Monthly Archives: April 2008

News and Comments: April 29, 2008

Dear members,

Several items of note:

1.  Ratification of the Collective Bargaining Agreement/Elections

As you probably know by now, on April 17th the Union and the Administration signed the Memorandum of Understanding (often referred to as the "MOU"), a document that lists the changes to the contract brought about through the collective bargaining process. 

These changes will be presented to Union members and discussed at a meeting to be held on May 1, from 12:30-2:00, in 110 Engineering. At this time, elections for the executive committee will also be held.

In the next stage of the process, all members will be sent a paper secret ballot and will be asked to vote on whether they accept the changes or not.  Ballots must be received back by the Union by May 23 at noon. 

This information has been outlined in greater detail in a letter sent by Kye Carbone to the Union membership, along with a copy of the MOU.

Please feel free to contact Kye, me, or any member of the executive committee if you have any questions at all, or would like more information (see the "About" section for contact information). 

2.  WWW.PRATTFACULTY.INFO

I just became aware of a website at www.prattfaculty.info that lists some, BUT NOT ALL, proposed changes to the CBA (I am a bit out of the loop because I am on sabbatical this year).  The site places, side by side, new, proposed CBA language and the old language, from the 2003-2007 CBA.  I checked the information that is on the site, and it appears to be correct, if incomplete.  

I want to make it clear that the UFCT 1460 executive committee is not responsible for this site, and we have no idea who is (unless again I am out of the loop and one of my colleagues knows something that I don't). 

THIS website–the one you are looking at now–is run by the Union executive committee.  In my capacity as UFCT secretary, I am the main person who has been posting on it.  Anyone–members or non-members–is invited to comment.  My "philosophy" of the site, if you allow me to put it this way, is to post basic information that is important to members, as well as general union-related issues of a more global significance (health care issues, strikes, labor issues at the state and federal level) .  This is why even readers outside Pratt are invited to participate.  I do this because I see our Union as part of the larger context of global labor and the fight to maintain workers' rights.  So far, I have not been very successful at generating input, despite a previous plea.  I do find it strange that faculty would rather debate Union-related issues on the academic forum than here, but again, that is just my opinion.  

I always sign my name to these posts because I want to make it clear that they are coming only from me and do not speak for the whole membership.  Indeed, I don't think I want to be part of an organization where one person is capable of speaking for the whole membership.  Again, as far as I can tell, www.prattfaculty.info is anonymous. 

3.  Collective Bargaining

There has been some discussion on the Academic Forum listserv about the proposed changes made to Article 3, the article protecting academic freedom.  Just one point about the way the discussion is proceeding: the way I see it, some posts create the impression that the COLLECTIVE bargaining process consists of the Union ALONE, as paradoxical as that may seem upon close inspection. 

The process consists–and I have just seen it myself for the first time with my own eyes– of representatives from the Union and the Administration literally looking across a real, concrete table at each other, each side holding a "wish list" of changes they would like to make to the CBA.  A lengthy process of series of back and forth discussions–i.e. negotiations–ensues.  

I just wanted to paint a more vivid picture of what is actually taking place to attempt to dispel the impression that I received from reading some of these postings that the Union alone initiated all of the changes in the MOU. 

Yours truly,

Suzanne Verderber 

 
AGAIN: Union members, please try to attend the meeting on May 1, 12:30-2, 110 Engineering, to discuss the MOU and to vote on the members of the Union executive committee. 

Should Faculty Unions Be Looking Beyond Bread and Butter?

In a recent speech , Cary Nelson, the President of the AAUP, called for faculty unions to look beyond the basic necessities (benefits, salaries) and rather become leaders in seeking social justice.  The comments that follow are largely hostile, one person claiming to be sick of the term "social justice," another castigating union leaderships in general for being power hungry and shutting out discussion and participation by the membership.  This piece was forwarded to the Pratt Union by a colleague from our close neighbor, the Long Island University Faculty Federation.  Representatives from several New York State higher education Unions, public and private, (CUNY, SUNY, LIU, CW Post, St. John's, Hofstra), whether represented by NYSUT, the UAW, or the AAUP, gathered at LIU on Friday, April 4, to discuss common issues and the possibility of forming coalitions to put more force behind our demands and visions for the future of higher education in New York State.    

– -Suzanne Verderber

Where is the Contract?

