Friday, November 16, 2012

How Chicago Teachers Got Organized to Strike

Labor Notes

Norine Gutekanst
November 12, 2012
The seeds of the successful Chicago teachers strike began with the election of a new leadership team from a reform caucus in June 2010. Many in the caucus had waged battles going back to 2001 against the school closings that were targeting Black and Latino neighborhoods. Photo: CTU.
The seven-day Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) strike in September didn’t just beat back a mayor bent on imposing some very bad “education reforms.” The union also developed a deep new layer of member leaders and won broad public support. One poll showed 66 percent of parents sided with us.
Our win was possible because of several years of patient organizing, focused on getting members to step up.
The work began with the election of a new leadership team from a reform caucus in June 2010. Many in the caucus had waged battles going back to 2001 against the school closings that were targeting Black and Latino neighborhoods.
We knew we had to build up the union to be ready to strike, if necessary, to defend our contract and our students. But the vast majority of our members had not experienced any of the nine strikes from 1967 through 1987. Leaders were committed to building a member-driven union to battle alongside parents and students and make our contract campaign one front in a bigger fight to save public education.
To get the members in fighting shape, our first step was to start an Organizing Department, made up mostly of teachers and paraprofessionals who came off the job to work for the union, with each organizer responsible for 100 schools in regional clusters.
We held trainings for delegates (the elected reps in each of more than 600 schools) and other activists, with workshops on contract enforcement, fighting school closings and charter proliferation, ways to fight for funding, how to use research, and engaging parents. Dozens of rank-and-filers spent summers being trained and working in the community in an organizing internship program.


Staff organizers worked to develop leaders in every school. They came to know all their delegates: who had a lousy principal, who rarely ran union meetings, who had their building solid. Organizers ran school meetings to listen to members and activate them, not to “serve” them.
Members knew the threats were real: thousands of layoffs, funding cuts, and anti-union teacher-bashing in the press had made that clear. Organizers’ goals were to educate members about where these attacks were coming from and to convince them that winning was possible if large numbers of us were in motion in the schools, streets, and communities.
Between October 2011 and February 2012 the Board of Education voted to close or “turn around” 17 schools, provoking huge fights that engaged many members and parents. Members showed up for regional union meetings, rallies, forums, alderman and legislator calls and visits, phonebanks, board of education meetings, budget hearings, buses to the state capital, and to testify at hearings on school closings.
The tactics of our coalition were confrontational and escalated throughout the effort. We disrupted and took over a board meeting; parents and community activists occupied a school; and community organizations led a vigil outside the mayor’s home. These actions built members’ confidence in the types of tactics we would use during the strike and provided visible examples of joint union-community action.
In every action, we stressed the big picture: that our fight was about a better school day and getting the resources into neighborhood schools instead of charter schools. We made it clear that the union was not alone, but part of a broad coalition. We called the board’s policies racist and pointed out that, in Black and Latino communities, students, teachers, and schools were set up to fail, paving the way for closings and privatized charters.


Action Committees. A year before the contract expired, we started up Contract Action Committees in each building. Each committee member was responsible for communicating with about 10 employees face-to-face, including teachers and paraprofessionals, as well as the engineers, security staff, and lunchroom workers in other unions.
The message was always for members to build their own local activities and reach out to parents and community, particularly through the local school council meetings.
The committees circulated an open letter for parents and teachers to sign. The letter said that, if we were going to have a longer school day, it must be a better school day, with a rich curriculum, more social workers and counselors, and high-quality facilities.
This letter helped committee members develop their organizing skills by talking to every CTU member in their building, and it built their confidence at engaging with parent leaders.
Developing Bargaining Demands. To develop our demands, we went to our 28 existing member committees, which cover topics like early childhood, substitutes, special ed, testing, and many more. Each committee came up with demands, and we gathered additional input at regional union meetings. Demands were finalized in our Professional Problems Committee with lots of rank-and-file involvement.
Regional Meetings. We held after-school regional meetings, open to all, at multiple locations around the city. Whenever a big issue came up, such as the anti-union “Performance Counts” legislation in late 2011, we emailed members to come listen and say what they thought.
We also held regional meetings specifically for the often-neglected paraprofessionals.
Phonebanking. We made it a point to phonebank members who were new, those who were the lowest paid and the least protected, beginning at the start of 2012. Members trained by the organizing department (sometimes volunteering and other times paid) described what the board was doing, heard members’ thoughts, and projected a vision of how we could win.
In these calls members were asked to do something—such as come out to our big rally, attend a training, get involved in their school’s contract committee, or fill buses to the state capital. We tracked how willing they were to vote for a strike.
Bargaining Team. We convened a big bargaining team—30 members drawn from all sectors, seniority ranges, job categories, and caucuses. This happened right after we took office because we had to bargain over the layoffs of 1,500 members. We brought in the best leaders from other caucuses, which worked well to create buy-in and cooperation.
Special Report. Our research department produced a 45-page report with graphs, charts, photos, and data—The Schools Chicago’s Children Deserve—that projected a vision in which every child, regardless of her parents’ income or zip code, would get a world-class education.
This report was pivotal in building support, both within our ranks and among parents. We circulated it everywhere, among parents and politicians, education experts and the press. It called the Chicago system “educational apartheid.”
That crucial phrase, regularly used by union leaders, helped show that the union was on the side of Black and Latino children and was willing to be direct about it. Jesse Jackson picked it up. The report made it clear to anyone what CTU was fighting for, and backed it up with research showing what children need.
We also distilled the report into a 10-point one-pager in English and Spanish and took it to every meeting.


