Thursday, July 10, 2014

Concluding Unscientific Postscript

People have been asking why there was no liveblog of the last--and what turned out to be the final--bargaining session.

There was no liveblog because the admin team showed up unprepared to negotiate, which is an accurate description of their conduct for much of this bargaining cycle. So there was nothing to liveblog.

There was just silence.  So we are left to assume that they are either out of ideas or are tired of having their sophistries made public.

Or perhaps it is both.

Whatever the case, there will be no more bargaining, and therefore no more need for this chronicle.  Thanks for the readers, the linkers, the objectors, and the detractors.  We're in mediation now and a strike is a real possibility.

We didn't want this. They did.

We didn't refuse to bring actual figures to the table to discuss progressive proposals. They did.

We didn't declare the impasse. They did.

They didn't want people to hear what they said. We did.

"He jumped in through the window, and just as he was jumping out, the others, who had been looking at him, were standing nearby. 

Triumphantly holding some papers in his hands, he shouted, 'A manuscript by His Honor the Judge. If I have published his others, it is no more than my duty to publish this also. 

Who am I? I am not worth asking about, for I am the least of all, and people make me very bashful by asking this question. I am the pure being and thus almost less than nothing. I am the pure being that is everywhere present but not yet noticeable, for I am continually being annulled. I am like the line with the arithmetic problem above and the answer below-who cares about the line? 

By myself, I am capable of nothing at all, for even the idea of tricking Victor out of the manuscript was not my own notion, but the very notion according to which I borrowed the manuscript, as thieves put it, was in fact borrowed from Victor. Now in publishing the manuscript, I again am nothing at all, for the manuscript belongs to the Judge, and in my nothingness I as publisher am only like a nemesis upon Victor, who presumably thought he had the right to publish it.'"

Friday, June 20, 2014

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin

When last we met, the administration had refused to bargain further on economic issues, so far as that bargaining involved meeting any of our bottom lines.

Sine that time, our Trust has handed the university ~$500K by bargaining a much-improved healthcare package, without raising premiums.

We'll see if the administration is willing to bargain in good faith and honor their word that savings on healthcare could be added to compensation.

As a side note, to date Fancy Lawyer's firm has billed ~$17.5K for our bargaining.  That amount would almost fund 2 GTFs at .20 FTE for a full year. But somehow we're the ones who need to make cuts...#Priorities

1:08 p.m. The admin team is finally complete, and we can begin.  The admin team did not provide written copies of their proposals in a timely manner, so we're finishing up some math.  This is not a positive sign of forward movement, but it's on par with what we've come to expect from this Fancy Lawyer-led admin team.

Fancy Lawyer begins the admin's presentation.  He begins by conveying the University's thanks for our Trust having provided a healthcare package the decreases costs to the university.  He notes it gives the university "flexibility."  Because carrying around a $101M surplus apparently cripples them.

Beginning with the FracCalc Sheet clause.  They propose nothing new.  We've already rejected this proposal, but Fancy Lawyer rehearses it nevertheless.

Article 18: Summer Term.  The admin is not bringing a new proposal here, either. Open-faced sandwich, high fees.

On to economics.

Salary.  The admin offers a 6.1% raise for Level 1 minimums, and 3% increases for Levels II & III.  This is not the bottom line we told the bargaining team we wanted the admin to meet. Additionally, it's a divisive package, and it ignores the fact that many GTFs at Level II are still not making a living wage. While this wage package is significant movement forward by the admin, they are simply exploiting a syntactical ambiguity in our proposal to bring another substandard salary proposal, cloaked as a reasonable proposal.

Tuition Waiver.  The admin is sticking with the risible position that tuition increases are beyond their control and is counting the waiver as a cost to the university.  They are once again claiming that a rise in tuition is a de facto raise for GTFs.  This is sheer sophistry.  It's beyond the pale that they still trot out this tired, dubious rhetorical sleight of hand.  It's basically a veiled threat to yank the tuition waiver if we hold to our demands. More underhanded bargaining.  We point out that these waivers were never up for bargaining.

Fees.  Fancy Lawyer intones about the cost to the university of our fee cap, but they accept the fee cap at $61.00, and they also stick to their promise to pay the CEVIS fee for international students, but only those international students who teach their first term.  It is not retroactive, and does not apply to international students who do not teach their first term.  We're trying to get clear just on what sort of exigencies for international students this proposal covers.

Healthcare. The admin is still pleading risk and wishes to have a 10% hard cap on premiums for GTFs. Any year in which premiums go down, that drop in cost would be returned so that it could applied to premiums in a future term.  Sure, it may not effect the GTFs working under the upcoming CBA; but once this structure is in place, GTFs will be perpetually at risk for drastic fee increases in years where premiums rise above 10%. Never mind that no other unit on campus has a hard cap and never mind that we are the cheapest group of state employees to insure in the state, the admin is sticking with their ultimately regressive health care proposal.  They claim we do not want to share risk.  Their proposal is just lawerly bloviating, intended only to minimize risk to the university and shift that burden on to the GTF, who, by way of reminder, is being paid $400-$600 per month below the living wage.  So the admin's proposal is to shift risk to the party who can stand to bear it the least. We're already sharing risk unequally, because 77% of us are paid below a living wage.  We can't absorb rises in health care costs, at all. We proposed that in exchange for their dropping the language instituting a cap, we would cede power to expand benefits outside of bargaining.  They accepted our half of the concession and refused to honor our compromise with their half of the concession.

The HG&HH crew have a hard time seeing our members ever accepting a hard cap on premiums.  This is a serious miscalculation by the admin team as to what they can sail past us. We haven't spoken to a single GTF on campus this cycle that is willing to accept this.

