Hello TT Faculty members,
The parties engaged in a mediated bargaining session assisted by Federal Mediator Brittney Howard on March 11, 2019. At this session, the administration presented formal proposals for the three outstanding Articles: Article XII (Salary), Article XIII (Medical Benefits), and Article XIV (Other Benefits). AAUP-KSU provided a counter-proposal on Article XIV.
Articles XII (Salary) and XIII (Medical Benefits):
The administration provided formal proposals reflecting the bullet-point “proposal” they presented at our last mediated bargaining session on January 23rd. Since these proposals did not reflect any actual movement on the part of the administration on either article, AAUP-KSU is unclear why the formal proposals couldn’t have been forwarded to us much earlier.
Much of the rationale the administration provided at this bargaining session for their proposals on Articles XII and XIII related to the salary and medical benefits offered to un-represented employees this year. AAUP-KSU remains concerned that the administration’s suggestion that Faculty simply accept the salary and benefits packages imposed on un-represented employees undermines our right to collectively bargain. We are also deeply disappointed that those responsible for developing the administration’s proposals seem to fail to understand that faculty are not mere employees; we are the very heart of the University. If Kent State hopes to recruit and retain a world class faculty, it needs to provide world class salary and benefits packages to its faculty. Although the upper administration frequently says that it respects the important role that faculty play in enacting the academic mission of the University, they have yet to propose a salary and benefits package that actually demonstrates that respect.
AAUP-KSU had previously responded to the administration’s bullet-point proposal on January 23rd. As such, AAUP-KSU’s proposals on these two articles remain the most recent proposals provided by either party. Details of the parties’ respective positions on these two articles are included in our bargaining update of March 2nd, 2019.
Article XIV (Other Benefits):
The administration finally provided a counter-proposal to our proposal of September 19, 2018 on Article XIV. Previously, there had been three economic issues in dispute in this article as well as a number of non-economic issues. The three economic issues were as follows: (i) AAUP-KSU was proposing an increase in the life insurance benefit provided to Faculty by the University, (ii) AAUP-KSU was proposing that access to the Wellness Center be free of charge for Faculty and their eligible dependents, and (iii) the administration was proposing increases in what Kent Campus Faculty would pay for parking in each of the three years of the contract. In the administration’s proposal of March 11th, they essentially proposed trading off these economic issues: maintaining current language on life insurance benefits and access to the Wellness center, but freezing the cost of parking for the three years of the new contract.
The administration’s proposal did not accept any of the non-economic aspects of AAUP-KSU’s proposal nor did it accept any of the non-substantive, purely housekeeping changes AAUP-KSU had proposed. In fact, it did not appear that the administration had taken a careful look at our previous proposal in developing their counter-proposal. (This has been a recurring problem in these negotiations.)
AAUP-KSU immediately provided a counter-proposal on Article XIV. In it, we essentially accepted the administration’s position on the three economic issues while remaining committed to the non-economic aspects of our prior proposal. These include ensuring that Faculty who submit absence from campus forms receive an administrative response in a timely fashion and clarifying that the language concerning early retirement would also apply to other early separation initiatives such as the recent UESP. The former is a more than reasonable proposal given that, currently, Faculty rarely receive any official notification of whether their request for leave has been approved or denied. The latter does not require anything of the University and would provide the University with greater flexibility in designing and implementing early separation plans.
After meeting with the administration to once again explain our rationale for the non-economic aspects of our proposal, we had hoped that the parties would be able to sign a tentative agreement on this article at our next bargaining session. However, the administration suggested that their proposal to freeze the cost of parking was part of a “package deal” on the three economic articles and that they might be forced to retract this part of their proposal if they were to move at all on salary and medical benefits. AAUP-KSU was deeply disappointed by this stance and hopes that the administration will consider signing a tentative agreement on this article at our next session. It should be noted that the revenue generated by Parking Services exceeded its expenses by over $1.7 million in fiscal year 2018.
Next steps in the process:
The mediated bargaining session previously scheduled for March 13th has been postponed until March 26th to allow the administration time to contemplate its next move. Unlike AAUP-KSU’s team, those representing the administration at the table are not empowered to make decisions about what to propose. As a result, the administration is much less nimble than AAUP-KSU. This has been a recurring challenge, not only in these negotiations, but also in past negotiations.
The fact-finding hearing is scheduled for April 22nd before Mr. Barton Bixenstine. Prior to the hearing, the parties will each submit a position statement to Mr. Bixenstine. At the hearing, each side will present evidence supporting its position. Mr. Bixenstine will consider the evidence presented and issue a report outlining his non-binding proposal for a fair settlement on the outstanding issues. AAUP-KSU will then conduct a vote of our dues paying membership on whether or not to accept the fact-finder’s report. At the same time, the Board of Trustees will vote on the fact-finder’s report. If both parties accept the fact-finder’s report, it (along with the previously agreed upon provisions) becomes the basis of the new contract. If either party rejects the fact-finder’s report, the administration has the right to simply impose its “last, best, final offer.” If that happens, AAUP-KSU has only two options: simply accept the administration’s imposed contract or call a strike. (See Frequently Asked Questions about Strike Authorization and What Happens During a Strike?)
Deborah C. Smith
Chief Negotiator, AAUP-KSU Tenured & Tenure Track Unit