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UO hires Frohnmayer’s firm to deal with union election

4/2/2012: That’s the word from the union website update, in a post that also criticizes the petitions, here:

We sincerely hope that the university administration will recognize the will of the majority of the faculty and maintain its previously public statement of neutrality. It now appears that the UO administration retained the law firm of Harrang Long Gary Rudnick P.C., with former University President Dave Frohnmayer a firm member. It is our hope that the lawyers whom they have hired to advise them will not prevail upon them to delay or obstruct the will of the faculty vote or the certification process with unnecessary or unfounded challenges. 

It didn’t take an economist to correctly forecast this one, given our general counsel Randy Geller’s longtime ties to Frohnmayer. Frohnmayer joined the Harrang Long et al. firm while he was ostensibly on a research sabbatical after retiring as UO president. The Secretary of State’s Audits Division looked into this unusual arrangement and found a few irregularities. The report is here. Among other things, Russ Tomlin had written a few retroactive contracts for summer pay, which Frohnmayer filled with “sick leave” days. When this came to light Tomlin got slapped for going along with the scam, Frohnmayer had to repay a little money to UO, and then Michael Moffitt at the Law school wrote him a new contract spelling out his research and teaching obligations very, very clearly. I’m thinking we can thank Richard Lariviere for insisting on this, and ending the lucrative golden parachute deal Frohnmayer had signed with hs pal Pernsteiner. Frohnmayer now teaches a 1 credit course in the law school, allowing him to keep claiming he is a law school professor on his Harrang Long et al. bio page.

Last fall UO sent out an RFP for proposals for law firms to provide legal advice for matters that Geller’s office lacked expertise or competence in. (Yes, it must be a long list.) It took a petition to the Attorney General, but eventually Geller provided the proposals. In theirs, Harrang et al. was quite happy to brag about Frohnmayer’s political connections:

and they note their expertise in dealing with union elections:

I’ve got a request in for the contracts and invoices – which will show who at the firm is doing the work – but so far Geller is sitting on them. I’m shocked. Isn’t that a violation of Oregon’s public records law Randy? Maybe you should ask Frohnmayer for some advice on how to keep stalling. He’ll only charge UO $550 an hour.


  1. marmot 04/02/2012

    I have no problems with a card check process in the abstract. But I do have serious concerns about the composition of the bargaining unit, not just who is lumped together but also, maybe especially, who is split apart (i.e., TTFs splintered into various groups based on invented distinctions like “supervisory” vs not).

    I also have concerns about the organizers’ lack of transparency during the card-check about the composition of the unit — can somebody show me any official statement or document from UAUO prior to the conclusion of card-check stating clearly that law profs and supervisory PIs would be excluded? (Everything I ever saw from UAUO said that they would petition to include all TTFs in the unit. All the stuff about law profs and PIs was just rumor mill until the ERB put out its public notice.) And I have concerns about UAUO’s lack of transparency post-card-check about its support among TTFs (in particular, whether their claim of majority support among TTFs depends upon them having dropped 2 unsympathetic subgroups, law profs and PIs, from the denominator).

    For those reasons, I have signed both petitions, whereas I probably would have signed neither if I felt like the bargaining unit made sense (in particular, including all TTFs or none) and the process was carried out transparently.

    But crap. Frohnmayer? Really? It’s like they’re trying to make it hurt.

  2. Anonymous 04/02/2012

    The statement on the union website opens with lip service to “reconciliation”, “build[ing] bridges”, and , “open[ing] up channels for constructive dialogue” only to follow that with four long paragraphs under the heading “Progress amid Efforts to Delay”. It seems they’re upset that those who put together the petition for a secret ballot are against the union. Why not address the merits of what motivated the petition? How does attacking this petition reconcile, build bridges, or open up channels for dialogue?

    • Anonymous 04/02/2012

      I question their interest in reconciliation. They take pride in having followed Oregon process (which as far as I know they have, though in a confusing and perhaps irregular way). But then they seem to hold the call for a secret ballot in contempt, in spite of the fact that this is also part of Oregon process.

      In fact it remains confusing how they match their supposed desire to reconcile and build bridges with resistance to a secret ballot. In no place in the world is an open ballot run by a party who has an interest in the outcome considered a fair election.

  3. Anonymous 04/02/2012

    Given uomatter’s past, I can understand the focus on the Frohnmayer connection, but the most important part of the union’s update is:

    “As part of the process, the administration has now provided its official list of who they think is part of the bargaining unit as we described it. The list has a large number of additions (including senior administrators) and a surprising number of omissions. United Academics is working diligently to make sure that all eligible faculty will remain enfranchised. While the administration’s proposed changes do not seem to change the outcome”

    That last line is very interesting. Could card check have failed when the correct members of the bargaining are included? Sounds like it could be close. Interesting to note that UA continues to ensure that all eligible faculty (e.g. postdocs but not PIs) remain enfranchised.

  4. Cat 04/02/2012

    Thanks, Anon 1:56, I noticed that too. It seems that the make-up of the bargaining unit is up in the air from all sides–though the union organizers very clearly continue to NOT want to talk about it. Who’s in and who’s out? And who decides? And how will it affect the the vote and what will constitute a “democratic” process (card check, petition, secret ballot)? We shall all have to wait and see…

    • Anonymous 04/03/2012

      It is irrelevant that the university is using a lawyer at a firm with which Dave Frohnmayer has a loose relationship (he’s ‘Of Council”) because that firm has the leading labor lawyer in town–Susan Rudnick–the person with whom the law school consulted some time ago about opting out. The only thing alarming would be if the UO administration had not gone to the top legal talent in the area.

    • Anonymous 04/03/2012

      Anon 9:39am, any idea what Rudnick told them?

    • Anonymous 04/03/2012

      From what I’ve heard, she told them that if they wanted to try to get out of the bargaining unit, they might be able to do so given that there is some precedent for law schools being excluded. (There are also campuses where law schools are included.) But since law schools tend to be at major research universities, and since major research universities for the most part do not have faculty unions, there are relatively few examples to go by, one way or the other.

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