After 12 grueling hours of bargaining on Wednesday, our bargaining team came to a tentative agreement on the economic dimensions of a new contract. We fought hard against the administration’s insistence on zero cost of living increases and secured 1% COLAs for both FY2021 and FY2022. While agreeing to a 4-year contract, the AAUP team insisted on an economic reopener after two years in order to bargain for COLAs in subsequent years. We were unable to get admin to link COLAs directly to the consumer price index, but a 1% COLA is not far from the annual increase in CPI for urban consumers in the West, which is now 1.2%.
Additional first-time achievements include pay increases for NTTFs receiving positive post-continuous appointment reviews, longevity pay increases for APs, and a pool of money for increased salaries related to the new job reclassifications. Pay increases for positive post-tenure reviews will continue, as will existing levels of funding for faculty development grants and professional development accounts. We have also secured funding for continued inversion/compression and equity adjustments; insurance, retirement, and other general employment benefits will also remain the same. The economic reopener also permits bargaining on up to three additional articles in the contract in case our members feel that other changes are needed.
It is our assessment that we were able to secure these gains because admin knows that we have power in our membership. For example, it was clear from admin’s response at the start of bargaining that our letter, collectively written with PSUFA, our adjunct faculty colleagues, and signed by over 670 union members and supporters in just 5 days, had a positive impact on bargaining. Both PSUFA and our union had markedly more productive sessions after President Percy and the Board of Trustees received the letter. We also knew that THEY knew that YOU were WATCHING. Our bargaining team does the difficult work at the table. But, actions like our letter campaign and bargaining observations help push our union agenda forward by showing that our members care about what’s happening and our true power as not just AAUP, but across all the unions on our campus. Collective action works!
How did we get here?
In October 2018, our bargaining team first began training and preparing for bargaining. We had such great hopes and plans for when bargaining began in January 2019! Never did we imagine that the three months of training would be the preparation that we would need for two years of bargaining (we also never imagined we would need to be bargaining during a pandemic, but that is for another discussion). So, we were eager to finally have the big economic conversation with administration on Wednesday, November 11, 2020.
Wednesday ended up being a very long day for our team as well as for the many amazing and supportive members who stayed online watching the bargaining play out. The day started out with PSU-Administration coming to the table with a plan that was clearly not acceptable -- no COLAs, minimal salary increase for post-continuous appointment and AP advancement, a one time lump sum of money that would not be added to our base salaries, but little else aside from continued funding for select programs, including health and retirement benefits, which the two sides had agreed to during previous bargaining sessions. We were prepared for them to tell us that they “had no money” but we were also prepared with our own research showing that there were options that could benefit our members, our students, and our University. We returned multiple times that day with options addressing every concern that they brought up, while they continued to say that they could not afford any recurring costs to the University.
While we knew that the economic forecast was not where we had started two years earlier, we also knew that there were much better options for the University than what was being offered. We had heard loud-and-clear from members that cost-of-living adjustments were especially important, and we were determined to earn the trust that our members had placed in us. During the 11 subsequent hours of bargaining, the administration kept reiterating that there was no way forward that included cost-of-living adjustments, but that we could distribute a one-time lump sum. A “bonus” for going without COLAs? We were prepared to walk away. This was when admin asked for a few more minutes of patience, took a final caucus, and returned agreeing to everything in our final proposal.
We are unaware of any other AAUP chapter that has been able to secure COLAs in a contract concluded after the start of the pandemic. Many of our colleagues across the country are facing pay-cuts and other austerity measures instituted by their administrations and therefore we see this assurance that our salaries will not fall behind even further than their original offering as positive.
Some of our other Non-Economic Gains
If you’ve been following along for the last year+, you know that a lot of bargaining happened before we got to economic issues. More details will follow in the coming weeks, but some of these other items include:
- New workload protection language for TT and NTT faculty (we already had this for APs).
- Clarification of leaves article including:
- Updated definition of family for leaves now includes siblings and different-sex domestic partners (who were not previously covered by state/federal laws).
- Updated definition of family for bereavement leave.
- More flexibility with bereavement leave: can now be taken up to a year after a death.
- People experiencing domestic violence qualify for paid leave.
- Explicit acknowledgement of the impacts on faculty of changing technology and political landscape. PSU will create a resource guide for faculty experiencing new forms of online and/or political harassment.
- Promise from PSU to track use of fixed-term NTT (as opposed to Continuous Appointment-track NTT) so that potential exploitations are identified.
Stay tuned for more information on these “Non-Economic” Issues.
Ultimately, the contract will be subject to approval by the Executive Council and YOUR approval, as our membership. While we have tentative agreements in place on everything shared so far, there will still be some wordsmithing to do in writing out the contract language. We expect that this process will take 2-3 weeks. Please keep an eye on your PSU email for word from us about ratification and/or be in touch with your Unit Rep.
Attend either one of our December General Member Meetings to learn more and ask questions of our Bargaining Team - Link is in our latest member communication!