Thursday, October 20, 2011

DRC Votes for November 3 Deadline

The FA's DRC voted 29-1 tonight to set a strike deadline for 11/3.  Details beneath the break.

  PRESS RELEASE   10/20/2011

Southern Illinois University Carbondale Faculty Association
The SIUC Faculty Association (FA) voted tonight to set a strike deadline of Thursday, November 3, for tenured and tenure-track faculty at SIUC. The vote, taken by the Departmental Representatives Council, calls for a strike to commence on November 3 unless the FA's bargaining team reaches a tentative agreement with the SIUC administration before that date.

“Our goal is a fair settlement the promotes quality education at SIUC, not a strike,” said FA spokesperson Associate Professor Dave Johnson.  “We’ve shown great patience by waiting this long.  We have offered many different proposals in hopes of bridging the gap between the FA and the SIUC administration, and it is now time for the administration to show similar flexibility in order to allow us to reach an agreement and avert a strike.”

Negotiations to reach a new contract began in April of 2010, and SIUC faculty have now been working for 477 days without a contract.  In the spring of 2011, the SIUC administration chose to shut down negotiations and impose a unilateral set of demands upon faculty. Negotiations resumed over the summer, but very little progress was made, leading FA members to vote on September 28, by an overwhelming margin, to authorize their elected representatives on the Departmental Representatives Council to initiate a strike. 

“Even with our strike authorization vote, we've yet to see major progress on the most important issues,” Johnson said.  “This lack of progress has forced us to set a strike deadline and to be prepared to go on strike if we must.”

In order to help resolve the current crisis, the FA bargaining team has offered to postpone resolution in several important areas, including a conflict of interest policy and a long overdue revision of SIUC's procedure for dealing with accusations of sexual harassment, provided that these issues either be bargained to a resolution within a set time frame or submitted to binding arbitration.  

But the FA and administration remain divided on issues of great importance to the future of SIUC, issues that must be resolved now for any contract to be signed. The FA remains committed to defending academic freedom and quality education by preserving faculty tenure and the right and responsibility of faculty members to teach their courses in the way they judge most beneficial to their students. The FA remains committed to preserving its collective bargaining rights, rights undermined last spring when the SIUC administration illegally imposed terms on campus unions.  The FA is willing to help SIUC meet its financial challenges, but is committed to establishing a process that guarantees transparency and accountability in doing so.

“Our goal has never changed,” Johnson said.  “We want a fair agreement that will promote faculty research and creative work and enable faculty to continue to provide our students with the high-quality education they deserve.  The administration's decision to impose terms on us last spring, and their unwillingness, thus far, to do their fair share to bridge the divide between us, has brought us to this point. We call upon all involved to work with us to reach a mutual agreement in time to avoid a strike.”


  1. Can someone please give a report as to where we stand on the all-important FE issue? Is the FA still demanding joint declaration?

  2. The short answer is no.

    In an effort to meet the administration's interest in retaining sole power to make a FE declaration, the FA has suggested an alternative to its joint commission idea. It has also met the BOT interest in declaring a FE in the event of sudden decline in SIUC's financial position by dropping, in its current "supposal", the condition that deficits must have occurred for a number of years before a FE could be declared.

    In the place of these provisions, the FA proposes a process by which the administration would be required to meet a transparent set of conditions in order to declare a financial exigency, but could do so in the event of a sudden change in the financial situation. Should the FA believe that the BOT had not met the conditions of this policy, it would have the right to call for binding arbitration.

    Details on the latest FA proposal can be found on the FA website. The board's latest FE proposal can be found here.

  3. For those who wish to compare the two documents side by side:

    BOT layoff/FE proposal:


    I don't know about the rest of the readers, but when I read "The Association reserves the right to revert to our supposal of 3/28/11, in whole or in part, if this supposal is not acceptable" I find that a bit chilling. I note that the BOT supposal contains no such language. That's really playing it hardball isn't it?

    Okay, leaving that aside, I notice that the BOT's proposal now extends the layoff timetable in the extreme and rare case of FE being declared to a semester after the semester which the employee is notified. In theory, this could be as long as nine months. Certainly, now, we aren't dealing with the plainly unacceptable 30 days' notice contained in the imposed terms of last spring. I notice nothing in the BOT's policy about continuation of health insurance for a period after termination of employment because of FE; I mention this because the University of Connecticut's FE policy contains this plank. This might be some room for improvement.

