The 6th floor of the Market Building saw some much needed sunshine on Wednesday. We continued talking about the issues that matter most to members. The morning was all about benefits, and the afternoon returned to the issue of pay parity. Both sides of the table introduced proposals, Girl Scout cookies, and only a few eye-rolls.
Here is a brief-ish summary of the highlights...
As members know, our health fund has been suspended because admin determined that it violates ACA regulations. (In the meantime, with admin, we’ve instituted an “Interim Relief Fund,” which doesn’t replace the health benefit, but temporarily eases a variety of financial hardships.) We’ve been working for months to find a long term solution to this problem, with ultimate goal of adjuncts having access to quality, affordable healthcare. PSUFA made it clear to admin that this is an urgent priority for our members.
Frankly, the other side’s proposals were non-solutions and non-starters. However, it also seemed that they recognized the urgency of this situation. So after much discussion, we’ll come back to it tomorrow.
We also discussed ways to make the education benefit more accessible through tuition waivers for part-time faculty, and how to update the professional development fund to meet the needs of contemporary scholars and instructors. In particular, PSUFA is concerned that technology like computers and specialized software are essential teaching and research tools, and as adjuncts we rarely have sufficient access to these through the university. This places an undue financial burden on us simply to create and teach our classes and conduct our research.
Another issue raised by many members is the unfortunate consequence of a new provision in the current CBA. Requiring that adjuncts be paid for work they do outside of class (like independent studies, sitting on committees, etc.) is obviously fair. However in many cases this requirement has led to part-time faculty being denied opportunities to participate fully in their department. Everyone agreed that this was not in the spirit of the agreement. We’re working on ways to solve this, and conversations around the issue seemed very productive.
No surprise, this continues to be a sticky issue. While there’s no doubt that adjuncts are “appreciated,” there appear to be some basic philosophical differences around what equity means.
But OMG y'all, your bargaining team is so smart. It’s like they’re highly skilled college professors or something. They firmly continued to push for equity based on the unassailable logic that if two people have the same qualifications, and are doing identical work -- teaching the same class, for example! -- there is no justification for paying one person less just because they are part-time. So far, administration is sticking to historic precedent of offering a small percentage increase to the base rate of pay. But, as your team pointed out, this model doesn’t, and will never, result in parity.
There does seem to be a will to find a path toward equity. We’ll find out tomorrow whether any meaningful steps in that direction will happen in this round.
From where this PSUFA’er was sitting, there were two high points of the day: The discussion of cost of living increases (Hey, we all agree that Portland is getting really expensive!), and the continued amazing turnout by observers. Our members, along with members of ASPSU, GEU, AAUP, and SEIU all took time from their spring break to show solidarity. That and the sunshine made a stressful week a little bit better. Collective bargaining feels like a verrrrry slooooow roller coaster. Theoretically tomorrow is the last day of this re-opener and I’m very slowly inching to the edge of my seat.