Sunday, May 31, 2009

May Bargaining Update

At the negotiating table
At the negotiating table, your PSU-AAUP bargaining team has engaged in cordial discussions with representatives of the University, and we have made good progress in crafting the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.

In May, drafts of several articles have passed across the table, including revisions to Article 14: Promotion and Tenure; Article 17: Academic Professional Faculty; Article 24: Working Conditions; Article 28: Resolution of Disputes; and LOA#2: APs ? Flexible Work Schedules, And Wage and Hour Law Education. We also discussed issues related to workload, catastrophic illness, Article 25: Parking, and Article 30: Salary and Retirement.

Salary, Retirement, and Insurance
In every budget document that the administration has shared with PSU-AAUP and the campus community, they have made clear their intention to cut faculty salaries, even though no salary proposals have crossed the table during bargaining. Given the current fiscal situation, the administration seems to feel the need to make adjustments to salaries as soon as possible.

The PSU-AAUP bargaining team wants to see both the costs and the revenues before making decisions regarding salary, retirement, and insurance. The bargaining team?s main concern in negotiations is how to approach decision-making when many key numbers are in flux, including the state budget, the OUS allocation to PSU, the approval of tuition increases, and the fall enrollment figures.

Contract Expires August 31
We are mindful that the contract expires on August 31st. In past years, the university has been willing to extend our contract to facilitate ongoing negotiations. This year, initial discussions indicate that they may be less willing to extend. Absent an extension of the current contract, at the end of the required 150 days of negotiations, the University would presumably call in a mediator, mediate for the shortest required time, submit their last best offer, and, after a 30-day cooling off period, impose their offer upon us. The bargaining team asks faculty members to engage with us and with other union leaders to tell us what members are willing to do about this situation.

The bargaining team does not want to prolong negotiations to the point that we risk having the administration move beyond negotiation and mediation to imposing a contract upon us. But the bargaining team also does not want prematurely to approve an agreement that accepts unnecessary concessions. The ideal would be to craft contract language that takes into account all contingencies, so that financial scenarios unfold differently depending on the values of several key variables.

Membership meeting 12:00 Friday June 5th
Be part of the process: let the collective bargaining team know your priorities! To update members on current bargaining issues and to solicit your input on important decisions (particularly those related to salary, insurance, and benefits), the collective bargaining team is holding a membership meeting. Please join us for lunch (12:00 - 2:00 pm) on Friday June 5th (location TBD; details will follow by email).

Your input welcomed
If you cannot join us at the membership meeting, and/or if you have additional comments, suggestions, or questions, please email them to me at

Over the summer
The bargaining team will continue negotiations over the summer, meeting three times in June, once in July, and once in August. By the end of the summer, we should have a clearer picture of the state budget, the university budget, and the salary situation.

New Executive Director
Please welcome to campus Mr. Philip Lesch, our new Executive Director, who joined us on May 18th. Phil comes to us with a decade of union experience with the California School Employees Association and additional years of labor organizing with the Regional Airline Pilot Association. Phil has already made significant contributions to our bargaining conversations and to the oversight of our finances.

Keep informed
Interested to know what?s going on in the PSU labor community? Keep informed and share your views on the PSU-AAUP Labor Blog at

In solidarity,

Michele Gamburd

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sotomayor on Labor: Cautious Optimism

When President Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to replace Justice Souter on the Supreme Court earlier this week, I wondered about her record on labor issues. This is an under-examined facet of jurisprudence--but perhaps the most important. These debates always get bogged down on social issues, particularly abortion. Yet what has gone relatively unnoticed is the dramatic shift the court has taken in the direction of business. Both Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito are far outside the mainstream on workers' rights (see here and here). Even Clinton's nominees were regarded as moderates on labor and perhaps overly sympathetic to business.

