Faculty Union Bargaining Kick-Off: Tuesday, 6-7 PM, 220 HEDCO

It’s a union, of course there will be beer. And also info about bargaining priorities and how you can help the union convince Scott Coltrane to honor Richard Lariviere’s promise to get UO faculty salaries to the AAU medians.

There’s plenty of water in the well this year, as demonstrated by the latest increases in pay for our central administrators, the proposed 50% raise for the new UO President, and UO Foundation Chair Paul Weinhold’s largesse in offering a blank UO check for the IAAF Track Championship bid. So I’m assuming bargaining will be short and sweet, at least on the economics. The actual bargaining starts Th at 10 AM.

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48 Responses to Faculty Union Bargaining Kick-Off: Tuesday, 6-7 PM, 220 HEDCO

  1. that effing Dog again says:

    AAU medians is a good goal.

    Was that promise ever put in writing as “AAU” medians (vs. “comparator medians”)?

  2. Anon says:

    Thank God this place has a union, because not much else is functioning.

    • Not so sure says:

      Too bad that union cost a lot of people their jobs. They can do good, sure, but ask any adjunct who’s no longer employed if they wish they had voted for it again.

      • Clueless says:

        It’s just not true that the union cost people their jobs. The union fought to regularize NTTF positions and to end the exploitation of adjuncts (whose jobs, by definition,were always precarious). If jobs were lost, it was the result of managerial choices about how to organize positions.

        • no way says:

          That’s one way to look at it. Not sure the people who got fired from my unit feel that way.

        • duckduckgo says:

          I want to understand this better. I don’t know what you mean by regularize, and what were the choices made.

          • Clueless says:

            Regularize means to use our classifications correctly and to reduce our reliance on “Adjuncts”. We had many “adjuncts” that had been here for many years and really should have been Career NTTF – the reclassification process was supposed to fix that for most.

            The fact is that adjunct positions were always precarious – folks in those positions could have been let go basically at any time. They often weren’t because they could be easily exploited – no commitment from University, lower pay, no secuirty, etc. So, of course “management” would use them.

            The CBA put many restrictions on the use of adjuncts, theoretically making it a less desirable option except for what it was intended – to fill temporary gaps or needs.

            As a result of that, many positions either had to become career or go away. And yes, that meant that some people in those positions lost their jobs. But that was not a requirement of the CBA – those were still management decisions about how to staff their units…which they have a right, within the bounds of the CBA, to do.

          • duckduckgo says:

            Thanks for the explanation, Clueless. To me, though, that is a pretty technical argument. I don’t disagree that it was the right thing to do, but it sounds like the loss of adjunct jobs was a pretty natural consequence of what was bargained for, and it would be more honest to acknowledge that.

        • Thom Aquinas says:

          @ Clueless – I have been for the unionization, and am also a UA member. I fully supported the recent rounds of merit raises and COLA etc that the union negotiated in the past BA with the administration. I thought, and still think, it is a terrific achievement, that UO faculty is now represented with a unified voice on a variety of employment/contractual issues.
          There is a caveat however, which I begin to understand only now, after having been involved in various committees in our unit (Sciences/Biology) to establish institute policies for merit raises, and to implement and evaluate merit raise requests. In the sciences – specifically NIH grants come as a finite package, lets say you get $250k per year for 3 or 5 years. You project a budget with salary, consumables, and equipment expenses. You are granted the money on a number of evaluation criteria among others previous scientific performance and what the chances are that with this budget you achieve the same good results. Now Bargaining raises salaries, and you use the wiggle room of say 5% that you (wisely) projected in salary raises, to give your colleagues their deserved raise. Then there’s another raise after a year, and another, and let’s say you have exhausted your wiggle room to give a raise, but you manage to come out even at the end of your funding period. Now you reapply for a continuation of your project (another 3-5 years let’s say), but the package remains the same (roughly at least): $250k per year. So you obviously budget more for salaries, and again you project an increase in salaries of 5% per year, but it means you have to reduce on consumables or equipment. At least that’s what I’d do to make sure the post-docs, RAs or TAs I trained can stay and perform more scientific miracles. But – with stagnating packages you can do that only so often, because if you reduce the consumables (enzymes, buffers, plasticware etc) for your lab – your colleagues have nothing to work with. So you need to strike a balance. At some point your budget is so strained that yes, you might give someone a merit raise, but maybe you have to reduce FTE elsewhere (let’s say someone who did not meet the merit raise criteria? Great way of motivating that poor fellow by the way!). The potential of reducing FTE and/or consumables and/or equipment impacts the scientific output (quality and quantity?) of your lab and puts your next grant application at greater risk of not being funded. Now, this is all a bit far fetched when you are an established scientist, BUT for younger faculty the stagnating NIH packages do pose a risk of not being able to balance their budget properly between personnel, equipment or consumables. I also wager that even for established labs, there is a certain breaking point when too high salaries simply cannot sustain the number of employees, because of the stagnating funding packages. So here I see where I see – for the long-term – how rising salaries might affect employment. However, I am also confident that there will be solutions worked out over the years to avoid this problem. For example, the university/the administration supports research institutes more than currently and provides finances (not to establish a prevention of science institute) but to support the salaries of current staff and faculty…. Also, there are other unionized universities and I’m confident we can glean from them how they dealt with the issue.