There's some proposed changes to billing language.  The admin is accusing us of not providing student lists in time.  This is due to the admin not processing things in a timely fashion and GTFs having had their insurance canceled.  The proposed language gives both the union and the admin some flexibility with timelines.

Article 28. Absences. No new proposal from the admin. Flat rejection of paid leave.

Article 31. Authority. Our president is making a massive power grab, and the admin want the university president to be the one who approves our contract.  Since we've existed, it's been the Board that ratifies, not the paid face of university development.  They are refusing to bargain further on this proviso of Article 31.  The admin's proposal, basically, is a unilateral change to our CBA, which would seem to be a clear violation of labor law.  They're basically saying the Board delegated this authority to the President, and we don't get to bargain over it any further. They are proposing a change to the CBA and claiming that we have no right to bargain that change.

We are point out that the former university general counsel flatly lied to the Board when he stated that the university president has always approved our CBA. In reality, that's always been done by the Board. So yes, the Board delegated to the President.  Because the President's legal beagle lied to the Board.

This administration is sending a clear message that they have no respect for our members' clear statement of our bottom lines.  This economic package meets only one of our bottom lines--fees--and is almost regressive in terms of our other bottom line issues.  They have given us an "improved" package, but this is a relative term.  Improvements on a bad package that results in it remaining a bad package, does not make for a good, or even acceptable, package.  We're still being asked to accept a bad deal.  Add to that the fact that they are trying to force through a delegation of authority policy that unilaterally alters our CBA, a policy which was gotten on the back of a bald-faced lie, and you get the picture of an administration run amok, an administration that, in a desperate act of ambition, has completely lost its moral compass.

Article 33. Notice.  The admin claims we can't bargain who receives notice of union bargaining matters because it doesn't impact our working conditions.  This is to try and build an end-around into the CBA, because last week the Board slapped the president's hand for refusing to notify the Board about our bargaining this past academic year.

Article 35. Leave.  No new proposal. Flat rejection. Fancy Lawyer states that it is a matter of policy not to provide leave to employees working at below .50 FTE.  We're basically the only employees on campus working at that level. So, the sophistry persists.  The law profession should be ashamed to have this huckster as a member.

1:45 p.m. Caucusing. Radio silence.

2:50 p.m. And we're back.

Our lead begins by pointing out that it is now summer term and we no longer have our full membership present on campus.  Our lead thanks the admin for their movement for GTFs at Level I and the living wage.  Our lead points out that the proposal still doesn't address GTFs at Level II and Level III who still won't be making a living wage. Our lead points out we're going to have to present this to our full membership in the fall and see what they say.

Our lead asks if the CEVIS fee reimbursement will apply to GTFs already here.  The admin wonders if this is a retroactive proposal.  Both sides will need to do some work on this issue.

In regards to the saber-rattling over tuition waivers.  We have GTFs that sit on the Tuition and Fees Advisory Board. Graduate tuition was never addressed by that board.  Fancy Lawyer claims the issue was brought up in bargaining to articulate the "proper" way to compensate GTFs.  The admin team claims those grad students on the board could have brought it up, which is an complete non sequitur.  Admin team says they are trying to present "real costs."  Our lead again points out that its odd to bring up grad tuition as an impactful cost to the university at the bargaining table, and to not bring it up at all in meetings where the university actually decides on acceptable tuition rates.  Fancy Lawyer now intones the sophistry that raises to tuition are de facto raises to GTFs.  It's like a broken jukebox that only plays that one Engelbert Humperdinck 45.

Our lead now points out that while we did indeed win benefits from the provider that we had demanded at the table, also part of our bottom line was a "no cap" proviso, as well as paid leave, both of which are not met by the admin's proposal. Our lead further points out that any concession on our part has to be made with the approval of the general membership, and that meeting can't happen until the fall. We've been brought to this point by the admin's refusal to even begin negotiating economics issues until the end of the cycle, and then quitting after offering one package.  We are open to continuing discussions through the summer, but we can't TA anything not meeting our bottom lines, and can't ratify anything we TA until the fall, because the admin team dragged their feet on economics throughout the term.

We're now pointing out that we offered a power vs. risk compromise, and the admin took our part of the compromise and refused to meet their own.  We don't understand why the admin would make this kind of a proposal when the Trust just saved the university a large amount of money.  Fancy Lawyer replies that they are "risk-splitting"and now is prattling on about rising health care costs as if this was an episode of Morning Joe.  He claims the proposal of a premium cap is a way of "encouraging" the Trust to cut health care costs to the university.  We point out that the premium caps proposed are basically a way of killing the Trust by other means. Instead of cutting off its head, they starve it to death, and by extension, kill our healthcare benefit.  Our lead interjects that the cap and the bargaining benefits proviso don't really work together, so it's not clear why the admin decided to couple them in a proposal.  Our lead points out that the university is trying to shift more risk onto those who cannot shoulder any more risk.  Fancy Lawyer says this objection doesn't fit the proposed change.  He then basically restates what our lead just said he was saying as a reason for him not saying what he was saying.  This fellow is one seriously suspect barrister.  Or maybe these sorts of dubious rhetorical tricks are what constitutes an effective lawyer.  Either way, this fellow is pissing away tuition dollars on cheap talk and bluster. We're trying to point out that this basically would force us to cut benefits when premiums rise. Once those benefits are out of the plan, they could not be added back without being bargained. So it slowly erodes the plan.  The admin's proposal is meant to choke the Trust and kill our plan. It is regressive bargaining.