Folks are still poring through Judge Sotomayor's record to determine her orientation, but so far, labor groups have been pleased. Here's the AFL-CIO's John Sweeney:
Judge Sotomayor’s record reflects an understanding of the law’s impact on working families and has consistently interpreted our labor laws in the manner in which they were intended. In the baseball strike of 1995, she recognized that the owners had forced the strike by engaging in unlawful conduct, and issued an injunction which reversed the unlawful acts. She has enforced the rights of all workers to be free of all types of discrimination at work, to be paid the correct wages and to receive health benefits to which they are entitled. She has recognized that persecution for union activity can be a basis for granting asylum in this country.
So the early reaction: cautious optimism.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

PSU Budget Update

Last week, following the legislature's release of the final budget numbers, Lindsay Desrochers addressed the campus in two meetings to discuss what the deficit means to Portland State. For those of you who went to a similar meeting a month ago, the news will be familiar. Those numbers were essentially the same ones PSU is still working with.

Below are the numbers the university is working with to balance the budget. These include assumptions about both the actual deficit and the solutions--but they're working assumptions. Raising tuition is subject to approval, for example. So while these may well change, they're the best, most current numbers we have.

State reduction of 22%_____________________$28.4 million
Tuition revenue loss (capacity loss)_________$.8 million

Tuition increase (13% res, 10% non-res)
____$13.5 mil
Salary/FTE reductions (4.6%)
________________$3.9 mil
Overhead charge increase (4%)
_______________$1.2 mil
Summer session contribution increase
_________$.5 mil
Campus closures, other reductions
___________$2.0 mil
Services and supplies reductions (3%)
________$.5 mil
Academic (instructional) reductions
________$1.86 mil
Admin and Academic Support reductions
_______$4.0 mil
Other admin reductions/revenue offests
_____$1.74 mil

Looking Forward
It's worth noting that the salary reductions are a cut made by the state based on a calculation of PSU's total payroll. The $3.9 million figure represents 4.6% of that total, and the state will just take that off the top. How PSU manages to distribute those losses is another matter.

The AAUP collective bargaining team is moving forward with a list of priorities to protect the membership as we face these cuts. These include working to keep jobs on campus, preserving health coverage, shielding lower-paid members, and demanding a "snap back" to current wages--preferably with a cost of living adjustment. We also expect the the university to provide full disclosure and complete transparency about financial and budetary issues. Importantly, with any talk of salary cuts or freezes, we will expect the administration to address the other issues on our list for bargaining, including workload, working condition, and job security for fixed-term faculty. And finally, after the deficit has been addressed, we would expect that the university restore salaries first, before spending money on other projects or objectives.

We have a long way to go, and I'll keep you posted as things develop.

Friday, May 22, 2009

More Salary Data

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) recently put together some statistics in their report "The State of Higher Education Workforce 1997-2007." It compiles now-familiar information on faculty salaries and the steady decline of tenure-track teaching. Researchers put these findings next to statistics about the growth of administrative staff, and the picture is one I've written about quite a bit on the blog: universities are spending more on administration and less on teaching.

These findings won't shock you, but here they are, from the executive summary:

  • The number of full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty members declined from approximately one-third of the instructional staff in 1997 to just over one-quarter in 2007.
While the overall number of faculty and instructors grew over the 10 years, nearly two-thirds of that growth was in contingent labor, which increased from twothirds to nearly three-quarters of all instructional staff.
  • The number of administrators, the majority of whom were full time, also increased by a substantial percentage.
This group grew by 41 percent, to a total of about 59,000, between 1997 and 2007. This growth was concentrated in full-time positions, with the number of full time administrators growing by 43 percent and accounting for 99 percent of all administrators.

Talking Points
In every report on higher education, the data tell the same story: universities are spending more on administration and less on education. This has got to be a key message AAUP internalizes as we move forward in tough economic times. It has been administration, not teaching or research faculty nor academic professionals, who have been the winners in the past decade. As we look to cut costs, that message must be clear.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Public Universities' Precarious Position

I ran across a cautionary tale in the New York Times about Arizona State University. The article reflects on the larger funding context in which public universities find themselves, as well as offering a rather scary parallel to PSU's current trajectory. Back in 2002, ASU hired a new president, and his goal was to increase student enrollment and revitalize the programs.
He quickly made a name for himself, increasing enrollment by nearly a third to 67,000 students, luring big-name professors and starting interdisciplinary schools in areas like sustainability, projects with partners like the Mayo Clinic and Sichuan University in China, and dozens of new degree programs...
Sound familiar? In that same span, PSU's enrollment has grown by 30% and the campus and programs have grown. But while we're still enjoying relative health, the bottom has fallen out from underneath ASU:
These days, the headlines about Arizona State describe its enormous cuts.

