Administrators, faculty union United Academics enter contract negotiations

Posted by Dashiell Paulson on Friday, Dec. 14 at 8:00 am.

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.

  • Kim Sheehan

    A group of concerned faculty are attending and writing about the bargaining meetings also, and we consider ourselves a bit more objective than the admitted biased UO Matters. We welcome everyone to participate in discussions and share thoughts at:

  • UO Matters

    While I have a lot of respect for Kim Sheehan, my UO Matters blog is far more scientifically objective – after all, I am a scientist. My reports of the bargaining sessions are developed from fMRI readings of the administration’s $400 an hour lawyer’s brain. In addition, I sell coffee cups and buttons – a sine qua non for a real blog.

    However, to be safe it’s probably best to read both of these clearly biased blogs, and then think for yourself.

    But you can certainly ignore Johnson Hall’s “Around the O” blog. No information, no opinion, and a big waste of tuition money.

  • Becky Dorsey

    Friday’s notes at UOmatters are pretty good and provide a lot of useful accurate information. By comparison, Thursday’s notes were a “hatchet job” according to one unaffiliated observer (not me). In Thursday’s UOM version, reasonable and respectful remarks from the administration side were omitted, and most remarks by administration were reported in a highly derogatory and negative light (as might be expected), compared to what others recall hearing in the same session. But Friday’s notes are much better, and are appreciated. The more information we can get out there the better. Opinions from all sides are welcome. We need a vigorous broad-based discussion around this process, as it will have a major and long-lived impact on the future of the UO.