An Email Conversation About the MOU…

Email conversation between Kye Carbone, Union leader, and Liza Williams, CCE teacher of Freshman English

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From Liza, Sunday July 8, 2012:
Yes , I think it’s a good idea to circulate this entire conversation to the whole union list, to promote open and vigorous discussion of sensitive issues, of which I’m sure my concern about arbitrary minimum contact hours is only a small speck.

Thanks for clarifying that CCEs are eligible for a 75% contribution from the Institute toward the Oxford plan. You seem also to be saying that CCEs “shall be” loaded to 75% of a full-time schedule, but later suggest that state law about part-time work does not pertain to CCEs. Today we had en email exchange in which you said that language is only “binding” if it comes to arbitration, and that the administration would not, in your opinion, come after “a few CCEs who are costing them very little.” But this is in opposition to the proposed language:
v) Existing and future Adjunct faculty choosing not to teach a minimum of 50% of a full time equivalent work load for 2 semesters (whether consecutive or not), shall have their status changed to Visiting.
My question is, which is it? Must CCEs work a certain number of credit hours even if they elect not to partake in the health plan, or lose their CCE/adjunct status? And your answer seems to be, no, but “why would any CCE faculty choose NOT to” …

The administration does not agree to “parity” and therefore cannot expect 75% participation across the CCE population. Every individual is different, and a “union” must surely be the first place to recognize that. If I am a Democrat and you a Republican, I a man and you a woman, I a 20-year-old and you a sixty-year-old, etc., that does not mean we can’t understand or respect each other’s differences. I do not agree with you that my scheduling and health coverage preferences “squash” those of CCE faculty wishing full-time status. It is interesting that the administration says “too many of “us” choose to teach less than 75%…” — that would seem to indicate that CCE status is prized by many faculty members for its intangibles: job security, access to potential benefits if we find it necessary in the future, and demonstrated confidence in us on the part of the Institute, for example.

I certainly understand your passion about “hard-won achievements.” I also understand why the administration would be reluctant to contribute 75 % of health plan costs (for CCEs) if the faculty member is only teaching 50%, or whatever amount. If I wanted health insurance, I would be singing a different tune. I just believe there should be room for individual needs. If I hear you correctly, there is room, in your opinion – but I would like to see that reflected in the language of the new contract.

Thanks,
Liza

From: Kye Carbone [mailto:kyecarbone@gmail.com]
Sent: Saturday, July 07, 2012 8:05 PM
To: Liza Williams
Cc: Rosenberg, Aura
Subject: Re: MOU Review: A QUESTION

NYS law applies to full-time and part-time employees…
At Pratt there are three part-time faculty statuses: visiting, adjunct, and adjunct w/CCE. These statuses are irrelevant to NY State.

‘Apples and oranges’ to an extent though at Pratt… as CCE is “adjunct tenure” where the immediate benefits in addition to full tenure rights are: (1) health benefits w/a 75% administration contribution (the current Oxford — formerly Aetna — Plans offered to administrators and full-time faculty), (2) 5 to 7% annual administration contributions to TIAA-CREF retirement accounts, and (3) having “every” assurance to a 75% workload…

While adjuncts (without CCE), “may” [not “shall” as it is w/CCE] be loaded to 75%, they do not receive administration contributions to a[ny] retirement account, but will now be able to receive health benefits provided they teach 50% of the full-load for their department/area [as set by NYS law!] Moreover, this is a less-rich HIP Plan, not any of the Oxford offerings. However, said adjunct does not in any way, have to take health benefits at Pratt!

Again, State law does not affect your “choice” in teaching a limited workload due to the fact that you choose also to NOT take health benefits through Pratt. That said, should you in the future “choose” to take greater advantage of your CCE status, by taking a greater workload and health benefits, you would be covered by Oxford not HIP.

I have tried my best to explain the “intent, spirit and meaning” of the MOU’s language. You know “English”, I know contract language; ‘English’ it is not!

Yet, I have to say, that in the larger operations of the still existent CCE status at Pratt, when any CCE faculty member does not take full advantage of the rights, privileges and protections of CCE; the same rights, privileges and protections this Union fights for every single day, this rarefied faculty status is thus diluted; the justifiable complaints of CCE faculty wishing full-time, stymied and/or squashed altogether.

As you might or might not know, this Union fought like hell to get “parity” for CCEs during this last round of negotiations. We were not successful. So you know, parity would have been 75% of a full-time salary for CCEs teaching 75% of the a full-load. Sounds logical, humane, and reasonable, but such parity doesn’t exist anywhere in this country where “contingent faculty” i.e. adjuncts without tenure, are working at slave wages, but neither does CCE for adjunct faculty! And, that is my point, management was only too eager to throw in my face that too many of “us” choose to teach less than 75%… So are we supposed to pay 66%, 50%, 33%?

