Summer 2015 Bargaining Diary

Opening Day of Negotiations - June 1, 2015

As the faculty head into the 2015 negotiations, we are highly encouraged. With recent changes in Oakland administration, one can feel a renewed sense of cooperation and collegiality on campus. After nearly two decades of unsustainable student population growth and tightly controlled central planning, the faculty and other campus constituencies have been included in meaningful planning in all aspects of the future of Oakland University. More open dialogue, consequential consultation and transparent operations are becoming the new normal at OU. The faculty are highly encouraged, and eager to move forward with a student-centered, community-driven focus.

It is within this new spirit of cooperation and transparency that the faculty open the 2015 negotiations today with a very different style of bargaining than we have used before. Faculty and administration teams typically introduce dozens of proposals across the table during any given summer, initially asking for generous terms and hoping that what remains after countless hours of discussion and compromise is acceptable to faculty and Oakland alike. As your bargaining team listened to and very carefully weighed the valuable input you provided through the Advisory Forum surveys, meetings with academic units, and personal discussions and emails, we developed - and presented today - a comprehensive settlement proposal that contains all of, and only, the terms that the faculty needs to move forward.

You can see the proposal itself and the rationale for it below. It is posted here because it is important that all faculty know exactly what the bargaining team is doing. It is also very important for all to understand what this proposal is not. It is not pie-in-the-sky fantasy. It is not a wish list, it only contains what the faculty needs to move forward. Not a single portion of the proposal is outrageous, unaffordable or unreasonable.

The settlement proposal directly addresses very few language items, about 10% of the number of issues that are addressed during a typical bargaining session. Most of the proposal is concerned with compensation - competitive salaries that keep up with the cost of living, affordable and useful health insurance, performance-based merit salary increases, adequate travel money to do the work of the university, etc. The proposal also contains invitations for continuing open dialogue on several crucial issues that affect all of the campus community, such as useful long-term disability insurance and work schedule accommodations for new parents. Furthermore, there is an opportunity for the new Agreement to be in place for a longer period, to allow planning and budgeting to become much more meaningful for both administration and faculty alike.

Why would we do this? Isn't it unorthodox to show the administration our bottom line at the beginning of negotiations? Well yes, it might be. But we have listened very carefully to both the faculty and administration, and we believe protracted, antagonistic negotiations are not in anyone's best interest in 2015. Encouraged by the new spirit of cooperation and planning on campus, we are offering to cut through the dramatic nonsense that accompanies most negotiations. We are taking the risk of showing our cards early in order to move more quickly towards a fair, affordable settlement that addresses the needs of the faculty. We are hopeful that the administration will appreciate and embrace this effort, and that agreement can be reached quickly in order to get on with the task of working towards developing OU into a preeminent metropolitan university, together.

Updated Financial Analysis of Oakland University - May 13, 2015

As always when we head into bargaining, we commissioned Rudy Fichtenbaum (professor of economics at Wright State University and current President of the AAUP) to update his previous analyses of Oakland's financial condition. His full report is available here and concludes that "the University's financial condition has remained stable and it remains in excellent financial condition."

The Realities of Public Sector Negotiating in MI - May 1, 2015

In a perfect world, negotiations take place between equals. Each side offers and withholds what they bring to the potential deal as they see fit, can make and accept offers based on their best interests and the interest of a continuing relationship with the other party. Neither side can be forced into a contract or have a settlement imposed on it.

But it is not a perfect world.

Both Oakland and the faculty bring to the negotiations enormous value. Oakland controls all of the resources of the university - money for salaries, benefits, supplies, travel, etc.; allocation of space for academic purposes; number and distribution of faculty and non-faculty positions; even tenure and other forms of job security. The faculty offer their labor - their knowledge and their skill to teach and generate new knowledge - in order to carry out the mission of the university. In an atmosphere of mutual respect, the negotiations are always off to a good start.

It is in the end game of the negotiations, however, that real world is revealed. Oakland is never obligated to make any offers they disagree with and can legally impose a contract on the faculty if agreement cannot be reached through negotiations. On the other hand, the faculty cannot legally withhold their labor from the university and therefore has little leverage within the negotiations to move Oakland in any direction they do not choose to move. These are the realities of labor negotiations in Michigan for public employees.

Keep these two simple statements in mind as we move through the summer: The Agreement contains only provisions that Oakland has chosen to offer to the faculty. Each offer from Oakland is a demonstration of how much Oakland values the work of the faculty and respects the faculty as people.