On Friday afternoon we met with the University for our fifth bargaining session. The union proposed three articles and two Memorandums of Understandings in relation to proposals the University has made. The University provided counter offers on Intellectual Property and Meeting Spaces. Read on for summaries of our proposals, or you can read the full proposals here.
Article XXII: Health Care
We proposed 100% of student health insurance premiums be covered by the University for all academic student workers during semesters in which they are working. We also proposed dependents be covered at the same rate for eligible student workers, and introduce a new Health and Welfare Fund to be jointly administered by the Union and the University, which will cover certain benefits such as dental and vision care that are currently excluded from the student health insurance offered by the University.
Article XXIII: University Services Fee
We proposed turning the university services fee rebate into a waiver and making it available to ALL academic student workers during semesters in which they are working.
New Article on Professional Development
We proposed the creation of a Professional Development Fund of $50,000 divided evenly between fall and spring semester, similar to the fund just won by part-time faculty.
Continuing Discussion on Discrimination and Harassment
We extensively debated and rebutted the University’s unsubstantiated legal assertions that changes to Title IX during the Trump Administration requires that we eliminate our right to neutral adjudication by an impartial arbitrator in instances of workplace harassment and discrimination.
Towards this ongoing dispute members should be aware of the following sequence of events and facts:
- At our first bargaining session in July—when the University first revealed this proposal—we requested more information and clarification about their legal reasoning. Two months on, they have provided just one citation with no context or explanation: a controversial rule championed by former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, announced back in May 2020.
- This 2020 Title IX change does not speak directly to collective bargaining agreements. And why would it? Its goal was to standardize procedures in Title IX cases where one person accuses another of misconduct and both parties engage in an individualized, “trial”-like process.
- Our CBA currently allows for our union and the University to go to arbitration, where a neutral third-party determines whether the CBA’s terms have been violated – not Title IX as a law itself. This provision of our contract never displaced University policies towards Title IX, nor does it conflict with them.
We have taken the University’s claims seriously and repeatedly asked for clarification. However, their responses do not indicate sincerity to engage with union in good faith negotiations over this matter:
- Beyond vague replies to our questions, on Friday they couldn’t tell us when the University became aware of this 2020 rule change or when they began updating policies. It is apparently both a vital legal mandate and forgettable.
- They could not tell us why—if they earnestly thought they had to remove our protections from the next CBA—the University didn’t raise this concern until July 2023 – over three years after the rule changed. This is concerning since, under our just-expired contract, the University was required to do so.
- And, finally, the University offered no justification for eliminating the entire arbitration provision in their opening proposal, rather than just carving out an exception for Title IX-related concerns: Title IX addresses sex-based discrimination and harassment. But our existing protections encompass much more than sex-based discrimination and harassment – so, why make all other claims impossible? We received no answer.
These protections were hard-won in 2018 and remain vital for protecting members of our community from discrimination. The University has proposed eliminating these protections and cannot be bothered to give us a reasoned justification, which leads us to believe they may just want to be able to cover up and conceal instances of discrimination by having complete control over the process .
The University also presented a counter to our Meeting Space proposal which ignored the procedural changes to reserving rooms and hosting guests that the Union had proposed.
Instead, they offered the union the opportunity to book one additional meeting per year, beginning in 2024, and introduce another grievance & arbitration waiver, essentially nullifying the entire article as we would have no means of enforcement.
As an addendum to our Meeting Space proposal, we proposed a union office in the Social Justice Hub, a space that was originally designed as one of the only spaces that students could book for meetings and events, and where SENS met regularly in the early days. Today, many students don’t know the Social Justice Hub exists, with one whole office wasted as a storage space, overflowing with boxes. In response to our interest in housing a union office here instead, the University informed us that they have hired ANOTHER highly paid Associate Provost who will “talk to students for a full year” before figuring out what to do with the currently unused Social Justice Hub.