          • Oryx says:

            @Thom Aquinas,
            Pretty good, though very long-winded. Short version: In the science, one pays postdocs and students through research grants. The amount in a grant is fixed. If collective bargaining mandates a raise for postdocs, the NSF or NIH don’t magically give us more money. Instead, the postdoc’s FTE must be reduced.

            There are many reasons why your solutions to this fundamental problem don’t make sense. Here’s one. You’re asking the university to step in and fund postdocs, essentially subsidizing externally funded research salaries with university money. Suppose such money exists, big pots of it, ripe for the taking. You’re seriously proposing that instead of using it for graduate student fellowships, or graduate student training, or competitive research awards, or other such things, you want to spend it on correcting the absurdity of this extremely poorly thought out bargaining approach?

          • duckduckgo says:

            @Oryx
            But grant budget do have raises built in to them. It used to be a farce that grant budgets had raises built in and PIs were NOT allowed to give those raises because of the salary freeze.

            The budget raises may not exactly match the actual raises, of course. But most grants pile in some equipment costs early and then switch those one-time costs to the higher salary costs at the end of the grant period.

            So, is this truly a problem? Are there labs here that despite the budgeted raises have hit some threshold where they have to give a raise and are left with nothing for research? I’d rather focus on problems that affect everyone with federal grants such as the uniquely high OPE costs here.

            • uomatters says:

              ddg is right. UO’s NSF budget spreadsheet assumes 5% per year raises. But there have been plenty of years where faculty and RA’s got raises of <5%, and the money went to some other line in the budget.

              With UO taking ~50% for overhead to pay Kim Espy and Brad Shelton and their ilk, it does leaves a shitty taste. You could hope for a little more empathy towards researchers from UO's VP for Research, but you'd be disappointed. Shelton's got his $317K, and that's that.

          • Oryx says:

            Agreed, UOM and ddg, that budgets usually are planned with raises built-in, and that this problem is less awful than PIs *not* being able to give raises due to the salary freeze in the recent past. (That was totally nuts.)

            About the built-in raises, I know of cases where there were not raises embedded in the budget, and that led to these sorts of problems. I don’t know why this happened, but given the byzantine rules of NSF and NIH, which often have very program and division specific constraints that change often, I would bet that this was imposed by the funding agency.

            But more importantly: the two problems, of being forced to give a raise without funds present, and being prevented from giving raises when there are funds present, are frustrating for exactly the same reason: people (the union and the administration, by way of bargaining) are making decisions about streams of money that part of the university budget, and that they seem almost willfully ignorant of.

            • uomatters says:

              How much money would it take for UO to pay the raises out of F&A or other research funds? These are wild guesses, but maybe $10M in relevant salaries. The grants already budget for 5% raises – say half the money (not employees) are covered. So if the new union contract includes 6% raises, Shelton needs to find $50K + $300K = $350K per year, somewhere in his budget.

