President’s Weekly Message:Strike Training, Public Hearing & Update!- March 24, 2014

March 26, 2014 / Phil Lesch


Come out for Public Hearing on the Fight for the Future of PSU!
  Panel:  State Sen MIchael Dembrow, Former State Sen Avel Gordly,
  Oregon Student Association ED Emma Kallaway, State Rep Jennifer Williamson &
  Rev David Wheeler will take testimony and create a report for Pres Wiewel and public.
Thurs, April 3rd, 7 - 9 pm, PSU Native Center, Free & Open to the Public

Spring Break Strike Training!  Thurs, March 27th, Noon to 5
  We need to be prepared to strike if need be.  Please RSVP to Megan Hise  ( and me ( if you can attend this  training workshop.  Lunch provided, childcare available.

Univ Southern Maine Faculty & Students Occupy Admin Building
Faculty and students occupied the hall outside the Provost's Office to demand a halt to faculty layoffs and budget cuts.


Update on Mediation


What's going on in negotiations has become increasingly clear.  We have an upper administrative team with little history at PSU and very few ties to Departments and Units.  They don't have a strong understanding of
- the impact of 20 years of academic budget cuts
on an already lean operation.
- how hard people are working, with too little support, because we're dedicated to  our students, our mission, our university and our city.
- how particular is PSU's situation, requiring a tailored strategic approach, rather  than generic Admin fixes.
- the need to manage professionals with strong ownership of their work with respect for what they've achieved and by obtaining buy-in for strategic initiatives.

I've heard from many sources that this Administration not only didn't come from the ranks at PSU, but has developed an active culture of contempt for PSU faculty and APs. 

They seem to operate with a mechanistic view of the university, that each person represents a standardized part that can be easily replaced.  They fail to recognize that each of us individually has strong, specific areas of expertise, and an important web of relationships that has allowed us to create a lot from the resources we have.

The result is that they've approached these negotiations as if it's a game of lawyers' chess, empty exchanges, spin and hardball maneuvers, rather than a serious conversation with PSU's faculty and APs about how to improve the place.

So far, bargaining's been a colossal waste of time and a giant missed opportunity to communicate.

But PSU is our university, and we're not giving up!

The Gory Details

Our next mediation session is scheduled for Weds, March 26th, from 9 to 5.

Our previous mediation date, 9 to 12 on Friday, March 14th was surreal.

We had agreed, with the mediator and the Admin Chief Negotiator, Carol Mack, to meet in any format that involved at least some face to face communication, from 9 am to Noon on Friday the 14th, given teaching obligations of bargaining team members on the final day of the term.

When we arrived, we found ourselves in separate rooms and learned that the mediator would be a few minutes late.  After waiting for 25 minutes, we checked with the Admin team, to find the mediator in deep conversation with them and an attorney from the OUS system, without anyone having even notified us that the mediator had arrived, or would be spending her time alone with them while we sat and waited.

When the mediator did check in with us, we expressed our strong objection to using the single format all parties had agreed we would NOT be using, since we'd spent 40 hours accomplishing nothing that way in Jan and Dec.  It took some arguing to obtain the opportunity to tell VP Mack face to face that

a) The huge turnout for the Strike Authorization Vote and 94% vote to authorize a strike represented a resounding rejection of the admin offer(s) and we expected them to offer something our members might accept.

b) We had received David Reese's letter informing us that our Final Offer contained permissive language that they had refused to bargain, and so would not a legal basis for a strike.  However, our attorneys advised that we were on solid ground including them in our Final Offer- since the Admin had not refused to bargain permissive subjects, but had only said that they didn't have to but would entertain our permissive proposals if that language was important to us. 

Those "permissive subjects" include
i) long-held contract protection for evaluation, Promotion & Tenure language and past practices,
ii) maintaining a developmental rather than punitive form of Post-Tenure Review, and
iii) planning for academic quality.

To preserve our options, we are amending our Final Offer to eliminate the "permissive language" that they refused to discuss at the 11th hour, "rebalancing" our Final Offer to include other items of comparable value to those we are removing.

We will continue to make available an Alternative Offer that is much less expensive and retains important, long-held "permissive language."

c) Our attorneys found their Final Offer "novel" and likely unlawful, since it involves a choice and therefore no clarity about the contract they might impose on us at the end of the cooling off period on April 3rd.

The Admin Response was that they were prepared to move, but only in we first made concessions, as "a good faith gesture."

So, the admin had clearly not yet absorbed the fact that 800 people had overwhelmingly voted to reject their offer. 

We spent the entire morning having this conversation three separate times, and left - as scheduled - at noon.

Hopefully by Weds the 26th when we again meet in mediation, they will have realized that their preferred view of the world - that the PSU-AAUP bargaining team represents only a few cranks and everybody else is totally on board with PSU's direction and admin offers - is, ah, inaccurate…..

To add insult to the injury of their lack of connection to most of us on campus, and their efforts to turn these negotiations into an empty exercise rather than engage in a substantive discussion of the issues, they sent out an announcement to the entire campus community, including all of our students, and the press implying that we'd walked out of negotiations, because we left to teach AS SCHEDULED.

So that's where we are so far: legal maneuvers and spin.

On Wednesday, we will continue to argue for

a) maintenance of contract protection for unwritten work policies and the Faculty Senate's language on evaluation, promotion & tenure - which in turn protects shared governance and academic freedom;

b) reversing the erosion of faculty stability by making a meaningful increase in the proportion of fixed-term faculty on multi-year contracts;

c) incorporation of academic quality metrics into PSU's planning;

d) equitable pay that keeps salaries up with inflation, makes progress toward our comparators, creates a ladder for Academic Professionals, increases raises associated with promotion, and creates raises associated with evaluations of fixed-term faculty; and

e) increased funding for professional development and travel for all groups represented by PSU-AAUP.

Needless to say, we may not be able to accomplish everything in one contract. BUT we need to get started, to push PSU back toward prioritizing academics over administrative expansion of "Un-Uns & Un-Exes," legacy construction projects and other peripheral activities.

We're PSU, and far more important to accomplishing the critical work of the University than our transient administration.

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