2021 Bargaining Diary

August 5, 2021: Bargaining Report

Before reporting to you on the latest developments in bargaining, we want to draw your attention to some other communications from the Association. Throughout the pandemic, Oakland administration has acknowledged the work and sacrifice of the university’s faculty. The Association will be featuring some of these messages in our social media posts in Facebook  Instagram and Twitter over the next few days.

Oakland has introduced two new proposals: a proposal on layoff and recall and their economic package.

Layoff and Recall

In our last post we mentioned that Oakland submitted a proposal on Article VIII, Layoff and Recall. Details about layoff and recall and Oakland’s proposal are below but the most significant part of their proposal is that they seek to give Oakland the ability to make layoffs for any reason.  Under their proposal they can make layoffs if they believe a certain program or discipline is no longer financially viable or valuable.  Since layoffs would be allowed for any reason, administration could effectively decimate an academic program or discipline by laying off the faculty in it, thereby circumventing the academic governance processes.

In our current Agreement, there are two conditions in which Oakland can lay off full-time faculty: (1) an over-ratio layoff when the number of full-time equivalent faculty (FTE) exceeds by a certain margin the number called for by the student faculty ratio defined in Appendix B, and (2) a position-shift layoff when Oakland concludes there is an overstaffing situation and eliminates positions in one academic unit while creating new positions elsewhere.  Oakland wishes to eliminate the position-shift section. The current Agreement includes a process of consultation with faculty before layoff decisions are made, priorities for which positions are laid off first in the case of layoffs, and procedures for recall. The Agreement also provides compensation and continuation of health insurance for a limited time for faculty on layoff. Oakland also wishes to cut these provisions.

 

Oakland’s Economic Package 

At the August 4th bargaining session, Oakland submitted their economic package to us. It is a very undesirable proposal in almost every way. Here is a summary of what Oakland proposed:

The two teams will meet again Friday August 6th.

To all association members: please remember to join the General Membership Meeting on Bargaining which will be held Wednesday August 11 at Noon.  Details have been emailed to you.

 

August 1, 2021:  Bargaining Session Report

The two sides met Friday, July 30th.

The back-and-forth over the package proposal, first put on the table by Oakland, continued with Oakland submitting a counter to what we proposed last session. Their latest version represents little change from their previous positions on the teaching of credit courses by graduate students, procedures for when a faculty member is removed or barred from campus, and the number of full-time adjunct faculty positions allowed. There are some areas where the two sides have come together, such as language for joint appointments and the list of arbitrators for tenure grievances, but these areas of agreement are currently tied to resolving the larger package. During the session we presented a counter to (1) insure that decisions on removal from campus will be grievable and (2) reiterate our proposal expressing the allowable numbers of full-time adjuncts as percentages of tenure-track faculty in each school or college but with an added provision allowing Oakland and the Association to negotiate increases in full-time adjunct (or professor of practice) positions, if necessary, to accommodate the creation of new programs.

Oakland also presented a new counter on Article X in the area of workload policy review.  Their latest version lacked any substantial change from their previous proposal and, most importantly, still diminishes current faculty rights.

At the end of the meeting Oakland submitted a proposal on Article VIII, Layoff and Recall.  We will be reviewing it and responding at a later date.

Oakland has still not provided any response to our economic package which we put on the table on July 22nd.  Although there are several important noneconomic items still on the table, the two sides can also start working on the economic issues.  We are fully capable of bargaining on both the language and economic items that are on the table at the same time.

The two sides are scheduled to meet again Wednesday, August 4th.

 

July 29, 2021:  Bargaining Session Report

The two sides met Tuesday, July 27, and we presented our counter-proposal to two previous proposals from the Oakland team. 

