Session 20: Getting Ready to Talk About Pay

By Leanne Serbulo, VP for Collective Bargaining

We had a short bargaining session yesterday. At the beginning, we presented a list of data that we’ll need from the administration to process economic issues. We’re going to attempt to use Interest-Based Bargaining to negotiate salary and benefits. Our facilitator has successfully used this process with other educational unions in Oregon, and she assures us that it can work. However, IBB requires full data-sharing and transparency, and these two elements are critical if we are going to use this process to negotiate the economic portions of our contract.

At the top of our data list, we wanted to know if the administrative team was given a set amount of money that they could bargain with (as was the case with our last contract). We learned that apparently no cap has been set yet, but their team plans to have additional conversations with upper administration once they learn our economic “interests” and priorities. We emphasized that if their team is operating with financial constraints, they need to be upfront and honest about it at the table. We hope that in their subsequent conversations with upper administration, their team will be given the flexibility they need to meet faculty and academic professionals’ economic needs.

As we get closer to negotiating economic issues, both sides have decided to invite some economic experts to help us understand PSU budgets and spending priorities. We’ve invited Howard Bunsis, Chair of the AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress, to give a presentation at our January 22 bargaining session about the PSU audited financial statements and budget priorities.

We spent the remainder of the session going over some of the AP retention data we got from Human Resources. We also had a short presentation from Robert Mercer, Assistant Dean of CLAS. He spoke about the importance of involving academic professionals in decisions that affect their work lives. Toward the end of the session, we presented a sample of what a step system for academic professionals could look like. In our last session, the administrative team wanted to consider an alternative to a step system, and they promised to develop another option for today. But, they did not have an option ready to share with us.

During our next session, we will evaluate our step system option and any option the administration brings to address pay and promotional issues. We will then brainstorm options to deal with workload and job security issues and the lack of input many academic professionals have in the decisions that affect their work lives. Please join us at our next session: Friday, December 4th, ASRC 630, and show your support and solidarity for our academic professionals.

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Session 19: We Propose a Step System for APs

By Leanne Serbulo, VP for Collective Bargaining

We signed off on the summer session pay language yesterday. This makes it official. The historic rates of summer pay will be in our next contract, and no department can try to pay you less money for teaching a course during summer term than you would make if you taught it during the regular, academic year. However, we’ve already been hearing rumors that summer budgets are going to remain tight, so we’ll need to monitor this. Please let us know what you’ve been hearing about summer session (email leanne@psuaaup.net).

Next, we continued our discussions about academic professional issues. We mostly focused on promotion and pay structures. AAUP proposed that we create a step system that provides incremental pay increases based upon years of experience, specific areas of expertise (bilingual, advanced degrees, certifications) and enhanced job duties (such as supervisory or training duties). The administration wasn’t ready to explore this option yet. They promised to brainstorm some additional solutions before our next session.

We also talked about workload issues. Administration is very concerned about the proposed, new Department of Labor Standards, which would make salaried employees who earn less than $50,440 a year overtime-eligible. Since most of our APs fall into this category (as do many non-tenure track faculty, but teaching professionals are excluded from the new rules), and many APs are overworked, this issue is a real concern for management. We would love to see all of our APs salaries raised above this threshold, but we don’t want to see people get a raise just to make them exempt from overtime and then see them having to work 50 or 60-hour weeks. That would basically make that raise meaningless.

Our current contract expires on November 30th. At the end of our session, we discussed extending it through February. While we had hoped to be finished with bargaining by the end of November, it doesn’t seem realistic. We will probably spend at least three more sessions on AP issues, and we still have to discuss continuous appointments for research faculty, professional development, sabbatical, and salary and benefits. Before we can begin a discussion about economics, we’ll need to get data. That can be a time-consuming process at PSU!

We’ll continue to discuss AP issues in our next bargaining session. We look forward to seeing the options the administration will bring to the table, and to crafting a solution to some of the pay and promotional problems our APs face.

To make real change, we need continued support from members across PSU. Thanks to APs and other members who attended the session. On November 30th — the day our contract expires — AAUP President Pam Miller will be delivering a bargaining update to Faculty Senate. We need you. Please come to Faculty Senate on Monday November 30th, 2:45pm, Cramer 053 and unite with your colleagues to win a strong 2015-2017 contract.

Session 18: Workload, workload, workload.

