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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 20, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

Contingent faculty responds to latest negotiations

As usual, the administration has released information about the bargaining process that contains several misleading or outright false statements. As a member of the Contingent Faculty Union bargaining committee for the past 16 months, I am writing to correct several of the inaccuracies put out by the administration:

The administration announces that new bargaining dates have been agreed to by both sides; in fact, the union let the administration know at the end of Friday’s session that we have yet to confirm further dates.

The administration claims it met with “SEIU representatives.” In fact they met, as they have for the past 16 months, with their faculty. While it’s always fashionable for those in charge to imply that any grassroots action comes from ‘outside agitators’ or ‘paid protestors’ or ‘union activists’ — or, in this case, ‘SEIU representatives’ — the people on the bargaining committee, in control of the negotiations, and fighting for better treatment for faculty, are all contingent professors who work at IC and donate our time to this cause.

This week, signatures were obtained from the legal representatives of the administration and the union on 11 proposals pertaining to full-timers that were verbally agreed to last summer. This hardly shows progress in negotiations, since these proposals were already agreed to seven months ago. In fact, full-time contingent faculty and administration came to 18 verbal agreements last summer and both sides have been proceeding since then with the understanding that the issues represented by those agreements are fully resolved, with only typos and other clerical matters remaining to be addressed. What was accomplished this week with the full-time union was the redressing of an overlooked clerical matter on issues that were already resolved seven months ago, which the administration is now seeking to spin into “progress” in negotiations to create a misleading narrative of events for the campus community.

The administration also seems interested in timeliness in their update. So are we. With all active proposals in their court at the beginning of bargaining on Feb 24, the administration didn’t offer a counter until 1.5 hours into the session, which means that 1.5 unpaid hours of the union bargaining committee’s time (all of us contingent faculty) were spent waiting. Instead of doing their homework in a timely manner and showing up to bargaining prepared, the administration chose to waste our time. Assuming Pete Jones, the administration’s outside counsel, is being paid according to market rates, IC paid him more this week (even for just showing up to bargaining) than I am paid to teach an entire full-semester ICC course. The campus community should take note of the fact that, when administration shows up to bargaining unprepared, as they have done several times over the past 16 months, they are wasting the College’s money in amounts that are not negligible.

The bottom line is that the administration is spinning a false narrative to try to convince the campus community that progress is being made at the table. The reality is that the administration’s proposals continue to stubbornly cling to an untenable status quo. We would love to see the administration stop wasting our unpaid time, their lawyer Pete Jones’s very costly time, and the campus community’s time and money, by settling a contract that provides basic job security and fair pay for IC faculty — a settlement that would cost only 0.3% of the IC budget (total over 5 years) and that would position IC as a national leader in higher education.