June 25, 2013
Last Thursday (June 20th) we met for another negotiating session with the Administration's negotiating team. We are sorry to have to report to you that Thursday's session went very poorly, so poorly in fact that yesterday we filed what is known as an "Unfair Labor Practice" (or "ULP" for short) with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the agency of the federal government that oversees unions and employers in the private sector. Essentially (and unfortunately) we believe that the College has broken the law -- the National Labor Relations Act -- by not bargaining in good faith with us.
More on how we believe Manhattanville is in violation of federal law in a moment, but first a little background.
We began negotiating our first contract on September 26, 2011. On that day Ruth Mack, then Interim Associate Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies explained that she would be the lead negotiator for the College's negotiating team and that Shelly Wepner (Dean of the School of Education), Don Dean (Director of Human Resources), Dan Gerger (then Director of Adult and Continuing Education), Robin Cautin (Associate Provost for Academic Affairs), and Lauren Elick (Executive Assistant to the Provost) would be serving as the other members of the administration's team. Although the College's outside legal counsel, Tom McDonough, was present for that first negotiating session, Ms. Mack explained that he would not be attending future bargaining sessions and that communications about negotiations should go directly to her, not Mr. McDonough.
Early on in negotiations both sides established that we would seek to find agreement on individual sections and articles in the contract, starting with what are known as the "non-economic items" first. There are many ways to negotiate a contract -- there's no single "right" process -- the only important thing to remember is it's important that both sides are on the same page, so to speak, in terms of whatever process is chosen. We are confident that both sides were on the same page, that we engaged in what was a process of building toward what are known as "tentative agreements" on various articles. From the start of negotiations, the Union has been presenting its many proposals one at a time, taking as much time as needed to give the rationale for our proposals. We explained what we do as adjunct faculty and tutors and we tried to convince and persuade administration to agree with our proposals. We went back and forth again and again on a number of proposals, and in many cases, came to agreement with administration in concept, if not specific language. In other cases, we came to agreement about specific language, too,
And though the negotiations were often slow-going -- not unusual for a first contract, and especially not unusual for one which involves adjunct faculty -- we did make significant progress in negotiations these past many months. Though there were (and are) some serious philosophical differences between the teams (most notably in terms of how each side views the role of adjunct faculty at the College), we were able to reach agreement on many concepts and articles.
Negotiations slowed down significantly late last fall and (in hindsight) we can now surmise that much of that had to do with what would turn out to be the departure from MMC of two members of the administration's negotiating team. Ruth Mack's departure, in particular, was significant because rather than appoint one of the other members of their team to serve as the new lead negotiator, the College made the decision to bring in someone new who had not previously been part of the bargaining. A few months ago Professor Lenora Boehlert attended a bargaining session and was introduced as a new member of Mville's bargaining team. Shortly thereafter we were informed that Ruth Mack would no longer be involved in negotiations and Professor Boehlert would be the new lead negotiator.
And here's the problem, the BIG problem, with that. Professor Boehlert has informed us that she prefers to negotiate through "package" bargaining -- a process where nothing is tentatively agreed upon until everything in the contract is tentatively agreed upon. Before last week's bargaining session she had emailed us a packet of counterproposals, many of which included sections within articles (or sometimes entire articles) which both sides had already tentatively agreed to BUT her counterproposals now included new revisions. In fact, Professor Boehlert had changed much of the language that both parties had previously agreed to. In a few cases these were minor, mostly semantic changes. In many cases these were major changes, altering both the letter and spirit of what both sides had already come to an agreement about . In the spirit of good faith bargaining we were hopeful that when both teams sat down at the bargaining table we would be able to straighten out what we hoped was a misunderstanding. Instead, Professor Boehlert informed us that she did not believe we had been previously been negotiating through the system of tentative agreements. When we tried to question the two other members of Mville's bargaining team who were present (Don Dean and Lauren Elick), Professor Boehlert explained that she had instructed them not to discuss this was us. Professor Boehlert expressed disappointment that we were not willing to present her with a complete packet of proposals. We made it clear we WERE eager, in fact, to discuss them. We wanted to go over the tentative agreements we had already made, again, and explain to her how both teams had reached those agreements. We also wanted to have further discussion on the articles we were not yet in agreement about in order to continue the progress of negotiations.
After that we reached a stalemate pretty quickly. Professor Boehlert insisted that a third-party mediator should be brought in to help us reach agreement. We replied that we didn't think that our disagreements about how we were bargaining were ones relevant for a mediator, since those disagreements stemmed from what we believed to be an example of bad faith bargaining which is a violation of the National Labor Relations Act.
So here we are. We intend to reach out to all of you in the coming weeks to give you a fuller update on negotiations, the Union's next steps, and an update on the charges we filed at the Labor Board. But please don't wait for us to reach you. Feel free to contact any of us listed below or call our NYSUT union representatives, Julie Berman and Daniel Esakoff, at 212-989-3470.
On Behalf of the Bargaining Committee of the Union of Adjunct Faculty and Tutors at Manhattanville,
click here to return to the UAFTAM home page
Union of Adjunct Faculty and Tutors at Manhattanville / NYSUT / AFT / NEA / AFL-CIO