Sunday, November 24, 2013

Proposed budget cuts will harm PSU's mission: Guest opinion |

By Mary King
The Portland State University campus is in an uproar, reacting to a directive to all academic units to identify 8 percent of their budgets for possible elimination by fall term 2014.
PSU faculty members are skeptical of the necessity for such drastic cuts and alarmed by the destruction slashing budgets would entail.
Battered by Oregon’s 20-year spiral to the bottom for state support for public higher education, another 8 percent cut represents an unsustainable blow to PSU’s ability to provide a quality academic experience for its nearly 30,000 students.
PSU’s faculty members are already far more likely to be part-time “freeway fliers” than the rest of Oregon’s public universities.  Fifty two percent of PSU faculty members are part-time, as compared with 35 percent on average for the Oregon University System.  Part-timers teach a third of the student hours at PSU. 
While part-time faculty may be well qualified, they can’t promise anything beyond the 10-week quarter.  Students can’t count on part-time faculty for advising, for a future letter of recommendation, or a commitment to serve on a Ph.D., masters or honors project committee.
Even PSU’s full-time faculty isn’t stable.  Forty-one percent of full-time faculty members teach on short contracts, two thirds of them for one year or less.
PSU faculty salaries are in the bottom tenth for faculty in public, research universities, and in the bottom 7 percent of all research universities, including the privates.  As a result, we struggle to recruit and retain a strong faculty.
PSU is spending on upper administration.  The number of executives – variants of presidents, provosts and deans – grew 65 percent, from 31 to 51, from 2002 to 2012.  Executive salaries have soared.  Even after adjusting for inflation, the provost’s salary grew by 46 percent in 10 years and the combined vice provosts’ salaries by 43 percent.
Tuition dollars are subsidizing secondary activities that by rights should support the academic mission.  Millions of dollars are diverted each year to prop up bad real estate deals; athletics, which should be supported by donations; and odd giveaways, like the subsidies for business start-ups in the Business Accelerator.
Some PSU budget moves appear counterproductive.  PSU abruptly cut 79 courses this summer, within a week of the start of the summer session. As reported in The Oregonian, Provost Andrews and Dean Beatty explained that all of the cancelled courses would be taught in the regular academic year, and that “PSU professors …can't refuse to see their student loads increase.”  The problem is that many PSU summer students are in town only for the summer, returning to other schools in the fall, and others are people attracted by the opportunity to squeeze in a short, intensive course.
In another example of questionable budget decisions, key projects helping students improve their writing skills, the drop-in writing center and writing intensive courses, are on the chopping block.  Meanwhile, the Provost’s Challenge initiative will use student tech fees to develop a “badge” to certify that students can write, but will not fund writing instruction.
Three-quarters of PSU faculty responding to an on-line survey conducted by the PSU-AAUP this last month indicated that they “somewhat disagree or completely disagree” that “PSU Administrators have a good feel for our mission, understanding of conditions at PSU and are taking us in a positive direction.”
Fifty six percent of faculty surveyed disagree that “PSU Administrators are visible, effective advocates for PSU and public higher education in Oregon,” and another 22 percent are “unsure.”
Oregon must stop accepting its current rank as 47th in the country in per-student higher education funding. The consequences are skyrocketing tuition rates, unconscionable levels of student debt, diminishing access to higher education and mediocre universities.  For the sake of Oregon’s college students and our state’s future, we need to get our priorities in order, at PSU and in the State Legislature.
Mary King is a professor of economics at PSU and president of the PSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors, the union representing full-time faculty.

Proposed budget cuts will harm PSU's mission: Guest opinion |

Thursday, November 21, 2013

PSU Faculty Union Protests Budget Cuts | Blogtown, PDX | Portland Mercury

Portland State University’s administration is once again looking to slim down the school’s budget. Needless to say students, faculty and the faculty union aren’t happy.

Yesterday at noon, around 260 individuals, many from the PSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP)—the union representing the university’s faculty—along with students and other supporters, marched from PSU at SW Broadway to the Market Center Building, where PSU President Wim Wiewel keeps an office.

The protesters’ beef was with the university’s administration, their high salaries, and the budget-cutting knife they’re now wielding.

University higher-ups recently issued an administrative directive ordering all “academic units” identify eight percent of their budgets for possible cuts. The cuts are expected to take another bite out of student services. But the rub, says AAUP reps, is that this starvation diet might not be necessary at all.

“There’s this history of uneven investment on the campus,” Mary King, economics professor and president of the PSU chapter of the AAUP, told the Mercury.

On King’s wish list of possible cuts are what she says are some of PSU’s more ill-conceived investments. Not the least of these is the University Place Hotel—the former Double Tree at 310 SW Lincoln Street that PSU bought and has been running since 2004. King says the hotel has sucked money from student tuition and should be sold.

Of course, union members have their own more personal complaints against their bosses, and—surprise! surprise—it’s over money. But before you think the teachers are greedy bastards not pulling their own weight, consider their argument. (Which, if you wanted to incite class resentment, isn’t a bad one).