In 2011 the Illinois legislature passed a law that the CTU would need the votes of 75 percent of all members (not just of those voting) to call a strike. To beat that threshold, we couldn’t go into the vote cold.
Practice Vote. We wanted to vote before the school year was over, while the issues were hot and members were having daily conversations with each other. We took a dry run May 10. Members at their schools took a four-question poll with questions that would elicit a yes (“Do the Board’s bargaining proposals disrespect CTU members?”).
This practice vote allowed us to test our machinery and signal to members that a strike vote was coming. Rank-and-file leaders had to drive turnout on a scale they had not experienced before.
Ninety-eight percent rejected the board’s proposals, with 21,000 of 26,000 members participating—showing that the contract campaign had worked.
Even before this, when organizers went out to schools for meetings, we would ask for a show of hands on “How many would vote for a strike?” And spontaneous “mock” strike votes were bubbling up from the membership, simply because they were so angry at the board. We would get calls from delegates: “My staff met yesterday and we voted 98 percent to strike.”
Rally. On May 23, after many phone calls, emails, and school meetings and three weeks before school would end for the semester, 7,000 members wearing their red CTU t-shirts swarmed downtown to a march and rally.
Our signs said “Yes to Respect,” “Yes to Smaller Classes,” and “Yes to Student Needs.” The huge turnout bolstered the rising mood of exhilaration and power. Teachers sang along to Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” and Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” Two parents and a high school student gave stirring speeches.
When President Karen Lewis, a veteran science teacher, spoke, a chant went up: “Strike! Strike! Strike!”—led by members, not the officers.
The march merged us with Stand Up Chicago, a union-sponsored group that stages militant actions against millionaires and bankers. Thousands of Stand Up protesters and the downtown public greeted CTU members with cheers and support, helping win over those who had been fearful of public reaction if we were to strike.
“I’ve never been so proud of being in the union,” people said afterwards.
Strike Vote. The tremendous energy of the rally propelled us to the strike authorization vote, with a delegate in charge at each school and a secret ballot. A worker center ally recruited clergy to observe the vote count in anticipation of Board of Ed accusations of fraud.
After two years of preparation, 90 percent of teachers—and 98 percent of those voting—voted to authorize a strike.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

3 to 1: That's the Best Ratio of Tenure-Track Faculty to Administrators, a Study Concludes

Chronicle of Higher Education
Best Ratio of Tenure-Track Faculty to Administrators? 3 to 1, Researchers Say 1
Courtesy Robert Martin
"The balance between people who are actually in the trenches and those who are overseeing that work has gotten grossly out of line," says Robert E. Martin, Emeritus Boles Professor of Economics at Centre College and an author of the study. "That imbalance is one of the primary reasons for why costs grew so out of control over the last three decades."

November 1, 2012
In the long-running debate over how many administrators are too many, two economic researchers believe they have identified an ideal ratio. For colleges to operate most effectively, they say, each institution should employ three tenured or tenure-track faculty for every one full-time administrator.
What the ratio is now is difficult to say, though most colleges probably would have to hire significantly more faculty or pare back on administrators if they wanted to meet a three-to-one goal. The numbers are fuzzy and inconsistent because universities report their own data. Different institutions categorize jobs differently, and the ways they choose to count positions that blend teaching and administrative duties further complicate the data. When researchers talk about "administrators," they can never be sure exactly which employees they are including. Sometimes colleges count librarians, for example, as administrators, and sometimes they do not.
In their recent study, Robert E. Martin, a professor emeritus of economics at Centre College, and R. Carter Hill, a professor of economics at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, attempted to quantify the factors that drive costs at 137 public research institutions. They describe their findings in a working paper titled "Measuring Baumol and Bowen Effects in Public Research Universities," released in October.
In their analysis of federal data from 1987 to 2008, the researchers calculated that the nationwide ratio was tilted toward administrators, with two full-time administrators for every one tenured or tenure-track faculty member. But their analysis showed, they said, that a ratio of three faculty to one administrator would be the most cost-effective balance for universities.
While examining the cost effects on institutions of external forces, like faculty and administrative salary trends, and internal decisions, like where to spend available money, the researchers found that college officials' own decisions accounted for a $2 increase in cost for every $1 increase caused by external factors.
The researchers found that skewing the three-to-one ratio with too many administrators or too many faculty members would cause costs to climb.
"The balance between people who are actually in the trenches and those who are overseeing that work has gotten grossly out of line," Mr. Martin said. "That imbalance is one of the primary reasons for why costs grew so out of control over the last three decades."

A Shift Toward Administrators

The study's findings demonstrate the importance of shared governance in universities' budget decisions, Mr. Martin said. Those who hold the purse strings have a natural incentive to hire more employees like themselves, Mr. Martin said. Sharing decisions about hiring and other spending across different types of people, including faculty, administrators, and governing-board members, he said, acts as a natural check and balance, ensuring that no individual side's interests rise to the top. (See a recent commentary by Mr. Martin on this topic.)
But the study highlights a staffing trend, seen over two decades, of colleges' hiring more administrators than faculty. Universities reduced costs by hiring part-time instructors instead of tenure-track faculty, while hiring relatively more full-time administrators, the study shows. In 1987, the ratio of tenure-track faculty to full-time administrators at public research universities was 0.96, a balance of about one-to-one, with a slight tilt toward administrators. By 2008, however, the ratio of faculty to administrators had fallen to 0.56, reflecting a strong shift toward administrators.
Over that same time, the number of tenure-track faculty per 100 students at public research universities grew by 3 percent, while the number of part-time faculty per 100 students grew by 60 percent. Meanwhile, executive and managerial staff at those institutions increased by 9 percent per 100 students and noninstructional professional staff grew by 57 percent per 100 students.

'Back to Basics'

Some advocates of increasing the proportion of faculty at universities say they support the researchers' goal of setting a three-to-one ratio of faculty to administrators.
Benjamin Ginsberg, a professor of political science at the Johns Hopkins University and author of The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters (Oxford University Press, 2011), has argued that universities would be better off with fewer administrators, people he calls "deanlets."
The three-to-one ratio "makes a lot of sense," Mr. Ginsberg said, because it would shift the staff balance in universities. "If an administrator disappeared, no one would notice for a year or two," he said. "They would assume they were all on retreat, whereas a missing professor is noticed right away."
Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and a professor of economics at Ohio University, said shifting the balance back toward faculty is key to keeping universities' missions focused on teaching, as opposed to becoming too focused on other activities, like business development or sustainability efforts.
"We need to get back to basics," said Mr. Vedder. The basics are "teaching and research," he said, "and we need to incentivize leaders of the universities to get rid of anything that's outside of that."
While the data available for the study go only through 2008, Mr. Vedder said he hadn't seen any evidence that patterns have changed much since then. In the wake of the recession, universities dealing with cuts in state aid have not made significant reductions in noninstructional staff, he said.

