By Paul O’Keefe, Executive Council, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
We had a short, sharp, and (whisper it) productive start to bargaining in the new year. We remain without a contract, so any progress toward this goal should be considered positive.
On the last Friday morning of winter break, I observed our team and management meet to discuss grievance procedures. It was refreshing to see both sides seek to find common ground, where possible, in order to come to TAs on Articles 9, 10, and 11.
The main takeaway is that we are very close to coming to agreement on these three articles. They all refer to grievances that may occur in our work environment, how those grievances are categorized, and the means by which they are resolved.
Restoration of the right to grieve “administrative decisions,” which the union proposes to define narrowly, is of utmost importance. It isn’t as esoteric as it sounds! Suppose a Dean offered you lab space, an extra course release, or other funding as part of hiring negotiations—and then refused to honor that agreement or moved elsewhere in the university and left no trace of the promises made to you. How, and with who, would you be able to grieve this issue?
We are also moving toward a positive resolution of our demand that the complainant have a right to obtain a copy of any investigation by Rutgers OEE into alleged harassment or other grievance issues.
Our side accepted management’s argument that certain types of grievances could be dealt with in Article 9 and not be moved into Article 4. Article 4 specifically deals with legally prohibited discrimination and harassment based on established protected categories. You may recall our contract proposals also include a desire to expand this to incorporate issues such as caste, visa status, and HIV antibody status. So far management has shown an unwillingness to move beyond legal minimums for the definition of protected groups. So Articles 9, 10 and 11 are absolutely critical in enforcing our rights here at Rutgers.
The one other major other demand in Article 9 that we want management to accept is allegations of harassment made at Rutgers should be considered a Category 1 rather than a Category 2 violation. We want an enforceable right to a workplace free from harassment, by requiring grievances involving harassment to proceed to binding arbitration.
So hopefully this session is a positive beginning to the eventual resolution of our contract and not just an anomaly of a productive bargaining session. Onwards!
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.