              Is that accurate? Is that a lot of money relative to F&A income? I don’t know, does anyone else?

          • Dog says:

            Most of this sub-discussion is on the right track with some variance. Let me add a bit to the chaos and variance.

            1. On PAPER UOmatters is correct that sufficient F&A is generated to cover faculty raises.

            2. However, much of that F&A is tied up into future obligations/startup packages. It is completely unclear if our management of F&A revenue has ANY liquidity (if it did we could have fixed our wireless infrastructure a while ago, for instance).

            3. While you can build a 5% salary raise in your federal budget, its been my experience that ORSP adjusts those raises to the current COLA amount (which is less than 5%).

            4. I don’t think any research University is actually allowed to divert F&A into faculty salary dollars. Maybe some have figured clever ways to launder and buffer those funds.

            5. One way of “increasing faulty salaries” with F&A funds is to use the funds to run a larger summer research program so that faculty can compete for summer salary. Operationally this does raise annual salaries. Obviously for a 9 month AY employee, one month of additional salary is a 10/9 income increase for that year.

          • Oryx says:

            @UOM: As I wrote, I don’t think the issue is whether the amount of money involved is big or small. More importantly, I suspect that dog’s point number 4 is correct. See for example http://grants.nih.gov/grants/policy/nihgps_2013/nihgps_ch7.htm for some description of the scope of direct and indirect costs on research grants. Maybe some education about how research universities work should be a topic at the next union meeting?

            • uomatters says:

              Good idea. The union has had a lot of input from PI’s but more is better. Email me and I’ll help set it up.

  3. Carla McNelly, President, SEIU Local 085 says:

    SEIU Higher Ed bargaining begins today with USSE (University Shared Services Enterprise). UO, OSU, PSU, SOU, OIT, WOU, EOU are In it Together!

  4. GrantGetter says:

    You are apparently unaware that for the last three years federal grants have barred built-in cost of living increases (for the NIH at least http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-12-036.html). In addition, during this time many, if not most, awards have come with annual cuts, even on continuing awards. New awards also tend to be cut by 25-40%, so any “extra” budgeted money is gone before a project even begins. This is how the NIH is dealing with a budget that is rapidly shrinking versus inflation. There is not a huge pool of extra money sitting in grant budgets (although for sure it has been ridiculous in the past when budgeted raises have not been allowed to be provided because of state-mandated wage freezes — this was never a UO thing).

    The university F&A budget is falling about $10 million a year (it may have stabilized a bit this year). That is a decrease in 5-10% a year over the last 3-4 years because of the tightening the federal research budget. Yes, we could pay for raises by shutting down research institutes and/or core service centers, but something tells me that uomatters would be at the forefront of railing against such actions.

    There is some deep ignorance about the research enterprise in both the union and the administrative negotiating team on how research operations work and how they are affected by labor decisions. A sizable portion of the union is comprised of lab techs and postdocs, yet nearly every approach and/or policy seems geared as though everyone is a NTTF lecturer.

    The cost of research on campus is incredibly high in terms of labor. While it is great (and appropriate) to have a well supported research labor force with extremely good benefits, it is a competitive marketplace and it is simply much cheaper to conduct research at a place like UW than at the UO. Thus, research productively per dollar is lower here, and this is becoming evident to funding agencies.

    This is one of the many things that is slowly destroying research effectiveness on campus, which will end up killing our status as an elite research university (which we still do have in some science quarters). And this bit is certainly no fault of the administration.

    • Clueless says:

      There is much good background information presented here on how all this works. That said, I am confused by some of the claims that the union is to blame for this problem.

      The union’s primary responsibility – legally and, I might say, ethically – is to represent its members in improving their terms and conditions of employment. Research faculty are among those members. By most measures, the union did its job well – it got a good raise package for its members, among other things.

      The administration’s primary responsibility in collective bargaining is to represent the interests of the entire University – which includes planning for how it will pay for what it agrees to. By some measures, the University failed in that responsibility.

      I’m not sure what the union should have done differently – bargain different raises for research faculty because the University didn’t have its act together?