Fancy Lawyer is not getting it. I can't tell if he's feigning stupidity or feigning competence.

We're proposing that language be included stating that any benefit that was ever included in the plan could be added back.  Fancy Lawyer says no, not any benefit, just the benefits in the current agreement.  So it's still meant to erode the plan.  He keeps admitting to having proposed what he's denying he's proposed. It's like arguing with a child.

We're moving on to clarifying some language about returned premiums.  The proposed language basically takes away from the Trust the power to determine how returned premiums would be applied, which strips the Trust of its ability to protect itself and GTFs who encounter unforeseen issues with payments.  We are proposing that this language be clarified so that the Trust has final approval of the application of returned premiums.

It's quite clear that, as has been their position from the start, the administration wishes to bust the Trust and strip GTFs of their healthcare benefit.

We're offering to schedule another session.  Fancy Lawyer says it'll have to be coordinated via email. We point out the the ground rules state we must attempt to schedule the next session at the current session. Fancy Lawyer wants a time frame. More feet-dragging by the admin team. Shameful.

We're ask if the President will be present at the management meetings before the next session. Fancy Lawyer says he will not, unless he decides to come of his own accord.  We wonder why (1) as the President has stated that improving our compensation is a priority, why he would not attend these meetings and (2) why a person who has exhibited no interest in our bargaining, should be placed in charge of ratifying our contract, the process of defining which he has taken absolutely no role in.

Fancy Lawyer, ever the loyal boy, falls back on the Board of Trustees delegation of authority policy adoption at the recent BoT meeting.  Our lead--unlike well-paid and untraveled Fancy Lawyer--was at the meeting, and our lead now points out that this delegation of authority policy is still very much in limbo at the Board level, and that the Board has formed a committee to modify that policy, so we can't TA an article structured around a policy that has not yet met with the full approval of the Board.

We're making the point that as the President isn't managing our bargaining, that President seems to be an illegitimate authority to approve our contract.

We're now asking Fancy Lawyer if his previous statement that "The GTF should not expect the stipend cover all living expenses" still stands.  The admin's current proposal seems directed at accomplishing exactly that.  We wonder if Fancy Lawyer finds a tension between his previous statement of university policy and the current offer.  We wonder why they returned exactly to our initial proposal of 6.1%, which in hindsight seems cynical.  Fancy Lawyer responds that making a living wage is not a bad thing, but it does not guide policy when it comes to GTF compensation.  We wonder if the university thinks GTFs deserve a living wage.  Fancy Lawyer responds that if the university had unlimited resources, they would pay us a living wage.  We try to press the point.  Fancy Lawyer is trying to shut down the entire line of questioning. He is not appreciating having his mendacity brought to the fore.

He now admits the 6.1% figure was selected not because the admin wanted to provide a living wage, but instead it was chosen in a cynical attempt to control the messaging on wages.

Our lead now issues a concluding statement that we are hopeful that we can reach agreement on some of the offered proposals, but we are very disappointed by the complete refusal to move on our paid leave proposals. Our lead notes that there have not even been creative counters offered on this issue by the admin.  We are discouraged by this proposal, it is among our bottom lines, and the admin has simply refused to even make an attempt at negotiating on leave. Our lead warns the admin not to dally on this issue and then claim in the fall that they lack the time to deal with it.  They have the time right now.

3:36 p.m. We're done. Stay tuned to FB for news on the next session.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Enten-Eller, or What Must Be Done

So here we are.


Just in case that was unclear.  In response to this act of bad faith in bargaining, our members have overwhelmingly voted to authorize our bargaining team to call a strike, when legal issues permit such and action.  We would prefer not to strike.  We want to work. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations persists...

Today we're meeting, but the administration is still refusing to bargain on the economic issues, so today will likely be a brief conversation about Article 9.  Room is rapidly filling with members, as well as allies from local unions.  We're here, we're strong and we're angry.

4:05 p.m. Here we go.  Admin confirms the only item on the agenda is Article 9.  They are not getting the message.  The admin still insisting adding a single piece of paper to a file is a workload issue for staff.  The admin is adding in new language that requires departments to include their absence policy in their departmental agreements.  They also are adding language that allows a GTF to ask a supervisor about workload.

The university will only maintain the records if a GTF decides to make a comment about the workload required by a particular course.  Otherwise, no records will be kept.  They are trying to "reduce the number of pieces of paper" on file, except for "useful" information.

We're responding that having the workload history on file, whether there was a comment or not, is important in the case that no one comments even though there's an an issue and a GTF decides to check if there is a history of unreported workload issues.  The admin's proposal prevents a problem from being addressed in the term where it occurs, basically.

The admin is now appealing to the fact that workload issues rarely crop up.  Never you mind that the reason they rarely crop up is because we don't have the sheets and GTFs often do not realize they are being overworked.  We made this proposal because workload is an issue and there needs to be rigorous documentation of workloads so that GTFs can be aware of the time required to teach a course and address any workload issue at the time the workload issue occurs.

Fancy Lawyer now suggests most of this information would not useful, unless there is a comment made on the workload.  His equivocation of the meaning of "useful" is almost as bad as his prevarication on "fair."

We're responding that our members want this information.  They think it's useful, and it's not up to some mercenary lawyer to decide for the GTF what information is and is not useful to them.

We're now submitting a counterproposal that incorporates the language about including absence policies.  Fancy Lawyer clarifies that our proposal is unchanged from last time, with this exception.  He's really trying to get us to force and impasse, and we're not going to give this smug mercenary the satisfaction.

Fancy Lawyer now appears unclear on the proposal he just offered.  I guess $290/hr just doesn't buy good help these days.