The AAUP claims there’s a lot of fat at the top of PSU’s food chain. According to numbers compiled by the union, over the last decade, the average administrator’s salary has gone up substantially. The provost’s salary shot up 46 percent. For vice provosts it was 43 percent. For vice presidents it was around 29 percent. To give this some perspective, consider PSU President Wim Wiewel’s salary.

According to a Chronicle for Higher Education study released earlier this year—and partially disputed by the Oregonian—during 2011-2012 accounting period, Wiewel was paid $627,000 in salary and compensation. The Oregonian’s Betsy Hammond puts the number closer to $513,000. Ranking him somewhere between 42nd and 70th highest paid university administrator in the country.

During the same period, according to Oregon University System numbers, salaries for PSU faculty were $92,800 for full professors, $73,600 for associate professors, $60,300 for assistant professors, and $41,700 for instructors. PSU also has a lot of part-timers, about 52 percent of its faculty, well above the OUS average of 35 percent. In fact, the school has about 173 adjuncts compared to 409 tenure-track faculty members, and 100 “fixed term faculty” (whatever that is).

Yet, in its on-going negotiations with the university—the union’s current contract with the university expires on November 30—AAUP rep Marissa Johnson says PSU administration has asked the faculty to take just a one percent cost of living increase despite the fact, she says, cost of living has gone up by more then two percent recently, and administration salaries went up by 13 percent in the last biennium.

The context for this bickering is, of course, a slow and steady divestment of state funds away from PSU and other Oregon universities. As a result, much of the financial burden for propping up Oregon’s higher ed—and, if the union is right, its well-paid administrators, and an occasional hotel—have fallen on the backs of students in the form of tuition hikes.

King tells the Mercury the AAUP is planning on releasing a study with a larger set of numbers that’ll further break down and compare the salaries of PSU administrators with that or its faculty. (And, presumably build more resentment against the school’s administrators).

On November 25th—that’s next Monday—the AAUP will also be hosting a meeting to further discuss the budget, and nail home its point. The meeting will be at Cramer Hall from 3-5PM. And it’s open to the public.

PSU Faculty Union Protests Budget Cuts | Blogtown, PDX | Portland Mercury

Thursday, October 10, 2013

CONTRACT RATIFIED! | United Academics of the University of Oregon

The United Academics of the University of Oregon are happy to announce that ffirst contract has been overwhelmingly ontract approved!
YES: 301 (99%)
NO: 3 (1%)
YES: 285 (97.2%)
NO: 8 (2.8%)

CONTRACT RATIFIED! | United Academics of the University of Oregon

Thursday, September 19, 2013

U. of Oregon Union Cheers Labor Deal as Protecting Faculty Rights - Faculty - The Chronicle of Higher Education

The University of Oregon and its fledgling faculty union have tentatively agreed on a contract that provides all categories of instructors with more pay and job security and leaves intact protections of faculty speech and e-mails that union representatives previously viewed as threatened.
The proposed two-year contract, expected to be approved by the union's members in a ratification vote scheduled for October 8, calls for the salaries of the university's academic employees to grow by an average of nearly 12 percent over the period covered, through the end of June 2015.
The agreement contains several provisions geared toward helping faculty members employed on a contingent basis. Among them, it says the university will work toward establishing salary floors for instructors off the tenure track, with the goal of eventually paying those who work full time at least $36,000 annually and those who work part time a pro-rated amount pegged to the floor for full-timers.
The agreement also requires the university to give a written justification for any decision not to renew such an instructor's contract, and it provides that instructors whose contracts are renewed annually will be offered two-year contracts after four years of service and three-year contracts after six.
Missing from the agreement are several provisions that had been opposed by the faculty union, United Academics, an affiliate of both the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers that came into being 17 months ago.
The university's administration was persuaded, for example, to drop proposed contract language characterizing as university property any e-mail from faculty members' home computers dealing with work-related matters.
Although the administration had characterized the language as simply reflecting the scope of e-mails covered by the state's open-records law, the union had assailed it as overly broad and intrusive. The union got the administration to enshrine in the contract a current policy saying that any search of a faculty member's personal e-mail account must be conducted by authorized personnel and serve a legitimate business purpose, such as complying with an open-records request.
The union similarly got the administration to abandon, as potentially threatening faculty members' ability to express dissent, proposed contract language requiring them to demonstrate civility in their workplace interactions. At the union's request, the administration agreed to language explicitly protecting the right of faculty members to speak out on matters related to institutional policy—a right seen assomewhat in limbo as a constitutional matter in the wake of a 2006 Supreme Court decision scaling back public employees' freedom of workplace speech.
Among its other provisions, the proposed contract also increases how much faculty members are compensated during sabbaticals, and calls on the university to increase faculty salaries to make up for any decline in its contribution toward their retirement accounts under state law.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Michael Gottfredson, the university's president, called the contract "a fiscally responsible agreement that rewards excellence and invests in our faculty."
The union on Wednesday issued a statement in which Yvonne Braun, an associate professor of women's and gender studies who was a member of its negotiating team, said the agreement "represents a major step forward for all faculty" there.
READ ARTICLE AT U. of Oregon Union Cheers Labor Deal as Protecting Faculty Rights - Faculty - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Friday, September 13, 2013