      I can see where the union needs to understand the nuances of the research side of things and the implications of decisions there, but I can’t see why the union would need to concern itself with how raises, that the Administration AGREED TO, would be paid for. It’s just not part of their obligation.

      I also have a question – why is it much cheaper to conduct research at a place like UW than here? I’m truly ignorant on this – is that a fixed reality or a result of how we do things?

      • duckduckgo says:

        From a research PI perspective, it is a little odd that union member salaries are being determined by bargaining between the university and union. When the salary is for a post-doc, the person that needs to come up with the salary is the PI, from grant funds, and the PI has no voice in the matter. The admin may agree to the terms, but is under no obligation to provide the funds (and won’t). The PI is under no obligation to provide the funds either, actually, since those post-doc positions are funding contingent.

        Post-doc costs are very high here because (there may have been some recent changes to some of the details, but it is still high) post-doc benefits include contributions to PERS, even though many post-docs are not here long enough to have those contributions vest and post-docs at other institutions usually are part of the cheaper student health insurance pool. So PIs have to pay on the order of 65% of salary for benefits, while it is more like 20% at most other institutions.

        It used to be that grad students had to have full tuition paid for the full time of their degree… I think there are reduced credits after the qualifying exam now.

        • Clueless says:

          All true. But in the way I described the bargaining dynamic, the admin’s obligation is to represent the interests of the PI. If they don’t, then PI’s have legitimate gripes with admin. It’s not really the union’s obligation to worry about that.

          Still, I’m certain union leadership wants to understand all this better so it can help solve problems.

          • GrantGetter says:

            The problem is the way in which the union went about setting its membership. By including postdocs and research technicians just out of undergrad as “faculty” in the new union, it basically placed the UO completely out of step with every other research university in the country. Some might say that this was a cynical move to pad the vote so as to avoid faculty who would be against the union (like pretty much all of the science faculty). It was definitely clear at the time that these folks had little idea of what it meant to be part of the union. Perhaps more importantly, these folks are necessarily a transient population on campus, so having them have equal vote to other staff seems wrong.

            There is no argument that permanent staff members deserve proper representation. I happen to think that it is odd to have them classified as faculty, but that is another matter. The big point here is that our postdocs and research assistants receive benefits that are far out of line with the rest of the country. While it is good for them, it means that we can not afford to hire as many postdocs and research assistants (or pay them as well in the case of postdocs). Because they are now a protected class within the union, there is essentially no way to put the genie back into the bottle and take benefits away.

            All this means that UO scientists can not be competitive on a dollar basis with labs on other campuses, that we cannot afford to have as many of these researchers on campus (which is a critical part of a vibrant research institution), and that we waste a huge amount of grant dollars on things that provide no competitive recruiting advantage and that in many cases are simply lost due to short stays because a large fraction of retirement payments do not vest in time. The union did not cause these problems, but it makes it impossible to do anything about it — and it is killing research on campus at time when grant dollars are heading for hills.

      • that effing Dog again says:

        the last CBA didn’t really say much, conclude much, and very much left open the issue of summer salary that can be earned on Federal grants. Thus a July 1 raise becomes a source of confusion for those on such summer research grants (since the grants really can’t be retrofit to pay for that increase, in most cases). This an essential operational difference between [AY pay] and [AY + SUMMER] salary pay which I hope is better recognized in the current negotiations.

        • GrantGetter says:

          There were many other disasters like retroactive raises on grants that had already spent down their budgets, or in some cases closed entirely. The way that salary funds are allocated within the university and the way that they are managed by individual PIs on a grant are completely different, and treating them as if they are the same is crazy. For example, having research assistants all within the same salary pool for raises means that I somehow get to spend your grant dollars for raises for my highly meritorious folks. But I can’t really do that, so how are merit raises really supposed to work when there isn’t really a pool because each PI is essentially his/her own small employer stuck with rules intended for a large employer? None of this has been thought through at all, and the people negotiating appear to be deeply ignorant, yet readily dismissive, of the issues. The whole research enterprise should be out of the union and/or have their own union. It is way too broad a brush to work correctly.

          Those who can will simply find it much easier to do research elsewhere. This is the problem with being different that everyone else in the country, especially our aspirational peers.

