Congratulations! As you know, the Employment Relations Board has certified our union at the University of Oregon. What you are reading now is the inaugural issue of the United Academics newsletter.
The newsletter will provide a regular update on what’s happening on our campus and across the many unionized campuses in the US. Updates from other universities in the process of organizing will also be included. Important issues that need your input will be posted here, along with ways to stay informed and get more involved.
In this issue, you’ll notice an emphasis on next steps. Becoming certified was the result of years of effort, but of course, now the real work begins: Building our union and negotiating our first contract.
Have ideas for questions you’d like answered or features you’d like to see in future newsletters? Feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our newsletter editor is Tina Boscha, an Instructor of Composition and an active member of the United Academics Organizing Committee.
Majority Confirmed by Oregon Employment Relations Board
During the 2012 winter term at the University of Oregon, hundreds of us — faculty members at the UO — engaged with our colleagues to collect nearly 1200 union authorization cards. These cards were turned in to the Oregon Employment Relations Board (ERB) on March 13. Our petition to the ERB requested certification of a union to include tenure-related faculty, non-tenure-track faculty and research faculty; in addition to the overall majority, we turned in a majority of cards in each of those classifications.
Following substantial challenges to the bargaining unit (which were later withdrawn), on April 25 the UO administration submitted to the ERB a final “Excelsior” list of 1837 faculty in the bargaining unit. The ERB then verified our cards and issued our certification on April 27. Excluded from the union are department heads, faculty members who currently have supervisory authority (as defined by the ERB), and administrators such as deans and provosts.
With the UO Excelsior list finalized, we are now able to report that a total of 1119 of the 1837 faculty members on that list signed authorization cards. This means that 61% of our colleagues included in the bargaining unit signed cards. By faculty classification, 58% of tenure-related faculty signed cards, as did 68% of non-tenure-track faculty and 53% of officers of research.
With support for our union clear and verified and United Academics now certified, we look forward to working with all of our colleagues to build a better, stronger University of Oregon.
Building a Strong Union and Preparing for Contract Bargaining
Now that our faculty union has been certified by the state Employment Relations Board, United Academics is preparing to sit down with the administration and negotiate our first collective bargaining agreement. This will be a complex and demanding process, and one that will require a great amount of planning and research. So, where do we begin?
First, in order to generate a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that reflects the wishes of the faculty, the Organizing Committee of United Academics is working to find out what our colleagues want to see in their contract. To do this, faculty members have begun holding forums in departments around campus in which all members of the bargaining unit, including those who did not support the formation of a union, have an opportunity to express their ideas for a future contract. A few of these forums have taken place already, and many more will be held in the near future. Everyone is strongly encouraged to attend. In addition, the Organizing Committee will soon distribute a collective bargaining survey specifically designed to identify faculty concerns. This survey will be more detailed than the preliminary survey that many colleagues filled out several weeks ago, and it will enable individual faculty members to provide input for the proposals that will be pursued in negotiations for the collective bargaining agreement.
Second, and concurrently with these meetings and the survey, the United Academics Organizing Committee is working on creating an inclusive and representative structure for faculty involvement in the work of our first contract negotiations. This will include workgroups that meet during the summer to research various options for particular aspects of the CBA, such as healthcare benefits, salaries, working conditions, and so on. In due course, these working groups will generate more specific proposals for the CBA. We’ll provide more information on this structure very soon. If you are interested in participating in this research and in the development of contract language, please contact an Organizing Committee member in your department or email email@example.com.
Finally, we are beginning the work of building our union’s internal structure and organization. When faculty return for the fall term, we will begin a United Academics membership drive: the cards signed in the winter only registered support for the formation of a collective bargaining unit, but did not commit anyone to active membership in it. Joining the union is not mandatory for those in the bargaining unit, but those who choose to join the union will be eligible to vote on key decisions, such as a constitution and bylaws, election of officers, the dues structure, and ratification of the contract that is negotiated.
We have many things to do, and our greatest assets are the talented and dedicated people in our bargaining unit. If you want to be more involved in building an effective faculty union that can strengthen our university, contact the United Academics office at 541.636.4714 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bargaining for a Better Workplace
When many people hear “union contract,” they tend to think of negotiating for better wages and benefits. While these are clearly important goals, UO faculty can negotiate about many aspects of our work lives. This is the time for us to think boldly, creatively and ambitiously about making the UO both a thriving university and a great place to work.
We’re not limited to what’s been accomplished at other campuses, but looking at other faculty union contracts is a place to start. For example, both Penn State and York University (Canada) negotiated course release for supervising a certain number of MA and PhD students. Their contracts clearly recognize how much work this supervision truly entails, and they create an incentive to provide higher quality mentoring of graduate students. Penn State’s contract caps how many student teachers one faculty member in the Education Program should supervise, with additional pay required for supervision above that total.
The University of Toronto, Eastern Michigan University, Penn State, and The University of Massachusetts – Amherst all negotiated for an option of half-year sabbatical at full pay. Because the UO has NO option of shortened sabbatical at 100% pay, faculty sometimes are forced to skip sabbatical they have earned, because they can’t afford the pay cut.
At the New School for Social Research (NYC), the adjuncts’ union recognized that NTTF are often paid “only for teaching,” but are in fact asked to take on many additional responsibilities. The union negotiated pay rates for tasks such as tutoring, curriculum development, advising, and committee service.
What we put in OUR union contract is up to us. Right now –- spring term — faculty have begun holding meetings with their department colleagues to brainstorm about issues that they want to see brought forward in collective bargaining. This will be vital information for our future bargaining team. Please get in touch with us if you would like to organize a meeting with your colleagues — in your department or with any other group of faculty with whom you’d like to get together to provide input.
This newsletter can serve as a venue for sharing bargaining and contract ideas from other universities as well as ideas and information generated from the discussions in UO departments. We hope to inspire each other to seize this opportunity to improve working conditions and the quality of research and education at the UO.