Long Traditions of Complaining

Some higher-education analysts, however, say no one faculty-to-administrator ratio should be applied across all colleges.
Paul E. Lingenfelter, president of the State Higher Education Officers, sees little merit in any universal ratio because there are so many factors involved in deciding how to staff a university.
"There's a long tradition of faculty members' complaining about administrators and administrators' complaining about faculty members," he said. "The truth is, the right ratio depends a lot on the nature of the institution, what the work is, what work needs to be done."
The ratio, for instance, would tilt differently at a research-driven university that requires more staff to organize research logistics than a teaching-oriented college with a smaller budget.
Others emphasize that some administrators do have their place. As states have reduced money for higher education in recent years, administrators have played a vital role in soliciting money from private donors and other sources, said Gretchen M. Bataille, a former president of the University of North Texas who is now senior vice president for leadership and lifelong learning at the American Council on Education.
"You're looking to supplant funds that have been lost," she said. "If state funding has gone down, you have to figure out how to replace the state funding."
Sometimes that means finding new sources of money. Sometimes it means increasing tuition—something most people agree that no one wants to do if it can be avoided.
Regardless of what exact ratio might make sense, some scholars see value in trying to do a better job of quantifying colleges' costs and in taking a deeper look at higher education's structure.
As Jay P. Greene, head of the department of education reform at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, put it, "We study a lot of things rigorously, but we don't often study ourselves rigorously because maybe we'd rather not look."

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Today's Faculty: Stressed and Focused on Teaching

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Today's Faculty: Stressed, Focused on Teaching, and Undeterred by Long Odds

Today's Faculty: Stressed and Focused on Teaching 1
Lectures remain the dominant form of instruction, the survey found, but the results also show increases in the number of professors who use discussions and other alternatives, like cooperative-learning projects, in their classes.

Faculty members are feeling stressed out and strapped for time to teach, according a national survey being released on Wednesday. At the same time, the survey found, many of the most economically vulnerable members of the professoriate remain improbably hopeful about their career prospects.
As the economy slowly mends and statehouses adopt austere budgets, colleges, particularly public ones, continue to struggle with the ramifications of tight finances. Professors are reporting that they feel the stress. And, as part-timers who are not on the tenure track make up a growing share of the faculty, they express conflicted views about their job prospects. Many recognize that the chances of landing a full-time job are slim, while also seeing their position as a gateway to a career.
This was the first time that the survey, conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles, asked professors about budget cuts as a source of stress and broke out responses of the part-timers from those of the full-time faculty. The latest edition of the survey, which is conducted every three years, was administered during the 2010-11 academic year to 23,824 full-time and 3,547 part-time faculty who teach undergraduates at four-year institutions.

'Foot-in-the-Door Disease'

Hopes for a fresh start on a new campus were felt at all levels of the professoriate. Nearly half of all professors responding to the survey said they had considered leaving their institution, but only one-quarter reported having received a firm job offer, highlighting the lack of job mobility for faculty.
Prospects were bleak for part-time faculty. The vast majority, or three-quarters, of them reported working off the tenure track involuntarily, meaning they envision full-time teaching as their career.
The survey brought to light a disconnect in how those faculty members see their career unfolding from their current position. Nearly 59 percent of involuntary part-timers said they had accepted their current job believing it would be a steppingstone to a full-time appointment. But nearly 68 percent recognized that such transitions rarely occur at their institution.
The disconnect can be attributed to "foot-in-the-door disease," said Maria Maisto, president of the New Faculty Majority, an advocacy group for professors who work off the tenure track. The responses reflect the dawning awareness of part-time faculty who initially take their job with optimistic assumptions, she said, but later come to see the realities they face. Many institutions, she added, tell prospective part-timers, either ignorantly or disingenuously, that accepting such a position will make them good candidates once a full-time position opens up.
"Most people in that involuntary category get into it thinking it'll be a steppingstone," she said. "Once they're there for a couple of years, you realize how long the odds are."
And the odds are long, other studies have shown: About 20 percent of faculty members who were in full-time positions and had held an academic job previously reported that their first post had been part time, according to a draft study produced earlier this year by Martin J. Finkelstein, a professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, and Jack H. Schuster, a professor emeritus of education and public policy at Claremont Graduate University.
A move from a part-time teaching job to a full-time one rarely happens within the same institution, said Mr. Finkelstein, while the odds are somewhat improved for faculty in the humanities and at community colleges.
"The decks are stacked against moving from part-time to full-time, off-track to full-time, on-track," he said in an e-mail. But some optimists may choose to view the glass as 20-percent full instead of 80-percent empty, he said. "A significant minority do make the transition."
That sliver of hope may be part of what is driving the dissonant findings, though laws of supply and demand in the labor pool and longstanding stereotypes also play important roles, said Adrianna Kezar, an associate professor of higher education at the University of Southern California.
Graduate programs continue accepting more graduate students than can possibly land jobs in academe, leading to a glut in the job market, she said. Cultural and psychological attitudes also come into play, she added, as tenure-stream faculty hold a mistaken stereotype that adjuncts don't have what it takes to make it to higher education's promised land.
Some long-term, part-time faculty members have noted that their employment status taints their job prospects; many keep working despite their dislike for their working conditions because they become attached to teaching or devoted to their discipline.
"People still don't recognize how much the labor market has shifted," Ms. Kezar said. "All of these factors add up to a stark and bizarre trend."
The optimism that many part-timers seem to feel about their prospects, even in the face of stark odds, suggests that the academic job market has similar characteristics to the one facing entrepreneurs and aspiring restaurateurs, said Don A. Moore, an associate professor of management of organizations at the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. People entering those fields may recognize that the odds are long in general, he said, but many still believe they alone have a good shot.
Doctoral programs are partly to blame for accepting students even when the programs have poor records of placing their graduates in jobs. But students will keep coming, overestimating their chances, he said. "The results are tragic."
The glimmer of hope has been enough to persuade part-time faculty members like Kelli R. Marshall to keep searching for that tenure-track job. Ms. Marshall earned her Ph.D. in humanities, film studies, and Shakespeare in 2004 from the University of Texas at Dallas. She covered classes for her dissertation adviser who was on sabbatical, and then entered the job market in 2006. She has applied for about 50 jobs each year in both media studies and English departments, landing job interviews on campuses and at annual meetings of the Modern Language Association, as well as a series of short-term visiting professorships.
Looking back at her experience, she believes she was given, perhaps inadvertently, a false sense of hope about what lay ahead for her.
"I was under the impression that I was somehow 'special' and, moreover, that the postdoc world would take advantage of what I had to offer," she wrote in a recent essay on her blog. "But as we know, that was/is not necessarily the case."
Now she's teaching two courses in critical theory for television at Columbia College Chicago and an introduction to film at DePaul University. She would be delighted if one of the two institutions kept her on full time, but she's also realistic.
"I've seen it work," Ms. Marshall said in an interview. "I also do not think that's the norm."
Other survey findings about part-time faculty mirror the results of two other recent studies of this growing sector of academic labor.
The institutional resources made available to part-time faculty are meager, the UCLA researchers found. About 18 percent said they had a personal office in which to meet with students. About two in five said they had access to a personal computer, a phone, and voice-mail on their campus.
"There is a convergence within the research community and advocacy organizations in terms of demonstrating that, while institutions are reliant on part-time faculty, they're not matching it with institutional support," said Kevin Eagan, assistant director for research at the UCLA institute.

