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BARGAINING, PSU-AAUP, Q & A

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING UPDATE: Frequently Asked Questions

September 20, 2022 / PSU-AAUP

FAQ #1  What do the two sides still disagree about?

FAQ #2  During the bargaining sessions, there was a lot of disagreement over the use of reserves to fund salary increases. What was that about?

FAQ #3  Is it permitted – and prudent – to spend down excess reserves to fund COLAs?

FAQ #4  Where is there common ground between the last economic proposals put forward by AAUP and Admin?

FAQ #5  So where exactly do the two sides disagree on COLAs?

FAQ #6  I’m worried that even the AAUP team’s proposal won’t keep up with inflation. What can we do about that?

FAQ #7  I earn just under $100,000 per year. Is our CBT really proposing that I only receive a 2.5% COLA in FY 2023?

FAQ #8  Past contracts have included across-the-board COLAs. Why is the AAUP bargaining team proposing a graduated COLA this time?

FAQ #9  Are graduated COLAs the new normal? Is this also how COLAs will work in FY 2024?

FAQ #10 Why did the AAUP team agree to a 3.5% ceiling on the CPI-indexed COLA in the final year of the contract?

FAQ #11 How much will my salary increase in the remaining two years of the contract if the Administration can be persuaded to agree to our CBT’s proposal?

FAQ #12 In addition to the graduated COLA, what other kinds of raises would still be in the contract?

FAQ #13 If bargaining has been suspended, what are the next steps?

FAQ #14 Are we going on strike? 

 

FAQ #1: What do the two sides still disagree about?

In a nutshell, the AAUP and Administration bargaining teams we disagree on the cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for the remaining two years of the current four-year contract, which ends November 30, 2024 (see FAQ #5). The total cost of the last proposal put forward by AAUP exceeds that of Admin’s last proposal by about $3 million through Fiscal Year (FY) 2025. To put this three-year $3 million gap in perspective, total Education and General (E&G) fund expenditures in FY 2022 (ending last June) were $330 million.

The AAUP bargaining team strongly believe the Administration has the ability to comfortably fund that $3 million gap – and that it must make this investment to help retain and recruit great Academic Professionals and Faculty.

 

FAQ #2: During the bargaining sessions, there was a lot of disagreement over the use of reserves to fund salary increases. What was that about?

The Administration maintains several reserve accounts to buffer revenue shortfalls and urgent financial needs. The Administration maintains, not unreasonably, that reserves are there for emergencies and should not be drawn down to increase salaries and wages.

But there are reserves, and then there are excess reserves.

Current reserve accounts, taken together, have accumulated tens of millions of dollars in excess of the established minimum thresholds over the last five years. Excess E&G reserves alone stand at $37 million. There are also excess funds in other reserve accounts, in addition to $9.5 million in unspent federal pandemic relief funds.

Hoarding reserves to this degree is not “fiscally prudent;” it is starving our ability to fulfill our core missions.

 

FAQ #3: Is it permitted – and prudent – to spend down excess reserves to fund COLAs?

In a word: Yes. The CBT expects that, all else being equal, its economic proposal will require drawing on some of the university’s $37 million in excess E&G reserves. Indeed, the Administration’s FY 2023 budget anticipates the same. Other reserve spending is going to projects run out of the Office of Academic Affairs ($5 million) and attached to the President’s Strategic Investment Plan (another $5 million). Even with that, there would still E&G reserves in excess of the amount required by the Board’s minimum reserves policy: about $16 million.

 

FAQ #4: Where is there common ground between the last economic proposals put forward by AAUP and Admin?

By the end of the bargaining session on September 1st, the AAUP and Administration collective bargaining teams were aligned on several important elements of a potential economic settlement, including:

  • A pool equal to 1% of all Academic Professional salaries to be used to increase salary minimums attached to the new job families and IC levels in FY 2023.
  • A pool equal to 0.8% of all AP salaries to be used to begin to address pay inequities in FY 2024. (This would be an equivalent to the existing pools for tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty.)
  • A fund of $175,000 to be used to support caregivers in both FY 2023 and FY 2024, plus a subscription caregiver network navigator (at a cost of $35,000 annually).
  • A cost-of-living adjustment in FY 2024 indexed to the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U West), with a floor of 1.75% and a ceiling of 3.5%.