          • dog says:

            agree completely with GrantGetter’s amplification and their earlier statement about the “deep ignorance” of the research enterprise and salary structure that has been display so far.

            At the basic level – treating salary dollars that do not even originate in the state of Oregon as the same as UO institutional salary dollars just makes little sense, from the point of view of the research enterprise. This basic problem will make it difficult for the UO to successfully hire some faculty in some of these cluster areas. In terms of research, there are many unnecessary obstacles here, compared to our peers (aspirational or otherwise) and I believe the Union has not helped to improve the research enterprise here.

            • uomatters says:

              GrantGetter and Dog – email me, let’s set up a meeting with the union. I assure you they also want to get this right.

          • dog says:

            @UOmatters

            I am just a malcontent Academic and would likely be perceived as a snobby and arrogant researcher that is just bitching … not very effective

            I think its far more appropriate rather than collecting individual PIs together with their various anecdotes, for the union to talk to people like Moira Kiltie and Analindo [sic] Comacho about the manner in which grants and grant based salaries operate and the potential complications that can arise from various proposed union rules. Such a meeting certainly should have happened in the last round.

            I think Chem Head/Ex Chem Head also has a responsible perspective on all of this and can make some useful comments here to further frame this.

          • duckduckgo says:

            The merit pool comment sounds similar to the situation for core facilities. Core facilities are independent units, each with their own revenue and expenses and mandate to break even. Yet the employees are pooled together when considering raises, as if there is some central pot of money to be split by performance. And the ability of a core to pay for raises cannot be part of the decision, so a likely outcome is that some employees will work hard, get raises, and at some point merit themselves out of a job if revenue doesn’t keep up and the break-even mandate becomes the priority.

            On the flip side, it is exploitative to keep a valuable worker underpaid… but sometimes that is the best of bad alternatives.

      • Oryx says:

        @clueless: You’re right that the administration should shoulder a lot of the blame for this. Personally, I’m upset with both the administration and the union!

        In a legalistic sense you’re correct that the union is not to blame, since, as you put it, its “primary responsibility… is to represent its members…” Likewise, if I offer to fix your car for free despite knowing nothing about cars, it’s on you to act as if I’m an awful person and investigate me. I’m not to blame if I wreck your engine. But you are unlikely to befriend me and think I’m a great person after I gleefully monkey with your car. Of course, I don’t do this. I wouldn’t presume to mess around with a machine I knew nothing about, even if I had good intentions. For the same reason, I can’t be very happy that the union dabbles in things that affect my professional life despite knowing too little about how a research university works. (Yes, a negotiation structure puts the onus of making sense on the administration.Yes they did a bad job of this. And yes my analogy isn’t so hot.)

        The anti-union naysayers in my department warned that unions necessarily set up adversarial relationships. Apparently they were right, but I can’t imagine why anyone would celebrate this.

        Now, in addition to all my other headaches, I have to care that there’s a major force on campus that doesn’t care about messing things up, relying on the wonders of adversarial contests to make everything ok. And for those of us faculty (many dozens, at least) who __aren’t in the bargaining unit__ and who aren’t part of the administration, who cares what happens?

        I appreciate yours and other very good comments on this thread.

    • Youngin' says:

      I’m very confused. UW and other schools set minimum salaries for postdocs and other staff. For example, at OSU the minimum salary of a first year postdoc is 42,840 a year. At UW it at least used to be higher. I thought the UA agreement was a mere 36K floor and so am confused as to how UO labor costs can be so high.

      • dog says:

        @youngin

        labor costs are high because the OPE rate charged for postdocs is beyond ridiculous -@36K per year I think the OPE rate is 70% of that; then on top of salary+OPE is the F&A charge – so suddenly your 36K per year PostDoc is costing your grant 75K.

        • duckduckgo says:

          Right, UW OPE for post-docs was 18%-23% as I recall.

        • bird_dog says:

          By your own reasoning dog, it is OPE – a function of Administrative decision-making – that UO postdocs cost more, not the union or the CBA. The entire strand of contributions from dog and Oryx seem intent on blaming the union for these and other conditions, but the OPE is not negotiated, it is an administrative decision. Why not help both parties find a way to build a proper adjustment into the OPE rate? My guess is that you will find considerable willingness on the part of the union, but not with VP Shelton.