    Plank 19.02 of the BOT's proposal states: "A Faculty member may be laid off as a result of a bona fide financial exigency declared by the Board of Trustees in accordance with SIU Board of Trustees 2 Policies C.1.e-i as it exists on July 1, 2011. This Article provides the process for such a layoff."

    I am not a lawyer, but my reading of this is that it does not allow the BOT to alter said policy for the duration of this contract. I do agree, though, that a more robust definition of FE ought to be in the contract. There is still some room for improvement here. But this is a lot better than what the BOT was proposing last spring.

    Is this all worth striking over? I don't know. Based on my quick reading of both documents, I still need to be convinced (on the merits please, not hyperbolic paranoid rhetoric).

  4. So it begins. Is it the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning...

  5. I suspect it is the beginning of many hours of daily bargaining.

    The offer from the Admin now is better than we had before. The contract we end up with will likely be better than what the Admin is offering now. So it goes.

  6. Mike, let's hope so. However, when I read, "[t]he Association reserves the right to revert to our supposal of 3/28/11, in whole
    or in part, if this supposal is not acceptable" I worry. Such language does not seem designed with the intent of a compromise; rather an all-or-nothing ultimatum.

  7. Disgusted:

    I thought you were at the meeting last week. The FA explained that they have put that language in pretty much every supposal that they have given the administration. They do not want to be accused of illegal regressive bargaining if they ditch one proposal, go with something radically different, and the administration decides that the radically different proposal isn't as good for them as the last one that the FA presented. It doesn't have so much to do with wanting to go back to previous language as with CYA.

  8. "I am not a lawyer, but my reading of this is that it does not allow the BOT to alter said policy for the duration of this contract."

    I'm not a lawyer either, but that is not the way I read the proposal. During the duration of the contract, regardless of how the Board changes its financial exigency policy, the FA and the Board would be held to the July 1 policy. That doesn't stop the Board from changing its policy on financial exigency, but it does stop the administration from enforcing those changes during the duration of the contract. The Board still could make changes during this contract period. Hypothetically, the Board then could insist that the next contract's language be connected to the new Board policy.

  9. The chilling thing is the FA position that if they don't agree with a BOD declaration of FE, then the board must agree to BINDING arbitration. That's not going to happen. BOD has sole authority to declare FE (discussed many times). If we are honest we all know that the FA will challenge any declaration of FE. Therefore, the supposal is a statement that the BOD will cede its legal authority to an arbitrator. Plan for long strike if that is the FA's final position.

  10. Can someone tell me how I might be wrong in reading in the FA supposal that it could take up to 4 years for the University to declare financial FE? I suspect this is the main holdup from th BOT and I doubt that majority of faculty would agree with the FAs extreme position of verifying FE. Seems like a doctor not treating a wound until the seriousness is established by evidence of the patients death.

  11. "Hypothetically, the Board then could insist that the next contract's language be connected to the new Board policy."

    Hypothetically, the Board might not.

    Hypothetically, the SIU system could be dissolved by then.

    Hypothetically, Dave could be chancellor by then.

    Hypothetically, the FA might not even exist at that time.

    I hope the FA isn't hung up on hypotheticals.

    That doesn't sound like good faith bargaining.

  12. 8:22 - That is no long the case. Bargaining involves asking for things you likely won't to get other things you might get. Haven't you ever bargained for a house or a car?

    7:35 - What's a BOD? Is that for Board of Dictators? It can't be for Board of Directors. We don't have a Board of Directors. We have a Board of Trustees. Do you understand the difference? As a community of scholars we are expected to share in the governance of the institution. We cannot just pass that duty off to someone else.

  13. You're right, I meant BOT (my mistake, some universities and Not for Profits have BODs and some BOTs, in IL its BOT). But you are ignoring the main point: The BOT is not going to agree to binding arbitration over a declaration of FE. They are legally responsible for such a declaration and they cannot negotiate that responsibility away. The FA _will_ challenge any declaration of FA if they have a right to do so, so agreeing to the proposal as described above amounts to an agreement that the BOT will allow FE to be determined by an arbitrator. I reiterate - that's not going to happen - period.

  14. I am 7:35 and 9:27 I am Socrates Finger, Why is that not working! (Trying preview this time so here is hoping it works!!!)

