University, Faculty Association avoid strike

 

Last Friday I crawled out of my lair around dawn, like some savage diurnal animal, and trundled off to attend a strike preparation meeting at BGSU-FA headquarters. It was an interesting and worthwhile experience, as far as that can be true of a meeting which is meant to prepare for something you hope never happens.

No one wanted a strike, but it was starting to look inevitable. A contract agreement was seven months overdue, according to the arrangement the BGSU-FA and the University administration made when they began negotiations a couple years ago.

The two sides stood at vastly different positions on three key issues: an across-the-board raise for faculty, the employee share of the health care premium and job security for non-tenure faculty.

That same day, Rob Stein (the state-appointed fact finder whose difficult task it is to mediate this negotiation) went into a marathon session with David Jackson (the President of the BGSU-FA), Candace Archer (our chief negotiator), Pat Pauken (chief negotiator for the administration) and Rodney Rogers (BGSU’s Provost).

Over the next two days, in sessions that added up to more than 20 hours, they forged the principles of an agreement.

The contract is still being compiled by the lawyers on both sides, but a strike, which looked likely a week ago, seems much less likely today.

We in the BGSU-FA are proud of, and grateful to, our team of negotiators who put in uncounted, unpaid hours so that the entire University community could benefit. And it would be churlish not to acknowledge the roles of Rob Stein and Rodney Rodgers, who were instrumental in bringing the sides together.

The proposed contract will cover five years—2011 through 2016. A faculty raise is scheduled for each year, which means retroactive raises for fall 2011-spring 2013 (raises which will also be paid to the BGSU 100).

We will have a paid parental leave policy, for the first time ever, and the contract will include language that explicitly and powerfully defends academic freedom, including the right to criticize BGSU (a matter of some concern to the undersigned).

Other matters are more obscure. Some job security is promised for non-tenured faculty, but it’s not clear yet what that consists of. The BGSU-FA and the administration are committed to setting up joint committees to study difficult issues like health care costs and post-tenure review.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear phrases like “joint committee” or “joint commission” something sad inside me becomes even sadder. Still, something useful might come of these, and it’s promising to hear that the faculty union and the administration are talking about working together instead of exploring nuclear options like strikes and lockouts.

What comes next is the reading of the contract, when it is finally unveiled (in about a week, according to the word on the street), and then votes by the contracting parties.

On the administration side, that’s the Board of Trustees. Its next scheduled meeting is in early May, but news reports this week suggested it might convene in an early session to vote on the contract.

On the faculty side, the contracting party is the BGSU-FA. The contract will cover the entire bargaining unit—all the full-time faculty at BGSU—but only members of the union will be allowed to vote on it.

If faculty members want to have a say in what happens, they might want to go ahead and join up. To cast a vote on the contract, faculty will have to join the BGSU-FA by April 1 by going to http://bgsu-fa.org/wp/membership/.

The journey to BGSU’s first negotiated contract between administration and faculty has been a long and sometimes needlessly divisive process. But it seems to be over now, or nearly over, anyway, and we can legitimately hope to put these divisions behind us and work together to build a better BGSU.

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