As elements of an overall package, none of these provisions is “locked in” until the parties arrive at a tentative agreement (so called because nothing is truly final until AAUP Executive Council and then the membership review and vote). But it is encouraging that the two sides were not in disagreement about these issues at the conclusion of the September 1st session.

 

FAQ #5: So where exactly do the two sides disagree on COLAs?

Where the bargaining teams were most at odds is the COLA for FY 2023. Here it gets a little complicated. The proposals brought by both teams were for graduated COLAs – i.e., one rate applied to the first segment of an employee’s salary, another rate applied to the next segment, and so on.

The AAUP bargaining team proposed this graduated COLA approach because it provides larger percentage raises to those at the lower end of the salary scales.

Here is how the AAUP CBT’s FY 2023 COLA proposal differed from Administration’s at the end of bargaining on September 1st:

                           

The table shows what COLA percentage is applied to each salary segment under the two proposals, along with the overall Across-the-Board equivalents. If you would like to see what your FY 2023 raise would be under the AAUP and Admin proposals, download this calculator.

 

FAQ #6: I’m worried that even the AAUP team’s proposal won’t keep up with inflation. What can we do about that?

The proposal that the CBT put on the table on September 1st gives just over one-third of our members – all of those who are earning $65,000 or less – a COLA of 8% (which is the current inflation rate) on their entire salary. Those earning more than $65,000 receive COLAs on a sliding scale.

The AAUP team originally went in demanding a 9% COLA across the board. The September 1st offer that the AAUP team put down was the end result of hard bargaining (and no small amount of arguing). How closely we can stick to that will, in large part, depend on how much pressure members – by the hundreds – put on Administration. 

 

FAQ #7: I earn just under $100,000 per year. Is our CBT really proposing that I only receive a 2.5% COLA in FY 2023?

We do understand that the graduated COLA is a new concept for most people (it’s new to some members of the bargaining team), and so at first glance it can be confusing.

The quick answer is: No! Under the AAUP team’s proposal, an 8% COLA is applied to the first $65,000 segment of everyone’s salary.

If you earn more than $65,000 per year, a 2.5% COLA is applied to the next segment of your salary (up to $100,000), and so on.

That means that the overall COLA each member gets declines gradually as members’ salaries increase. Here is how the AAUP and Admin proposals compare over the range of salaries received by members of the union.

                                       

So, if you earn, say, $100,000 per year, your 2023 COLA would be 6% under the AAUP proposal, but 4.6% under Admin’s proposal.

The AAUP team has been attentive to how many will benefit from its proposal, and by how much, and thinks it has arrived at a reasonably balanced formula. This table shows what percentage of our members receive salary increases equal to or exceeding different rates, both in FY 2023, with the implementation of the graduated COLA, and after two years, with the subsequent implementation of the CPI-indexed COLA. Compare this distribution to Admin’s:

As the last line of the table shows, under AAUP’s proposal, about 90% of our members will receive salary increases of 5% or better in 2023 and 8% or better after two years.

                              

 

FAQ #8: Past contracts have included across-the-board COLAs. Why is the AAUP bargaining team proposing a graduated COLA this time?

Two reasons. First: fairness. The extraordinary inflation rates we’ve been experiencing over the past year disproportionately impact those for whom nondiscretionary spending – food, shelter, and other essentials – takes up a larger share of their income. They need the most relief, so the AAUP proposal allocates relatively more of the COLA pool to those with lower salaries.

To their credit, so does Admin’s proposal; mainly, we don’t agree on the size of the pool, which is why the bargaining session ended September 1st without a tentative agreement.

Second: student enrollment. The turnover among Academic Professionals over the past few years has been alarming, and has now reached a crisis point. Many Academic Professionals are on the front lines of student recruitment, advising, and retention. There can be no solution to PSU’s student enrollment problem without addressing the churn in the AP ranks. That starts (but does not end) with better pay and working conditions.

 

FAQ #9: Are graduated COLAs the “new normal”? Is this also how COLAs will work in FY 2024?

The AAUP team decided to advocate for a different approach to COLAs because of the current environment. Whether or not a graduated COLA would be used in the future is something that future leadership will decide; again, based on conditions.

