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.