June 18, 2019

AAUP Update: Negotiations, Campus Meeting, Retirement Issue, and More

February 2019

Colleagues:

On behalf of the Executive Committee, I am writing to provide all of you with some important information about negotiations, our recent campus meetings, the recently approved Distance Learning Side Letter, our court case, a retirement contribution issue, faculty rank, and membership.

Campus Meetings:

Due to inclement weather the opening meeting scheduled to occur on Jan. 14 was cancelled and as a result, our scheduled full-time faculty meeting was cancelled. The Executive Committee felt that it was important that we come to the faculty on each campus and provide you all with information on negotiations, the on-going court case, and more. For that reason, we scheduled meetings on each campus on different days and times. We had hoped that the schedule we created would have enabled the majority of you to attend at least one of the meetings.

All of the meetings were relatively well attended and the discussions were lively. We appreciated seeing those who attended the meeting but wished that more had come to ask questions and express their opinions on the issues we discussed. We hope to see each of you at the closing meeting in May. Much of the information covered in the campus meetings is summarized in this update.

Negotiations:

The following is a statement from our Negotiating Team, which recently wrapped up a long and involved process that required many hours of thoughtful conversation and meetings. I encourage all of you to take a few minutes and read this important statement. We each owe them a debt of thanks for all they did for us this year. Please thank them the next time you see them.

Statement from the Negotiating Team- AAUP

We have completed negotiations with Montgomery College management for the full-time faculty contract for the AY2019-2020. The negotiating team met with the management team for six bargaining sessions over the fall 2018 semester. On the table were the following items: salary, EAP benefits, overload pay, and bereavement leave (a hold over item from last year). The tentative agreement to be brought for ratification next week covers only the next academic year, 2019-2020.

As a team, we do not believe that this “Last, Best, and Final” offer from management reflects the true value of the full-time faculty members at Montgomery College or the efforts that the full-time faculty put forth every day on behalf of our students. We believe that our colleagues deserve much better, and we made every effort possible, as your representatives, to negotiate a more beneficial contract. Regrettably, we have concluded that full-time faculty compensation is of low priority and concern to this administration. We put forth the tentative agreement to the full-time faculty with deep regret and disappointment. We, however, do believe that the tentative agreement we present for your consideration represents the best offer that we could get from management at this time. Our team was able to move negotiations from an offer of only 2% for those below the top of the salary scale, and no increase whatsoever to those at the top, to an offer of 2.5% for all faculty.

While the County’s fiscal situation is, as has been reported, very negative, the fiscal mismanagement of college resources and the prioritization of expensive, un-implemented and untested programs, as well as the practice of financially rewarding administrators, have placed the Administration in a position where it is unwilling to fairly compensate full-time faculty who have direct daily contact with students. The agreement does not even produce a pay raise to match projected inflation for the next academic year. Inflation projections for next year range from 2.8%-3%, so the Administration’s “Last, Best, and Final” offer of a General Wage Adjustment (GWA) of 2.5% essentially amounts to a pay cut. Its only benefit, and it is a good one, is that, as a GWA, it is for all full-time faculty, including those at the top of the scale. This moves the scale for everyone, and has prevented the red-lining of full-time faculty salaries, at least for the next academic year.

Despite our extreme disappointment about this particular tentative agreement, our regret that this administration does not appear to value the full-time faculty, and our concerns about negotiations going forward given the abandonment of our history of interest based bargaining, we have decided, as a team, to put forth this “Last, Best, and Final” offer from management for a faculty vote. The alternative option to voting on the contract is to declare impasse, a process that we have decided is too expensive and potentially unproductive relative to the current situation.

We ask each of our Union member colleagues to thoughtfully consider the tentative agreement and our statement prior to casting your vote. Electronic voting will occur during the week of Feb. 18. Only dues paying members of the Chapter are allowed to vote on the tentative agreement.

For the Negotiating Team and the Executive Committee,
Sharon Piper, Lead Negotiator
Tito Baca
Michael Gurevitz
Tammy Peery

Distance Learning Side Letter:
If you look in the “Chapter Documents” section of the chapter webpage (mcaaup.org), you will see the Distance Learning Side Letter. This side letter expires every three years and allows both Management and Labor to review and update it while taking into consideration the latest technologies and best practices. Tammy Peery and Sean Fay represented the chapter. Michael Mills and Sharon Fechter represented the administration. The four of them met several times last semester and revised the side letter. The newly revised Distance Learning Side Letter has been posted on the Chapter webpage.

There are several important content changes in the new Distance Learning Side Letter. These changes include remuneration for the development of OER courses and materials and a requirement that online course coordinators have completed or are exempted from the Montgomery College Online Teaching course prior to being appointed as coordinator. All changes in the document are related to one of these two topics or represent grammatical or terminology updates.

For example, a faculty member may request remuneration for redesign of an online course for which he/she has already been remunerated as an OER course or for the design of an OER textbook provided at that at least 2 years has elapsed since the development of the original online course. A team may now provide a development plan to request remuneration for more than the standard two semesters to complete the development of a common course or team-designed OER materials.

I encourage all full-time faculty who teach distance learning classes, those who want to teach distance learning classes, and those who want to develop distance learning classes to read this important document. Our goal as an Executive Committee is to make sure that you are being paid for the work that you do and this side letter is one way we can ensure that you are being compensated properly.