Oregon State Government Workers Represented by SEIU Win Zero-Concessions Contract through Strike Threat | Labor Notes

After years of painful backsliding, the state workers of Oregon’s largest union, Service Employees 503, scored a big win this summer in contract negotiations against Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber.
The governor had demanded many concessions that attacked health care, wages, and work conditions, but backed down when the union proved organized and ready to wage a statewide strike.
A strike would have shut down many state-run agencies, including highway repair, Motor Vehicles, Parks and Recreation, food stamps, the Employment Department, Child Welfare, and the Department of Revenue.
Instead the union now has its first contract victory in years, with zero concessions, wage increases, protections against privatization, and other improvements in working conditions.
The state’s public employees form the core of SEIU 503’s 50,000-plus members. On paper the union looked impressive, having expanded its membership in mostly nonpublic areas, including private home-health care.
But the union’s power had been hollowed out in preceding years as successive Democratic governors demanded concessionary contracts from the state workers, who pay most of the union’s dues and have the most cohesive work units and political power.
With each new contract, real wages were lowered, members’ health care contributions increased, and the governor continued to blame public employees for budget deficits caused by big corporations, whose successful lobbying efforts robbed the state of much-needed revenue.
Right-wing organizations and politicians began preparing the anti-union death blow: a “right-to-work” ballot measure for 2014, aimed at decapitating Oregon’s public sector unions. But after this big win, SEIU 503 is in a better position to defend itself—and in a better bargaining position for the next contract.
“We aren't going to be satisfied with one good contract,” said Tonjia Doeden, chair of SEIU 503’s Sub-local 217. “We’ve sacrificed a lot over the years in wages and health care, and we want it back. We'll be asking for more next time to reclaim lost ground.”


The victory required that the union out-muscle nearly every politician in the state. Democrats, who control Oregon’s House and Senate, co-authored a bill that illegally lowered the pensions of current and future retirees. It passed in April, mid-bargaining, and the union is challenging it in court.
Then the politicians pushed for yet another anti-pension bill, which they called a “Grand Bargain”—minimally raising taxes on the wealthy in exchange for even more pension cuts. This failed by one vote, but the governor says he will pursue it again in a special session this fall.
Many—if not most—of the Democrats who voted for these bills were supported by unions, yet they proceeded immediately to stab unions in the back. They parroted the longstanding Republican propaganda that blames unions for the state’s budget problems.
The governor even called the legislature into special session exclusively to give NIKE a special tax break—which of course will be expanded to other corporations in Oregon.
The Democrats’ rightward political drift is, in part, the product of a labor movement that refuses to hold them accountable for their actions.
Governor Kitzhaber had proved himself an enemy of organized labor in 1995, when SEIU 503 went on a statewide strike against him. Yet when he reentered politics in 2010, SEIU 503 and the other unions agreed to back him on a “lesser of two evils” basis, regardless of his public statements aimed at “curbing pension costs” and other anti-union rhetoric.
When the Democrats co-authored the anti-pension bill, instead of publicly denouncing it, public sector unions—including SEIU 503—remained mostly quiet.
This empowered the Democrats to double down later for the Grand Bargain.

Flying Squadron

But the union defeated the governor’s concessions with member action.
Workers circulated strike petitions statewide, pledging to commit to a strike if necessary. The petition was crucial in deepening worksite discussions about striking and preparing members for the possibility. The union held informational picketing during lunch hours, “unity breaks,” and other worksite-specific actions to educate members and improve morale.
At regional membership meetings, workers discussed the contract campaign and gave feedback. Members were also phonebanked to dispense information and elicit deeper feedback.
The union even organized a “flying squadron,” where members traveled to worksites around the state to hold break-time rallies, agitate on the key demands, and push members to get more involved in the contract campaign. (In accordance with our contract, management granted union leave for this activity.)
When the union held statewide in-person strike votes, members voted a strong “yes,” further empowering the bargaining team to reject concessions.
Now many in SEIU 503 are re-thinking their relationship with the Democrats. “This year in Oregon was a case study of the need for a labor party,” said Ann Montague, president of the 503 retirees. “All the candidates that received money, time, and resources from the unions attacked us!”
Unions in Oregon have started “candidate schools” for members interested in running for public office. This small step toward political independence should be accompanied by a larger investment in creating a political party to represent working people.
Shamus Cooke is a social service worker and an officer of SEIU 503. He can be reached at

Read original article at: Viewpoint: Oregon Public Workers Win Zero-Concessions Contract through Strike Threat | Labor Notes

UO Negotiations: United Academics object to contract language divorcing academic freedom from free speech | Inside Higher Ed