The university has eliminated more than 500 jobs, including deans, department chairmen and hundreds of teaching assistants. Last month, [President Michael] Crow announced that the university would close 48 programs, cap enrollment and move up the freshman application deadline by five months. Every employee, from Mr. Crow down, will have 10 to 15 unpaid furlough days this spring.
There are many ways in which the two schools are different. Arizona State was a big school and it wanted to be a bigger one. Even after PSU's growth spurt, we're still far smaller than ASU was in 2002. And ASU heavily invested in expensive research programs, which brought with them professors who did very little of the teaching of these new students.

Still, a cautionary tale. Portland State, unlike many state universities is a "success"--enrollment's up, and there's a great deal of excitement about the future. Yet ASU's example shows that sometimes success ain't all it's cracked up to be.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Number is in: Oregon's Deficit at $3.8 Billion

For the past several weeks, all discussion about furloughs, pay cuts, and layoffs have been put on hold until we got a final forecast from Oregon State Economist Tom Potiowsky. It's in, and the number, though huge, isn't quite as bad as people expected.
The gap is less than had been feared by many legislators, but there’s bad news, too. Lawmakers will still have find $350 million in cuts before the current two year budget period ends in June. Lawmakers hope to end the 2009 session by June 30, one day before the new two-year budget cycle starts.

They have the most discretion over spending personal and corporate income taxes and lottery proceeds, all of which are down in today’s forecast.

The gap between projected income and current services was estimated at $3.3 billion in the previous forecast issued Feb. 20.

Legislative budget analysts have said it would take $16.7 billion to continue programs at the current two-year level, which does not account for mid-cycle hiring of state police troopers and others, phase-in of programs and increased costs such as medical care. But lawmakers already cut more than $300 million from the current budget of $15.1 billion back in March. Other potential cuts were averted through use of federal economic-recovery funds and state funds other than reserves.

Legislative budget writers already were planning for a gap of about $4.4 billion.

Now we just need to wait and see what the number means for Portland State University. The legislature had told agencies to prepare for 30% cuts, but it appears that worst-case scenario won't come to pass. We'll enjoy our silver linings where we can find them.

Update. The university has already planned meetings to discuss the budget with the PSU community. See below for details:
The University Budget Team, Vice President Lindsay Desrochers and Provost Roy Koch invite you to participate in one of two public budget meetings to review preliminary 2009-10 budget recommendations. The University Budget Team will take comments and answer questions from all participants. All members of the University community are urged to attend one of the two sessions. These recommendations will be forwarded with campus feedback to President Wiewel.

Thursday, May 21
Smith Memorial Student Union
Vanport Room 338
11 - 1 pm

Friday, May 22
Smith Memorial Student Union
Vanport Room 338
12- 2 pm

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Students Up, Staff Up More

The New York Times recently ran an article of the type that makes you go "hmmm."

Over the last two decades, colleges and universities doubled their full-time support staff while enrollment increased only 40 percent, according to a new analysis of government data by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, a nonprofit research center.

During the same period, the staff of full-time instructors, or equivalent personnel, rose about 50 percent, while the number of managers increased slightly more than 50 percent.

The data, based on United States Department of Education filings from more than 2,782 colleges, come from 1987 to 2007, before the current recession prompted many colleges to freeze their hiring.
One is loath to draw too many conclusions, but the article does, gingerly, point the finger at ballooning administrative superstuctures:
[T]he findings raise concerns about administrative bloat, and the increasing focus on the social and residential nature of college life, as opposed to academics.