          • dog says:

            I never once said the union was to blame for the high OPE rates – in fact no one is saying that – those are pre-existing conditions.

            Some of us are saying that transient postdocs (those on federal funding) with no teaching responsibilities probably should not be in a union of Teaching faculty.

      • Oryx says:

        Once again: there are two key issues here, one directly affected by the CBA and one not.

        First, what UA asked for and got, among other things, was a raise, independent of a floor. If you’re a postdoc or technician, and your salary is “X,” it will be raised to “X + Y,” where “Y” depends in some way on merit in various poorly thought out pools. It is irrelevant if “X” is already above some floor. It is, as far as the CBA goes, also irrelevant if the grant paying the postdoc only provides “X.” Again: the postdoc is not paid by the university at all, but by the grant. A floor is fine; this would affect what’s stated in the budgets of future grants for future postdocs. But “Y” isn’t raising a floor, it’s mandating funds for an existing person from funds that the university does not control. If funds exist, which ideally they should, fine. If they don’t, it’s hard to see what to do that’s legal and that doesn’t cut the postdoc’s FTE.

        Second: your confusion “as to how UO labor costs can be so high” misses what grantgetter and others have written: labor costs aren’t just salary. For each $1 of salary at UO, a grant has to pay $0.65 in benefits, and these are largely retirement benefits the postdoc doesn’t actually receive, as described above. On top of this, the grant pays overhead to the university. So each $1 of salary is about $2 in cost to the grant. That’s huge compared to most research universities. This applies not just to postdocs, but also research technicians. (Otherwise, you could make the good moral argument that research shouldn’t rely so much on postdocs, though making this case would force UO to willfully be less competitive with other schools for finite research dollars.)

        I hope this is helpful. Or is it all too late?

        • Thom Aquinas says:

          @Oryx, principally I agree however “A floor is fine; this would affect what’s stated in the budgets of future grants for future postdocs.” Again, (as long-windedly stated above :-P ) these funds are capped (or decreasing) and increased floors or salary increases will mean less funds for other stuff…

          Good discussion btw. Thanks to Grantgetter for some new insights.

          • Oryx says:

            Arguably “fine” was an overstatement. “Less bad?”

            I agree that this is a good discussion!

  5. dukdukgone says:

    In those archives should have been information related to this topic. The grants office is another example of a listless unit with no direction or hope. The inability of UO to adapt on the academic side that way that the Athletics Dept has adapted on the sports side (which, by the way, is a real divide) shows just how far behind the curve the senior faculty and admin are at this soon to be 4th University of Chinese sports entertainment training.

  6. Clueless says:

    I will concede that the union needs to learn a lot more about all this (though I can tell you that this approach has been tried with the administration with little result). But I’d also like to point out that the way these things are talked about sometimes don’t help. For instance, these aren’t “union rules”. The CBA is an Agreement between two sides. One side, the administration, of that agreement is supposed to be representing all these interests that are being discussed.

    It still sounds like the union is being held accountable for the administrations obligations.

    I’m not referring to the makeup of the bargaining unit because I don’t know how that was decided.

  7. GrantGetter says:

    A couple of things here. First, people with grant funds that support postdocs tend to not be part of bargaining unit and so are outside of the process. In fact, we are management. So Bill’s suggestion of a conversation is nice, but it is not clear that it is actually proper/allowable. Second, although the rhetoric on this site would suggest otherwise, I believe that the administration is very reluctant to confront the union on some of these issues (and they have tried; salary floors being the clearest example). They have to pick their battles and this is simply not a very big one in the grand scheme of things, although it is a fine example of the longterm damage being done to the research enterprise by all of this bickering.