Mismatch in Teaching

Among the three areas on which faculty performance is traditionally judged—teaching, research, and service—respondents, both full time and part time, placed the greatest value on teaching. But, they said, they get little support in improving how they teach and spend less time in class than in the past.
Teaching was rated as personally "essential" or "very important" by 97 percent of the faculty, which was more than 18 percentage points higher than research and 34 points higher than service. Less than one-quarter of respondents said they had attended a paid teaching workshop outside their institution.
Signs of changes in teaching methods could also be seen in the survey, even though lectures remain the dominant form of instruction, especially among men. Eight professors in 10 said they used discussions in all or most of their classes, which is about 10 percentage points higher than in the last survey, in 2007-8. More than half broke students into small groups to learn cooperatively or assigned them problems from real life.
Faculty members also reported spending less time teaching and preparing to teach than in years past. Nearly 44 percent of professors teach nine hours or more per week, a number that stood at 63 percent two decades ago. The share of faculty members who spent nine hours or more per week preparing for class also saw a decline, though it was smaller, going from 66 percent to 59 percent.
The decreases in time spent teaching and preparing are evidence of the larger effects of higher education's growing reliance on part-time or contingent faculty, said Ms. Maisto. Full-time, tenured, and tenure-track faculty have less time to devote to students, she said, because they have fewer people with whom to share the burdens of shared governance, institutional service, and research.
"Contingency affects all of the faculty," she said. "The idea that tenured faculty are continuing to perform at an optimal level is false."

Stress and Its Effects

Self-imposed high expectations, lack of personal time, and working with underprepared students were the leading sources of stress for faculty.
Institutional budget cuts came next, with 74 percent of faculty members citing such cuts as a cause of stress during the previous two years. That finding was especially pronounced at public institutions: More than 86 percent of faculty at public universities said institutional budget cuts had caused "some" or "extensive" stress, as did 83 percent of faculty at public four-year colleges. Less than half of those at private universities said the same.
Budget cuts can have wide effects on faculty, including years of frozen pay, departmental shutdowns, and turnover, said George S. Stanley, a professor of chemistry at Louisiana State University who has seen all three outcomes on the Baton Rouge campus.
"There's been a lot of discontent, which I believe is directly related to stress in not having a pay raise for five years," he said, though his department has escaped major cuts. "Associate professors and younger professors are getting squeezed."
In recent months the system's president and chancellor, several administrators, and faculty have left or announced plans to leave the university. Mr. Stanley attributed many of those departures to the strain of coping with budget cuts. The Baton Rouge campus has seen $92-million in cuts since 2009, which has resulted in the loss of about 10 percent of its faculty, the university has said. With interim leadership left to manage uncertain state finances, planning tends to take a back seat, he said. "Things sort of get frozen."
Faculty members often perceive different levels of stress depending on their discipline, said Roger G. Baldwin, a professor of educational administration at Michigan State University. Faculty in the natural and physical sciences and in engineering have more avenues to win grant money than their peers in the humanities and social sciences. Access to grants can insulate professors from budget cuts and talk of program closures.
"Market forces are so powerful in higher education," Mr. Baldwin said, "that we're seeing the same kind of stratification in higher education that we're seeing in the larger society."

Friday, October 12, 2012

Unlawful Provisions of the PSU Unearned Sick Leave Advance Policy to be Removed

In 2009 Human Resources changed the PSU policy on access to faculty unearned sick leave advance bank to require faculty members who voluntarily purchased Short term disability (STD) to exhaust that disability, and then exhaust Long term Disability (LTD), before being eligible to access the statutory Unearned Sick Leave advance bank. They did not notify PSU-AAUP of the policy change as required by law and the CBA, and we only learned of it when a very sick faculty member was harmed by the policy in 2011.

The policy has been problematic and harmful in a number of ways:

  •   It unfairly discriminated against faculty members who paid for voluntary benefits for a statutory benefit that had no such provision. This made the policy unlawful.
  • It created a separate and distinct threshold and unlawful delay in access to the unearned sick leave advance benefit in that employees had to apply to an insurance company for STD benefits first. The application process for STD can take weeks, and the threshold is much higher and requires medical certification which is not required for use of unearned sick leave advance. During the time that the employee waited for approval of STD they would lapse into unpaid status even if they had an unearned sick leave advance balance. This, too, was unlawful.
  • It effectively removed a statutory financial obligation to faculty unilaterally across the bargaining unit without bargaining

Phil Lesch met with Carol Mack and David Reese, PSU Chief Counsel about the matter on two occasions in late 2011 and early 2012 and they jointly decided to wait until Shana Seachrist assumed the Associate Vice President of HR position to seek the policy change. Phil Lesch met with Shana in August soon after she started about the matter. She followed up with PSU-AAUP today with notice that the unlawful provision- the requirement to use STD and LTD first before using the unearned sick leave advance- would be removed from the policy immediately. It would not require the formal policy revision process.

This was a great victory, one for which we should all be grateful… especially those faculty members who get ill and will now have seamless access to the unearned sick leave advance bank as intended in the OAR.

