health insurance costs exceeding the 12% ceiling. In 2008, health insurance was expected to rise by 6.9%, but thanks to the recession, the national average was an increase of just 5% (which was nevertheless twice the rate of inflation).

    Furloughs, Furloughs Everywhere

    After declaring an impasse last week, it looks like the Governor and SEIU have come to an agreement:
    Oregon state workers will take 10 to 14 unpaid furlough days during the next two years, under a tentative contract agreement announced Tuesday morning between the state and its two largest workers' unions.

    The contract also calls for delaying a scheduled step pay increase for more than a year and deleting a second planned step increase, according to a joint release by Service Employees International Union Local 503 and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 75.

    As expected, there will be no cost-of-living pay increases for any workers during the 2009-11 biennium....

    The final agreement represents a compromise on both sides. SEIU started negotiations by offering eight furlough days and a cost-of-living wage freeze. Kulongoski countered with a demand of 24 furlough days and a total wage freeze, including both cost-of-living and step increases.
    The article goes on to note, in a comment I was going to make myself: "The settlements with AFSCME and SEIU will serve as a model for contracts with smaller state workers' unions, Gov. Ted Kulongoski said in a release Tuesday."

    It's still not clear to anyone how furloughs might be applied to salaried faculty and staff, yet in anther story from the New York Times, that's exactly what members of the Cal-State faculty have agreed to do:
    A union that represents 22,000 faculty members at California State University has agreed to two furlough days a month to help close a huge budget deficit at the 23-campus system, officials said Friday.

    Members of the union, the California Faculty Association, voted for the furloughs, which amount to a 10 percent pay cut, over the coming academic year. The move was approved by 54 percent of 8,800 union members.

    Union officials are still negotiating with system officials about how to carry out the furloughs, which are likely to result in fewer teaching days or administrative duties for faculty members, said John Travis, a professor who is chairman of the union’s bargaining committee.

    The chancellor has called for nearly all of the system’s 47,000 employees to take unpaid leave two days a month as part of a plan to address a $584 million budget deficit caused by a 20 percent reduction in state financing. The furloughs could save up to $275 million.
    Lots more to come, and I'll try to keep you up to date.

    Tuesday, July 28, 2009

    Anti-Tax Ballot Measure Clouds Future

    One of the most important developments to watch involves a group of anti-tax activists who are organizing to repeal the recently-passed $733 million tax increases on some businesses and wealthy individuals. The Oregonian's Jeff Mapes is reporting that this coalition is already well on their way:

    While Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski took roughly three weeks to sign two controversial tax bills into law, the secretary of state's office spent less than six hours Tuesday approving the paperwork that allows opponents to begin gathering signatures to put the tax increases on the ballot.

    A broad coalition of business groups and tax activists are hoping to collect some 55,000 valid signatures by the Sept. 25 deadline to put each of the tax measures up to a vote of the people at a Jan. 26 election.

    The tax increases were necessary to cover a massive budget deficit caused by the current recession. Mapes is also reporting that the coalition has already raised $200,000 to fund the effort:

    Associations representing homebuilders, restaurants, grocers and auto dealers each kicked in $25,000. Several oil distributors kicked in at least $40,000, two beer distributors gave a total of $20,000, Associated General Cotnractors gave $12,500 and the Realtors donated $10,000....

    Lori Hardwick, the go-to fundraiser for Oregon Republicans, has been signed on by the anti-tax coalition (which calls itself Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes) and $100,000 has already been put into the signature-gathering effort. And, of course, the mastermind behind the campaign is Mark Nelson, the Salem lobbyist and consultant who orchestrated the defeat of the 2007 cigarette tax hike that was put on the ballot by the Legislature.

    I will update the blog with info as the effort progresses.