College.bizNews Administrators, faculty union United Academics enter contract negotiations

While students take off time for the holidays, administrators have entered official first contract negotiations with the new faculty union, United Academics, which reportedly represents about 1,800 faculty and was formed on April 27, 2012. The meetings begin a process for how administrators and faculty will settle issues including healthcare, pay and employment.

“The first contract establishes the basis for any future labor agreements with faculty,” wrote Professor Barbara Altmann, vice provost for academic affairs and the official spokesperson for the administrators. “It also clarifies and codifies the University’s faculty employment practices and reinforces our standards of excellence.”

Professor Altmann is supposed to be publishing regular updates on Around the O, a University news service set up by Strategic Communications, but as of this post, there were no updates on Thursday’s meeting.

However, economics Professor Bill Harbaugh is keeping an up-to-date record on his blog, UO Matters. Today’s bargaining began with a dispute over language — a question of who at the table gets to identify as “the University.”

Represented by the lawyer Sharon Rudnik, Johnson Hall wanted to be labelled the “University” during the procedures. The faculty had a problem with that. In the words of Professor Emeritus Frank Stahl, “The faculty and the students are the university. Those administrators are our hired hands — they’re the ones who should be unionizing and negotiating their contracts with us.” Rudnik eventually dropped the request.

According to the pro-faculty blog, the administration had no proposals ready during the meeting, but said they would after winter break. Though many issues — including shared governance, Title IX, contract transparency — were raised, no decisions were made.

For ideas on why faculty unionized in the first place, Professsor Gordon Lafer wrote a piece last February for Eugene Weekly explaining his concerns about University corporatization. This is just the opinion of one UO professor (and a key player in the eventual unionization), but it does touch on a lot of topics near and dear to the faculty.

Bargaining is scheduled for two half-day sessions on Dec. 13 and 14. The negotiations will continue on Friday, Dec. 14 in the Knight Library Collaboration Center room 122 at 1:15 p.m. If you’re bored in Eugene, tomorrow’s meeting is open to all under Oregon’s Open Meeting Law and I’d love to hear tweets about this with a student perspective. More on this Friday.


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