After a month-long hiatus to give administration time to manage the University’s response to the pandemic, PSU-AAUP was excited to return to the bargaining table last Friday, May 15. The main item on the agenda was paid caregiver leave. Back in February, PSU-AAUP presented the difficulties and problems with our current caregiver leave policy, with three main points:
The current OFLA/FMLA definition of family is too narrow, leaving out siblings and heterosexual domestic partners. (Registered same-sex domestic partners are considered family).
The current length of time is too short. A 12-week leave doesn’t align well with a 10-week academic term, often leaving people who need to take leave trying to time things with a single term or returning to work before the 12 weeks simply because a term is starting.
The current leave is unpaid.
The pandemic has made even clearer that paid leave is critical for the health and well-being of employees. In the bargaining process several options to deal with these issues had been discussed at bargaining sessions prior to May 15, and the PSU administration had previously agreed to return to the table ready to come to agreements on some of the points.
During the bargaining hiatus, PSU-AAUP has been working closely with administration to address a variety of emerging issues brought up by remote work. Administration has said on many occasions how great the faculty and staff have been at pulling together and getting PSU through this crisis. We were hopeful that the teamwork and ability to come to efficient and effective solutions around new and complex problems would translate to the bargaining table. Unfortunately, that was not seen on Friday. PSU-AAUP acknowledges that there are many complications in bargaining a contract in uncertain times, but now, more than ever, we believe a fair and strong contract is what PSU faculty and staff deserve. After being told that the administration cannot bargain any economic issues (which they believe almost all issues are), we spent most of the time discussing the definition of family, upon which we were unable to come to agreement yet again.
The bargaining team was frustrated by the administration’s apparent lack of preparation and unwillingness to openly discuss solutions at the table. However, both teams have agreed to come back in two weeks with options. We hope that the administration will come prepared and show through their actions that faculty and staff are the indispensable core of PSU. We must work together to build a contract that values the work of faculty and academic professionals and allows PSU to continue to grow into the future. We return to the table May 29th from 8am-12pm and are ready to work together and finally finish the conversation about paid caregiver leave. It was great to see so many people watching the bargaining and it helps the team to know that you are there. Please keep tuning in.