After the frustrations of the first three-day round of talks in the Economic Reopeners of collective bargaining, both PSU administration and PSUFA approached this second round with determined cordiality. The session began with an exchange of gifts: a member of our team distributed handsome AFT mugs with the slogan “We educate our state” and a member of the administration handed out copies of the poem “Invitation” by Mary Oliver as part of “Poem in Your Pocket Day.”
Much of the morning was devoted to going over previously covered ground, this time with more knowledge of what the other side might find acceptable. The teams found common ground on a handful of issues fairly quickly, but generated friction over the terms. PSUFA emphasized the urgency of our members' health care needs and the significance of access to our benefits funds. Regarding the funds PSUFA administers for our members, we began to see where negotiations would have to go: the Interim Relief Fund, which the union renamed the Adjunct Faculty Assistance Fund, with clearer definitions of the types of hardships that would qualify for reimbursement; the Professional Development fund, which in previous discussions the admin wanted to limit to more precise work-related requirements; and the Education Fund, which boils down to staff fee privileges or tuition waivers.
Wages and compensation constituted the big issues, though, and after lunch and a lengthy caucus, administration introduced a note of drama by announcing they had learned just the day before that they would have over a million dollars less to work with. (This is hard news indeed, but the University’s budget exceeds $500 million, and adjuncts’ portion of the budget amounts to less than 3%.) PSU said they would not be able to allocate as much money for the AFAF (Adjunct Faculty Assistance Fund) as we thought was necessary to meet the wider range of adjunct needs that this fund will help cover, and of course this would change the nature of the conversation about wages and other forms of compensation.
The afternoon waned, and while it was clear the heavy lifting would have to happen on Saturday, both sides wanted to end the day with a win. They returned to the issue of staff fee privileges, which would provide a more robust tuition waiver along the lines of what full time faculty currently have, and both sides committed to the research and communications to lay groundwork for bargaining such a program in 2020. Alongside this commitment, PSUFA convinced PSU to roll back restrictions on Professional Development and Faculty Education funds, making them accessible to all our members.
Having missed an entire, glorious day of sunshine, both sides gave a thumbs-up and signed the agreements.