These are the questions we hear most about bargaining, the bargaining process, and how what the administration is doing is connected to bargaining:
A. How has the administration failed to bargain?
Each of our locals has consistently faced a board team following the same basic “impasse to implement” strategy: they have “bargained” in a way designed to frustrate progress, rather than to make progress, as their goal was to claim an impasse that would give them the legal cover to implement their own terms. The administration teams effectively vetoed all our proposals, even when we proposed a variety of different approaches to meet our interests. They did not respond with modified versions of our proposals, or substantially modify their own proposals: they stuck to their original plan, and rejected ours. Finally they claimed an impasse and dictated their own terms.
B. Hasn’t the Chancellor said her teams are willing to return to bargaining?
Before we filed the notices of intent to strike, the administration had indicated a willingness to return to the bargaining table at unspecified dates in the future, but had stated that they had no intention of changing their positions. Within a few hours of our announcing the filing of the notices, the administration came up with specific bargaining dates in the coming weeks. We welcome them back to the table, but recognize that we are not out of the woods yet. The only thing that has brought them even this far is our unified resistance to their imposed terms, and our resolve to protect our right to collective action by filing Intent to Strike notices. If a year’s worth of unproductive bargaining has shown anything, it is that it will take resolve, unity, and strength on the part of our unions to induce the administration to truly bargain in good faith.
C. Hasn’t the Chancellor said that her imposed terms apply only to this year?
She has said so, but her imposed terms contain explicitly multi-year provisions that would allow for furloughs and undermine the job security of faculty and staff for years to come.
D. Hasn’t the Chancellor said her terms would not undermine tenure?
The Chancellor presented a tortured reading of the imposed terms, arguing that the terms do not trump the Board’s established policy on tenure. But her negotiating teams have put the status of tenure (and job security for all employees) on the table, and these issues must be resolved at the bargaining table and in contracts, not left to provisions of Board policy that the Board can change at its sole discretion or to the Board Rights provisions that negate the full bargaining rights of the unions.
E. Isn’t GA United in a somewhat different position?
The administration has not claimed a formal impasse with GA United. But during federal mediation, the administration team had the mediator inform the GA bargaining team that they had nothing more to say to them. While the administration subsequently expressed an interest in reengaging, and has met with the GA bargaining team in two sessions last month, no real progress has been made on any major issues.
F. Are you saying: “Settle with all the unions or none of us will settle?”
We’ve all faced the same basic “impasse to implement ” bargaining strategy, in which the administration vetoes our proposals rather than negotiating with us about them. That said, there are unique issues in dispute for each local. And each local will make its own independent decision as to whether to strike, should issues remain unresolved.
G. If negotiations resume, can’t we stop all this strike talk?
The strike talk is what has gotten the administration to agree to return to the bargaining table. Being at the table will create an opportunity to find a mutual agreement that will lead to fully ratified collective bargaining agreements to replace the agreements that expired in June of 2010. But only time will tell if resumed bargaining will result in a tentative agreement that we can accept. In the meantime our posture should be: “hope for the best but plan for the worst.” Not working on a contingency plan only weakens us at the table. While we would like to think that the administration is reasonable and cares about what we need for an agreement, their past behavior does not support that conclusion.