Our workload is not "just another piece of paper."  The administration does not want our workloads documented.  They do not want a paper trail that shows the way in which the university depends on the systemic overworking of GTFs.

4:25 p.m. We're going to caucus. Radio silence. In the meantime, enjoy this gif, expressing the tenor of the room towards Fancy Lawyer:

4:35 p.m. We've called the admin team back, let's see how long this takes.  

4:46 p.m. Admin team trickling back in.  We're indicating our concern that the admin team's lack of movement on Article 9 is about more than paper.  Specifically, we think it indicates the admin does not want a history of GTF workloads.  Fancy Lawyer sticks to the risible position that a worksheet without comment does not provide "useful" information.

Fancy Lawyer is also bizarrely conflating context with commentary.  

We're now pointing out that the administration calling our workload "just a piece of paper" is a baldfaced insult to members who are confronting workload issues at this very moment and lack the empirical data necessary to bring up this issue with a department head or supervisor.  The admin's proposal doesn't allow for a workload issue to be addressed at the time it occurs.

The admin is sticking to the claim that all it takes is a comment to have a record kept.

4: 53 p.m. We're not going to TA Article 9 today. Discussing the agenda for the next session, and we're encouraging the admin to come to that session with an economic proposal.  We're pointing out that we are deeply disappointed with the admin's lack of movement on economic issues.  We're reiterating that our bylaws prevent us from ratifying in the summer and encouraging the administration to settle our contract now, before the summer term comes.  We're asking them formally to bring an economic package.

Fancy Lawyer says they are not going to bring an economic package that is "significantly different" from their previous offers.  they are reasserting that they need "more information" from the Trust.  The difference between the plans offered is 2%-3%.  Fancy Lawyer says it's 5%.  This is ~$400K/yr.

Fancy Lawyer reasserts that they are not going to offer a changed package.  They can "move things around," but they aren't going to to add to the pot of money available.

We're pointing out that our members are confused as to why the admin has put the brakes on movement on the economic package.  We're asking if the admin ever even planned to give us a fair contract.

We're offering to give them whatever information they wish to get our contract settled.

Fancy Lawyer says he's never had a negotiation go to a strike vote, but "he knows people who have."

This is the person the administration selected to pay $290/hr to represent them at the table.

Fancy Lawyer wants to know if the meeting is conditional on the admin "making significant movement."  He's trying to worm his way out of his cockup last week when he walked away.  He wants to know if we want to show up to a session where they aren't going to bring further proposals.  He's trying to force us to be the side that compels impasse.

We're pointing out that the Trust is meeting Tuesday.  Fancy Lawyer says the management team will gather after that and make a decision.

Now Fancy Lawyer is backtracking and suggesting he didn't say what he clearly said because he didn't hear what he clearly heard.

We're asking why information concerning ~$400K is so crucial when the administration never mentioned it until the end of term.

Fancy Lawyer is returning to his obfuscatory pontificating about "risk."

Fancy Lawyer says "based on discussions [he's] heard so far" that no economic package that includes our wage, healthcare and fee demands is forthcoming.  Which is an admission that he LIED about needing the Trust to meet to put forward an improved economic package.  He now asserts that the admin has not intention of meeting our bottom line.

He wants to know if our bottom line is a really a bottom line.  He says he feels "fairly confident" that if he goes back to the people who make the decisions and tells them that our current package is our bottom line, that those people will tell him that our bottom line cannot be met.

Fancy Lawyer says "we've done a masterful job of playing this out in the media."

We point out that there's a $10M surplus just from the last year.  We just want a tiny slice of that pie.

Fancy Lawyer says we're ignoring what "surplus" means.  He's now implying that a surplus is not a surplus.

We are now asking what the administration considers a better use of funds than giving GTFs a living wage, adequate health care, and parental leave.  We're now pointing out that there's been no transparency on how the money is being spent.

Fancy Lawyer now admits that the money for our contract has already been allocated and will not be added to, at all.

5:17 p.m. We're done. Next session TBD.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Gjentagelsen, or Repetition (In A Minor Key)

Here we are gathered together.

Today, we'll be giving our responses to the admin's regrettable proposals of last week.  Rumor is we're making as much movement in our counters as we can.  Let's see if the admin can demonstrate some good faith negotiating. For once.

By way of reminder, the $290/hr clock is ticking! Come on down and hear tuition money being thrown away on cheap rhetorical tricks and pleonasm!

2:50 p.m. Everyone is still getting settled in, this building is completely segregated from the academic side of campus, which is likely no coincidence.  Fancy Lawyer doesn't really seem to appreciate an audience.

Kicking things off with Article 9.  The administration is rejecting our counter because they don't want to keep the records.  They propose that the union keep the records.  This is risible. It's not even a proposal, it's a request that the union perform the duties of the administration.  Apparently adding one sheet of paper to a GTF's personnel file is "an undue administrative burden."

Fancy Lawyer is trying to do math off the top of his head.  It's like watching a Tyrannosaur attempt to unfold a lawnchair.

We're responding that (1) we don't keep departmental records for the individual departments, plus some departments already keep these sheets in their files, and (2) we think without a required departmental follow-up, the Frac Sheets are pointless.

Fancy Lawyer makes an obtuse and long-winded distinction between "supervisor files" and "personnel files."  We clarify that it seems from all observed cases of departments doing this, it will go into the personnel file.  The admin is being incredibly obtuse about a minor record-keeping issue.  It's clear they came here to stall on Article 9, so we have less time to spend on economic issues.

This is not bargaining.  It's pedantic time-wasting.