OUS HW committee proposes changes to PEBB

Senate Bill 242 created an opportunity for OUS to look at alternatives to PEBB. David Hansen, SBA and Phil Lesch, PSU-AAUP Executive Director were voting members of the committee that worked for over one year with health benefits consultant Gallagher Benefit Services to evaluate PEBB and our benefit programs. The committee's final draft report recommends sweeping changes to the purchase and management of health care benefits for the 13,500 OUS employees in the 2012 $206,000,000 program.

Draft Version of the Report is here.

Information Session About Report

Monday October 20 in the Vanport Room in Smith 

10am to 1130am                    and                 1230 to 200pm

Committee Recommendations:

Although committee members’ perspectives varied on some specific health insurance issues, they

• That there is interest in changing OUS’ participation in PEBB, but not complete agreement to
separate from PEBB at this time;

• OUS’ representation in decision-making needs to be strengthened at PEBB both with the Board
and at operations levels, but if that is unachievable to meet member needs, OUS separation
from PEBB would be necessary;

• A benefits contribution structure based on actuarially determined price tiers or converted to
single defined contribution amount would not be endorsed by all members;

• OUS’ long-standing subsidization of the insurance pool should be reduced based on OUS’ costs
and contribution rates for better control of benefits costs that relate to student tuition for
Oregonians; and

• Special needs such as adequacy of out-of-area coverage need to be further addressed for OUS


Improving health insurance access, information, and services for OUS employees emerged as an early recommendation of the committee. As financial analyses were completed, consideration broadened to include cost control methods, the impact of benefits costs on student tuition and total compensation, and how to ensure that the greatest possible value is received for each dollar spent on health insurance.

Although the committee was not charged to evaluate OUS’ role in the overall healthcare transformation taking place in Oregon, its influence was recognized by the committee and factored into the recommendations. There is concern among committee members that leaving PEBB would not be supported by the governor. However, except for the governor’s strong support for keeping OUS and state employees together during the health care transformation, some committee members feel responsible to look for other alternatives. Others hold the view that OUS should not opt out because of impact on total health care strategies that are yet to be realized. The general agreement to stay in PEBB if sufficient progress is made to recognize and address OUS’ needs acknowledges the governor’s agenda and goals for healthcare reform.

Although the committee expressed different opinions about the advisability of establishing an alternate OUS health insurance program versus staying with PEBB, there was strong agreement that a benefits council or labor-management work group should be formed to carry forward the committee’s

Recommendation #1. Establishment of an OUS Benefits Council /PEBB Work group

The committee’s first recommendation is to seek formal representation and authority for an OUS
benefits council or labor-management work group responsible to implement the committee’s current
Value for Cost recommendations, and on an ongoing basis, directly and regularly advocate on behalf of university employees’ within PEBB. Member qualifications and terms, scope, authority, and governance would be incorporated into a formal charge and charter. This benefits council would have considerable autonomy in dispute resolution and campus benefit administration for OUS. It would report activities and updates as regular report item of PEBB board meetings; and would be in regular communication with PEBB staff. In order to improve communications and to begin to address the issues contained in Recommendation #2, the committee recommends the establishment of a labor-management benefits council that would have the ability to interact with PEBB with the requisite authority, through either the legislative or executive branch, to redress OUS’ issues.

Recommendation #2. Establishment of an OUS Benefits Council /PEBB Work group

The following changes are proposed to mutually benefit OUS and PEBB. Without these changes, the
likelihood of PEBB providing value commensurate with the cost of OUS’ participation is slim. The
substantive changes OUS is seeking include, but may not be limited to the following:

A Replacing PEBB’s Health Engagement Model (HEM) with an alternative employee engagement
model is a priority for OUS. The university system can address health improvement for its
employees provided that we have health status information specific to university system
employees rather than the entire PEBB population. The 2010 and 2011 claims data illustrates
significant differences, from which it can be reasonably assumed that emphasis is needed on
different patterns of health status than PEBB uses for the general population.

OUS proposes to establish its own member engagement and advocacy program. A contracted
health advocacy service would be hired to:

• Receive utilization data and provide direct claims analysis to identify OUS- specific health
improvement needs and progress;

• To replace HEM and PEBB communications for OUS employees with the understanding that
employee engagement is the responsibility and goal of OUS as an employer interested in the
health, welfare and overall employee relations with the people who are critical to the goals
and mission of the public university system. In 2011, both the implementation and
substance of PEBB’s HEM undershot any goal to create employee engagement, and OUS’
2012 Employee Benefits Survey showed PEBB and its administrators to be runners up in providing benefits and health information. Employees expressed a clear preference for
information from their health care providers and campus benefits offices.

• To improve OUS member assistance in provider selection; understanding fees and cost of
provider services, and to access information sufficient for informed health care
consumerism; and

• To assist OUS employees in navigating the PEBB health insurance program, OUS proposes that this contract and services would be funded by PEBB as a value proposition to OUS, compensating the provider(s) selected through a formal RFP process that may include PEBB representation. PEBB would authorize and facilitate direct claims reporting to the advocacy program provider(s), following HIPAA guidelines and limitations, for the entire OUS population to the employee advocacy service to support OUS- specific wellness and health improvement plans and communications applicable to the public universities’ population and health improvement needs.

B. Contribution Rates. OUS needs the ability to establish a unique composite rate based on its
own employee costs to support competitiveness in higher education employment and
recruitment. OUS additionally proposes that PEBB adopt a consumer-directed health plan
(CDHP) option for use by university system employees for whom OUS would provide health
savings and/or health reimbursement accounts.

C. Worldwide Coverage. Blanket approval is requested for OUS to contract for other health
coverage under ORS 243.215xiii for rural, national and international coverage, with PEBB funding
offsets sufficient to provide benefits equal to the cost of the current third party administrator’s
out-of-area-network providers. The intent is to eliminate the current post hoc reimbursement of
employee-paid charges incurred when they travel to or are assigned outside the local PEBB
provider network. History supports this model: In 2000 PEBB engaged Regence Blue Cross/Blue
Shield to provide a travel plan that employees could transfer into when traveling to give them
“Blue Card” recognition and coverage. The mid-year plan change was effective until the next
open enrollment period.