  15. Re: the declaration of financial exigency.

    Members of the bargaining team have publicly stated that they are open to any and all proposals from the BOT that provide for accountability and transparency in the process of declaring a financial exigency. This is not a rogue idea; it is consistent with AAUP guidelines.

    Anonymous comments on this blog that talk about FA "final positions" and "extreme positions" betray a fundamental lack of trust in the bargaining team, a confusion over the difference between a proposal and a demand, and an inadequate understanding of how interest-based bargaining works.

    In a very short time, we've gone from imposed terms that made all of us vulnerable to being terminated with 30-days notice to the BOT's willingness to reintroduce "financial exigency" language into the RIF article. Are you glad that that language is going to be back in there? I sure as hell am. Want to know who to thank for that? Thank your bargaining team.

  16. Although members of the FA, may not have been aware of (or perhaps chose to ignore) the existence of BOT and SIUC policies related to FE in developing their interpretation of the provisions of the imposed terms, those published policies have not changed in years. It is disingenuous to state that the BOT is "reintroducing" that language - it never left.

  17. Mike: Yes, you don't always get what you ask for when bargaining, however I contend you should not ask for things you should not get. What if the Board accepts? I think many would find the 3-4 year process irresponsible. As for buying a car or house, yes, many times. And get this, I begin the process by starting at a point based on value and what I am willing to pay, not a point where I would be taking advantage if they agreed to the offer. Now, if I am playing a game of chicken, then I go for broke! I hope the latter is not the strategy the FA (or the BOT) is taking.

  18. SF: This is the first time the BOT policy language--in a set form the BOT cannot alter--has been incorporated into the contract. That's a positive step, but as the definition of FE is still circular, and provides for no means of redress should a declaration of FE be made on inadequate grounds, this step is not enough to meet the FA's interest in a transparent and accountable process.

    8:32: The FA supposal does allow for emergency surgery. So long as the BOT can show that SIUC's finances are going to be in a bona fide state of FE for the next two years, a FE declaration would be legitimate. It is the BOT policy that says FE must be a long term condition: two years is a pretty low bar for "long term".

    Continuing the medical analogy, what the FA is proposing is the right to ask for a second opinion in the event the BOT decides to operate on us. To cut us. Is that too much to ask?

    Spokesperson Dave

  19. Natasha:

    I am, indeed, appreciative of the hard work the bargaining team has put into this. The BOT has coughed up some decent terms that we can now work on; as you admit yourself, the terms under consideration now are a lot better than what was imposed on us last spring.

    My worry is that there are some irresponsible people out there who are so angry at the administration that they want to strike unless the administration caves on FE. I can understand the anger and indeed sympathize with some of it; I was there mentally last Spring and until rather recently. I have since, however, come to see the BOT team bargaining in good faith on FE, understanding that they have a fiduciary responsibility to the State of Illinois. In contrast, I have seen some rigidity from the FA bargaining team.

    The BOT has moved a good deal from their position pre-9/30 on this issue - both in terms of contractualizing it and granting effectively an entire academic year before a professor is laid off due to FE. The FA team, however, seems stuck on having some sort of oversight veto power over FE, either joint declaration or something they can second-guess and grieve. In effect, it would tie the university up in knots. If you believe that the FA would agree that there was a bona fide financial exigency around here - with all the distrust around here lately as well as during calmer periods toward the administration - I have a bridge to sell you! NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. As Socrates Finger and a few other bloggers have written, the BOT has a fiduciary responsibility to the state of Illinois that they cannot and likely will not abrogate.

    Okay, where does that lead us? Probably a very long strike if the FA remains stubbornly on the track it has been on. Perhaps this could be used as a clever bargaining chip to gain further safeguards in the contract -if so, I am willing to hold my nose for a few more days and suffer through loss of further sleep due to extreme anxiety. If the university is committed now to keeping me employed at least through the end of the academic year in case of a declared FE, perhaps they should go a bit further and grant some severance pay like in the FE policy that the University of Connecticut has given rigid the academic job market is and it isn't easy to just get a job like that. What about health insurance?

    These are the issues I would like to see my FA bargaining team focusing on, not some hypothetical windmill that likely will never happen. Yes, I know about the ghost of 1973, but that left the school a black eye for years afterwards. And it will do so again in the future if administrators are so foolish as to try to declare FE without there actually being FE. What about the negative reaction of parents and students to this place if they declare FE? In other words, let's think this through rationally and logically. We really have to believe administrators are so eager to bite their noses off to spite their faces.