    In the end, the solution is to have the postdocs (at the very least) out of the bargaining unit and for them to give up benefits (like retirement) to be comparable to nearly every other research institution. When has a union (1) given up members or (2) given up already secured benefits? That can only happen under the threat of massive layoffs, and that is not going to happen in this case (and we are not talking about that many employees). Maybe rational heads within the bargaining group could prevail for the good of the university, but in the end if the postdocs pushed back, the union would back them 100%. It is impossible to argue that any changes would not be worse for this specific set of employees, even if in the end it means that we can hire more postdocs and be more successful as a university. So, there is essentially little hope here as I see it. This is what it means to have this union, configured this way.

    • Clueless says:

      I’d like to decouple two things here: whether postdocs should be in the union or not, and the fact that their (PERS?) benefits are out of whack.

      It’s my understanding that the benefits issue existed before the union and is not a result of union bargaining. If so, conflating those two issues confuses more than helps the conversation.

      As to their membership in the bargaining unit. That’s more complicated. If my information is correct, the “postdoc” designation has been (ab)used like the adjunct designation. So, we have the situation of “permadocs” that really should have moved on to other things or converted into better, more permanent positions. Unions help with that kind of exploitation.

      Finally, and I’m repeating myself here, there are two sides in bargaining. Yes, PI’s are not in the bargaining unit – they are “management”. It doesn’t necessarily follow though that they are outside the process – they are represented by the management side and the management side should invite them into the process.

      • that effing Dog again says:

        One of the issues here is that postdocs, permadocs and research assistants and others that have absolutely NO teaching responsibilities, are nevertheless in a union whose members primary duties lie in teaching. Then those of us that do teach and employ research assistants get pushed to a very strange place.

      • duckduckgo says:

        All research positions are funding contingent, so there is no permanence and not much the union can offer in that regard. But I agree that the movement of long-term post-docs into research associate positions with a defined career advancement path has been a good thing.

      • GrantGetter says:

        No one is reading at this point, so one last word.

        The solution to the postdoc issue is

        1) To classify them as trainees (students) instead of faculty, which is exactly what OSU and most other R1 institutions do. This could have happened decades ago, so in no sense is the current situation the union’s “fault”.
        2) Convert their benefits situation to be comparable to GTFs (adding them to the GTTF insurance package, if GTTF willing)
        3) Build a lock-tight policy to transition postdocs to research associates after a fixed time period (which would normally be 5 years)
        4) (maybe needed) Grandfather current postdocs under current benefit situation and leave them in the bargaining unit. Maybe simply reclassify all existing postdocs as research associates and solve all current issues in one stroke. New hires would follow new rules (and not be in faculty bargaining unit).

        The administration was working on this plan for more than a year when the union action occurred. They decided to drop things so as to not be accused of tampering with the union. Now it is probably too late.

        And the union knows about all of this, since they have all of the memos regarding the proposal.

        Rumor has it that the union would have granted this concession but that the administration negotiation team never asked for it (or even brought up the issue at all). Again, negotiators on both sides don’t see this as an important issue. Faculty PIs do, but they are completely disengaged from employment issues. It would be nice if the science faculty were more active on engaging union-oriented issues. Lord knows that the institutes and centers have had to come to terms with how ridiculous all of this is over the last year, so maybe things will start changing.

        IMHO, the union should not be insisting on labeling everyone on the campus “faculty” (e.g., lab techs and yoga instructors). It undermines the actual faculty and is destructive to faculty governance.

        • gurf says:

          So, eh, what’s the argument in favor of getting a science PhD?

          Right now it gets you the same kind of benefits as a campus food service worker, only barely better pay and less job security. While those who might hire you are making the argument that those benefits are clearly too much.

          hard to imagine why they’d want to unionize.

          • duckduckgo says:

            Are you talking about science graduate students, or science post-docs?

            Science graduate students have reasonably good job security. Often support is guaranteed for 4 years given appropriate progress.

            If you are talking about post-docs, the argument is that much of the benefits are wasted (retirement payments that can’t be used), rather than too much.

            People are free to work for food service if they feel like the overall positives and negatives balance out. I don’t know of a single case of that, though, so post-docs and Phd candidates must be valuing some aspect of the job highly. Flexible working hours, doing interesting, challenging work. Being around colleagues doing interesting work. Feeling like your work is meaningful. It is hard to value those in a CBA, so I can see why that may be ignored by some.

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