May 22, 2018

AAUP Update: Statement to the Board of Trustees

February 26, 2018

Statement to the Board of Trustees
Read by:   Harry Zarin, Counselor/President, AAUP

At the January 24 BOT meeting, our staff colleagues representing AFSCME made an eloquent statement expressing their concerns about the adversarial tactics currently espoused by management towards their collective bargaining unit and asserting their continued desire to work collaboratively with management as key stakeholders for institutional and student success.  AAUP wishes to express our support for AFSCME’s statement and note our shared experience and concern.

Like our AFSCME colleagues, AAUP is well aware of the looming fiscal crisis and the need to explore difficult solutions to ensure a sustainable workplace and a maintained focus on student success.  In the past, AAUP has been included as a part of the solution; the administration was transparent about possible concerns and solutions, and we have willingly renegotiated our contracts during difficult financial times to support the work of all members of the College.  However, in recent years, the administration has been less collaborative and collegial.  The administration’s unilateral decision to shift away from interest based bargaining to “traditional” bargaining, has created an “us vs them” environment instead of a “we are all working together in the interest of the college” discussion. Compensation studies are engaged without the knowledge or inclusion of the bargaining units, and when we ask for details, they are not provided or appear to contradict those provided in other settings.  In fact, at a recent public governance meeting, the Director of Employee and Labor Relations and Interim Chief Human Resources Officer indicated that the administration is “exploring the legality” of setting a new minimum and maximum for the faculty salary scale outside of the collective bargaining process. The Administration takes a presumptive attitude towards matters covered by our Agreement where decisions affecting our members are made, and the Chapter, the exclusive bargaining representative, is only subsequently informed.  This is inconsistent with our mutual obligation to bargain in good faith pursuant to the statute authorizing collective bargaining at the College.

Last year, the Administration intentionally planned to breach the Agreement and not pay us according to the terms of our negotiated Agreement, whether it received enough money to implement our Agreement or not. In fact, the College requested sufficient money to fund our negotiated increases in salary, then inappropriately invoked the financial exigency clause of our Agreement (Sec.8.5) well before the County Council voted on the funding for our operating budget.  In May the County Council voted on our operating budget and awarded the College sufficient money to fund our negotiated increases in salary.  After receipt of these funds, the Administration chose not honor our Agreement.  The Chapter was compelled to file a grievance against the College.  The grievance was not resolved and per the Agreement, the Chapter invoked arbitration.  Rather than follow the terms of the Agreement, the Administration has required us to go to court to compel the College to follow the terms and conditions of the Agreement and move the grievance to arbitration. Consequently, as I am sure you all are aware, we recently filed suit against the College in Montgomery County Circuit Court. At each step along the way the Administration has done everything in its power to drag the process out, demonstrating an interest in trying to wear down the faculty or to run up legal fees for both sides in an effort to force the faculty to cave rather than to have the dispute settled on its merits.

Collegiality.  Transparency.  Trust.  Respect.  When the administration dictates rather than collaborates, when it does not honor its commitments, when it is not transparent, even in the name of fiscal stewardship, it creates an environment that makes it all but impossible for faculty and staff to envision themselves as partners and collaborators in solving problems.  It creates an environment of profound disrespect and distrust that extends far beyond the executive committees that represent the collective bargaining units, to every bargaining faculty and staff member at the College.  This adversarial atmosphere negatively affects morale, recruitment, and retention, which, in turn, negatively affects the reputation and performance of the institution.  It is our hope that the Board will guide the administration to rethink its current adversarial strategies so that we can all work collaboratively to address fiscal and other challenges as One College and model an environment and interaction that truly promotes employee and student success.

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