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Recap of the March 28 Membership Meeting

For those of you who could not attend the AAUP Membership Meeting on March 28, we are providing a brief summary of the meeting.

Last week, the PSU-AAUP released an analysis of PSU/USNH finances prepared by Howard Bunsis, an expert in Higher Education finance. The results of that analysis were eye-opening and faculty were especially interested in discussing two of its conclusions:

  • PSU and the USNH system appear to be in better financial shape than we had thought.
  • Funding faculty salaries is a low priority for the administration.

Knowing this information might impact the way membership wanted them to approach the remaining negotiations, our Negotiating Team decided not to submit counter-proposals on Salary, Benefits, or Retrenchment until they had met with the AAUP membership.

Our union membership has risen to 104 and counting (well over 60% of the faculty), so despite the awkward time of the meeting, it was well-attended and the attendees were very energized. Representatives from the Negotiating Team explained the administration’s latest offers on Salary and Benefits, comparing them our union’s most recent offers on those articles.

Highlights of that discussion:

  • Many faculty were dismayed that the impression we often get–that the university is broke and about to “hit the rocks”–is not supported by the financial data the administration provides to the federal government. Assets and reserves are actually increasing and the university (and the wider USNH system) are in the black. Spending on capital projects, as well as “open labs” and other specialized labs is increasing; spending on a revolving cast of consultants is considerable; and spending on administrative salaries (especially in 2016) is rising sharply. None of that squares up with the messaging the university has heard from its administration.
  • Faculty expressed astonishment that–in the midst of all this spending– the administration has no plan for bringing PSU salaries in line with our comparators,
  • and that (after some years without even a cost-of-living raise) inflation and health-care costs had effectively resulted in substantial pay cuts for faculty.
  • Many faculty pointed out that the chaos created by the administration has meant we are working much harder even while our compensation is falling in relation to our comparators and inflation.
  • Some junior faculty rose to say they had been promised cost-of-living increases when they interviewed for their positions and felt deceived when no such adjustments were made for the last two years.
  • Some pointed out that the transition between academic structures and curricula have forced many faculty to take on overload teaching assignments–and since our overload pay is a fraction of the rates paid to our colleagues around USNH, we are effectively falling even further behind in compensation.
  • We discussed the original survey that the AAUP had administered before contract negotiations commenced. While compensation was third on the list of priorities behind workload and governance, several expressed a conviction that investing in faculty — especially in light of rising spending on administration and lab ventures — is deeply connected to workload.

Takeaways:

  • Several in the room asked the negotiating team to increase the amount of salary and overload compensation raises we asked for in our December offer. The negotiating team is consulting with its attorney, but it is our preliminary understanding that raising an offer that has already been put forward might be interpreted as “regressive bargaining” and could open us to charges of unfair labor practices. It is unclear, at this point, if there is a way to structure a counter-offer in such a way as to actually improve our position on salary in relation to our December 2017 proposal.
  • The consensus was that the final salary agreement must get the faculty to parity with average salaries of our current comparators in no more than three years. Since we have not had a meaningful raise in years, and since those comparators are likely to receive cost-of-living increases in the meantime, our agreement should take that into account.

The next bargaining sessions with the administration are scheduled for April 12, April 19, and May 3. Faculty are encouraged to attend these sessions (especially the April 12 session which is at 2:30 in the Lamson Tower Room) as a show of support for the bargaining team.

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