We're proposing a separate file for each course.  But apparently this is not good enough because (heaven forfend!!!!) someone will have to know how to go through those files.  And this is apparently an undue work burden.

To. Thumb. A. File.  

This is what we're negotiating.  File sorting and storage.  We don't have a contract, the admin's health care proposals have been regressive and posited in bad faith, and we're arguing about file-sorting and storage.  This is ridiculous.

3: 08 p.m. We've been arguing about file sorting and storage for almost 20 minutes.  WE DO NOT HAVE A CONTRACT AND WE'RE TALKING ABOUT FILE SORTING AND STORAGE.

Our lead wisely defers further discussion to our caucus time.

3:10 p.m. Moving on to our economic counters.

We're pointing out that the movement we're making today is the most movement we can make, based on our members's votes at the last membership meeting.

Article 18. We're conceding our fee proposal and proposing that summer fees remain the same.

Article 21. Wages.  We reject the 3/3 proposal as insufficient to close the living wage gap in a timely manner.  It would take until 2041 for us to close the living wage gap at 3%/yr.  We point out that the university president himself has promised our compensation be improved quickly, and we're reasserting our 5.5/5.5 proposal.

Article 22. Fees.  We're making big movement here.  We're coming down from our zero fees proposal and proposing a return to the current system, i.e. the $61.00 cap.  We're rejecting the percentage fee model.  This would mark a $500K total concession on our part.

Moving on to Heath Care.  We're reasserting our major dental proposal.  We're backing down on vision, from doubling the benefit (currently $200/yr), and proposing that it be increased by $100.  This is another concession.

We're rejecting the hard cap, but we reassert that the Trust cannot expand benefits away from the bargaining table.  We reject the admin's proposal from last week on the grounds that the proposed package was punitive, regressive, and was a backdoor attempt to bust the Trust.

Paid Leave.  We're moving certain leaves back into Article 27, per the admin's request.  We're taking non-serious medical leave, jury duty, etc. out of the paid leave proposal.  This is a concession.

We're keeping medical leave for conditions requiring a GTF to miss work for more than a week (not to exceed 6 weeks total per year), bereavement leave, and parental leave in the paid leave proposal.

We offer the admin the opportunity to ask questions.  They begin with housecleaning issues surrounding contract language. We don't have a contract, but we do have semantic quibbling.

The admin is shocked (SHOCKED!) that GTFs are paying one another out of their own pockets to cover work when they have, say (as was the case with one member I know) they are hit by a car and literally cannot work.  We've inserted language that takes that responsibility off the individual GTF and places it on the department to track hours and require reasonable workloads for GTFs who have had these sorts of issues.

3:30 p.m. Caucus time. Radio silence. In the meantime, enjoy this gif, symbolizing the admin team's performance:

4:00 p.m. We're trying to find the admin team.  They have gone missing.  We only have 30 minutes of bargaining left, and they are nowhere to be found.  Once again, the shameless time-wasting by the admin team today, given that we have no contract, is utterly disheartening.

4:05 p.m. Admin team still MIA.

4:07 p.m. Admin team has finally arrived.  They want to TA Article 27, governing unpaid leave.

We're countering on Article 9, reasserting our last proposal, and pointing out we believe the admin can find administrative solutions to file storage and sorting.  We also point out that they deleted language allowing the union to request an explanation from an employing unit or supervisor who refuses to use a Frac Sheet.  Fancy Lawyer says it seems antithetical to the nature of a voluntary program.  Figures a man who is consistently unable to provide justifications for the positions he takes, wishes this same liberty from honest and forthright discourse on his fellows.

Onto the financial package.  They begin with "uncertainty" around the premiums.  Fancy Lawyer is droning on about the dates of past bargaining sessions, to no apparent end.  Hourly pay must be nice.  He accuses us of not wanting to take on risk.  He now asserts that the Trust is slowing things down and until the Trust can give certainty to the admin on health care cost, the admin can make no adjustments to their financial package.  They refuse to make further movement from their offer of last week until the Trust has finished all their work.

The admin then further refuses to engage in any further bargaining sessions. This is bad faith bargaining 101.

We don't understand how the rise in premiums is such an impact to the university.

Fancy Lawyer now suggest our lead is trying to bankrupt the university.

They are refusing to bargain further on the economic package.  We ask why they would be so irresponsible to refuse to move at this point in bargaining.

Fancy Lawyer interrupts our lead and says she is being irresponsible.

Our lead is now stating our timeline.  She further states that now we will go to a meeting and offer the members a financial package that they have already rejected, as the best the admin can do.  Our lead offers them the chance to make at least some offer.

Fancy Lawyer asserts we do have a contract.  Then he refuses to make an further offers until the Trust is finished doing their job.  He doesn't know how far the Trust is in that work, despite the fact that the admin team contains a Trust member.

The Ground Rules state that every attempt must be made to reach an agreement before the end of the current CBA.  That date has passed. Fancy Lawyer asserts that we aren't moving, either, so the admin isn't breaking the ground rules. Seriously, this guy is one crappy lawyer.

We will now demonstrate to him that we are moving and they aren't. I doubt factual information will penetrate his veil of ideology and bullshit.

Fancy Lawyer asserts that meeting in the middle "is an irrational position."  It's also irrational by his account that when one party isn't making movement in bargaining, that that be called bad faith bargaining.

Our lead points out yet again, that the admin is choosing to begin the next academic year without a ratified contract for our unit.  THEY ARE CHOOSING THIS.  We re-assert the President's own statement that the university increase the compensation for GTFs.

Fancy Lawyer says they are waiting for information, to find out if they have enough money.  This is a lie. We have given them these figures, from the Trust. He tells this lie as a member of the Trust, named in the report, sits next to him.

