By K. Sebastian León, Executive Council, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
The final bargaining session of the calendar year was structured around two articles: Article 6 – Diversity, Race, and Gender and Article 16 – Parental, Medical and Caregiver Leaves and Support. Article 6 offers a critical method of converting prescriptive DEI commitments into measurable action. Article 16 reflects the most basic forms of workplace dignity and support for parents, caregivers, and anyone who needs a medical leave of absence.
- The bargaining session began and ended with polite but firm insistence on securing bargaining dates for the 2023 calendar year and on receiving counters on numerous articles that management has not responded to at all.
- Our union emphasized the importance of Articles 6 and 16.
- Rutgers has made meaningful forward progress in operationalizing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) values and commitments. Carlos Decena emphasized the role of Article 6 in furthering the DEI impact of the university and openness to negotiating this as a side letter (i.e., an agreement outside the main body of the contract, but still as binding as anything else in the contract itself unless explicitly stated otherwise.).
- For Article 16, our union emphasized issues with the centralized One Source service. One Source has been exactly that: ONE SOURCE OF FRUSTRATION, particularly when faculty and staff are in urgent need of securing contractually guaranteed forms of leave (e.g., sick, medical, or parental leave). Our union seeks to retain existing contract language on the relationship between units/departments and liaising with One Source for confirming leaves of absence.
- During the start of the meeting, management returned their counter to Article 9 – Grievance Procedure. We entered a breakout room to caucus about the university’s counter, where we assessed and discussed proposed edits for approximately half an hour. We found that management’s changes weaken worker protections. After caucusing, our attorney Steve Weissman led the discussion on behalf of our union, addressing the components of Article 9 counter for which we disagree and going through our own position. Our areas of disagreement include: shortening the reporting period for alleged harassment and/or discrimination violations under Title IX, which we proposed to set at two years for unit members on term appointments or unit members serving as Teaching and/or Graduate Assistants; grievances currently have a four-month statute of limitations (i.e., reporting period), which management seeks to strictly maintain—we believe there are asymmetries of power in the workplace that logistically and ethically require a longer statute of limitations; and whether and how faculty, who participate in an Office of Employment Equity (OEE) investigation, can receive a copy of the OEE’s final report and finding(s).
- Carlos Decena presented Article 6, framing it as a meaningful step in operationalizing the values of the Holloway administration. Carlos also communicated that the union is willing to negotiate it as a side letter.
- Patricia Akhimie provided compelling testimony on the convergence of interests for management and labor in supporting caregivers, families, and members of our community who require medical leave. Our union emphasized that this is, logistically and financially speaking, an easy article for management to support.
- Management did not appear to engage in explicit time-wasting or stalling tactics. This session had a straightforward and collegial tone relative to bargaining sessions in mid- and late Fall.
- The bargaining session lasted approximately 90 minutes, with productive dialogue concerning the rationale for proposed and rejected changes to counters made on Article 9.
- During a caucus session, we reaffirmed our commitment to existing contract language concerning the “closing of ranks” practice and policy and the clear distinctions between taking formal leave and the invocation of “closing of ranks” when exigencies arise for Rutgers employees and unit members.
- Article 9 – Grievance Procedures remains an uphill challenge. Both in the substantive text of the article and as a general theme of negotiations, management appears to be seeking more disciplinary control and punitive discretion through its proposed counters, and doing so across multiple articles. For instance, in Article 16, the university seeks to articulate what may or may not constitute just cause for the imposition of discipline. We do not find this relevant or appropriate for an article specifically about parental, medical, and caregiver leave.
- We have yet to receive counters for Article 12 –TA/GAs, among many others. In our final bargaining session for the year, seven months after we started bargaining, we still have not gotten a response from management on numerous articles.
- At the time of writing, we do not have dates for future bargaining sessions for the new year. We have proposed wide windows of availability for meeting dates. Stalling this basic scheduling process is incredibly frustrating and entirely unacceptable.
- One Source remains a point of contention. Users of One Source emphatically express its role as being the one source…of frustration, misinformation, and inefficiency.
- Our union emphasized the urgency of getting prospective meeting dates on both management and union calendars before the end of the week (December 23).
- The union is prepared to file an unfair labor practices claim with the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) if management continues to stall on bargaining scheduling beyond December 23.
- The union’s Executive Council will meet within 24 hours of this bargaining session to discuss.
The above is a report from a bargaining session for our next contract. After each session, our union will provide an update, written by a rotating cast of member-observers who are sitting in on negotiations. Click here for a full archive of Bargaining Updates.