Outside lawyers won't come to the table this round of faculty bargaining

The UO’s use of non-university lawyers in fall negotiations with the Graduate Teaching Fellows was controversial.

GTF advocates vilified the university’s use of what they called a “union-busting” lawyer at the bargaining table. Physical education instructor Karen Creighton summed up what many were saying in a tense University Senate on Nov. 19. Creighton attended bargaining sessions and said the way the lawyers spoke to GTF bargainers was “insulting.”

“We were appalled,” Creighton said. “We couldn’t believe it.”

A day before the strike happened, the Emerald published a letter to the editor calling out the university and its outside lawyer Jeffrey Matthews for arguing unethically and treating the GTF bargaining team with “condescension, dismissal, and disrespect.” The letter was signed by 55 instructors in the UO Composition Program who teach ethical argumentation.

The GTFs complained that using outside lawyers robbed them of the chance to work with people who knew them and the university culture.

“That was a mistake,” said Michael Dreiling, president of the faculty union. “They made the same mistake with us.”

No lawyers at the table in faculty bargaining

In 2012, when the university first bargained with faculty through United Academics, the lawyers they brought in “did nothing to help our relationship with administration,” Dreiling said.

Now, the university is going to the bargaining table again with the faculty union and, for now, they aren’t bringing in outside lawyers. That’s not a result of anything in the past, the administration said.

“That is not in any way, shape or form an assertion about any past practice,” Klinger said in a voicemail. “The two are not at all related.”

Instead, the university is employing a team led by Bill Brady, new senior director of employee and labor relations at UO.

Brady is trained as an attorney and has worked on both sides of the table: for the Minnesota higher education system and for workers in building trades–painters, sheet metal workers, plumbers.

Though Brady is new to the campus, since his arrival he’s begun building relationships with the deans, a tactic he thinks is key to success.

Why do faculty and administration fight?

UO has a bad national reputation for being a university where staff and faculty don’t get along, Chair of the Board of Trustees Chuck Lillis said at the same meeting where Creighton talked about the bargaining lawyers’ behavior.

Dreiling believes it has taken the university two decades to reach that point, and it started when the state cut funds for higher education. The administration had to make cuts, and faculty felt they weren’t being paid fairly, Dreiling said.

Oregon now has the 47th-lowest funding in the nation for higher education.

Both sides seem to be all for moving beyond past conflicts. According to Dreiling, that means figuring out how both sides can work together when funds are scarce and the state isn’t helping out.

“Let’s solve some problems together,” Dreiling said. “We recognize this history, we recognize that the University of Oregon is at risk of falling in its stature as a major public research university.”

Brady and administration agree.


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