This fall there will be — for the first time — just over 100 adjunct/CCE faculty at Pratt Institute. Hard won achievement? Damn right! I simply ask, why would any CCE faculty choose NOT to embrace to the fullest, this rare status indeed?

In Solidarity,
-Kye
I will circulate this conversation if okay w/you…
______
On Sat, Jul 7, 2012 at 6:59 PM, Liza Williams wrote:
Thanks for responding, Kye. So, it seems you are saying that CCE and adjuncts are ‘apples and oranges’: the NY State law applies to adjuncts but not CCEs? And that as a CCE not taking benefits my current ability to teach fewer courses than “allowed” would NOT be affected by the new contract? And that CCEs will continue to be covered under Oxford, and not the new HIP plan? And that, presumably, should I decide to apply in the future for coverage, I would be eligible if I worked the requisite number of credits? And which semester would the credit requirement be based on? Can you answer these specific questions, or would I need to speak with HR? (I’m copying Aura Rosenberg on this letter, since you wrote to both of us.)
But what about adjuncts: will they be forced to buy insurance? In a number of places, (being an English teacher), I don’t find the language in the agreements you forwarded to be very clear (for example, To be eligible for benefits under this provision, Adjunct Faculty must teach a minimum of 50% of a full time workload each Fall and Spring Semester. Does this mean 50 % in the Fall AND 50% in the Spring? Or a 50 % average of the two?)
Maybe some of this could be clarified in a very specific bullet-points summary (similar to the ones you’ve made in recent emails).
Also, I would like for my letter to be forwarded to all of the union members, not just the end-of-the-alphabet ones in my “group” that I “replied to all” to. Could you do that for me? I think you did it for Leslie Roberts.

Dear Liza:

Your question is an excellent one…

First of all, the mandatory 50% workload for adjuncts without CCE is mandated by NYS law. In other words a ‘part-time’ faculty employee is not recognized as “benefits eligible” if they are NOT working 50% [or more] of the applicable workload for the workplace. [If the metric were hours per week, any part-time employee working less than 20 would be ineligible for benefits.]

As a CCE faculty NOT taking benefits through Pratt, this 50% threshold would not apply to you. Moreover, were you to take health benefits at Pratt, your contribution to its cost would only be 25%, as CCEs receive a 75% administrative contribution, not 50% which is what adjuncts without CCE will have to contribute.

For better-or-worse, this hard won health benefits plan for adjuncts is a ‘HIP’ Plan — thus tailored to this new ‘eligible’ class — not either of the two current ‘Oxford’ Plans offered to full-time and CCE faculty. Bottom-line, Oxford steadfastly REFUSED to cover any of what were 272, and will now be (effective 09/01/12), 290 adjunct faculty. To be expected then, the HIP Plan is less rich than either of the two Oxford Plans, but does contain total catastrophic coverage w/no deductibles which is of paramount importance for anyone w/coverage. As such, it is far less expensive to Pratt, therefore less expensive to the adjunct. The Oxford Plans cost Pratt roughly $16,000 per capita each year. The HIP Plan will cost about $8,000. Trust me, I cursed them out repeatedly and tried my best to at least get a 75% contribution… it will be 50%.

We live in the United States of America where it is acceptable to countenance 40 million uninsured and multiple-millions more w/scant and/or inadequate coverage. Something like four “United Health-care” syndicates run rough-shod over a complacent and gullible populace in this country; If we knew what it was anymore, we should be ashamed of ourselves!

I have spent the last six years on this issue. In a word, I hate it, because I hate what we accept in this country! However, I can only do my small part, and know that in the end, this was the very best that was possible.

I hope I addressed your concerns Liza.

Warm Regards, Kye

______
On Sat, Jul 7, 2012 at 4:36 PM, Liza Williams wrote:
Hello Kye, and all – First, thank you, Kye, for all your hard work on this. However I do have a question, and I will ask it here since I seem to be unable to enter the union website inner sanctum to post a comment or read others’ comments. (And I will not be able to attend meetings at Pratt because I have recently had knee surgery.)
I have been teaching at Pratt since 1983 and have my CCE, but quite often I do not (by choice) teach a half-time load; I work harder than anyone I know at my Freshman English courses, and work (by choice) several additional unpaid jobs at Pratt such as advising the literary/art magazine and coordinating the annual poetry contest, in addition to having a busy personal and creative life.
I understand the rationale for “making” adjuncts work a half-time load in order to qualify for 50% of the cost of health care – but presumably I am not the only member of the faculty who does NOT want either the larger load or the health care (as I mentioned to you a year or two ago). My question: would it not be possible for CCEs and adjuncts to keep their (hard-won) rank, and have a choice of how much they work, and of adopting the healthcare benefit or not, with an annual election option to buy in to the coverage (and the hours) as one’s circumstances may change, as is already practiced in the HR office for other benefits? The new proposal seems to me MOST un-democratic: to ‘save a faculty member from injustice’ as it were, by curtailing the freedom to work in the way best fitted to his or her style and needs? And so if the contract language can’t be rewritten for faculty across the board (though I think it should be), possibly faculty members whose adjunct or CCE status predates this contract could be “grandfathered in” to participate in the 50% deal on an optional basis.
You recommend to Leslie Roberts, below, that she form a private discussion group about her concerns. Personally I would like to hear her concerns, just as I would like her, and others, to hear mine, and I feel the email chain is the most efficient forum for this, given the very short amount of time remaining for discussion.
What do other faculty members feel about this issue of a mandatory 50% adjunct load and mandatory 50% buy-in to the health plan?
Respectfully,
Liza Williams
HMS CCE
From Kye:
Leslie:

We have a website where you can post comments on: www.pratt-union.org. Note that the Union does not distribute private member information including contact info such as home addresses, phone numbers and emails.

However, what I will do is send your comments around to all members I have on email. If one is interested then in creating a discussion group w/you, they may contact you directly.
Members have had the MOU for two weeks now, and yesterday was the first of three scheduled two-hour MOU discussion sessions open to all members. We understand that many cannot attend, so will post and send to all members on email (early next week), our responses to the most FAQs…

Bottom-line, the MOU is not a menu where one selectively votes up or down its various items. The MOU is the resultant document representing nine months of negotiations w/the Pratt Administration. It has been vetted thoroughly by the UFCT’s eight member negotiating team including our NYSUT lawyer (who comes from the NLRB and represents both LIU and Cooper Union in addition to Pratt). Each member will now have the right to vote up or down the MOU in its entirety.

As I informed all members earlier (see: below): “…it was never the wish of the UFCT that we would have to effectuate a ratification vote during the summer months. Yet, here we are, and we will do so, as it is important to all bargaining unit members that: (1) retroactive pay for (each and every bargaining unit member) the 2011-12 academic year be processed and dispensed by late summer, and (2) that all faculty rates of compensation will be adjusted upwards by the start of the 2012-13 academic year…”

Two other items that I should add are: (1) the first half of the equalization funds affecting 25 full-time faculty is scheduled for distribution on August 31st, and (2) the open-enrollment period for what will be upwards of 290 adjuncts enrolling in health-care benefits for the first time is scheduled to begin at faculty orientation. In other words, we were pushed into the summer months. Nothing is being rushed.

Lastly, and I think you’ll agree, this is an extremely strong Contract. We urge all members to vote for its ratification.

Kye

——
On Thu, Jul 5, 2012 at 4:37 PM, Leslie Roberts wrote:
Dear Kye,
Thanks to you and the negotiating team for your long hard work in reaching this proposal.
I request that an email group be set up for all Union members, so we can have inclusive dialogue about the MOU and ratification process while many of us are away.
Comparing the MOU to our CBA takes time, and raises some questions and concerns. I realize gains are likely to entail trade-offs, and gains such as adjunct health coverage are extremely significant. But we all need to understand the changes, and we need to address any issues as a whole body.
At least as important, we need to decide collectively whether to set precedents for a summer vote, which as you say we’ve always hoped to avoid, as well as for an online vote.
I also request we set a longer time frame for communication (online and meetings), especially given the time of year and the holiday weekend. The middle of next week seems too soon for reaching any collective decisions.
I regret that I can’t attend meetings at the times you’ve scheduled. But since so many faculty aren’t in the city, an online forum seems the most practical way to have an inclusive process during the summer.
Would you forward this to your other Union mailing lists? I look forward to hearing colleagues’ views, and having a collective discussion about the terms of our Collective Bargaining Agreement. Thanks.
Best,
Leslie Roberts

From: Kye Carbone
Date: Mon, 02 Jul 2012 23:23:03 -0400
Subject: MOU Review & Contract Ratification Vote
Dear UFCT Voting Member:
FYI…
The UFCT will be holding three MOU review meetings: (1) Friday, 7/6th, 12-2PM, (2) Monday, 7/9th, 12-2PM, and (3) Wednesday, 7/11th, 12-2PM. All three meetings will be held in the “MMB” room on the lower level of the Brooklyn campus Library. Enter the Library, and take the elevator down to “LL” (note: the second L appears as an “I” as its horizontal is worn!)
That said, our negotiating team: Steve Doloff, Suzanne Verderber, Ric Brown, Holly Wilson, Emily Beal, Gerson Sparer, and myself (and our NYSUT lawyer: Judy Sandler) worked doggedly to get the absolute best contract possible under the circumstances.

A few highlights:
• health benefits for 273 adjunct faculty who have heretofore NEVER had access to health benefits @ Pratt w/a 50% administration contribution… (this will be a HIP plan tailored to adjunct faculty so long as they teach 50% of a full-load: total
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