By Leanne Serbulo, VP for Collective Bargaining

We continued to discuss issues for academic professionals at yesterday’s bargaining session, completing the first three steps of the Interest-Based Bargaining Process: Framing the Issue/Question, Identifying Data and Sharing Interests. We agreed to address three main problem categories—Salary Structures/Promotional Opportunities, Workload, Scheduling and Decision-Making input, and Job Security/Evaluation.

As we brainstormed framing questions, we spent a lot of time talking about workload. From admissions officers who view three times the standard number of files to research administrators who end up working ten-hour days, many of our academic professionals feel overworked and are unable to maintain a healthy work/life balance. The administration is also concerned about this issue, especially since the Department of Labor is planning to raise the salary threshold for employees that are eligible to earn overtime. Under the proposed Department of Labor guidelines, many of our academic professionals may become overtime-eligible, which means either their workloads must be adjusted to fit a forty-hour week or the University will have to pay time and half.

Towards the end of the session, we were joined by some of our members who displayed the Imagine cards we’ve been collecting during our contract campaign. On a each card, a student or worker has written about what they imagine PSU could or should look like. It was great to have members in the room as we shared our interests around this issue. We hope you will continue to join us as we imagine a Portland State that respects and rewards our academic professionals for the contributions they make to our university. Please join us for bargaining next Tuesday, November 17th at noon in Smith 298. The room will be decorated with our chain of Imagine cards. Come and share your vision of what Portland State could be!

Session 17: Big Win on Summer Session Teaching Pay!

By Leanne Serbulo, VP for Collective Bargaining

We achieved a major victory at the bargaining table today! We will have language in our new Collective Bargaining Agreement governing summer pay rates. From now on, faculty who teach in the summer will be paid 2.5% of their annual salary rate per credit (this is the historic rate of pay—basically 10% of salary for a 4 credit class). We will no longer have to worry about being paid a cut-rate salary if we teach during the summer.

Over the past three summers, our members were hit with last-minute course cancellations, reduced opportunities to teach and pay cuts. The administration was able to get away with this because we had no language in our contract protecting summer pay. Last year, AAUP launched a mini-organizing campaign around Summer Session. Thanks to all of you who participated in our surveys and focus groups and made your voices heard. Without your willingness to stand-up, we would not have been able to achieve this win.

We will release a joint announcement about our Summer Session tentative agreement soon. We still need to finalize the contract language. The teams have conceptually agreed that:

  • Summer session pay rates will be 2.5% of annual salary rate/credit (restoring historic rates of pay)
  • The administration will collect data about course cancellations, the mix of faculty (full-time, part-time, tenure and non-tenure track etc.) teaching during summer session and the number and distribution of sections offered.
  • If we agree to a longer contract, there will be a mid-contract reopener (bargaining over limited contract articles, like salary) on summer session, so we can negotiate additional language protecting our members, if needed.

After the Summer Session agreement, we started discussing Academic Professional issues. We spent some time educating the administration about the diverse roles our Academic Professionals play at the university and the critical contributions they make to our community. We also shared stories from our listening sessions that highlighted some of the issues that APs face. Did you know that nearly one third of our Academic Professional staff suffer from salary inversion; they make less money than those with less experience?

We began identifying framing questions that will help guide our discussions about AP issues. Administration and AAUP have identified the following issues:

  • Lack of promotional opportunities and skewed pay structures
  • Workload and scheduling challenges, including how this relates to new Department of Labor standards that will make many APs overtime-eligible
  • Ability to participate in decisions that affect AP working conditions
  • Job security and evaluations

We meet again on Monday, November 9th from 8-1. We’ll continue to discuss AP issues.

Tentative Agreement on Non-Tenure Track Faculty Continuous Appointments

Exciting news! We’ve reached a tentative agreement (or “TA”) to establish a system of continuous appointments for non-tenure track instructional faculty. Official details below. 

Joint University and AAUP Communication about Tentative Agreement on Non-Tenure Track Instructional Faculty (Article 18)

The University and AAUP are pleased to announce that we have come to a tentative agreement that changes the employment status of our non-tenure track instructional faculty. The tentative agreement we reached will become part of our successor Collective Bargaining Agreement and will be ratified by PSU AAUP members and the Board of Trustees.

