Signature Needed: Support for AAUP’s Economic Bargaining

November 03, 2020 / PSU-AAUP

Good afternoon on this election day. Between COVID, midterms, and the election, we know that this is a stressful time for many, and we hope that you are taking care of yourself!

While we hesitate to ask more of you at this time, as AAUP prepares to enter the final, economic phase of bargaining, it is imperative that we keep up the pressure on administration to approach PSU’s financial decision-making with a values-based lens.

We are asking all members to add your name to this open letter TODAY calling on President Percy & the Board of Trustees to re-prioritize the core mission of the University in upcoming financial decisions.

PSU-AAUP has been bargaining with the PSU Administration for over a year, and pushing back against pessimistic budgeting for even longer. Since well before COVID, we have been trying to convince the administration that budgets are moral documents, and decisions about spending University funds need to be transparent, equity-based, and aligned with University values. Yet, as those of you listening in at recent bargaining sessions know, administration has been pushing back against even the most basic provisions of our existing contract such as cost of living increases.

Written jointly by members of PSU-AAUP and our sister union PSUFA (which represents adjunct faculty and is also currently bargaining), the letter outlines the need for real and critical conversations about shifting budgetary priorities towards economic equity for the people who carry out the core mission of our University—educators, researchers, and academic professionals.

Read on for more details, and please reach out to your unit rep or AAUP if you have any questions!

In the rest of this email:

  1. What is the deal with PSU’s budget?
  2. What is going on with Economic Bargaining?
  3. What can I do?


What is the deal with PSU's budget? 

As you may have heard from your dean, chair, at the bargaining table, or during Kevin Reynolds presentation at the most recent Faculty Senate meeting, PSU Administration is once again projecting a dire financial future in the months and years ahead, and calling for further departmental cuts, and has even been floating ideas about departmental restructuring.

As our long-time member news readers know, PSU Administration has a long history of unwarranted and unnecessary pessimism.

PSU has run an unexpectedly large surplus in each of the last 6 years. For sources, see adopted budgets & end of year actuals located on the PSU Budget website.

Every year, we hear dire enrollment and budget projections, and administration then uses this pessimism to justify continually rising tuition costs and continually decreasing departmental funding. And yet, for the last six years in a row, PSU has ended the year with unexpectedly large surpluses.

These surpluses have allowed the PSU Administration to build a healthy amount of reserves, which now exceed targets.

Both Central Reserves and Operating Reserves have a balance greater than policy requirements. See page 22 of the 2019 Financial Dashboard, the most recent release, for further details.

Even though COVID presents new challenges for our University and country, now is the time to use a reasonable portion of those reserves, rather than aim to build them up even more in anticipation of 2022. There will always be uncertainty about the future, and this is why we have reserves. If now is not a time to use those reserves, when will be the time?

Some facts about the 2019-20 budget:

  • PSU ended the year with a 17 million dollar surplus, after taking into account some early COVID losses, but not taking into account any of the money saved through furloughs.
  • Academic Affairs underspent significantly in 2019-20, by nearly $10 million.
  • Yes, auxiliaries took some financial hits!

Some facts about the future:

  • The state will continue to fund PSU in 2020-21 at comparable levels to 2019-20.
  • Furlough savings will show up in the 2020-21 year.
  • 2020 summer enrollment (which is part of the 2020-21 budget) was up significantly this year, by over 10%.
  • Auxiliaries will likely lose some money again this year and fall enrollment is down.

PSU must re-prioritize its core mission at this time, rather than continuing to sacrifice academic spending in service of propping up worst case scenarios regarding auxiliaries. Departments are already stretched too thin from years of under-spending and pessimistic budgeting, putting the core mission of the University itself at risk. PSU has been saving for a rainy day for years, and we should plan to come out of the pandemic well positioned to return to a new normal.


What is going on with economic bargaining? 

Thanks to all of you who filled out the bargaining priorities survey earlier this year. We heard you loud and clear when you said that COLAs are the most important economic item for you, and we know that these cost of living adjustments are all the more important for those of our members at the lowest pay ranks. Without an annual COLA, our buying power goes down, and we effectively take a pay cut. AAUP is committed to fighting for your COLAs.

Well aware of the world around us, AAUP has taken a moderate approach to bargaining this year, focused primarily on improving the economic status of our most vulnerable members. Yet, PSU administration has claimed repeatedly that there is no money to work with. This is simply untrue. Budgeting and contract negotiations are activities of prioritization and, we believe it’s time to prioritize the core mission of the University.

Although not an exhaustive list, these are some of the economic items we will be fighting for at the bargaining table, and we believe PSU can and should find ways to fund. That said, we expect to face significant resistance from administration to our reasonable contract requests, which is why we need you to show your support by signing this open letter to President Percy.

  • COLAs. As noted, COLAs are critical for ensuring that all of our members’ salaries keep up with rising costs of living. The lack of a COLA in 2020 -- due to the overly long bargaining process -- has increased the challenges for our more vulnerable employees in this already very challenging year. We have all been living with a pay cut for the last 9+ months, and it’s past time to restore our salaries.
  • Pay increases for NTTF with successful post-continuous appointment reviews. Currently, non-tenure-track instructional faculty top out at a rank whose salary minimum is less than the starting pay for assistant professors. These faculty can expect to reach this rank within 3-6 years of hire, at which point there is currently no mechanism for any further raises at all for the entire rest of their careers.
  • Continue to fund pay increases for successful post-tenure reviews. We won post-tenure review wage increases in the last contract, and will fight to ensure this important incentive for tenured faculty remains in the new contract.
  • Longevity increases for APs. In order to achieve equity among all our members with regards to salary and professional advancement opportunities, we want our APs to also have access to a salary increase after a successful third-year review with additional salary increases in subsequent four year increments.
  • Inversion, Compression, & Equity adjustments. In the last contract, we created a salary equity pool which was used to raise the salaries of members’ being paid less than their peers after taking into account both discipline and years of experience. However, the pool was not large enough to make all members’ salaries whole. AAUP aims to secure further funding for continued equity adjustments in the coming contract.


What can I do? 

  1. Add your name to this open letter TODAY calling on President Percy & the Board of Trustees to re-prioritize the core mission of the University in upcoming financial decisions -- both at the bargaining table and beyond.
  2. Drop in to observe our PSUFA colleagues’ bargaining session on Sunday November 8.
  3. Drop in to AAUP’s full-day marathon session on economic bargaining on November 11. November 11 is an important holiday recognizing US Veterans, and AAUP supports all members in taking this day off from work. However, given the fact that our negotiations have been dragging on for such an excessively long time, members of the collective bargaining team felt that it was important to take advantage of this opportunity to schedule uninterrupted time with the PSU Administration in order to make some forward progress on contract negotiations. Look for a link in upcoming AAUP communications.

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