We're done for today.

Friday, May 9, 2014

In Which da Montefeltro Gives His Counsel

Back at it.

GTFs filtering in, along with members of both teams.  Fancy Lawyer is here, so the $290/hr clock is ticking.  You can actually listen to the tuition dollars being spent!

Today we'll hear from the admin in response the economic package we offered on Wednesday.  Hopefully starting soon.  Time is literally money right now.

3:05 p.m. We're beginning with our counter on Article 9.  Thanking admin for making movement.  We want language that requires a department that participates in the Frac Sheet program to have meetings between the instructor and the GTF to discuss the workload calculated and worked.  We also want language protecting the GTF in the case of an overload.  Basically, we want the GTF to be able to ask to meet with an instructor about workload in a case where there is not necessarily a grievable overload, but there is a potential for such a workload.

Fancy Lawyer answers this with some kind of vague ramble about how the files would be so esoterically organized and kept that this is an inefficient request.  He closes by nonsequitrously suggesting the union keep those records.

Fancy Lawyer wants the union to maintain departmental records for them.

By Grapthar's Hammer, the admin side of the table can only think of processes in terms of efficiency. It's like someone downloaded every George Will column ever into their brains.

Moving on. Not going to TA Article 9 today.

3:16 p.m. Admin's financial package.  They begin with the ridiculous total compensation sophistry.

Article 17: Layoffs.  They accept that we can not be laid off for low enrollment, but for performance or cost. So they backdoor in the low enrollment layoffs. Not clever.

They reject that the admin be required to be honest in our offer letters and make it clear our contracts are not binding.

Article 18: Summer Term.  They are sticking with the percentage model of fee, which we've strongly rejected.  They aren't getting the message, at all.  They want a 90/10 split.

HAHAHAHAHA, FANCY LAWYER REALLY IS A FUNNY GUY!  He suggests fees fluctuate and "could go down."  Legendary wit!

They are accepting no layoffs with low enrollment justifications. Our lead thanks them, but we're asking for clarification of the "for financial reasons," as this clearly backdoors in low enrollment layoffs.  The admin claims this would only apply in the case where the university shutters a department. It's nice to know the university feels it needs those kinds of plans in place...

They are accepting our proposal that notice for layoffs be moved from 15 days to 30 days prior. There's some discussion of how the tuition waiver for the term in which a member is laid off is to be handled.

Article 21: Wages.  They offer 3/3.  By way of reminder, last time they offered 2.2/2.53.  We've told them we won't move off 5.5/5.5.  They are moving, but not enough.

Not. Enough.

They still want the the percentage model of fees, but a 90/10 split.  If fees would really go down, moving to a percentage model would not feasible for the university. So clearly this is a money grab and this guy thinks we're dumb.

They are agreeing to pay the CEVIS fee for international GTFs. This is a big move forward.

Article 22: Health Care.  Here we go.  They are proposing that we can either (A) bargain over the total cost of the package or (B) we can argue over each benefit.


They're still trying to get a hard cap if we take (A), and they propose a 7% cap. Still regressive.

If we take (B), they reject our leave proposals "for the reasons they've already given for rejecting" them. Which, by way of reminder, is that they can't give us leave because they've never given us leave, so they reassert that they cannot give us leave now because they already told us they couldn't give us leave because they've never given us leave and can't just start giving us leave now.

Fancy Lawyer admits option (B) is punitive and that "those who use the health plan more would pay more."

The admin pretty clearly wants to make our health care plan a profit engine for the university.  They are proposing a health care plan that preys on the lowest-earning members on the campus. Our lead points this out. Fancy Lawyer literally scoffs at the notion that this plan victimizes the most-disadvantaged members of the university community.  We point out that both (A) and (B) are intended to (1) place the risk of the health care plan onto the GTF, and (2) to gut our Trust.

Fancy Lawyer admits they are trying to horse trade with wages. As if all our money comes from one pot.  We've exposed this lie already, and like a dog returns to its vomit, the admin returns to the lie.  We don't understand why the admin is insisting on cutting back when they are not in dire financial straits; indeed, they have a burgeoning surplus.

Fancy Lawyer: "Why wait until the emergency to make the adjustments?"

3:43 p.m.: We're going to caucus.

4:24 p.m. We're back.  Telling them we're hopeful on Article 9 and we're offering to TA on layoffs (Articles 17 & 20).  They agree, Articles 17 & 20 are TA'd!

We're reiterating that we're not pleased with the wage and health care proposals, so we're going to be posing a series of questions, so that we can take the best information to our emergency members meeting.

We point out that the fees are set by the admin, so the risk language doesn't make sense because the admin makes that risk: they set the fees.  We fought hard to have a fee cap, and we won't horse trade with it, because paying more in fees is a de facto cut to wages.  We point out that the admin could always not raise fees, thus eliminating the risk posed by increases in fees.  We shouldn't share a risk created by the other party "sharing" the risk.

We are also pointing out that once we agree to a percentage model for fees, we'd be condemning future GTFs to ballooning fees.  

We point out that the proposed health care plan(s) are both regressive and punitive, plus they angle back towards gutting the Trust.  We point out that we're not asking to bargain benefits.  We asked for an increase to the total amount so that we could add vision and dental.  Once again, we could have just added those and passed the cost along to the university.  We didn't. We brought it to the table to increase the pot.

The admins' response is to propose to cut our benefits--and by cutting our benefits, they are de facto cutting our wages.  We point out that we don't have a fund to dig into to supplement health care costs, because we are not being paid a living wage.  We point out that both proposals amount to cutting benefits, and that, at a minimum, we will not approve any contract that cuts existing benefits, or allows the admin to do so, at will.

