ESEA sends fraternal encouragement, best wishes.
A resolution to organize Ohio University professors into a collective bargaining unit to negotiate contracts with the administration was proposed to Faculty Senate Monday night. The senate will take action on the proposed resolution in the fall.
The resolution claims the administration has disregarded a written agreement with the senate regarding a $3.5 million surplus in funding for health-care benefits.
According to a resolution passed in the senate on May 12, the OU administration created surpluses in funding for employee health care in 2005. The surplus came from premiums paid by employees and funds budgeted for health care.
In February of 2005, President Roderick McDavis promised Faculty Senate that “The university portion will be held in reserve to offset future health insurance cost increases,” but the university has since ended this practice without any input from senate.
The new resolution calls for the surplus to be returned to the employees as soon as “end-of-the-year totals are determined.”
The health care surplus is the not the senate’s only concern. The proposal to unionize comes at a time of heightened discontent among some faculty members. The senate has spent the last year passing resolutions that challenge or question administrative decisions concerning faculty compensation, “shared governance” and health-care benefits.
Of the six resolutions that Faculty Senate presented to OU administrators for signed approval during the last academic year, one has been signed, one has been tabled and four have been left unsigned by the administration.
“We would pass resolutions from the senate… give them to the administration, and not hear from them again,” said Senate Chair Sergio Lopez-Permouth during his year-end report to the senate. “Sometimes it can be demoralizing in the senate; it feels like you are just spinning your wheels.”
John Day, OU’s Associate Provost for Budget and Planning, said meetings between administrators and representatives of the senate occur regularly. In the past, he acknowledged, there have been disagreements over whether certain decisions should be made by faculty or by “management.” However, Day insisted, this doesn’t mean the administration is ignoring faculty input.
“You can’t say that because (resolutions) are not accepted, (this) means that they’re not working together,” Day said. “There is a lot of give and take.”
Day added that he doesn’t know what form “shared governance” would take if OU faculty had a union, or if Faculty Senate would even continue to exist in a union environment.
Other senators, however, echoed Lopez-Permouth’s concerns.
“I feel like when the Faculty Senate comes down hard on things these days it doesn’t matter,” said Finance and Facilities Committee Chair Joe McLaughlin during his year-end report.
Senator Joseph Bernt said that the administration’s reliance on task forces and special committees devalues the input of the senate, and that the administration’s inaction on the health care surplus issue was “typical of a whole pattern of behaviors.”
Bernt proposed the collective bargaining unit resolution to the senate with chemistry professor Kenneth Brown.
Brown presented the proposed resolution to the senate. He said that if the resolution passes in the fall, the senate would organize a card-signing campaign to raise the faculty’s interest in organizing a union. The unionized faculty could then hire legal representation to create legally binding contracts with the administration instead of relying on written agreements.
Some OU faculty members have been working on a union campaign for at least a year. In May 2007, the OU chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which acts at some colleges as a bargaining unit representative for faculty, brought speakers in from other Ohio public universities to talk about their experiences with unionization under the AAUP banner.
Speakers included faculty from the University of Akron, the University of Cincinnati, and Wright State University.
By Mike Ludwig
June 12, 2008