“On a case-by-case basis, many of these hiring decisions might be good ones, but over all, it’s not a sustainable trend,” said Pat Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

As we tick down to the Legislature's report on the state of the economy (Tee minus one day and counting), the question of prioritizing precious dollars becomes all the more pointed. Add this to a growing body of reports illustrating that it's the adminstration, not staff represented by AAUP, who have seen the most growth in the past two decades. We've mentioned on some of those reports here:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

UO Trying to Organize!

Apropos of the post yesterday about billowing administrative positions, here's news that there's a move afoot among University of Oregon professors to unionize.

As bad as things are in the state right now, it's good to remember that thanks to the union, we now have a seat at the table. Whatever cuts may be requested of our membership, they must be requested at the bargaining table. When you are a member of a union, you are able to question the assumptions and priorities of an administration. Bad times, but good times to be a member of a union.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ballooning OU Administration

Let me draw your attention to a blog over at the University of Oregon that's garnering some attention: UO Matters. An anonymous blog, it is mainly directed at shining a light on the UO administration. The posts there are not directly germane to AAUP's bargaining with Portland State, but given the interconnectivity between OUS schools and the budget cuts we're about to be asked to make, it is certainly worth a gander. Take a look at a post from last week, where the blogger charts administrative creep:
So, in less than 3 years UO's core central admin has gone from 2 people earning a total of about $350,000 to:
  • $320,000 Jim Bean, Provost
  • $212,000 Frances Dyke, VP for Finance
  • $170,000 new VP for helping VP for Finance Frances Dyke
  • $177,000 Russ Tomlin, VP for Academic Affairs
  • $181,000 Robin Holmes, VP for Student Affairs
  • $124,000 John Moseley, Spec Asst to Provost Bean (that's the pay for 1/2 time)
  • $99,000 Lorraine Davis, Spec Asst. to Pres and Provost (")
Totals $1,283,000 before we talk benefits, secretaries, staff, fancy offices, ... (We are omitting jobs such as VP's for Research, Information, etc which have not changed.)
On Friday, the Oregon legislature will issue the revised budget numbers, expected to be very grim. They will certainly ask universities to cut staff. One wonders what proportion of the cuts will land on administrators versus teaching and research staff and academic professionals.

Friday, May 1, 2009

May First - A Time to Remember Labor

May first is a day labor types stop to consider the import of their efforts. It commemorates the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago in 1886--when labor protestors were striking for the right to have an eight-hour day. It is nice to recall that, despite labor's declining influence in the United States, this is where the movement was born. Thanks to the work of generations of activists, we have the right to unionize and collectively bargain for better wages and conditions.

Here at PSU-AAUP, we have some work to do on our behalf. Currently, full membership is just around 50% (half our members are fair share). A great many units lack a unit rep--a key figure for organizing. So, if you are a fair share member or work in a unit without a representative, perhaps you could consider taking the next step--sign up as a full member, or consider being a rep. Neither one takes a great deal of effort, and the effect is profound. If we want the administration to take our concerns seriously, we need to show them how committed the membership is.

Recently Michele Gamburd, the lead bargainer on our collective bargaining team, sent out an email with ways to get involved. For this May Day, I'll copy them below.
  • Are you a full member of the union? If you’re not sure, you can check your pay stub. If you see a line that reads “AAUP Union Membership Dues,” then you are a full member. If you see a line that reads “AAUP Union Fair Share Deductions,” then you are not a full member. For a few extra dollars a month, you can receive the benefits of membership, including the right to participate in contract ratification votes, run for the Executive Council, and get reimbursed for renting or buying academic regalia for Commencement. See for more information on membership benefits and for a membership form.
  • Interested in doing more? We are recruiting Unit Representatives for some units and members for several committees headed by Executive Council members. Contact me gamburdm(at)pdx(dot)edu, Jonathan Uto utoj(at)pdx(dot)edu or Gary Brodowicz brodowiczg(at)pdx(dot)edu for more information.
Have a great weekend--