Moving on to wages.  We thank them for movement. We argue that if not for the de facto cut to wages posed by the health care and fee proposals, this movement would be much more positive.  As it is, it looks paltry in comparison.  With no inflation, the living wage gap won't close in under 5 years.  With basic inflation, it would take almost double that amount of time.

We're now addressing the moral question.  We want to know how the university justifies denying people basic things like parental and medical leave.  We want to know why the university believes it is the right thing to do, when they pay 70% of the people teaching 1/3 of FTE less than a living wage.  We want to know if the admin feels that the package they have proposed goes towards fulfilling the educational mission of the university and how it reflects the university president's stated goal of improving compensation for GTFs.

Fancy Lawyer isn't aware of the President's statement, because he admits that statement was not included in the preparation for this bargaining cycle.  He basically just admitted that the university president played no role in the management meetings that prepped for this bargaining session. Add that to the growing list if things Fancy Lawyer should know, but doesn't.  And add that to the growing list of things the university president should be doing, but doesn't.

Fancy Lawyer can't define "fair," yet he invokes it as the operable evaluative standard in justifying their below-par packages.

Fancy Lawyer says it's not them purposely treating us unfairly, it's just the university balancing priorities.

GTFs are just collateral damage in the rush towards modernity, I guess.

We're reiterating the President's statement and it's connection to the benchmarking report and asking them to confirm that was not a part of the preparation for this bargaining cycle.  They confirm as much.

Fancy Lawyer insinuates we should have been skeptical of the claims of a politician, i.e. the university president.  For realz.

We point out that it seems the university admins can't get on the same page, because the president says we ought to be paid fairly, and apparently some small group of admins is resisting that admonition.

We are done for today.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

In Which We Do the Work

Here we go again.

When we last saw our heroes, they were being lowballed with a bad-faith package by a lawyer getting paid $290.00/hr.  One wonders how the administration doesn't see the potential for a financial conflict of interest here. #LetTheLawyerGrade

Just sayin.

We're going to try and TA Article 10, governing workplace health & safety issues today, and we're going to try and get the administration to come back to earth from their insultingly regressive offer of last session.

12:34 p.m. Kicking off with noneconomic proposals from the admin.  The admin feels the need to "make us understand" the we have to clean up our messes in the kitchen areas.  Seriously.  $290/hr to be lectured about cleaning our room.  This guy really is hilarious!  We're proposing language the refers to the article(s) governing workload in the case that this housecleaning interferes with workload limits. They accept.

12:42 p.m. Article 9, Workloads.  They are countering the Frac Sheet proposals, and suggesting GTFs meet regularly with supervisors to monitor workloads.  They suggest Frac Sheets as a voluntary trial program.  They want to introduce clarifying language that specifies this refers to teaching requirements, not research requirements.  The lawyer, seeing as he gets paid by the hour and therefore has no interest in timely solutions, is prattling on about streamlining administrative processes. As if the burgeoning administrative ranks here indicate that streamlining admin processes is in any way a priority...

We're getting closer to an agreement, but we don't like the "voluntary" language.  We also want language that allows the GTF to see the files/have access to the files. Still, there's movement here.

12:50 p.m. Moving to our counters. Article 17, Appointment/Reappointments.  We're accepting the administration's language governing summer tuition costs not being a basis for hiring decisions.  We are rejecting the language governing layoffs, because it's redundant, given language in other articles.  We are reasserting section 5 to state clearly that the contract offered is not a binding contract, i.e. that the years of funding offered are not guaranteed.  The admin responds that they need specific examples of departments where the years offered are not fulfilled.  It' hard to see how that's a response to the request for transparency we're making.

We're accepting the language that allows a GTF to get a summer tuition waiver in order to graduate in summer term(s). No more "summer sandwich." Just "summer tuition waiver."

12:55 p.m. Article 18, Fees.  We're offering that summer fees remain the same and AY fees be dropped to $31/term.  This is a concession from our "no fees" stance and our original stance on summer fees.

12:57 p.m. Layoffs, we're reasserting our language to (1) prevent departments from laying off GTFs to save money, and (2) to ensure the admin and the department shoulders the risk for fluctuating enrollments, seeing as the GTF has no ability to control for fluctuations in enrollments, yet currently the GTF bears the whole burden for them.  Layoffs of this sort are rare, so the proposed cost the university would be minimal, plus a working GTF is still providing surplus labor value to the university, because that GTF is likely still not making a living wage.

1:00 p.m. Article 21, Wages. We are reasserting our 5.5% wage floor increase.  Our members have indicated this is our No. 1 priority, and we assert that we will not back down from this proposal.

1:01 p.m. Article 22, Tuition Waivers.  We're re-inserting language that the admin make it clear exactly what fees the GTF is responsible for.  We're also proposing our AY fees being lowered to $31/term, as a concession for our concession on summer fees.

1:04 p.m. Moving on to Health Care.  We're accepting the non-trust-busting language.

We're reasserting the operating budget for the Trust be increased to $92K. Last offer from admin was $90K.

We're returning our proposals for major dental and vision, and arguing the admin has thus far refused to discuss the substance of the proposals, and had instead simply rejected them.  We are, however, inserting language that the university not be responsible for increase to any non-bargained benefit, but the university will be responsible for increases to the premiums due to bargained benefits, in accordance with the 95/5 split that every other unit on campus has in place.  We don't understand why we would be a special case.  We could have just added dental and vision under the current language and passed that cost along the the university.  We didn't do that, and we're adding language that now prevents us from adding any non-bargained benefit.