Oakland’s Package Proposal.  One item on the table is a “package proposal” from Oakland incorporating several language items that we described in our July 18 diary post. Today we presented our counter-proposal. The key elements of our counter are that we:

Oakland’s proposal to greatly increase the number of full-time adjunct faculty (or professors of practice as Oakland is currently proposing) continues to be a major area of dispute. Our colleagues who hold these positions are full and respected members of our bargaining unit, but we must resist attempts to erode tenure through creation of more full-time positions that offer neither tenure nor job security. The current Agreement caps the number of allowed positions at 10% of the number of tenure-track faculty except that the total in the School of Health Sciences and School of Nursing is capped at 15 positions, which has been reached.  In fact the number of full-time adjunct positions in the SON is approximately 55% of the number of tenure-track positions. Oakland first proposed that there be no limit and then more recently proposed a limit of 55 with no restrictions on the above schools. We have countered with language that keeps the cap on these positions expressed as a proportion relative to the number of tenure-track faculty and keeps the proportion roughly where it is at this time but allows the number of these positions to grow if the number of tenure-track faculty grows. Our proposed numbers are 5% in any given school or college that has these positions except for the School of Nursing, where the cap would be 60% to fit the reality of the number of such positions in that school.

Workload Policy Review.  Our other counter was to Oakland’s latest version of proposed changes to the process of workload policy review in Article 10 of the Agreement, which we first described in our July 11th post.  The two sides are still very far apart on this issue. Oakland continues to press for conditions such that, at the end of a thorough review process involving both the faculty and their dean, the Provost can unilaterally impose a workload policy on any unit.  The other objectionable element of their proposal is that it creates a standard where the teaching component of workload is expressed in credits (in contrast to current workload policies of almost every academic unit at this university) and has the potential to create higher teaching loads for full time faculty. Our counter-proposal offered compromise on procedural matters of the review process, but we struck the two objectionable items described above. 

Our Economic Package.  Oakland did not give any response to our economic proposals which we put on the table at the last meeting.

Unpaid and Partial Leave.  The two sides agreed not to make changes to Article XXI Unpaid and Partial Leave.

Gender and Pronouns in the Agreement.  At the beginning of bargaining we proposed to remove gendered pronouns from the agreement. Oakland indicated support for this in principle, but we spent some sessions disagreeing about exactly how to make the changes.  (See the July 2 diary post.)  The two sides have since come to an understanding on this and have moved forward revising text to replace he/she as we go through articles. This is important because a faculty member’s ability to do their job has nothing to do with gender and the language of the Agreement should be such that all faculty members can see themselves represented.

The two teams will meet again on Friday, July 30.

Save the Date:  A Bargaining Rally will be held (online) Wednesday, August 11, at Noon. We encourage all members to attend. Please watch your email for messages from the chapter with details and the link.

 

July 22, 2021:  Bargaining Session Report

The two sides met this week on Wednesday, July 21.  

Continued discussions on contract language.

There are several “language” items on the table that we have mentioned in previous posts.  These items were discussed and we are preparing counter proposals.

Our economic package. 

Today we presented our economic proposals to the Oakland team. All members of the Oakland University faculty excel in the teaching, scholarship, and service that make this university successful.  On top of that, over the past year and a half, we have all made great sacrifices to keep our programs successful with no raise in pay.  Many of us have incurred personal expenses to meet the challenges of teaching through the pandemic.  We deserve to be compensated fairly for our work.  Below are the key elements of our proposal:

The two teams will meet again on Tuesday, July 27.

 

July 18, 2021:  Bargaining Session Report

The two sides met again this week on Thursday, July 15. 

We spent most of the session giving feedback to Oakland on a package proposal they put forward that links several items already on the table and incorporates items originally put forward by both the Association and Oakland.  In order to TA a package proposal such as this, all items in the package are to be agreed upon as a whole. The package includes language about graduate student teaching caps and categorization, grievance procedures, adjunct faculty title change and caps, tenure and promotion denial notice parameters and credit for prior experience when hiring special instructors. Their package also includes the withdrawal of Oakland’s previous proposal regarding the removal of department chairs from the bargaining unit (which we previously informed them we would not bargain), and calls for the withdrawal of our previous proposal on guaranteeing due process if Oakland removes a faculty member from campus. While we are close to agreement on many of the above issues, there remain several areas of significant disagreement. Oakland  received our feedback on the package proposal and stated that they intend to send us a modified version of the package prior to our next meeting.