Retirement Issue:

As you probably recall, the MC Board of Trustees did not ratify the salary increase we negotiated for this year in time to be implemented when we returned in August. Instead, we received the first three paychecks at last year’s rate, then a paycheck with the raise included, and finally a paycheck, which included a lump sum back pay for the missed raise for the first three checks.

Following this, a colleague who is enrolled in the Optional Retirement Plan noticed that the contribution made to her TIAA-CREF account included the 7.25% on that pay period’s salary, but did not include the contribution on the lump sum back pay. As a quick reminder, we are all in one of two retirement plans – some chose a defined benefit pension, while others are in the ORP, a defined contribution plan, in which the College contributes 7.25% of our entire base pay towards our retirement account. This colleague contacted the AAUP Executive Committee, and Nancy McCathran, Payroll Manager, who passed the question to Heather Pratt, Director of Employee Relations and Chief Negotiator for the college.

A member of the AAUP Executive Committee filed a grievance, following which several discussions were held, both within Chapter leadership and between representatives of the Chapter and of management, on how to proceed. Eventually management, after consulting with its legal counsel, agreed with the Chapter that this was a mistake that needed to be corrected as soon as possible. We have been told that the employees should notice the correction in their February 15, 2019 paycheck.

Those in the pension system should expect to see an extra deduction corresponding to the missed deduction on the back pay received at the end of October. This is just the money that was supposed to have been taken out back then – not any kind of additional withholding. For those of you in the ORP, you will notice an additional amount of funds was contributed to your ORP in the Feb. 15 paycheck.

This is a prime example of how union representation can benefit you as an individual.

Court Case:

I mentioned in my November update that there had been no progress in moving our case through the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. I am happy to report that some progress has occurred. Last December our attorney heard from the Court. A brief from our attorney is due to be submitted to the court on March 6 and we have received a tentative schedule which indicates that our case will be heard by the Court during the month of September. I will let you all know once we hear more definitive information about the actual date our case will be heard by the Court.

Faculty Rank:

For a number of years members of the Labor Management Collaboration Committee have struggled with the issue of faculty rank. Faculty rank is a very important academic concept and, while at MC there is no monetary benefit to advancing in faculty rank, there could be if you chose to move to another college or university.

Faculty rank is covered in the P&P but the process of advancing in faculty rank has never been handled in a uniform way throughout the College. This has led to some faculty advancing in rank as scheduled and others advancing years after they were eligible or never advancing in rank.

I am pleased to announce that significant progress has been made on this issue. Through the leadership efforts of Elline Damirdjian in the Employee and Labor Relations Office, and others in our Records Department, an audit of the faculty rank of all full-time employees below the rank of full professor has been completed. This audit included gathering information on when each faculty member was hired, how many points they were assigned when hired, the points needed to advance in rank, and a timeline for rank advancement. A communication process has been initiated and the Chief Human Relations Officer will contact faculty members who are scheduled for an immediate advancement in rank the week of March 1. Deans and Provosts were already notified of those faculty members who are eligible for an immediate advancement in rank.

Going forward, the Records Department in HR will take on the responsibility of tracking faculty rank information and the Deans and Provosts will be responsible for initiating the process of moving a faculty member from through the advancement in rank process. Individual faculty members should take an active role in monitoring their eligibility for rank advancement.

The Chapter thanks all who were involved in completing the faculty rank audit and for helping to move this process forward.

Membership Benefits:

One of the subjects I often hear about when I attend collective bargaining related conferences is on membership recruitment. How do you recruit members to a voluntary organization that charges dues? What is the value of joining a union when you work in higher education?

In this issue I gave you four examples that demonstrate the value of having a union in higher education. We have negotiated an increase in salary for all full-time faculty and members will be able to vote on this issue next week. A member brought an issue to our attention that related to retirement contributions. Through the collective efforts of the chapter’s representatives and management, we were able to resolve this issue and correct the error. The longtime problem of moving through the faculty rank advancement process has finally been resolved through the efforts of those of us on the Labor Management Collaboration Committee and others working in HR. We recently completed a revision of the Distance Learning Side Letter which is designed to ensure that you are properly compensated for the work you do in creating distance learning classes and OER materials.

Membership Dues:
You have a choice, either do nothing and be a freeloader (getting something for nothing on the backs of your fellow colleagues), become a full, dues-paying member of the chapter, or support the chapter’s efforts by paying the voluntary collective bargaining service fee. If you are not currently paying the service fee or if you are not currently a member of the chapter, I ask you to consider doing one or the other. We need your financial contribution in order to continue our efforts to represent you.

Membership Action:

In addition, we need your time. Some of us have been representing you for many years and we need some new people to get involved. Michael LeBlanc, English TP/SS is leading the way by creating an Organizational Task Force. If you are interested in participating on some of our committees and becoming more involved in Chapter activities, please reach out to one of the members of the Executive Committee or contact Michael LeBlanc. Your participation will be greatly appreciated.

The Chapter has its own Facebook group. If you are interested in joining please: Log onto Facebook and search mcaaup. (You do have to be a member of Facebook to join.)

Also, full-time faculty, we need to contact you away from MC at times. Please go to this site and fill in the form: tinyurl.com/mcaaupsignup

On behalf of the Chapter,

Harry Z.

Harry N. Zarin, Professor/Counselor

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