We are pointing out that the admin's last proposal was so regressive, that in a premium year like last year, where we had a 24% rate increase, the cost of insurance to an individual GTF increased from $62/term to $235/term.  We are pointing out that the admin has basically proposed shedding their risk and placing it on the shoulders of the (on average) cheapest group of public employees to insure in the entire state of Oregon.  The admin is not proposing to share risk; they are proposing to pass along their risk to other parties.  We are arguing that our insertion of language protecting the university from us adding non-bargained benefit(s) should assure the university we are concentrating on keeping the cost of premiums down, while maintaining the risk-sharing 95/5 split currently in place in our contract, and the contract of every other unit on campus.  We argue that a hard cap on premium increases is both regressive and unnecessary.

In sum: the admin is trying to turn our health care package into a profit engine for the university.

We are also reasserting the paid leave language. Once gain, the associated cost to the university of paid leave is roughly equal to the bonus paid to the basketball coach last month.

We are now pointing out that the admin's economic proposals are clearly aimed at cost-cutting, when the university is not demonstrably in financial straits such that the admin needs to cut back on GTF salary and benefits.  We point out the the package offered by the admin in the last session is actually a worse deal than we currently have.

Or currently had, seeing as WE ARE CURRENTLY WITHOUT A CONTRACT, and the admin is still proposing cutbacks.

1:20 p.m. Caucusing. Radio silence.

1:50 p.m. And we're back.  Just an update, so far today, Fancy Lawyer has cost the university $580 in tuition money.

We're TA'ing Article 10.  We're agreeing to try and TA Article 9 on Friday.  The admin has no questions about our economic counters.


Friday, April 25, 2014

Bargaining and Nothingness

So here we are.

Last session, we expected counterproposals from the admin.  Instead we were hectored about banalities for an hour and half and then stonewalled.

This room is full of people who are working without a contract and are not happy about it.

3:05 p.m. Fancy Lawyer sticking with the 10% increase to health care premiums lie to open. Not good.

Article 23. Health insurance.  Admin wants a 5% cap on premium increases. Previous offer was 10%. So they're actually making a worse offer than their previous offer. They do not get it.  They are trying to horse trade with our wage demands.  These people are beyond reasoning.

They offer a ~$4K increase to their contributions to the health care plan.

Article 21.  2% increase this year, 2.53% next. Not gonna happen, bud. They call this "fair and reasonable."  Yes, and FOX News is "fair and balanced."  They are, however, backing off the Trust-busting language.

They are accepting language we inserted governing summer sandwich to protect GTFs who want to graduate in the summer, but want to keep the fee structure in the summer the same.

They have agreed to itemized fees, but have rejected our fee proposal.

They are accepting our proposal that precludes hiring decisions from being predicated on summer course registration, but changing the language. So not really accepting.

They are refusing to include language in our offer letters that is honest about the fact that the contract is not binding.

They are rejecting our layoff proposal.  The administration is refusing to bear any of the burden for fluctuating enrollments.

Article 27. Leave. The admin is reasserting the proposal we rejected. They reject all our paid leave proposals, citing that no employee working less than .5 FTE gets paid leave.  Which is a fucking tautology, because they just refused a request for paid leave from about the only on-campus employees who work less than .5 FTE.  So they can't give us paid leave because they have never given us paid leave. Worst. Lawyer. Ever.

3:18 p.m. Fancy Lawyer doesn't know if lowering the admin proposal on health care by 5% is making it higher or lower.  We're doing the math for him.  The change in their wage proposal is an increase of ~$100K; the proposed premium cap, given trends would be a decrease in their proposal would be a net loss of $589K from their previous proposal.

Fancy Lawyer says he understands the way we're looking at it.  Apparently simple math is a hermeneutic exercise for this charlatan.  He now uses the same argument we offered for our own health care proposals.  Wow.

Fancy Lawyer doesn't follow our pointing out his sophistry.  His presence at the table is shame to his profession and the university.

Now he's just creating contract language and figures out of whole cloth.

Apparently it's part of our job to try and drive down health care premiums. So sayeth the lawyer. Who is being paid ~$250/hr.

Our lead rightly points out that that the admin is trying to shift the burden of fluctuating premiums on to GTFs, because in years where premiums spike, we'd bear the burden, unlike every other unit on campus who have a strict 95/5 split with the admin.  She also points out that this is a separate issue from our dental and leave proposals, and the admin is trying to conflate the two. Pwned.

She now points out that despite them putting $100K into wages--which is less than they offer the baseketball coach in bennies every year--the proposed health care plan not only mitigates the wage proposal, but is actually a de facto cut to the health care plan.

Fancy Lawyer's response is that we can always cut benefits in years where premiums spike.  He is disgusting.

Our lead points out that this is an entirely irresponsible way to manage a health care plan and still shifts the burden of fluctuating costs to the individual GTF.

Our lead is roasting this high priced hack.

I love that this poltroon is spouting Tea Party rhetoric with the regional president of our union in the room.  The university is being embarrassed at the state level now.

Out lead points out the proposed package is not good faith bargaining. She is interrupted by Fancy Lawyer, to whom apparently the maxims of mathematics do not apply.

He's sticking with the "change the benefits to accommodate costs" line.  I wonder how the admin might consider cutting their lawyer cost based on the diminishing returns they are getting from this stooge at the table.

"Well, how valuable are those services you're using?" ~Fancy Lawyer

3:40p.m. We're caucusing. Radio silence.

4:16 p.m. We're walking out of the session in protest. Goodbye.