In addition to discussion of the above package proposal, proposals by Oakland on Article VII (layoff and recall), Article XXI (long term disability) and XXIX (university calendar) were discussed. None were well-received by the Association. The calendar proposal sought far-reaching changes that  impacted both fall and winter term, opening the door for extensions both at the beginning and end of each term with no input from the Association. We offered to informally share a couple of alternate Fall calendar scenarios that may be able to meet the needs of faculty, students and the administration without sacrificing shared governance. Our proposal for paid parental leave was very briefly introduced at the close of the session and we intend to return to it at our next meeting.

The teams are set to meet again Wednesday, July 21. 

 

July 13, 2021:  Bargaining Session Report

Our latest bargaining meeting with the Oakland team was Monday, July 12, 2021.  At this session, both sides were seeking to bring closure to several noneconomic proposals that have been put on the table.  We don’t have specifics to report to you today, but we are hopeful that several items will be resolved soon.  The two teams are scheduled to meet again on Thursday, July 15.

As we work to resolve noneconomic matters and look ahead to economic proposals, we would like to call our members’ attention to the General Fund Budget and Tuition Rates for Fiscal Year 2022 that was approved on Monday, June 21, 2021 by Oakland’s Board of Trustees.  While we encourage members to review the document as a whole on their own, we would like to make note of two particular items:

This Fiscal Year 2022 approved General Fund Budget can be viewed in the larger context of the financial analysis performed for the AAUP by Dr. Rudy Fichtenbaum.  For those of you who missed it when it was first posted in May, you can find it here.  Relevant to this post, his report shows that Oakland’s net assets, including unrestricted financial assets, have been growing steadily for the past 20 years (Figure 14, for example).

 

July 11, 2021:  Bargaining Session Report

Our latest bargaining meeting with the Oakland team was Thursday, July 8, 2021.

We presented two counter proposals:

We also questioned Oakland’s team about proposals that they had previously put on the table:

We informed Oakland that two of their proposals which they put on the table on June 18th, were not acceptable to us:

Oakland presented us with two proposals at the end of the meeting. One was Oakland’s latest counter on joint appointments, a matter on which we have had constructive discussion, and the other was on Article XXIX (University Calendar). We are reviewing the proposals and will respond at a future meeting.

The two teams are set to meet again on Monday, July 12.

 

July 2, 2021:  Bargaining Session Report

Our latest bargaining meeting with the Oakland team was Thursday, July 1, 2021.  We presented Oakland with counter proposals on a couple of outstanding language issues, returned to issues that have seen no response from Oakland as of yet and continued discussions of several other ongoing topics.  Oakland presented one counter proposal at the end of the day’s session.

Pressing on our proposals

Responding to Oakland’s proposals

The two teams are set to meet again on Thursday, July 8th.

 

June 28, 2021:  Bargaining Session Report

Our latest bargaining meeting with the Oakland team was Friday, June 25, 2021.  We discussed previous proposals by Oakland and presented two revisions of ours.

Pressing on our proposals

We asked the Oakland team questions related to their proposal on Appendix A:  Research and Full-Time Adjunct Faculty.

We previously proposed to replace the dated use of “he/she” throughout the agreement with the gender neutral pronoun “they.” Oakland suggested a different means to remove gendered language from the Agreement which we will be reviewing.

The two teams are set to meet again on Thursday, July 1.

 

June 24, 2021:  Bargaining Session Report

Our latest bargaining meeting with the Oakland team was Wednesday, June 23, 2021. We continued to promote the proposals our team presented in earlier sessions, elaborating on our positions and, at times, suggesting ways to move forward. Oakland submitted two new proposals and we continued to discuss several of their previously-presented proposals.

New proposals by Oakland:

We will be reviewing the proposals above and responding to them at a later date.  

Discussions about previous proposals covered a range of topics, including:  Post-Tenure review, Joint Appointments, Changes to Appendix A:  Research and Full-Time Adjunct Faculty, Credit for prior experience when hiring special instructors, Use of gender-neutral pronouns in the Agreement, and Arbitration Initiation.

The two teams are set to meet again Friday, June 25.