September 12, 2013
Push and pull between administrators and faculty unions during contract negotiations is to be expected. But some faculty members at the University of Oregon say administrators in their contract negotiations are attempting to gut a particularly sacred university policy: academic freedom.
Oregon’s existing policy calls free inquiry and free speech “the cornerstones of an academic institution committed to the creation and transfer of knowledge.” The belief that an opinion is “pernicious, false, and in any other way despicable, detestable, offensive or ‘just plain wrong’ cannot be grounds for its suppression,” it says.
In the spring, Oregon’s Faculty Senate approved a new policy on academic freedom, a near-identical version of which the United Academics, a union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors, soon adopted for negotiation purposes. Oregon faculty voted to unionize last year and they are working on their first contract. The Senate statement on academic freedom has yet to be finalized, pending its own negotiations with the administration.
The union’s proposed statement is similar to existing policy, calling free inquiry and free speech “essential components” of academic freedom. The statement is also more expansive, and includes language guaranteeing faculty the “right to engage in internal criticism, which encompasses the freedom to address any matter of institutional policy or action, whether or not as a member of any agency of institutional governance."
Faculty advocates say that language was included in response to the 2006 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Garcetti v. Ceballos, which limited the speech rights of public employees. The decision, which concerned the Los Angeles district attorney's office, noted that the ruling did not deal with identical issues to those found in public higher education, but some courts have been applying the ruling to faculty disputes at public universities (others have not).
Since then, faculty leaders nationwide have been pushing for clarification of university policies as a way to protect free speech rights amid the uncertain legal environment.
The union statement also guarantees the right to free speech in public debate, “free from institutional censorship or discipline.” At the same time, the statement notes that faculty members have “special obligations,” including as de facto public representatives of the university.  
But the university’s counterproposal decouples academic freedom and free speech, addressing them separately. Academic freedom is “necessary to teaching and research,” it says, with no mention of the role of academics in speaking out if not related directly to teaching and research. Rejecting explicit union language on free speech, the counterproposal instead guarantees protections afforded by the First Amendment and state law.
The university statement mentions civility twice in a section on faculty responsibilities, including that faculty are responsible for treating "students, staff, colleagues and the public fairly and civilly in discharging his or her duties and in accordance with this agreement." Civility clauses have long been of concern to advocates for professors. While it's hard to find people who are anti-civility, many academics note that requiring civility can become a tool for punishing those professors who speak out against their bosses or who push unpopular positions.
Margaret Paris, professor of law and president of the Faculty Senate, has not been involved in union negotiations but said that the union statement likely would influence the ultimate Senate document, since it would be difficulty to work off two different policies when most of the faculty belong to the union (although law professors do not).
Paris also said she was aware of the university’s preference to decouple academic freedom and free speech in the final Faculty Senate statement, and that she would likely support it. Because the policies "spring from different sets of values," it makes sense that each deserves individual attention, she said.
Oregon’s administration works closely with the Faculty Senate and Paris is looking forward to a collaborative process finalizing the document, she said.
But those involved in union contract negotiations said otherwise.
Bill Harbaugh, professor of economics and moderator of the "UO Matters" blog, which is frequently critical of university policy, said decoupling academic freedom from free speech left room for administrators to punish those faculty – like him – who say things administrators don't like. He also objected to the idea that administrators would be the ones deciding what qualifies as "civil."
The university has previously publicly accused Harbaugh of including “consistently anti-university” statements on his blog.
“The university is place of higher learning,” warranting explicit protections of free speech, Harbaugh said. “The new policy takes out all the pro-free speech stuff and instead includes many restrictive rules about how faculty can be engaged in free speech. It’s aimed in part at limiting the critical faculty right to criticize the administration outside of [the formal university setting].”
Michael Mauer, an AAUP senior labor adviser involved in contract negotiations, said the university’s counterproposal gutted union language that protects faculty free speech, in light of Garcetti.
“It limits that to whatever the courts currently say is protected by the First Amendment, and we think it should be broader than that,” Mauer said, particularly as the counterproposal also rejects some union language guaranteeing faculty members the right to engage in criticism of institutional policy.
And while there’s nothing wrong with an “aspirational” mention of civility, he said, including it as a “faculty responsibility” opens the door to potential disciplinary action for words that should be accepted within the "scope of vigorous debate."
David Hubin, executive assistant to University of Oregon President Michael R. Gottfredson, said that he wasn’t involved in contract negotiations but that the university’s desire to divorce academic freedom from free speech “reflects the president’s sentiment that each of those two things are very important historic privileges and that they can be stated more clearly separately. When they are conflated it has the potential to not give the focus on academic freedom that we feel is critical.”
Asked about the civility clause, Hubin said Oregon has a long history of promoting respectful discourse – one that’s covered by the university’s existing policy on academic freedom and free speech: “It is the responsibility of speakers, listeners and all members of our community to respect others and to promote a culture of mutual inquiry throughout the university community.”
Any determination of what’s civil would likely include faculty input, he said.
In e-mail, President Gottfredson said:  “Academic freedom and freedom of speech are both central to the strength and integrity of our academic community – they are cornerstones of the public university. Discussions with the University of Oregon Senate last spring resulted in a draft statement that combined these two freedoms. I believe these tenets are of such central importance to our academic mission that they deserve to be considered individually and developed separately into two strong policies. I communicated my views to the former Senate president, and look forward to moving the discussion forward with our new Senate president when our academic year begins later this month.”
Harbaugh, however, said Gottfredson’s views lagged behind that of his former employer, the University of California. The system’s Board of Regents recently expanded speech rights for faculty. Gottfredson is the former provost of the University of California at Irvine.
Robert O'Neil, a free speech expert and former University of Virginia president and law professor, didn't suspect any nefarious intent on the part of the administration based on the counterproposal, but said that a first contract is an important opportunity to "get it right" when it comes to understandings of academic freedom.
The union is particularly well-positioned to flesh out language regarding free speech in light of this month's U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruling on public college and university free speech rights, O'Neil said. Instead of limitations set by the Garcetti ruling, the lower court -- in whose jurisdiction Oregon sits -- found that a more general First Amendment analysis protects those rights.
"They need to make sure the adequate language currently reflects Demers," he said, referring to the appeals court case regarding David Demers, former professor of communications at Washington State University at Pullman.
Additionally, he said, the civility language is "fuzzy" and needs definition.

