We had two bargaining sessions last week, and we covered a lot of ground in terms of identifying issues for discussion, learning about the budget forecast, and opening negotiations around our first major issue: job security. On our first day back at the table we officially signed off on the negotiation guidelines that we’d collectively made during previous sessions, and then we spent the rest of the day reframing the issues we wanted to bring to bargaining as a series of questions and interests. We began to discuss difficult questions like: In what ways can we balance flexibility and stability in hiring and retention of part-time faculty? Beyond job security, we framed questions around issues like recognition, compensation and benefits, arbitration and dispute resolution, facilities, orientation and support, etc. With each of these issues in mind, we also listed the articles of our current contract that we feel need to be changed.
During our second session we heard from Kevin Reynolds, the VP of Finance and Administration, who gave a budget presentation and talked about the past and future monetary landscape of the university. We also took on one of the questions we’d made during the previous session and started the process of negotiation around job security. We started addressing what those words meant to PSUFA Union members, and took 40 minutes to share our descriptions of adjunct life. We asked for the PSU Admin to listen to our stories and they did. We hope to continue to do this throughout our bargaining sessions, and we may call on you, as well, to volunteer! Sharing our stories proved to be helpful because it illustrated in a personal way why “job security” matters. We hope that this will provide the foundation we need to strengthen our contract in the areas of appointments, reappointments, and assignment rights.
During the afternoon of the session, we looked more specifically at the two interests of “flexibility” and “stability” as they relate to job security. These two ideas can work together or be in conflict. Right now and increasingly in decades past, the flexibility afforded to university departments to hire at the last minute and on a contingent basis is achieved at the cost of adjuncts’ stability. And, conversely, the stability the university has is achieved because adjuncts remain (because many of them have to) extremely flexible and responsive to the whims of the university. Our job now is to work together to come to an understanding and agreement which balances the needs of adjunct instructors with the needs of the administration. And the good news is that, at least so far, the administration is listening to our needs.
Sharing your stories of what it means to be an adjunct in order to raise awareness is important work that you can do. What else can you do to support your bargaining team? Wear your PSUFA tshirt, especially on the days we are bargaining. (We will be posting the schedule to the blog.) Get the conversation going. The shirts say “Adjuncts United” on the back. Maybe someone will stop you to ask what an adjunct is. If you don’t have a t-shirt, come down to the union office in the basement of Smith and grab one. Finally, talk to folks in your department. If you don’t feel like you can do it alone, contact us. We have a core group of members who are available to come speak to your department and answer questions.
Bargaining sessions will continue through the fall, so stay tuned for more on our next four sessions: September 10th, September 30th, October 7th, and October 16th.