 

June 21, 2021:  Bargaining Session Report

Our latest bargaining meeting with the Oakland team was Friday, June 18, 2021. Oakland responded to some of our earlier proposals and submitted several new proposals to us. There was discussion between the teams and we will be responding at a future date.

This diary post is our longest to date; there were several proposals put on the table by Oakland that would have significant impacts on faculty working conditions.

New proposals by Oakland:

On the proposal to remove  department chairpersons from the Bargaining Unit, we have already informed Oakland that we do not wish to entertain such a proposal.  (Note: This  subject is not a mandatory topic of bargaining.) We will be reviewing the other proposals above and responding to them. 

Oakland presented counter-proposals to two of those we presented on May 26:

We are in the process of reviewing their responses.

We did TA a few more simple language items:

The two teams are set to meet again Wednesday, June 23rd.

 

June 10, 2021:  Bargaining Session Report

We met again across the (Zoom) table with the Oakland team on Wednesday, June 9, 2021.

Before going into what happened this week, a note about the process:  The final goal of bargaining is to reach a Tentative Agreement which will then be submitted to our membership for ratification.  Along the way, both sides may reach agreement on one part of the overall agreement and tentatively agree on, or “TA,” that item.

This week, we made a TA with Oakland’s team to leave the following unchanged: Articles I, III, VI, XXII, XXIII, XXVII, XXVIII, XXIX, XXX, XXXI, XXXII, and XXXIII and Appendices C, D, E, F, H, and J.

Oakland responded to two of our initial proposals and introduced one of their own:

 

June 3, 2021:  Bargaining Session Report

We met again across the (Zoom) table with the Oakland team on Wednesday, June 2, 2021. We expanded on proposals we introduced last week and presented two new items to the Oakland team. Oakland did not bring any proposals to the table. Below are the items we proposed this week:

 

May 27, 2021:  Report on First Bargaining Session

We met across the (Zoom) table with the Oakland team on Wednesday, May 26, 2021. We presented several items to the Oakland team. Oakland received our proposals but indicated they were not prepared to respond. They did not bring any proposals to the table.

Bargaining an agreement includes dealing with a wide range of issues. As we spent Winter Semester listening to you all, we heard a variety of concerns. There are, of course, the ever-present economic issues. There are also procedural matters that have an impact on our ability to do our work and problems that have arisen for faculty over the years of our current Agreement that we work to resolve.

Bargaining is a long process. All things in bargaining will be subject to constructive back-and-forth between the two teams. For our first proposals, we selected initial items that, in principle, should not be controversial, though we expect negotiation on the particulars.  Below are the items included in our initial proposals along with brief descriptions:

 

May 24, 2021

Bargaining has begun.  This past Friday, May 21st, we had an initial meeting with Oakland's team to discuss scheduling and ground rules.  Oakland's chief negotiator is Robert Boonin of Dykema Gosset PLLC and the other team members are Joi Cunningham, Peggy Cooke, Judy Didion, and James Hargett.

Wednesday we will be going to the table with our first proposals.  As promised at the Bargaing Rally, we will be keeping you informed about what we are doing in a transparent and timely fashion.  Expect new information to be released this week.

Thank you all for your continuing support.

 

May 6, 2021

Dear Bargaining Unit Members:

In preparation for bargaining, we commissioned a financial analysis of Oakland University from the national AAUP. Dr. Rudy Fichtenbaum, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Wright State University and past president of the national AAUP, conducted the study. His analysis, covering the period from fiscal years 2014–⁠2020, is posted on the OU AAUP chapter web site (direct link http://oaklandaaup.org/res/FinancialReport_OU2021.pdf). We encourage everyone to take some time to read this analysis as it offers a thorough review of Oakland’s financial situation, provides a straightforward explanation of the various components of the university’s financial statements, and makes informed comments about the possible financial effects of the pandemic.

This report confirms that Oakland’s financial state is strong.  Oakland's net assets (the difference between assets and liabilities) have grown steadily and consistently from 2001 to 2020. Of course, the full financial impact of the pandemic is not yet known, but the university came into the pandemic well-positioned to weather the crisis, and federal Covid-19 stimulus funds have undoubtedly offset some of the lost revenue.