Read more: 
Inside Higher Ed 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

SEIU 503 prepares to strike at 7 Oregon universities

SEIU 503 prepares to strike at 7 Oregon universities

Since July 29, SEIU Local 503 has been circulating a member petition in support of strike authorization at the Oregon University System.
Since July 29, SEIU Local 503 has been circulating a member petition in support of strike authorization at the Oregon University System.
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 503 is laying the groundwork for a strike at the Oregon University System (OUS). Local 503 represents 4,200 support workers at the system’s seven state universities, including facilities, IT, and clerical workers. After six months of bargaining failed to produce a new contract, Local 503 declared impasse Aug. 19. Now the union is collecting member signatures on a strike pledge petition, scheduling strike authorization votes around the state, and calling on faculty and students to sign a pledge not to cross strike picket lines.
Wages are a key sticking point. OUS is proposing across-the-board increases of 1.5 percent on Dec. 1, 2013, and 2 percent a year later. The union is proposing 2.5 percent retroactive to the July 1, 2013, expiration of previous two-year contract, and another 2.5 percent July 1, 2014. Local 503 is also proposing that the across-the-board raises be a minimum of $75 per month, thus bringing the lowest-paid workers up more.
The two sides also disagree on “step” increases that reward workers for sticking around. Under the previous contract, workers get a raise of about 4.75 percent a year until they reach the top of the pay scale after nine years. OUS is proposing to divide those step increases further, giving only half a step increase each year.
OUS dropped several demands that earlier had provoked union members, including a proposal to eliminate the right of more senior workers to “bump” less senior workers in the event of layoff. OUS also backed off a proposal to stop paying at the overtime rate for work beyond eight hours in a day.
But OUS also backtracked from its earlier willingness to meet the union half-way on a “wage floor” proposal. Local 503 is proposing that no worker be paid less than $2,498 a month — the dollar threshold at which a family of four becomes eligible for food stamps.
The two sides agree on health benefits, for the most part, including that employees would pay 5 percent of the premium. But OUS has balked at SEIU’s proposal that employees with domestic partners be reimbursed for the federal health benefit tax they must pay. The IRS treats employer-provided spousal health coverage as a tax-free benefit, but makes employees pay a tax on the same benefit when it covers a same-sex or opposite-sex domestic partner. SEIU views its proposal as a civil rights issue.

Last ditch talks continue

Despite the declaration of impasse, the two sides met Aug. 26 to negotiate with the help of a mediator, and are set to meet again Sept. 13 and 14 in Corvallis. Bargaining sessions rotate around the state’s seven campuses, and SEIU has organized rallies outside each bargaining session.
A group of Steelworkers union activists —on a nationwide "Summer of Solidarity" tour — stopped in Portland Aug. 28 and rallied with workers who are getting ready to strike at seven state universities.
A group of Steelworkers union activists —on a nationwide “Summer of Solidarity” tour — stopped in Portland Aug. 28 and rallied with workers who are getting ready to strike at seven state universities.
On Aug. 28 it held another rally — after receiving an offer of solidarity from a group of steelworkers traveling the United States in a “summer solidarity tour.” About 100 union members and supporters, plus the steelworkers, assembled in Portland State University (PSU)’s Urban Plaza.  Several unfurled a 20’ “Fair Contract Now” banner from the top of an adjacent building. But when union members brought their noisy protest to the nearby state chancellor’s office, they found a locked door. OUS lead negotiator Brian Caulfield greet them outside the office, and accepted their letter to the chancellor. Demonstrators next visited the office of PSU president Wim Wiewel, but were told he was out to lunch.
Wiewel — who lives rent-free in a university mansion and receives $512,786 a year in compensation university — wrote to university employees in August, announcing a badge that entitles them to attend 20 PSU sporting events for free.
“I’d much rather have a living wage,” Local 503 member Lora Worden told the Labor Press. Worden said she earns $11.82 an hour doing data support at PSU’s Graduate School of Education … and has $90,000 in student debt to repay for her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She’s one of an estimated 1,200 workers who would see wages rise substantially if the Oregon University System agrees to the proposed wage floor.
Strike authorization ballots will be counted Sept. 11. If members authorize it, they could strike as early as Sept. 23, after a mandated 10-day notice. Fall term classes begin Sept. 30. Local 503 isasking students and faculty to commit that if there’s a strike, they will honor strike picket lines by joining picket lines and campus rallies, refusing to patronize campus services, and canceling or skipping classes or holding classes on the picket lines.
Ethan Picman, SEIU Local 503's chief steward at Portland State University, explains the bargaining impasse with the Oregon University System, at an Aug. 28 rally.
Ethan Picman, SEIU Local 503′s chief steward at Portland State University, explains the bargaining impasse with the Oregon University System, at an Aug. 28 rally.