 

FAQ #10: Why did the AAUP team agree to a 3.5% ceiling on the CPI-indexed COLA in the final year of the contract?

Based on all of the usual economic indicators and reports available, inflation conditions in FY 2024 are expected to return closer to a pre-pandemic “normal” of 3.0% to 3.5%. There are a lot of numbers floating around, but the Congressional Budget Office forecasts a 2023 inflation rate of 3.1% based on the CPI-U. The AAUP team therefore proposed a return to the CPI-indexed COLA.

 

FAQ #11: How much will my salary increase in the remaining two years of the contract if the Administration can be persuaded to agree to our CBT’s proposal?

We have to keep in mind that the proposal ties the FY 2024 COLA to inflation – so it’s impossible to give an exact number. But let’s suppose that inflation, as calculated using the CPI-U, is 3.1%. In that case, the 2-year dollar increase in FY 2024 salaries in relation to FY 2022 salaries, under both the AAUP and Admin proposals, looks like this:

                                         

Under that model: if you’re earning $100,000 in FY 2022, you’ll be earning $9,365 more in FY 2024 under AAUP’s proposal (a 9.4% increase), but only $7,870 more under Admin’s (a 7.9% increase). If you would like to see your FY 2023 and FY 2024 salaries under the AAUP and Admin proposals, download this calculator.

 

FAQ #12: In addition to the graduated COLA, what other kinds of raises would still be in the contract?

The post-tenure review salary increases are still in the contract for both non-tenure-track and tenure-track faculty. In addition, the new 4-year “longevity” raise for Academic Professionals is now in effect, and the bargaining team is still working to push through higher minimum salaries for APs (at a separate “side” table).

Most of the other salary increases are locked in for the remaining two years under the terms of the contract (i.e., they’re not being bargained in this “reopener”). Promotional, post-tenure review, post-continuous appointment review, and AP advancement increases remain the same. Sabbatical pay rates are unchanged. Compression, Inversion, and Equity increases remain funded at 0.8% to total annual salary rates in each of the remaining two years of the contract, for both tenure track and non-tenure track faculty.

The CBT is optimistic that AP reclassification and pay-equity increases can be funded at about the same levels for the remainder of the contract, but this is subject to bargaining.

 

FAQ #13: If bargaining has been suspended, what are the next steps?

What comes next is broadly governed by Oregon’s Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act (PECBA). Public sector bargaining must proceed for at least 150 days before other measures may be taken, and August 25th marked the end of the mandatory bargaining period. What other measures? After 150 days, either party may request the assistance of a state-appointed mediator to bridge remaining differences, which AAUP did on September 8th. Mediation has been scheduled for September 30th, with a start time to be determined. Unlike regular bargaining sessions, mediation is a confidential process; it is not open to observers.

                                                     

Nothing prevents the parties from continuing their negotiations before the start of mediation, and AAUP has informed Admin of its willingness to return to the main bargaining table if there is more money to bargain over. Otherwise, the exercise is pointless.

Mediation, once it begins, must proceed for at least 15 days before either party may declare impasse. In the case of impasse, the two sides must submit their “final offers” within seven days, after which a 30-day “cooling off period” commences. Again, nothing prevents the two sides from bargaining during this period, with or without the help of a mediator. After 30 days, the Administration may implement its final offer and the union may call a strike. In the case of a strike, AAUP must have given the Administration no less than ten days notice.

Again: the parties are always free to continue negotiating and to reach a tentative agreement at any step in the process.

Reaching a tentative agreement is the goal!

 

FAQ #14: Are we going on strike?

A strike is not a goal. The goal is a fair contract. 

A strike is also not something that elected leadership dictates. A strike is a tactic that union members sometimes choose to engage in when nothing else has worked.

Under the PSU-AAUP Constitution, a strike requires an affirmative vote of the active membership.

A strike may be pre-authorized by the membership, thereby allowing the CBT to continue with negotiations for as long as the bargaining team thinks a settlement may be possible, short of a strike.

There are many things that AAUP members can do to pressure the Administration to sign a tentative agreement and bring negotiations to a successful conclusion. 

When AAUP members, by the hundreds, engage in simple actions (e.g., wearing T-shirts, buttons, and stickers and using Zoom backgrounds, etc.), we send a strong message to the Administration: settle now.

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