    Again, I come back to the point I have been hammering over and over again: it takes trust here. Otherwise we are in for a very long strike, indeed. The BOT offer is not perfect, and can be further improved on in the various directions I have suggested. But is it strikable? I am leaning no on that one.

  20. "We really have to believe administrators are so eager to bite their noses off to spite their faces to believe they would declare an other than bona fide financial exigency" is what I meant to say just now.

  21. Dave,

    Language does not have to be in the FA's contract to be legally binding on the university or to protect faculty. The language included in the BOT and SIUC policies are legally binding on the university. In 1973/4 when faculty were terminated under an alleged FE situation, there was no union and no contract. The terminations were overturned in court because it (the court) found that the board had not satisfied the conditions set forth in their own published policies, (which included the requirement of a bona fide FE). Those policies, which have been in place and unchanged throughout the entire bargaining process, are were and are still binding on the university. What I took umbrage at was Natasha's implication that they had been removed and the FA had somehow forced the administration to reinsert them That is simply not true.

    As I understand it, the FA has asked that the same basic language be included in the contract, so it now will appear in two places. If that makes you feel better, fine, but the effect on the manner in which the university operates is unchanged. That language was always there and if any of us had been terminated we could have sued and succeed, just as faculty did in 1974 before there was a contract.

  22. Question: will the FA strike in solidarity with the other four IEA unions even if we get to a reasonable position on our issues? I ask because the GA union and the administration seem to be far apart whereas some of the others seem groups seem to be getting pretty close. Will the FA call us out to support the GAU demands?

  23. Awful tempting to hit that nail when you're swinging a big, fancy, empowered hammer.

  24. SF: You raise a very interesting point. Calmer heads and less paranoid individuals need to take over here and get an agreement with BOT on this issue and move on to the other vexing issues left to resolve. I think there's a compromise in the works on FE if only the union were to stop believing the absolute worst ill motives on the part of the BOT. Especially, if as you say, the FE policy has not been substantially altered in the past four decades since the 1973/74 firing of 93 tenured faculty.

  25. Paranoid wrote:

    "That doesn't stop the Board from changing its policy on financial exigency, but it does stop the administration from enforcing those changes during the duration of the contract. The Board still could make changes during this contract period. Hypothetically, the Board then could insist that the next contract's language be connected to the new Board policy."

    You are wrong. A collective bargaining agreement in Illinois is a legally binding document that the University must comply with. They cannot adopt board policies that are not consistent with existing CBAs. To do so is a violation of the Illinois Labor Relations Act - so there is no basis for your fait accompli scenario. Further, by presenting a proposal on FE they have conceded that FE is a term and condition of employment that cannot be imposed as a management right. Frankly, I'm surprised that they ever agreed to bargain on FE and not claim it as a management right not subject to bargaining.

  26. It seems that many of you are posting opinions that don't take into account the fact that four locals are involved in this process, not just the FA. Consequently, some of you may need to reevaluate motives that you attributing to FA leadership and their bargaining team. FE terms are not on the table in NTT bargaining yet it is still going nowhere. The NTTs requested bargaining sessions this week but got no response. If you believe that the administration is not intentionally dragging its feet - you are wrong.

    I response to anonymous 10:52’s question about sympathy striking – to do so would be a violation of the law.

  27. Mister X: I understand we are all supposed to be in solidarity with the other sister unions, but that poses a potential difficulty. The FA bargaining team is accountable to me as a dues-paying member of the FA, just as your bargaining team is only accountable to your union. The administration, as is their right, perhaps is trying to divide us from each other by choosing to come closer to an agreement with the FA than other unions. Don't know what we can or should do about it. I have a personal self-interest as a member of the FA in reaching an agreement that is mutually satisfactory so we can avert a strike. Sorry, that's really crummy, but that's reality.

  28. I agree with you. Each local will ultimately act in its own interest. What has surprised me is that the administration has chosen not to take the divide-and-conquer route. The smart strategy would have been to settle with the other locals and play hardball with the FA. As an NTT leader that's what I expected. They may have even succeeded in compelling NTTs to teach T/TTs classes by intentionally violating workload provisions. There’re an endless number of similar strategies that they could have employed against us – but they didn’t.

    As I have been saying for the last year: this is not about money - it's about power. This Chancellor wants to break the power of the unions on campus and is willing to pay a very high price to do so. It’s the only explanation left.

