Bargaining Update I (Sept 15, 2011)

By Rebecca Sunderman, UFE Bargaining Team Chair
and Laurie Meeker, United Faculty of Evergreen Chair

We are writing to keep you informed about recent developments in UFE negotiations with the Evergreen administration on our successor agreement (second contract). Negotiations began on May 18, 2011 and after four negotiation sessions we reached an agreement on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) covering faculty compensation and benefits. The UFE Stewards Council came together on June 27 to ratify the MOU and we issued a joint announcement with College President Les Purce on June 28 describing the MOU and its key provisions (see:  What is significant about the agreement is that we keep the faculty salary grid in place for the next two years without any reductions, including experience year increases and current retirement contribution rates. As you know, this agreement was reached in a particularly difficult economic environment. It also followed similar United Faculty of Washington State (UFWS) negotiations and agreements at Western, Eastern, and Central where faculty salaries were maintained.

Our MOU here at Evergreen included three additional points:

  • the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and the remaining non-compensation provisions will remain in effect after the original expiration date (Aug.31, 2011) as we continue to negotiate the full successor agreement
  • the Planning Unit Coordinator (PUC) release time will be funded for 2011-12
  • during the 2011-12 academic year, Evergreen will either hire additional faculty into full-time, continuing positions or begin a process to identify such positions for future hire.

The last two points are particularly significant and connect to a key theme our UFE Bargaining Team has identified for negotiations:  “Maintaining and enhancing Evergreen traditions and defending the academic mission.”  The PUCs play an important role in coordinating curriculum development and curriculum planning.  Identifying permanent hiring priorities and hiring faculty into permanent lines is also central to our ability to plan curriculum in advance. At the Sept. 15th Academic Retreat, Provost Michael Zimmerman announced five new hires to permanent faculty lines based on the existing hiring priorities list, with recruiting and searches starting this fall. These permanent hires are the direct result of negotiations and the agreement reached between the College and UFE, reflecting our collective institutional commitment to hiring a greater percentage of permanent, rather than temporary, faculty. See the full text of the MOU at the following link:

Reaching an agreement on compensation was important to both bargaining teams. The administration needed to have some certainty about budget numbers as the next biennium begins and the College adjusts to lower state appropriations and higher tuition costs while rebasing the budget to an enrollment of 4500 students. UFE was concerned about holding the line on faculty salaries – a top priority identified by faculty in individual conversations with stewards, bargaining forums, and the bargaining survey.  Addressing  compensation first and separately is not typical in contract negotiations, but both parties came to agree that the MOU was necessary and in our best interest collectively. Maintaining faculty salaries is not just about self-interest. Union negotiations are a crucial tool in resisting the national trend that has led to a decline in real wages for workers in most sectors of the economy, including here at Evergreen. A decent salary is a social justice issue, and Evergreen faculty are already the lowest paid faculty of the four-year institutions in Washington State when it comes to salary/benefits and cost of living, ranking 517 out of 574 when local cost of living is considered. For now, the June 28th MOU keeps Evergreen faculty from sliding further behind.

The MOU on salaries and benefits covers the next two academic years and as mentioned above, the current CBA will stay in effect as we negotiate the rest of the successor agreement. As you know, the UFE Bargaining team has been preparing since fall of 2010, building a series of proposals to address the priorities identified through faculty interviews, bargaining forums, and the bargaining survey. At the all-faculty bargaining forum on May 18th, the Bargaining Team presented three key themes:

  • Maintaining and enhancing Evergreen traditions and defending the academic mission
  • Equity – working toward better job security for adjuncts and converting contingent positions to permanent
  • Compensation – holding the line on faculty salaries, benefits, and workload

Negotiations continued through the summer with sessions on July 27th and September 7th.  The UFE Bargaining Team presented several of our prepared proposals and discussions have begun connected to workload, teaching, and professional responsibilities.  Many of our proposals build from the framework established in our first contract, and there are several topics that will require significant development such as graduate programs and summer school.  Multiple dates have been identified for continued talks throughout fall quarter.  Your UFE team remains excited and engaged in our work and look forward to making continued progress on behalf of the faculty.

UFE Bargaining Team, 2011: Rebecca Sunderman (chair), Laurie Meeker, Jose Gomez, Grace Huerta, Gary McNeil (UFWS/WEA), and Sarah Ryan