Dear UFCT Member:

 
At this late mid-spring semester date, it would be perfectly logical that you might be wondering aloud, or are contemplating accosting me personally to demand: “where the hell is the contract?”
 
As you’ll recall, I sent an email message to all UFCT members in late November 2007 announcing that the UFCT’s negotiating team had reached an “agreement” with the Pratt Administration. What was to follow shortly thereafter was: (1) an agreement letter, or ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ (the document enumerating all changes and amendments to the Collective Bargaining Agreement) from the Pratt Administration would be forwarded to the Union for review, once vetted, the MOU would be signed by the Union’s negotiating team. Following this signing, (2) copies of the MOU would be distributed to all UFCT members. Once reviewed by the members, (3) a ballot would be conducted, a majority of members voting in the affirmative effectively ratifying the [new] Contract.
 
However, as many of us know all too well, Pratt moves slowly and in [seemingly] mysterious ways…
 
As such, although we started negotiations more-or-less on time (in early summer 2007, as opposed to late spring) and actually completed negotiations in record time (our last negotiating date on November 20th which was within one semester of the CBA’s expiration, as opposed to the usual practice of not reaching an agreement until two, four or more semesters have passed…), the Union actually did not receive the MOU until January 25, 2008 a full two months after the completion of negotiations. Hence, the stalling began…
 
Yet, notwithstanding the fact I was out of commission for almost two weeks in early February due to illness, our negotiating team of seven [including our NYSUT lawyer] was still able to thoroughly review the MOU individually during this period as well as meet as a group repeatedly throughout the last week of February.
 
I cannot over emphasize just how important this review process is, or how imperative it is to be acutely aware of as well as anticipate all of the potential ramifications and/or implications of changes in text or contract language. Keep in mind; absent the “intent” or what is often described as the “spirit" of a specific word, clause, or article, a contract is nothing more than a jumble of words devoid of “meaning.” Or worse, a document whose meaning is defined exclusively by Management. And, meaning is what we, the Union, bargain for, negotiate, debate and grieve each and every day. As example, from my point of view, way too much time was spent in negotiations on what were two administration proposals: (1) a rewrite of our ‘Academic Freedom and Responsibility’ article (III), and (2) a rewrite of the ‘Personnel Files’ article (XIX). Putting aside: why [?] they felt the need to propose such changes, or what their “real” motives were, imagine now that words like: “research”, “constructive dissent” and  “teaching effectiveness and professional competence” are missing in their proposal for academic freedom, or, the following clause: “each faculty member shall be informed when material is placed in his or her central file and shall have the right to append or affix comments to the file” is [some how] dropped from their proposal of revising the personnel files article? Are these omissions “intended” or “unintended" and if left unchecked or left to stand, what would these articles then actually “mean”?
 
Following our review, the Union had a number of concerns with this initial draft of the MOU, as certain “omissions” [or additions as it were] in language did not appear to reflect or “say” what we negotiated in good faith. As such, I met privately with the Provost (he having led the negotiations for the Administration) on March 4th and brought to his attention our concerns. At the time, I felt that the meeting was exceedingly productive as there were no arguments to speak of; our concerns not only acknowledged, but also accepted.
 
However, on March 24th [a full three weeks later] I received from the Provost, a revised MOU that incredulously excludes one — not too insignificant — an item. Not insignificant, because in no uncertain terms I will not sign the MOU absent its inclusion. To quote our NYSUT lawyer, its exclusion actually constitutes a “substantive change absent negotiation" [which is not bargaining in good faith]. For your review: the item in question is what exists now as section: 19.6 of article XIX [Personnel Files]: “Only materials contained in the central personnel file or materials reflecting professional development and achievements may be used as the basis for any personnel actions.”  
 
Can you imagine the potential consequences of such a clause being dropped from our Contract? I can, and because it is my job to protect the faculty bargaining unit from the whims of an Administration continually testing and prodding what they view as fault lines in our Contract, I will not cede to those tactics administered in bad faith. In summary, we did not, and would not, negotiate or bargain away, the “intent”, “spirit” or “meaning of 19.6. Period!
 
Rest assured, we are pushing as hard as we can to have this all resolved by late spring/early summer. Once the Contract is ratified everyone will be paid retroactively for the 2007-2008 academic year.
 
I sincerely appreciate your patience and understanding.
 
In Solidarity,
 

-Kye