D. Enrollment and Payment Management Systems. Improve and update PEBB enrollment/payment
processes to more closely operate as OUS would otherwise contract with a third party
administrator for full enrollment management and payment services. The PEBBdotBENEFITS
(PDB) system was designed for DAS’ HRIS (PPDB) and the Oregon State Payroll System (OSPS)
and is not adequately inter-operable with OUS’ Banner FIS/HRIS. PDB requires extensive manual
processing, and does not transmit or reconcile vendor payments. The design of PDB creates
operational and accuracy problems that would not be accepted from a third party administrator.
For OUS, the PDB system is a workload-intense bottleneck that should be redesigned or
replaced. The university system has conducted a preliminary study of an alternative to PDB, and
has determined that OUS systems and redeployed staffing resources are sufficient to manage
online enrollment, reporting, and payments without the complications created by PEBB’s system.

E. Dedicated PEBB staff for OUS. Increase PEBB staffing and dedicate that staffing to OUS in a
segregated service group to improve responsiveness to employer requests; to absorb their new
workload associated with overall health care transformation; and to improve quality control to
reduce data and report errors. PEBB should assign at least one internal staff member dedicated
to the Oregon University System and available to university benefits and payroll officers, events
such as campus meetings and benefit fairs, ombudsman services for members, and coordination
with OUS’ benefits council for health and welfare plans.

F. Practice and Policy Changes. Other desired improvements in services to the university system
were identified in the course of the committee’s work, including:

• Pharmacy. Direct third party administrators, insurers, and providers to override pharmacy
maximum fill quantities for OUS employees who are travelling or relocating out of the
country to perform university system work. OUS employees encounter difficulty in refilling
maintenance medications in locations where mail delivery and pharmacies are unreliably

• Flexible Spending Accounts. Reimburse all forfeited Flexible Spending Accounts monies
(dependent and health care qualifying expenses) to OUS retroactive to January 1, 2012, as a
credit against the vendor’s administration fees. Administrative fees were passed from PEBB
to OUS in 2012 without any offsetting forfeiture account balances that PEBB retains.

• Tele- health Expansion. Develop telephonic or online tele- health services for employees
working in or travelling to rural counties and national/international localities for OUS
employees. The Providence Health eXpress online service, or similar type program of PEBB’s
third party administrator, should be provided in La Grande and Klamath Falls, where rural
access to providers requires time loss and cost for travel, and where the Rural Subsidy cost
support was revoked in 2011.

• Fitness Incentive. Subsidize employees’ use of university recreation centers, based on
university-reported utilization of three or more sessions per week, up to the cost incentive
provided for participation in Weight Watchers. Use of university fitness centers and other
wellness programs were noted by nearly 10% of participants who provided comments to the
2012 Employee Benefits Survey, indicating an area where PEBB and OUS could be successful
in health status improvements and maintenance that are based on employee interest and input.

Recommendation #3: Normalize OUS Costs and Contribution Rates

OUS’ longstanding subsidization of the PEBB insurance pool should be reduced based on OUS’ costs and contribution rates for better control of benefit costs. With reduced state funding the majority of these costs are now being borne by tuition, thus impacting affordability and the achievement of the statewide educational goals contained in ORS 351.009.

Questions? Come to the Vanport Room on Monday October 22 10-1130 or 1230-200.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Brad Avakian for labor commissioner: editorial endorsement |

PSU-AAUP Executive Council and Oregonian Agree: Brad Avakian should remain Labor Commissioner

avakian.jpgView full sizeBrad Avakian, Oregon labor commissioner.
After this year's campaign for commissioner of labor and industries, few people will use "Brad Avakian" and "decorum" in the same sentence. But at least Avakian's running a vigorous campaign, which is more than can be said of challenger Bruce Starr, whose effort to unseat Avakian has been perfunctory, at best. For that reason, and because Avakian has performed competently in a position to which he's well suited, voters should return him to office. 

As commissioner, Avakian oversees a department that enforces civil rights and workplace laws and teaches employers how to comply with them. The position also provides a minor bully pulpit and the opportunity to pursue targeted legislation. Avakian, to his credit, has pushed successfully to boost funding for high school vocational programs and intends to encourage lawmakers to contribute further during the 2013 session. 

Gov. Ted Kulongoski appointed Avakian to the position in 2008, when Dan Gardner jumped ship to work for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Washington, D.C. As a civil rights lawyer and a veteran of both the House and Senate, Avakian was clearly well qualified for the job and attracted only token opposition when he stood for election later in 2008. 

That's different this time. Starr, a Washington County Republican, has served in the Legislature for well over a decade, first as a member of the House and now as a member of the Senate, to which he'll return if he loses next month. 

Races for labor commissioner often pit businesses against labor groups, and this one's no different. Avakian's collection of supporters includes a large number of unions, and Starr's includes a number of business groups and chambers of commerce. It's no surprise that businesses would be more comfortable with Starr, the former owner of a small construction company. But their discomfort with Avakian is not great. He's more inclined than they'd prefer to seek more stringent workplace regulations, we're told, but he's someone businesses can talk to. And he's a heck of a lot better than Gardner. 

As for Starr, well, suffice it to say it takes more to win statewide office than a collection of business and chamber endorsements and a reputation as a smart and thoughtful lawmaker. It's also necessary to make a compelling case not only for your own candidacy, but also, in this instance, for bouncing an incumbent who's performed competently. In his interview with The Oregonian editorial board, Starr did not. We wonder how much he really wants the job and how energetically he'd perform it if he won. 

Avakian's campaign, in fact, made the best case for supporting Starr when it challenged him via email to repudiate a plank in the Republican Party platform that "calls for an absolute ban on abortion, with no exceptions in cases of rape, incest or where the life of the mother is threatened." Such wing-nut policy fantasies have absolutely nothing to do with the function of the Bureau of Labor and Industries, yet Avakian stood behind the email and even doubled-up on its offensiveness. Because Starr is pro-life, he suggested to us, he might be less inclined to defend the civil rights of women. 

The episode was an attempt by the Avakian campaign to remind voters who the Democrat is in this nonpartisan race. We get it. Still, this could have been done without stooping to such a cheap shot. 

