UO Matters joins union organizing committee

6/27/2012: I wrote a while back about the economic department’s election of representatives to the union organizing committee. The OC rejected that idea, and came back with their own process. I followed it, and they have agreed to accept me as a member. In return I have agreed to abide by the same sorts of confidentiality rules that I agreed to when I was on the President’s Faculty Advisory Committee.

My skepticism about the desirability of a tenure track faculty union should be obvious to anyone who has read this blog for long or who goes back through the posts. But we have one now, and I am going to do what I can to help make it work for us and for UO as a whole. I will continue to use this blog to post information about the union, subject to the confidentiality terms. I will also continue to post my opinion and to use the blog as a place to post opinions from everyone on union matters.

Are names of card check signers public records?

Update: response from ERB:

No, the names of those signing the cards are not public record. See OAR 115-025-0020.

Sandra Elliott, ERB

3/11/2012: I’ve got in a request to the ERB, but if you have info please post a comment. Important to understand how law professors or TTF in general might try to opt out of bargaining unit.

For the record, here are the results from my survey of TT faculty, done in Feb. 2010: Of 681 faculty surveyed 221 made some response. Out of 218 responses:

and out of 170 responses, multiple categories OK:

union gets its cards

Word down at the faculty club is that the union now has more than the needed cards – 50% of the TTFs, NTTFs, and ORs – and plans to turn them in to the state ERB next friday. The number of tenure track faculty is considerably lower than they had hoped for, so they are still trying to get more TTF cards in order to head off the possibility of a challenge that would cut the TTF’s out of the bargaining unit, as the law school professors are already trying to do. 3/9/2012.

Law professors to opt out of faculty union?

3/2/2012: That’s the rumor down at the faculty club anyway. Apparently the union organizers are not opposed: keeping them out of the bargaining unit reduces the denominator, and law professors – even adjuncts – are not likely to sign the union card. My recollection is that this split has happened at other unionized schools as well.

UO’s plan to meet Pernsteiner’s "performance compact" goals?

Figure and explanation sent to me by Architecture Professor Peter Keyes:

My Conclusions from the Data:

There is an undeniable inverse correlation between university names that begin with vowels and average school quality.  (Presence of vowel correlates to lower ranking). 

Of course, causality is not indicated.  Does low quality lead to vowels, or do vowels lead to low quality, or neither?

The question we should ask ourselves:

If the UO wants to increase its quality, should it associate itself with the top schools, the vast majority of which (47 out of the top 50) begin with consonants?  Or with the lower-tier schools, where nearly all the vowels cluster? 

Oregon’s association with this lower-ranked group is particularly irksome;  while all the other vowel-schools have clear etymologies (usually of Native American origin or named after a prominent individual), no one really knows where the name “Oregon” comes from.  But in this fact lies a great opportunity, a way to effortlessly change the perception of our university:  it should be easy for us to change our name, as there are no descendants or vested groups to take umbrage at the change.  (Perhaps we could deflect any possible objections from the alumni by suggesting “University of the Ducks”, or something like.) 

As we strive to increase the (perceived) quality of the university, this proposal has one great advantage:  it does not require  increasing the state appropriation, raising tuition, hiring new faculty, or increasing anyone’s salary.  We can associate ourselves with the highest-ranked universities in the country for a negligible cost. 

And in the brave new world of corporate sponsorship, has anyone ever calculated the possible value of university naming rights?  We should be willing to consider this, as long as there’s a consonant involved.

Peter’s post is a response to this, from Michael Raymer in physics.

union forum slides

2/23/2012: I’ve had requests for Michael Raymer’s slides from the union forum. He sent them along, 4 pages, here, with this explanation:

My Conclusions from the Data:

There is an undeniable inverse correlation between tenure-track faculty (TTF) unionization and average school quality. (Presence of union correlates to lower ranking.)

Of course, causality is not indicated. Does low quality lead to unions, or do unions lead to low quality, or neither?

The question we should ask ourselves:

If UO wants to strive to increase its quality, should it associate itself with the top schools, the vast majority of which are not TTF unionized? Or with the lower-tier schools, where nearly all of the unions exist?