Read original article at:
SEIU 503 prepares to strike at 7 Oregon universities | nwLaborPress

Monday, September 9, 2013

Wisconsin Regents wants to get rid of shared governance- Walker's next step| Inside Higher Ed

Read original article at:
Wisconsin faculty object to idea that shared governance should change | Inside Higher Ed
September 9, 2013
A meeting between the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents and state legislators last week was designed mainly to find common ground in the wake of recent disputes over cash reserves. But discussions during the meeting about rethinking shared governance had some faculty feeling like they were left holding the bag for administrators' actions – and that their decision-making authority within the system was under threat.
The conference, “Finding Common Ground: Regent Governance, Funding, and Partnerships for Wisconsin’s Public University System,” was initiated by the board, following a state audit this spring that showed the university system had cash reserves of $648 million, about a quarter of its annual appropriation. The funds were distributed among many accounts across the system and the funds had gone virtually unmentioned to state officials. While many state higher education systems use reserves, the issue highlighted legislative-board relations. System President Kevin Reilly, who has been in office since 2004, recently announced that he will be stepping down in January.
Michael Falbo, the board's president, told legislators they needed to “reboot” the longstanding partnership between Wisconsin and its public universities.“We need to remember that we are all in this together, and we need to look at ways to strengthen that partnership.”
During a panel discussion on board governance, however, legislators took the opportunity to start a discussion about the role of the faculty in decision making.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican, said governance changes within the system were a matter of “when, not if,” and that university chancellors should be empowered to “truly be the chief executive officers.”
Vos added: "Does the role of allowing faculty to make a huge number of decisions help the system or hurt the system?"
Some faculty advocates present, including Sara Goldrick-Rab, associate professor of educational policy studies and sociology at the Madison campus, where the meeting took place, called those statements troubling.
“Vos, in his remarks, very explicitly stated that we need to look into this issue of perceived inefficiency,” stemming from faculty involvement in decision making, she said. “I attended this meeting very interested to hear the conversation, but I did not expect to hear any of that.”
Taking faculty out of the decision-making process to save time and money is misguided, she said, citing a 2012 American Enterprise Institute study that will be included in a forthcoming volume from Harvard Education Press on stretching the higher education dollar.  The study, by Robert E. Martin, Centre College emeritus professor of economics, shows that college costs continued to grow even as faculty say in institutional priorities declined, nationwide, from 1987 to 2008.
It’s also against tradition, said Goldrick-Rab, noting that Wisconsin professors have long enjoyed a strong governance "partnership" with administrators and students, thanks to state statute, under which faculty are guaranteed active participation in shaping institutional policy and responsibility for academic and personnel matters.
"The reason I've stayed at Wisconsin is shared governance," Goldrick-Rab said. "It's really important to faculty worklife and quality of education."
But the principle has eroded over time, Goldrick-Rab said. And the current political environment in Wisconsin, in which Governor Scott Walker, a Republican, has proposed linking funding for higher education to "performance," doesn't bode well for its future.
In public remarks last year, Walker said: "In higher education, that means not only degrees, but are young people getting degrees in jobs that are open and needed today, not just the jobs that the universities want to give us, or degrees that people want to give us?"
William Tracy, professor of agronomy at Madison and president of Madison's Public Representation Organization of the Faculty Senate, said he was concerned about Vos's comments, and blamed them in part on what he called a "misunderstanding" of the faculty role in governance.
"We've been effective in many, many ways," he said, including increasing graduation rates and decreased time-to-degree for graduate students in recent years. "It's hard to see that we're being inefficient or inflexible or not 'nimble,' or stodgy, if you will."
Like Goldrick-Rab, Tracy said that while including faculty in governance can slow down the decision-making process, it often leads to better decisions.
Randy Olson, professor of astronomy and chair of the Stevens Point campus Faculty Senate, said in an e-mail that Madison faculty members "are not the only ones that are upset."
"Most of my colleagues believe that one of the real strengths of the University of Wisconsin System is its shared governance where we have a collaborative approach with faculty and administrators in providing our students the best education possible," he said, adding that the legislature -- "in its earlier days" -- agreed.
He compared Vos's wish to make chancellors more like CEOs to making governors more like CEOs, diminishing the role of the legislature in governance.
Julie Schmid, chief of the staff for the American Federation of Teachers in Wisconsin, including its higher education component, said in an e-mail that the state law enshrining faculty governance in the university system has "been in both University of Wisconsin System administration's and the Republican lawmakers' sights for a while now."
Proposed changes need to be seen as "part and parcel" of Walker's 2011 overturning of collective bargaining for public employees, including faculty and staff, said Schmid, who will soon be the head administrator of the American Association of University Professors. "This is all about the further corporatization of public higher ed in this state and the further privatization of a common good [...] and it puts the [university] outside of the norm for U.S. higher ed."
Tracy said he believed that Wisconsin's system of shared governance wouldn't let faculty down, and that he was looking forward to a dialogue with legislators and administrators going forward.
Following Thursday's meeting, Falbo said: “We will organize our administration in a way that strengthens the institutions, and enhances their service to students, families, businesses, and communities." In doing so, he added, "we will focus on effective resource management, high-quality education, and competitive compensation for the faculty and staff who deliver the goods.”
Vos did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Reilly could not immediately be reached for comment.
State Senator Sheila Harsdorf, chair of the body's Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges, last week agreed with Vos that governance practices needed to be reexamined and that "the system needs to be driven by the campuses with the campuses driving what services the system provides." In an interview, she said that she was more interested in rethinking the higher education funding model than the role of the faculty in governance, but that better systems of "accountability and measurement" are needed.
Lots of communication between on and off-campus constituencies, including "those who are creating the jobs and providing job opportunities for graduates," is needed to develop those systems, Harsdorf said.
Some of the board's meeting pertained to links between universities and businesses. Keynote speaker Charles Reed, chancellor emeritus of the California State University System, said, "[We] want to understand what employers need from our graduates and what legislators expect from our institutions so we can prepare our students to be successful in their workplace." Goldrick-Rab and others said they believed it was an unofficial endorsement of a more outcomes-based curriculum that focuses on job preparation at the expense of the liberal arts.
State Rep. Janet Bewley, a Democratic member of the Assembly’s Education Committee, challenged some of her fellow legislators' opinions last week, saying to those gathered: "What I want to prevent is a whole new set of cooks going into your kitchen, people who are academics trying to run your campuses."
In an interview, Bewley said Walker's vision for higher education enjoys more than marginal support in the legislature, and that shared governance -- along with support for the liberal arts -- is potentially vulnerable. She didn't know of any specific threats, she said, but "I think right now all of us are going to be wise enough to carefully watch what happens in the months to come."
Some faculty advocates praised Richard Wells, chancellor of the Oshkosh campus, for telling those gathered last week that campuses are communities, not corporations. In an e-mail, Wells said shared governance "is and will be increasingly under threat in Wisconsin and throughout the nation in large part because the higher education financial model is broken resulting in, among other things, the affordability and student debt crises. "
Faculty, staff, students and administrators must defend the principle through efficient and effective service of the system's mission and values, he said. "I am confident we will be successful together in the long run because we have a long Wisconsin legacy of addressing very difficult challenges," Wells said. "However, the short run ride is going to be tough. Stay tuned."