If Oregonians were electing someone to ensure appropriate conduct on the campaign trail, they'd do well to avoid people who insinuate that their opponents are misogynists. Because they're electing someone to ensure appropriate conduct in the workplace and in public accommodations, however, they should stick with Avakian. He knows the job and performs it competently, and his opponent appears to be mailing it in. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Advocacy Group Pushes for Paid Sick Leave

The Lund Report
Right now Family Forward Oregon has not decided whether to push for legislation or propose a city ordinance in Portland
Christen McCurdy
September 27, 2012 -- A campaign to ensure that all workers in Portland earn paid sick time – inspired by similar campaigns in San Francisco and Seattle – is just getting its footing, with advocates still discussing how they plan to proceed.
Lisa Frack, communications director for Family Forward Oregon, a group pushing for more family-friendly policies in the workplace, said her group is reaching out to small businesses, unions and other groups to hammer out a strategy as well as raise awareness about the issue.
Forty percent of private-sector workers in Oregon don't get any paid time off, with that number skewing much higher (as much as 80 percent) among lower income brackets. What's more, Frack said, the workers least likely to have paid sick time usually work in restaurants or healthcare facilities.
“The service industry is the one where people have the most contact with the public, and you kind of want them to stay home [when they are sick],” Frack said, but most just can't afford to take any time away from their jobs. In addition, many service-industry employers will only offer sick leave after an employee has taken three unpaid days off.
Frack said it's not uncommon for politicians to be unaware of this problem. While most people who work in the service industry are well aware of the difficulties involved in getting time off work to recover from an illness, elected officials are sometimes flabbergasted at the percentage of people who don't get any sick time.
The Everybody Benefits Oregon campaign is part of a broad coalition of small business owners and advocates (including the Main Street Alliance), labor unions (including the Service Employees International Union and the Oregon Nurses Association) and parent groups advocating for change.
Right now, Frack said, organizers are still determining what shape any proposed changes should take – for instance, whether it makes more sense to propose a city ordinance in Portland at first, or introduce legislation at the state level.
A separate campaign, led by the Industrial Workers of the World's Food & Retail Workers division, is pushing for paid sick days, too, and is holding a rally October 6 at Holladay Park near Lloyd Center.
Known as the Paid Sick Days Now Campaign, it’s building a grassroots movement of workers and community allies to demand that employers provide paid sick days for full-time, part-time and temporary workers -- without waiting for legislation to get passed.
“I think their ask is more focused on employers,” Frack said. “Our sense is, there are employers who are doing this. What's worked in other places is this baseline requirement.”
Seattle's paid sick leave ordinance went into effect earlier this month, while San Francisco has required that all workers have the ability to earn paid leave since 2007. Since then, most people used an average of three sick days a year (fewer than what was mandated by the law), employer profitability has not been impacted, and parents with children who have contagious diseases have taken sick leave rather than send their children to school, according to a report published by the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Women's Policy Research.
“If more people can go to the doctor, that's great,” Frack said, referring to the Affordable Care Act, which will expand insurance to low-income people. “But if you can't take time off to go to the doctor, that's not so great.”
For more information about the October 6 rally demanding that employers provide paid sick days, click here

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

PSU not on list, again, of the Chronicle's "Great Colleges to Work For"

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Portland State University is not, again, on the Chronicle of Higher Education's "Great Colleges to Work for" list. Click the link to see who is. Read the article and weep about what those colleges have for faculty that we do not.

Romney’s America Doesn’t Need Public Colleges- Christopher Newfield

The Chronicle of Higher Education

September 25, 2012, 1:00 pm
A Romney presidency would pose an obvious hardship for the country’s public colleges and universities. Romney and Ryan, austerity candidates, make no secret of their desire for further cuts in public spending (with no exemption for higher education). But Romney’s now-famous “47-percent comment” highlights the danger ahead for the private revenues that public-college leaders have counted on to replace shrinking public support.
The biggest private revenue stream is, of course, tuition. Public colleges are now running into national political opposition for their tendency to raise fees at somewhere between two and four times the Consumer Price Index. Given the extraordinary debt bubble those price increases have created, they are also up against the limits of students’ ability to pay.
This means a renewed fixation on philanthropy, which in turn means pursuing “game changing” gifts in the eight-figure range. Public colleges are increasingly in the business of asking for money in salons and ballrooms much like the one in which Romney was secretly recorded during a fund-raising talk to the 0.01 percent who paid $50,000 a plate to be in the room with him. These are the only people with the means to really move the needle for a college fund-raising operation.
What the 0.01 percent heard was a Romney bootstraps story in which college played no part: “Without a college degree, [my dad] became head of a big car company and ultimately a governor.” His father-in-law, he continued, was the son of a Welsh coal miner, and his higher education was limited to the General Motors Institute of Technology; his defining moment was when he “started a little company,” as opposed to staying in wage work at GM. Both sides of the Romney family are distinguished in this story by their spirit of enterprise rather than by their education.
When Romney does grant the need for knowledge workers, he describes them as an import from other countries: “I’d like to staple a green card to every Ph.D. in the world and say, ‘Come to America, we want you here.’” The business advantage is that every foreign brainworker’s education is supported by taxpayers in India, Taiwan, Singapore, Spain, Ireland, Mexico, and so on, which means that their skills come free to their American employers. A Romney economy that gets most of its STEM knowledge from abroad has proportionately less need for a large-scale system of colleges at home.
This not-so-good news for American colleges is as close as Romney comes to conceding the value of labor. Paul Krugman has pointed out that disdain for regular work is not a Ryan-like extremism but a now-mainstream conservative idea: “The modern Republican Party just doesn’t have much respect for people who work for other people, no matter how faithfully and well they do their jobs.” And indeed, in his talk Romney transitions directly from wanting to import Ph.D. immigrants to mocking their blue-collar counterparts, whom he defines as people of “no skill or experience” and who in Obama’s America are “welcome to cross the border and stay here for the rest of [their lives].”
Public-college leaders have to hope that a Romney administration would agree with them on the value of translating “unskilled” to skilled labor through some kind of college. But for Romney to care about large quantities of public-college and public-university graduates, he would have to see them as makers not takers; that is, as people who produce surplus capital in quantities large enough to be taken seriously by Romney and his Wall Street backers.
In fact, Romney sees only two sources of wealth creation. One is exploited, captive factory labor, Chinese-style, which Romney describes at length in Germinal terms, though without Émile Zola’s revulsion for the servitude and the desperation. Outsourced mass labor is, of course, a core strategy in the modern American economy, with Apple being only the most famous company to demonstrate how it can be used to make enormous profits.
The other source of wealth is capital, deployed by entrepreneurs. The centerpiece of Romney’s economic strategy is further cuts in income- and corporate-tax rates combined with “keeping current low tax rates on dividends and capital gains.” Growth follows automatically from liberating capital from any but the most minimal obligation to support the society in which it operates, including support for the formation and maintenance of labor.
The point for Romney is that his categorical opposition to taxing capital means that, as a result of his election, “the markets will be happy” and “we’ll see capital come back.”
Romney unthinkingly rejects the economic function of the middle-class workers who are by far the most important economic product of public colleges. Their growth was predicated on the belief among leading postwar educators and policy makers that American affluence had come to depend on the strength of its “knowledge industries.”
As the then president of the University of California, Clark Kerr, put it in his influential 1963 book The Uses of the University, “the university is at the center of the knowledge process”—both because it creates economically valuable knowledge through its research and because it provides “more and more people raised to higher and higher levels of skill.”
Mass quality for the white- and pink-collar work force was the essential economic contribution of the postwar college. Educational quality scaled up only because of the public funds that built the public college.
In contrast, Romney is typical of a contemporary business and political class that sees capitalism, in David Brooks’s choice phrase, as “an inherently elitist enterprise.” As such, the last thing it needs is a highly skilled mass middle class, which is a drain on profits.
What elitist capitalism wants is first, entrepreneurs—think the still-influential Joseph A. Schumpeter, not the easily lampooned Ayn Rand—who must be freed from the need to support the mediocre majority if they are to receive the appropriate incentive of monarchal wealth—and last, mass labor stripped of unions, environmental regulations, and the other cost-bearing preconditions of middle-class life.
Romney’s 0.01 percent will indeed give generously to elite institutions that produce excellent skills in small numbers—Stanford Business School, Harvard Law, and so on. This has nothing to do with high-quality colleges on a large scale. To the public-college leaders who want to dislodge huge gifts for their institutions from Romney-style capitalists, I say, good luck. Their future simply doesn’t need public colleges.
Christopher Newfield is a professor of English at the University of California at Santa Barbara and the author of Unmaking the Public University: The Forty-Year Assault on the Middle Class (Harvard University Press, 2008).