I’m happy to post more figures/links/data if people send them to me. Slide 1:

UO’s finances

2/17/2012: I wish that UO’s CFO would give the faculty a honest talk about UO’s current spending and that our Provost would give a consult with the faculty about UO’s future budgeting priorities. But Jim Bean and Frances Dyke have never given us a clear data-based presentation of where they are spending our money, and what they think UO’s future spending priorities should be. It’s almost like they’ve got something to hide.

Information abhors a vacuum. So yesterday Howard Bunsis of the AAUP came and did our administration’s job for them. His slides are here. Here’s one particularly damning one.

I assume the faculty union organizers will post a video of this presentation soon. Howard Bunsis’s talk is the best argument I’ve seen for signing the union card, aside from the pandering nonsense Jim Bean delivers, here.

Update: A commenter posts a link to the 2008 Senate Budget Committee report on faculty salaries, here, with this figure:

Faculty union, faculty governance, new Constitution

1/29/2012: Many people are wondering if a faculty union would strengthen or weaken existing faculty governance. For example, could the union write the new UO Constitution into a contract and then have legal recourse if our administration walked all over it? What about the Policy on Policies? One of the union organizers forwards some info that might help people make up their minds on this:

I found two contracts that illustrate how a union contract can reinforce faculty governance.  The first is in the current University of Delaware contract that can be found at  http://www.udel.edu/aaup/cba.html, article XVII. Our situation is a little different because we have a constitution that could be specifically endorsed.  The Portland State contract has a better example of wording since they are also governed by OARs and have a constitution.  They have just signed a tentative agreement on a new contract and it still needs to come to a vote of the members, so the contract through 2011 is current and can be found at http://www.psuaaup.net/resources.html

The second link has a lot of info on the PSU AAUP union. I haven’t read the contracts, comments on the substance welcome.

RG’s Greg Bolt on faculty union

1/29/2012: Story here, not much new:

“We support a worker’s right to organize,” UO spokesman Phil Weiler said. “Our involvement is we just want to make sure we’re providing everybody with factual information so they can make informed decisions, but beyond that we support their right to organize if they think that’s the right thing to do.”

Sure you do. Here’s a link to a 2010 post on Johnson Hall secretly hiring a labor consulting firm to deal with the union:

The official line is that the $300 an hour consulting fee was not for advice on how to “oppose the union” – that would be illegal under Oregon law – instead it was for help “conveying relevant and factually accurate information” to the UO faculty. Which explains why the administration tried to keep the contract secret, to the point of including a nonstandard confidentiality clause preventing McKnight from even disclosing the existence of a contract:

Because you don’t want to give the faculty factually accurate information about who is giving the faculty factually accurate information. The contract was limited to $25,000 because OUS rules require a public posting on the OUS procurement website for contracts more than that. Clever. Too clever. Dumb.

A faculty union will solve all UO’s problems

1/27/2012: Or maybe not. Reality check from Rutgers

Who’s right and who’s wrong? The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter, since the administration has lost the trust of its own professors, who routinely perceive it as incompetent, venal and corrupt. As Eaton and her colleagues put it, “The administration has violated our trust and we have lost confidence in its ability to properly manage university resources.”

Sound familiar? There’s a sports problem too, of course.

Berdahl and Geller claim President controls faculty authority:

Update: Geller’s quotes come from here: http://ous.edu/state_board/polipro Check out the board policies and IMD pdf’s – for example athletics. There are all kinds of things UO and OUS pay no attention to in practice. Except when it’s convenient for them to use them against the faculty.

1/26/2012: This will get the union a bunch more cards. An email from interim President Berdahl today, apparently written with the help of Randy Geller, asserts he has the power to “define the scope of faculty authority” down to what Senate committees can do:

… as summarized below from information provided by the Office the General Counsel, the President is assigned the power to define the scope of faculty authority, including the charges of senate councils and committees.

•           The University of Oregon Constitution must be consistent with Oregon Law and State Board of Higher Education policies and Internal Management Directives.

•           ORS 351.010 provides that the Oregon University System is conducted under the control of the State Board of Higher Education. Under ORS 351.070(4)(b), the Board has the authority to adopt rules and bylaws for the government of each institution under its control.

