With our initial training sessions complete, we are gearing up for our next session with the administration’s bargaining team on the 18th of August. Agenda for the day includes: finishing our ground rules, developing a schedule for future bargaining, and beginning to frame our issues. In advance of a report on all that, here are some reflections on the choice to utilize Interest-Based Bargaining from PSUFA’s Organizing Director, Edward Taub:
Positional bargaining is the traditional form of contract negotiations. It unfolds as a series of proposals and counter-proposals that are traded by both opposing parties with guarded discussions about each proposal. What I’ve found is that the discussion usually consists of one side justifying its proposal and the other explaining why they can’t accept that proposal. It’s a tried-and-true process, and although it sounds grim, it does eventually get results.
Interest-Based Bargaining, on the other hand, attempts from the outset to find win-win solutions. Each team identifies topics for negotiations, lists their interests and both teams work together to develop and evaluate solutions that address those both team’s interests. It sounds simple, but it’s not. It usually takes longer to forge an agreement using IBB than it does with positional bargaining; and, IBB has been known by some to break down when economic issues are discussed. However, the real value of IBB is that the process provides an opportunity for a more thorough and open discussion of each of the interests presented by the parties. Instead of accepting or rejecting a fixed proposal, IBB is based on creating a collective understanding of why that proposal is important. IBB also allows for all the members of the bargaining team to have a voice rather than one spokesperson.
We opted to use IBB in our current negotiations and, for our purposes, I believe it was the right choice. In meetings and discussions, our members have prioritized two major issues: job security and salary + benefits (this includes increases to our education, professional development and healthcare funds to keep pace with greater use of these funds by our members). Both of these items relate to the fundamental task our bargaining team has before them: to get the administration, through these discussions, to begin to change their practice of treating adjunct faculty and researchers as useful but disposable assets. To even get the administration team to recognize our situation is a task that requires a fundamental reset of the understanding of who adjuncts are at PSU. It will require the kind of unfettered discussion that just doesn’t happen with a positional model.
Therefore, we’ve opted for IBB. I truly believe it puts us in a much better position to tell our stories and show the administration’s bargaining team why it’s important to support, respect, and provide for all faculty at PSU.