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Update on Changes to Student Conduct Code; PSU-AAUP stops change to appeal timeline

As previously reported we provided comments on many sections of the policy. We just learned that a faculty member's ability to appeal the outcome of the student conduct code hearing will not be impinged by a shorter appeal deadline. At PSU-AAUP's request, PSU has agreed to retract their proposal to reduce the appeal deadline for findings of the student conduct code hearing from 10 days to 5 days. The appeal timeline will remain 10 days.

This was the only piece of the revision that fell within the mandatory scope of bargaining. We did, however, comment on other sections. The new policy has not yet been released, but we look forward to seeing if any of our comments led to other changes.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Adam Falk: In Defense of the Living, Breathing Professor
August 29, 2012

As classes resume on our nation's campuses, amid anxiety about high tuition, student debt and other concerns, it's worth examining what we value in college education. The question warrants consideration, in particular, following a recent recommendation by distinguished economists, appointed by the National Academy of Sciences, proposing to define the "output" of higher education as a combination of credit hours awarded and degrees earned.
That reduces the work of colleges to counting how many students they push through the system—a bit like defining a movie studio's output as the number of feet of raw footage shot, with no consideration of whether the resulting movies are any good.
Most of us in higher education take the long view about the value of what we do. Sure, students graduate with plenty of facts in their heads. But the transmission of information is merely the starting point, a critical tool through which we engage the higher faculties of the mind.
What really matters is the set of deeper abilities—to write effectively, argue persuasively, solve problems creatively, adapt and learn independently—that students develop while in college and use for the rest of their lives.
At Williams College, where I work, we've analyzed which educational inputs best predict progress in these deeper aspects of student learning. The answer is unambiguous: By far, the factor that correlates most highly with gains in these skills is the amount of personal contact a student has with professors. Not virtual contact, but interaction with real, live human beings, whether in the classroom, or in faculty offices, or in the dining halls. Nothing else—not the details of the curriculum, not the choice of major, not the student's GPA—predicts self-reported gains in these critical capacities nearly as well as how much time a student spent with professors.
What follows from this finding is obvious, but apparently in need of saying these days: What we do is expensive—and worth it—because these rich, human interactions can't be replaced by any magical application of technology.
Technology has and will continue to improve how we teach. But what it cannot do is remove human beings from the equation. Coursera, one of the new purveyors of massive, open online courses, proposes to crowd-source the grading of essays, as if averaging letter grades assigned by five random peers were the educational equivalent of a highly trained professor providing thoughtful evaluation and detailed response. To pretend that this is so is to deny the most significant purposes of education, and to forfeit its true value.
It follows that standard economic models that define productivity as total output per unit of labor are ill-suited to analyzing the activities of colleges. Understandable concerns about the cost of college have spawned a spate of high-stakes considerations of productivity; in Texas, "low-productivity" programs at flagship universities have been targeted for elimination. Yet the only way to achieve higher productivity, as the National Academy would define it, is to reduce each student's time with the faculty. We know that while such approaches may allow us to deliver some facts to some students more efficiently in the short run, the approaches will undermine the fundamental purpose of education in the long run.
Equally misguided is the common practice of judging a school's success by measuring the net worth of its alumni. Is a Williams graduate who is teaching elementary school less successful, less influential, less transformed than she would be if she had become a banker? There's no reason to think so, and anyone assessing colleges or setting public policy on that assumption is being mischievous.
Education is not a commodity. It's a social process, and its value, including its economic value, both to the graduate and to society is unquestionable. It is equally true that this value cannot be reduced to a single number, however much the measurers of productivity—or those who rank us in magazines—may wish it otherwise.
Mr. Falk is president of and professor of physics at Williams College.