Read more:
Inside Higher Ed 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

John Kitzhaber vs. employee choice |

John Kitzhaber vs. employee choice |

Gov. John Kitzhaber blasted a right-to-work initiative at a union-sponsored picnic Monday at Oaks Park. (Brent Wojahn/The Oregonian )
The Oregonian Editorial BoardBy The Oregonian Editorial Board 
Follow on Twitter
on September 03, 2013 at 3:06 PM, updated September 03, 2013 at 3:29 PM

Gov. John Kitzhaber gave both barrels on Monday to a proposed initiative that would allow public employees who don't want to join unions to withhold mandatory union payments. The measure would do nothing more nefarious than give people a choice about the use of their own money. Yet there was the governor telling the audience at a union-sponsored picnic, "We are not going to let 'right to work' take root in Oregon, not here, not now, not in Oregon, not ever!"
"And I'm here," he continued, "to ask you to work with me over the next year to fight ... to keep our labor movement strong, to build our middle class and make Oregon the state that launches the comeback of organized labor across the United States of America."
As The Oregonian's Jeff Mapes reported, Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain was inspired to remark, "Damn, governor, you sounded like the president of the AFL-CIO."
The governor would like to ease a relationship with labor strained by his pursuit of PERS reform, perhaps with an eye toward a re-election campaign next year. Spending political capital, which he has in abundance, to defeat an initiative unions fear is a good way to make nice.

Read rest of the article at: John Kitzhaber vs. employee choice |

Friday, August 2, 2013

New study shows difficulty of encouraging professors to retire | Inside Higher Ed

August 2, 2013
Since the economic downturn, many experts on the academic work force have worried that professors will delay retirement (given that their investment accounts took hits), and that an already-tight job market will get even tighter.
A new study takes more of a long-term view, but ends up confirming those fears. Examining trends at a large private university from 1981 to 2009, the study finds faculty members are likely to take much longer to retire. And unlike the more recent studies focused on the impact of the economic downturn, this study covers time periods in which retirement accounts would have been up and down several times. The dates in the study come before and after 1993, the last year in which colleges and universities were permitted to enforce a mandatory retirement age of 70. (An abstract of the study appears here. The paper, by Sharon L. Weinberg and Marc A. Scott of New York University, is in Educational Researcher.)