•           As outlined in ORS 352.004, the president of each state institution of higher education within the Oregon University System is also the president of the faculty and the executive and governing officer of the institution. Subject to the supervision of the State Board of Higher Education, the president of the institution has authority to control and give general directions to the practical affairs of the institution.

•           Board Policy 3.105(F)(7) authorizes each institution to formulate a statement of internal governance expressed as a constitution or in another appropriate format. “All statements of internal governance will be consistent with statutes governing the Oregon State Board of Higher Education, the Oregon University System, and any applicable Board rules, policies, or IMD.”

•           Board Policy 3.105(F)(6) states that “the institution president is authorized to convene and preside over the faculty and to veto any decisions of the faculty or its representative bodies. The institution president will define the scope of faculty authority – including its councils, committees, and officers, subject to review by the Chancellor – except as provided in Board rule, policy, or IMD.” …


Bob Berdahl

The faculty union organizers have argued that one reason to support a union is that it would be able to write faculty governance into the contract, establish a clear legal basis for it, and provide experienced lawyers to help the faculty regain the control it once had over university matters.

At the moment, we are utterly at the mercy of Randy Geller’s peculiar interpretations of the law, and the benevolence of our president. No recourse. Geller works for Pernsteiner, and Pernsteiner picks our next president.

Administration FAQ on faculty union

1/23/2012: There is a lot of material on the UO HR unionization website, presumably put together with the help of the administration’s $300 anti-union consultants. The FAQ explains how card check works, I assume accurately. One important point:

If the faculty becomes unionized, could I negotiate separately with my dean concerning my own salary?

No. The union would become the “exclusive” representative for everyone in the bargaining unit/union, and it would bargain with the UO for matters concerning pay, benefits, hours, vacation time, sick leave, grievance procedures and other conditions of employment. Union-represented employees would not be able to negotiate on their own behalf concerning any of these matters, nor would any group other than the union be allowed to bargain with administration over these issues.

In effect, having a union would introduce a third party between the represented employees and the University. Thus, how administration and faculty interact would change because by law an employer is required to negotiate salary, benefits, and working conditions with the union and is prohibited from dealing directly with employees in these matters.

This does not mean you couldn’t get an outside offer and shop it to your dean. It just means her response would be limited by the contract terms. So, writing that contract appropriately will be key. Does anyone know how the other unionized AAU’s deal with this?

Card check party Jan 24

1/19/2012: The union organizers are having their official card check election opening event 12:30 – 3:00, Jan 24 in the Pape room of the art museum. I think they will win. I don’t know what the timeline is like after that – presumably elections for union boss, committees, constitution, etc. Some process to determine dues, which will presumably be in the 0.75% to 1.25% range. Maybe there will be some challenges over definition of the bargaining unit – the organizers do not seem worried on this. At some point – a year from now? – bargaining with the administration over a contract. There’s a little more info here. My preference is for a union that focuses on salary and staffing levels. Take that money off the top, before JH gets its hands on it and starts spending it on themselves, police, athletics subsidies etc.

card check

1/14/2012: They started collecting these Monday, unsubstantiated rumor is that 1/3 of faculty those in the organizer defined bargaining unit have already signed union cards. Union website here, facebook here. Not a lot of info on either. Apparently they will attempt to certify a bargaining unit that will include TT faculty, NTTF faculty and ORs.

I think a union is pretty much a done deal given the disarray, incompetence, and greed we’ve seen from OUS and Johnson Hall over the past few years. You really think tuition money should go to help Jim Bean make his beamer payments? Lorraine Davis’s family Rose Bowl trip? Pernsteiner’s maid?

The people who oppose a union should start reading up on union politics and law to figure out how to work from within to deal with their legitimate concerns about academic unions.

We’ve posted lots of information on the union effort over the years. Here’s an old email from Jim Bean warning faculty not to get duped by the card check. Our survey of the TT faculty in fall 2009 found 2/3 against the union. Times have changed. The union brought in lawyer and accountant Howard Bunsis from EMU last February, he did this excellent analysis of UO’s finances. Here’s an economics paper arguing unions raise salaries at public universities. Here’s a post on Johnson Hall’s hilarious failed efforts to secretly hire a firm to advise them on how to fight unionization – $300 an hour. Here’s UO’s HR website on unionization (very dated).