The PSU-AAUP Negotiating Team has been hard at work in recent months.
If you are interested in getting active on the important issues we are bargaining, please get in touch with our Membership Action coordinator, Nick Sevigney. If you have questions or concerns about bargaining, our next meeting for union members will be March 31 at 3:45pm. We will send more information closer to that date.
We have met with the administration’s negotiating team five times since October, proposing improvements to nine articles. Until this past week, bargaining was completely one sided, as their negotiating team made no counter-proposals and offered little comment on our proposals. For the most recent session, they finally offered counter-proposals having to do with benefits and faculty rights. We have more information on that below.
We have made significant proposals regarding workload evaluation and equity. The most significant new proposal we have made is one that seeks to manage low-capped and low-enrolled courses. We have proposed a formula for how to compensate faculty for such courses that avoids the current shell game the administration plays around teaching, enrollments, and course cancellations. Numerous members shared stories of unfair and educationally harmful decisions that have been made around low-capped and low-enrolled courses, and we consider it a priority to address these concerns. And we proposed a simple formula that would calculate the total credit hours generated and thus allow us to continue teaching some low-enrolled courses when we also teach courses with larger caps. Additionally, we have asked that anyone advising more than 30 students receive actual compensation rather than the vague offer of service or scholarship reductions.
Promotion, Tenure, and Evaluation
We have proposed clarifications to the rules around negotiating time to promotion and stopping the tenure clock.
We have reiterated our position that retrenchment is a process and not a single decision, and our proposals regarding retrenchment assert that all conversations around retrenchment, including conversations about program curtailments, must be transparent. Claims that curtailing specific programs will result in financial benefit to the university must be demonstrated with specific, verifiable evidence. We have proposed additional severance pay and access to professional development funds for retrenched faculty, and our proposal includes a requirement that affected faculty must be offered other teaching assignments if possible before retrenchment.
Safety and Health
We have proposed language that is more appropriate for the era of COVID than the language in our previous CBA was. We assert that a Bargaining Unit Member must be able to decide whether to perform the responsibilities of their position in an alternative format if they perceive an unnecessary health risk associated with performing duties in the normal manner.
Sabbaticals and Leave
We have proposed that the university must make provisions in the annual budget to ensure adequate funding for sabbatical leaves.
PSU/USNH Administration Proposals/Counter-proposals
As noted above, the administration has offered very few proposals or counter-proposals so far, and have done so only in the last week. Their current proposals/counter-proposals were sent one day before the most recent negotiating session so our negotiating team had little time to review them before we met at the table.
The administration has proposed deep cuts to healthcare and retirement benefits. These cuts are all in line with the health and retirement benefit cuts recently imposed on staff throughout USNH: the deductibles and copays would be doubled, retirement contributions by the university would be reduced by 20%. The only employees in USNH who currently have not had their benefits cut are the unionized faculty at PSU, KSC, and UNH. We expect this to be a challenging and difficult fight, as USNH is absolutely determined to cut benefits.
The administration has made a proposal regarding faculty rights that is perplexing and, frankly, offensive. We had proposed that faculty be provided access to storage facilities for breast milk and that each building with classroom space will also include a baby changing station and lactation space (accommodations that would also benefit staff and students with young children). The administration entirely rejected this proposal on the basis that employees already are provided with office space and that should be satisfactory for anyone who is pregnant or has young children.
While we wait for the administration to fully engage in the bargaining process by responding to our earlier proposals, our bargaining caucus continues to seek input on the current contract and to develop new proposals. Additionally, faculty union leaders across the USNH institutions meet regularly to discuss developments in contract negotiations. Despite the very difficult bargaining environment, we remain confident that we can negotiate a contract that improves transparency and equity at PSU, while protecting the gains we won in our first contract.
Our next bargaining session is March 24.