Before our first session of the new year we received word from the University that they were ‘refreshing’ their approach to bargaining and bringing on a new lead negotiator, Pete Jones, who handled SHENS negotiations. We were optimistic about this news and came into the session expecting to receive proposals demonstrating movement on our priority issues. We came with two packages of proposals covering 15 outstanding non-economic issues, including priority issues like discrimination, harassment and bullying protections. Unfortunately, when the University did present ‘fresh’ proposals, they brought two packages that contained very minor movement on relatively low-priority issues coupled with regressive positions. Despite our hopes, we could not reach agreement on any packages at this session.
While we are close to agreement on one of the individual proposals presented by the University, regarding meeting space, we ended up spending the majority of the session discussing the University’s new proposal on Bargaining Unit Information, which deals with how the University provides crucial employment information about members that is necessary for our union to operate. While the University did propose providing the Union with more information about members that we need (their departments of study and employment, expected graduation dates), this was packaged alongside a poison pill. Over the term of our last contract, accepting a union position has automatically meant sharing basic employment information with the Union. This has generated no complaints or grievances from either members or the University. However, the University now claims that ‘new concerns’ over digital privacy require them to classify all information about our members as FERPA protected information that must be individually waived in order for the University to share it with the Union, effectively attacking our NLRA protected right to the information we need to contact, organize with, and advocate for members.