In our new Collective Bargaining Agreement:

  • Most non-tenure track instructional faculty will be eligible for continuous appointments. A continuous appointment means the faculty member will no longer work on time-limited contracts and will instead have ongoing employment with Portland State University.
  • The use of fixed-term appointments for non-tenure track instructional faculty will be limited to positions that are truly temporary, for example, a visiting faculty member or a temporary replacement for a faculty member on leave.
  • Non-tenure track faculty eligible for continuous appointment will work on annual contracts that will automatically renew upon completion of a satisfactory evaluation during their probationary period. The probationary period for current non-tenure track faculty members will be four years. Non-tenure track instructional faculty hired after the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is ratified will have a six year probationary period.
  • Non-tenure track faculty will be reviewed in the final year of their probationary period and awarded a continuous appointment after undergoing a comprehensive peer review. 
  • Faculty on continuous appointment can be terminated if they engage in behavior that warrants firing, during retrenchment, if there is a change in curricular need that results in the elimination of their position, or if the faculty member receives an unsatisfactory review and fails to remediate his/her teaching within a year.
  • Faculty on continuous appointment will undergo review every three years.
  • Current non-tenure track faculty members who have promoted and have at least four years of experience will be automatically converted into a continuous appointment.
  • Current non-tenure track faculty members who have at least six years of experience and have completed at least four positive annual or multi-year reviews will be automatically converted into a continuous appointment.
  • Current non-tenure track faculty members who have between 4-6 years of experience, but have not promoted can undergo a cumulative peer-review of their work and will be awarded a continuous appointment with a satisfactory evaluation.

In addition to the changes in Article 18, PSU-AAUP and PSU administration signed two letters of agreement requesting that Faculty Senate:

  • Charge a committee to write university-wide guidelines for non-tenure track faculty evaluations during the probationary period, to award continuous appointments and for post-continuous appointment peer-reviews.
  • Create a committee to examine if emeritus status may be granted to non-tenure track faculty with continuous appointments

The changes in Article 18 will apply to instructional non-tenure track faculty members.  PSU administration and PSU AAUP are still discussing how to create a continuous appointment opportunities for non-tenure track researchers. AAUP and the University look forward to continuing our discussions using the Interest-Based Bargaining process.

Session 16: We Want Summer Session Pay Restored

By Leanne Serbulo, VP for Collective Bargaining

At last Friday’s bargaining session, we started off the day discussing some of the task force charges that we have already signed-off on. The Work/Life Balance task force letter of agreement stated that we intended to have a conversation in bargaining about childcare issues that might result in additional task force responsibilities, so we started a brief conversation about childcare. Both sides agreed that childcare is an issue and that it affects more than just the 1250+ employees represented by our union, AAUP. We are going to explore how we can make this issue a campus-wide priority, perhaps by requesting that the President bring together a task force on this issue.

After this discussion, we moved back into the Summer Session issue. In our last session, the facilitator suggested that both sides prepare a comprehensive proposal to address this issue. Administration did not bring a Summer Session proposal to the table. Our proposal restores historic rates of pay (2.5% of our annual salary rate/credit, which is 10% of your pay for a 4-credit course), gives first right of refusal to faculty who regularly teach a course that is going to be offered in the summer, provides a stipend to faculty whose courses were cancelled with less than 10 days’ notice and initiates a campus-wide conversation about the mission of Summer Session at PSU.

We had a lot of discussion about various pieces of our proposal. Administration was reluctant to add language about rights of first refusal and course cancellations, since these issues are not covered by our current Collective Bargaining Agreement. Toward the end of the session, both teams seemed to be in agreement that the administration would provide our union with annual data about Summer Session, including information about course cancellations and faculty mix. We would set a date to reopen the Summer Session article at some point during the duration of our next agreement to bargain over language about rights of first refusal or course cancellations if these continued to be issues. We also agreed that the contract needs to include Summer Session pay rates. The administration recognizes the 2.5% of annual salary rate/credit as the standard rate of pay for summer teaching assignments; however, they are reluctant to restore this rate to all departments for Summer Term 2016.

We will continue to bargain about Summer Session when we meet again. Please join us on Friday, November 6th 10am-4pm, Smith basement room 047A. (This is a noisy location; it’s right behind the bowling alley. We may end up moving to a different room. If we do, we’ll hang a sign on the door to let you know where we are). We’d love to have members from University Studies and the School of Business join us; these are the two areas that the administration insists can’t afford to restore historic rates of summer pay.