  29. If the BOT has a fiscal responsibility to the state of Illinois then they should be made to answer for the waste of money on the Saluki Way, sports,million dollar coaches, administrative buildings and new administrative hires in a state of financial emergency. As MisterX says, this is really about power and Poshard and Cheng's attempts to bust unions and make this place into a corporate organization.

  30. Anonymous 2:30: Who's to say that they aren't being held accountable for such projects? I refuse to engage in conspiracy think; I think that is a large part of the problem right now as far as hindering both sides coming to an agreement and then moving on.

  31. Not in the state of Illinois, they're not! Poshard is being protected by politicians in Springfield and Washington otherwise he would be facing Fitzgerald. Why do you think Roger Tedrick suddenly resigned? This state and the way people are appointed to positions of authority represent corruption of the highest order.

  32. SF: I should have been clearer. Of course the BOT is supposed to follow its own policies, so they are legally binding in that sense, but they can change those policies (as they did when introducing the new category of "unpaid administrative closure days"). If those policies are not incorporated into the contract, the board can change then act on those new policies (as they did with the closures).

    I don't know enough about the 1973-1974 process--as to whether it was legal action or pubic pressure, AAUP blacklisting, etc., that led to tenured faculty being hired back. But obviously one goal of current SIUC financial exigency policy ought to be to avoid that sort of train wreck. The FA's supposal would do so.

    To the 4 local issue. Each local is independent. Each is committed to good-faith bargaining: if one local's issues are resolved at the bargaining table, they are going to approve a the contract offered them, regardless of whether the other locals are still negotiating, on strike, etc. While the NEA unions clearly are very sympathetic to each other's plight, the real thing keeping our coalition together so far is the administration's uncompromising stance in bargaining with all 4 locals.

  33. From my contact with one of the victims of the 1973 purge, tenured in March and fired later, tenure then was with the university, not with the department. So if they closed down a department or reduced it drastically (as they did with Foreign Languages), they had to offer the fired person, a position elsewhere in SIUC. When the BOT realized that they could not permanently throw a victim on to the street, they changed the rules so that tenure would be with the department, not the university. Now the BOT is trying to change the rules again. So NEVER trust either the BOT or higher administration. Their word is worthless and everything has to be written down for it to be legal.

  34. "Calmer heads and less paranoid individuals need to take over here and get an agreement with BOT on this issue and move on to the other vexing issues left to resolve."

    Hmm, we seem to be moving into something more like an actual call or motion to be voted on. It is my understanding that one could use his/her DRC representative to make such a motion in the DRC and put this idea to a vote. And if (!) the DRC votes it down, will you be satisfied that the idea of replacing the bargaining team with "calmer heads" was entertained in an appropriate manner and accept the outcome?

    Without engaging in conspiracy-think, I was of the opinion in their report to the DRC that the negotiating team was behaving pretty rationally, especially given how long they have been at this. I am less likely to attribute hot-headed intractability based on one legalistic turn of phrase, especially to the side that has repeatedly come back to the table with modifications to its proposals in order to find some common ground in faculty and Administration interests.

    It may actually be more conspiracy-oriented and paranoid to imagine the strike authorization vote has made our negotiators and other FA representatives so drunk with imagined power that they will play an irrational game of hard-ball with the Administration.

  35. On trusting the BOT.

    I was here when they fired Argersinger. So they did cut off their nose to spite their face. They were manipulated into choosing Poshard as our President. Some BOT members, probably most, are well meaning civic mind people. Some however are in for the business connections and opportunities. Few if any have much knowledge of higher education.

    Politics in Illinois is very corrupt. The BOT members are political appointees of the Governor. Of the three governors that have been in office since I moved here, one is in jail, one is about to be sentenced and one has broken the state workers' union contract.

    So, I want the contract to be clear on what constitutes an FE. If we cannot get binding arbitration, at least if the language is clear we can have a basis for a court challenge if an FE is declared for the wrong reasons.

  36. anonymous

    Disgusted October 21, 2011 2:39 PM:

    Why are you so defensive of the administration inspite of their blatant financial mismangement? Who is holding them accountable for the million dollar crummy logo? Are you willing to offer your furlough pay for the logo?!

  37. Disgusted October 21, 2011 2:39 PM:

    Why are you so defensive of the administration inspite of their blatant financial mismanagement and inflated salaries? Who is holding them accountable for the million dollar crummy logo? Are you willing to offer your furlough pay for the logo?!


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