Bargaining Update #9 — January 9, 2009

Library Bargaining Update for January 9, 2009

By Mike Rotkin, Chief Negotiator for Unit 17, UC-AFT

The UC-AFT and UC Administration Negotiating Teams met in Oakland at UCOP on January 9, 2009. The two teams came to tentative agreement on all outstanding language issues, but remain far apart on the remaining compensation issues – primarily salary and professional development funding levels. We were able to get new language in the Professional Activities and Development article (Article 3) that clarifies that concerns about the denial of leaves (such as a request for time to attend a conference), will be addressed via the Leaves article which is grievable and subject to third-party arbitration. Within the professional development article, the amount and timing of professional development funding for individuals will continue as not subject to grievance or arbitration; however, the University agreed for the first time in writing that such decisions will not be “arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable.”

On the much larger issue of compensation, the University Administration has responded to the Union’s request for a modest increase in professional development funding (PDF) with only a token 1% increase. Further, the University has responded to our proposal for a new salary scale that would bring UC librarians comparable pay to CSU librarians with an offer of a zero ($0) increase. Needless to say, we were more than a little shocked. We realize that UC is facing some budget problems, particularly in terms of the roughly 19% of its annual budget that comes from the State of California. However, as we have demonstrated at the table with hard evidence:

1) UC has literally billions of dollars in unrestricted funds that could be used to fund the rather modest requests of UC librarians.
2) Other groups of UC employees, including police, nurses and other hospital workers, and various groups of top executives continue to receive pay increases.
3) The University has said that it plans to fund Senate faculty increases in the near future that will cost easily ten times more than what the librarians are requesting.
4) The cost of unreasonably low pay and professional development support falls not only on our members and their families, but on the UC libraries as an institution and on the libraries’ various patrons – the faculty, students, staff, and the citizens of California. There are now serious problems with retention and recruitment of librarians at UC and the resulting workload pressures on the remaining librarians only reinforces the recruitment and retention problems for obvious reasons.

And the University Administration’s Team has not even attempted to deny any of these facts. They made it plain at the table at our last bargaining session in December that librarians are not a priority for UC at the current time. We could be charitable and assume that this was an unfortunate shorthand for: “UC librarian compensation is not a priority for UC at the current time,” but the concept in either form is very telling.

We were particularly shocked at the University’s offer of no compensation increases. We expected that the Administration would not be offering us a large package, but, frankly, an offer of nothing was unanticipated and contrary to earlier informal indications of what we might see from the University.

We had thought that the University would offer at least some increases at the Associate Librarian level to begin to address the severe compression problems created by the increases won for Assistant Librarians last spring. It now seems that even this small step towards salary improvements has been blocked by the University Librarians – apparently (although we don’t know for sure) out of concern for other priorities in their library budgets. Members of the UC-AFT team, and I assume other librarians reading this information, were dismayed to discover that it is not simply general University budget concerns, but a set of skewed priorities on the part of the people running UC libraries, that is responsible for the insulting “zero” offer from UC at the table at our last session.

Despite the general belief that it is unwise for a bargaining team to “bargain against itself” by reducing the cost of a previous proposal unless there is movement on the other side, the UC-AFT Negotiating Team offered new proposals to the Administration on both wages and professional development funding. We reduced our demand for a wage increase to a flat $10,000 a year increase for Librarians at the top end of the scale. Further, we scaled back our demand for per capita annual PDF from $3000 to $2500 (and reduced the demand for an increase in the University Research Fund from $50,000 to $42,000). We did this because we want to signal the Administration that we are prepared to bargain in good faith and that we have not yet offered our last and final proposal to them. Our new proposals reduced the estimated total costs of our economic proposals from roughly $5.85 million a year to $5.15 million a year. (And remember that this cost is in the context of a University budget with billions of dollars in unrestricted funds! As we prepare for continued bargaining and/or possible impasse, we are currently preparing materials that would offer the public information on some of the many, many lower priority activities on which the University currently spends over $5 million annually.)

Beyond our reduced demand, we also made it clear that if we could come to an agreement over salaries and PDF, the UC-AFT was prepared to drop its proposals for child care and tuition waivers that remain on the table. We also explained that we were open to counter proposals on both articles and that such counter proposals could include various ways to reduce the immediate costs to UC for implementing our contract, for example, through “trigger mechanisms” that would only fulfill our goals of at least reaching comparability with CSU compensation over time. (It should be noted that even our initial bargaining proposals would, now, only bring us to comparability with CSU compensation as it stood last spring, since CSU librarians have received pay increases since we developed our initial proposals!)

The UC Administration responded that they would need some time to consult with their principals (ULs and the finance people at UCOP one assumes), before responding to our new proposals. We clarified at the table that neither party is interested in continuing much longer with bargaining if there is not going to be serious movement at the table. We agreed to give the Administration until early February to come to the table with a response to our unprecedented bargaining against ourselves. Myron Okada, the Chief Negotiator for the Administration said that they had heard our concerns, that they did take our proposals seriously, and that they would meet with their principals to see if there would be any movement on their side.

As we wrapped up our bargaining session at the table, as Chief Negotiator for Unit 17 librarians, I said that “as those who have bargained with me before know, I am not into bluster at the bargaining table, but the Administration should not be lulled into a false sense of confidence that UC librarians will respond to insulting offers at the table with the same passivity that they may have experienced in some past bargaining. Librarians at UC are upset and beginning to get mobilized. UC should not be surprised to see librarians showing their displeasure in campus demonstrations or be shocked by articles appearing in newspapers and professional journals that highlight UC librarian concerns.”

In the end, as in all bargaining, what we can get in the way of compensation increases at the table depends less on the logic of our proposals or the persuasiveness with which we deliver our proposals, than on the level of organization, mobilization, and militancy of our members on the various campuses. One would wish that this were not the case at a major university (which most of us at one time or another might have believed was ruled by reason), but by now we should know better.

When the Administration tells us at the bargaining table that they have no response to our rational and persuasive arguments, but that librarian compensation is not a UC priority, we have two possibilities: suck it up and accept that response, or organize ways to demonstrate to them that librarians and other constituencies whom they do care about will not accept such a view passively. That is a choice that Chief Negotiators don’t get to make. In the end, the fate of the UC librarians with respect to compensation is in the hands of the librarians themselves. The UC-AFT will provide every resource at our disposal to support whichever direction the librarians choose for themselves.

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