The PSU-AAUP Negotiating Team has been working steadily this year to bring us to a new contract by the expiration of our current contract. However, the USNH and PSU administration negotiating team offered no proposals during the entire first half of this process, then proceeded to demand that we accept a terrible reduction in health and retirement benefits, agree to no salary increases, and accept their unchecked authority regarding our workloads. We have determined that agreeing to such a contract would be worse for faculty (and our students and colleagues) than continuing to negotiate for a fair contract.
Therefore, we will enter “status quo” as of July 1. That means most provisions of our current CBA remain in effect until we agree to a new contract. There’s no telling how long that will take.
Throughout this process (and indeed leading up to negotiations), we have been in contact with the other USNH unions to share resources and information. Unsurprisingly, our faculty colleagues across USNH have met similar tactics and had similar results (or lack thereof) at the bargaining table.
Among the vital issues the PSU-AAUP team and the USNH team are still far apart on:
- Compensation and benefits. Under the administration’s proposals, our faculty would fall even further behind in compensation:
- no salary increases (putting us behind as the cost of living continues to increase)
- a 20% cut in retirement matching (for younger faculty, especially, this could reduce retirement savings by hundreds of thousands of dollars)
- higher health insurance costs in a plan that has much higher deductibles and copays and fewer benefits (in some cases, including the deductible, bargaining unit members may pay as much as $1800 more per year on the administration’s plan)
- overloads limited to one per semester and no overloads for those with course release unless the Provost grants an exception
- Workload. We have put forward a reasonable formula for establishing faculty workload, including ways to run occasional, critical, but low-enrolled classes. Our goal is to clarify processes for overloads and also to make sure advanced courses, for instance, are not wiped out by the administration’s determination to make faculty teach larger and larger courses. Our proposals are designed to clarify areas of high confusion right now and to strengthen the institution overall.
- Retrenchment. USNH and the PSU administration have so far refused our efforts to add transparency to retrenchment processes. They refused, for instance, a proposal requiring them to share data contributing to the decision to curtail programs. Additionally, they have proposed removing shared governance bodies such as the Steering Committee from the process. Currently, our contract does not allow retrenchment. If a retrenchment provision in any form is to be included in a contract, we insist that it must be a clear, fair, and transparent process that includes faculty input through shared governance channels.
Additionally, the administration has refused to bargain on common-sense proposals we have made to:
- ensure annual funding to support sabbatical leaves for 1/7th of the tenured bargaining unit members
- allow Bargaining Unit Members to decide to perform the responsibilities of their position in an alternative format if they perceive an unnecessary health risk
- make additional baby-changing stations, lactation areas, and fridges available for breast-milk or medications
We know that public higher education is being put in a corner financially, but the reasons for this situation cannot be addressed adequately through the contract process. We cannot give in to their attempt to balance the budget through cuts to compensation and benefits for the people who carry out the work and embody the mission of the University — its employees. Already, our staff colleagues have been moved to these new plans because they had no mechanism through which to say no. For all employees throughout USNH to have any hope of a better plan, we must hold the line.
After all the hard work everyone has given throughout these difficult times, we cannot accept a reward of slashed incomes and raised costs.
Certainly, we are disappointed not to have a new contract. During some of the most difficult circumstances any of us in higher education have ever faced, our Negotiating Team has put in hundreds of hours of work to try to hammer out a contract that would be agreeable both to our membership and to the University System. We are committed to continuing negotiations until the administration and USNH agree to a contract that recognizes the value of faculty to the institution and to the system.
What You Can Do
If you are not currently a member of the PSU-AAUP, please consider joining us. The support of members guides and sustains the work for a new contract.
Attend membership meetings. We have meetings at least once each term, and it is at meetings that we are able to share information, ideas, and plans for action.
Contact Nick Sevigney, our Membership Action Chair, to share your thoughts. We are especially interested to know what issues most concern you and which areas you would like to be more involved with.
We plan to show the USNH and PSU administration that our tenure-track faculty are paying attention and will stand strong and united. We’ll be organizing specific participation actions as the semester gets underway.
Please feel free to share and discuss this information. Our priorities and concerns are not a secret.
We look forward to working alongside the administration to help PSU thrive; we are committed to improving the lives of our colleagues and students. A healthy institution worthy of respect requires healthy workers who know they are respected. A contract that the tenure-track faculty and administration can be proud of will help everyone. Together, we will get there.