Read more:
Inside Higher Ed 

New study shows difficulty of encouraging professors to retire | Inside Higher Ed

We May Need Labor Unions After All - Business Insider

Amazing article to be published in Business Insider! We May Need Labor Unions After All - Business Insider

labor union march
Library of Congress

Hate To Say It, But If Companies Don't Start Paying People Better, We May Need Unions

Read more:

I've always hated the idea that we need labor unions.
Several reasons.
  • Unions create an "us versus them" culture within companies, instead of putting everyone on the same team
  • They create a culture of entitlement
  • They restrict flexibility and hurt competitiveness
  • They drive companies to move jobs out of the country, to places where there are no unions
  • They can become career employment for their leaders, who sometimes pay themselves better than the workers they're representing
  • They maintain ludicrous compensation and benefit levels for jobs based purely on seniority (some bartenders in one of the New York hotel unions, for example, apparently make ~$200,000 a year)
  • They force companies to treat all union employees equally, regardless of the relative skill and value of particular employees--thus reducing incentives for people to do a great job
  • Etc.
And all those are indeed negatives.
But we've now developed a bigger problem in this country.
This inequality contributed to the Occupy protests a couple of years ago, and it's fueling the fast-food workers' strikes now. And it is exemplified by fantastically profitable companies like McDonald's choosing to pay employees so little that they have to live in poverty.
Contributing to this inequality is a new religion of shareholder value that has come to be defined only by "today's stock price" and not by many other less-visible attributes that build long-term economic value.
Like many religions, the "shareholder value" religion started well: In the 1980s, American companies were bloated and lethargic, and senior management pay was so detached from performance that shareholders were an afterthought.
But now the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Now, it's all about stock performance--to the point where even good companies are now quietly shafting other constituencies that should benefit from their existence.
Most notably: Rank and file employees.
Great companies in a healthy and balanced economy don't view employees as "costs." They don't try to pay them "as little as they have to to keep them from quitting." They view their employees as the extremely valuable assets they are (or should be). Most importantly, they share their wealth with them.
One of the big problems in the U.S. economy is that America's biggest companies are no longer sharing their wealth with rank and file employees.
Consider the following two charts:
1) Corporate profit margins are at all-time high. Companies are making more per dollar of sales than they ever have before.
2) Wages as a percent of the economy are at an all-time low. This is closely related to the chart above. One reason companies are so profitable is that they're paying employees less than they ever have before.
When presented with these charts, many people invoke one of two arguments. First, technology is making employees irrelevant. Second, low-skill jobs command low pay.
Both of these arguments miss key points: Technology has been making some jobs obsolete for 200+ years now, but it is only recently that corporate profit margins have gone through the roof. Just because you can pay full-time employees so little that they're below the poverty line doesn't mean you should--especially when retention is often a problem and your profit margin is extraordinarily high.
More broadly, this narrow view of "shareholder value" has led companies to put "maximizing profits" ahead of another critical priority in a healthy economy: Investing in human and physical capital and future growth.
If American companies were willing to trade off some of their current profits to make investments in wage increases and hiring, American workers would have more money to spend. And as American workers spent more money, the economy would begin to grow more quickly again. And the growing economy would help the companies begin to grow more quickly again. And so on.
But, instead, U.S. companies have become so obsessed with generating near-term profits that they're paying their employees less, cutting capital investments, and under-investing in future growth.
This may help make their shareholders temporarily richer.
But it doesn't make the economy (or the companies) healthier.
And, ultimately, as with any ecosystem that gets out of whack, it's bad for the whole ecosystem.
So, for the sake of the economy, we have to fix this problem.
Ideally, we would fix it by getting companies to voluntarily share more of their wealth with their employees. But the "shareholder value" religion has now been so thoroughly embraced that any suggestion of voluntary sharing is viewed as heresy.
(You've heard all the responses: "The only duty of a company is to produce the highest possible return for its owners!" "If employees want to make more money, they should go start their own companies!" Etc. Beyond basic fairness and the team spirit of we're-all-in-this-together, what these responses lack is any appreciation of the value of personal loyalty, retention, respect, and pride in the workforce. People love working for companies that treat them well. And they'll go to the mat for them.)
Anyway, it would be great if companies would start sharing their wealth voluntarily. But, as yet, with a couple of notable exceptions (Apple recently gave its store employees a raise it didn't need to give them), they've shown no signs of doing that.
So if companies can't be persuaded to do this on their own, maybe it's time to do one of two things. First, as my colleague Josh Barro suggests, increase the minimum wage. And/or second, rethink our view of labor unions.
Although correlation is not causation, the chart below suggests that labor unions might be able to help induce companies to share their wealth, at least in some industries.
This chart is from EPI. It is based on the work of Piketty and Saez (the deans of inequality research).
The chart shows the correlation between the share of the national income going to the to 10% of earners with membership in labor unions.  What it suggests is that, as unions have declined, income inequality has soared.
Again, right now in this country, we have the painful juxtaposition of the highest corporate profit margins in history, combined with one of the highest unemployment rates in history. We also have the lowest wages in history as a percent of the economy.
That's not good for the economy... because rich people can't buy all the products we need to sell to have a healthy economy (they can't eat that much food or drive that many cars, for example).
And it's also just not right.
Healthy capitalism is not about "maximizing near-term profits." It is about balancing the interests of several critical constituencies:
  • Shareholders
  • Customers
  • Employees
  • Society, and
  • The Environment
It's time more of our business leaders started to understand that.

Read more: