May 14, 2021

Forum #2: AAUP Contract 101 Notes

Contract 101: Grievance Procedures with Tim Kirkner

2/23/2021: 4-5:30 PM

Negotiating Team Members Present: AJ Baca, Robin Flanary, Sharon Piper, and Ginger Robinson

Executive Committee Members: Kay Ahmad, Rupa Das, Tim Kirkner, Michael LeBlanc, Rick Penn, and Harry Zarin

I. Welcome and overview – Sharon Piper

Sharon welcomed everyone to the session and explained what we would be discussing during this forum. Ginger shared the contract with the group and Sharon briefly provided a general overview of the process for grievances.

II. Grievance Policy and Procedures – Tim Kirkner

Sharon introduced Tim Kirkner who is the Grievance Officer for the MC AAUP Chapter. Tim provided some background information on the types of issues that come to him and how they are handled. He shared that not all issues that arise result in a grievance. However, he discussed the timeline guidelines and stipulations for filing a grievance. In addition, he shared that there may be some flexibility on the deadline for filing a grievance depending on when the issues come to light. Further, Tim indicated that parties often do not want issues to get to arbitration so most of the time they are resolved before they get to that point using a variety of mechanisms at our disposal.

He shared that it is often a good idea for faculty to use the college Ombudsman since this can document an issue before it gets to the next level. This may or may not be appropriate for contract violations but can be a first step to calm the tide and begin the resolution process.

Faculty have the right to have union representation at meetings whenever they deem necessary and can stop a meeting at any time should they feel that such assistance is needed. It is also better to get out in front of issues so that no one is surprised later. Deans may also remind faculty members that they may want to have union representation before a meeting takes place but faculty have been told this on many occasions in the past.

Tim did say that many parts of the contract are open to interpretation. So, there are times where he needs to sit in on disciplinary action meetings or potential grieveable issues to ensure that these interpretations are consistent with the spirit of what was written. The Executive Committee is mindful of these instances and works to tighten the language whenever deemed necessary.

Ginger responded to an inquiry about the mediation process and asked Tim to discuss this process further. But Tim indicated he has not used Mediation in his time here and that most jump this step because arbitration is binding and a more finite solution. Ginger commented that there are times when attorneys being present during mediation may be a hindrance so it may stifle conversation. Tim can use the Chapter attorney to solicit feedback and guidance on how to proceed on a particular case / issue but they only represent the Chapter, not individual faculty members so really has no legal standing.

We did briefly discuss the lawsuit that we filed in 2017-2018 as an example of how The Chapter proceeded with mediation when the college violated the contract and claimed financial exigency. Harry shared that we wanted to use arbitration, but the college refused even though this course of action is articulated as the next step when disagreements such as this arise. This forced us to file a lawsuit when our grievance was denied. We ultimately lost our case in court but established here at the college that we would explore all legal options when we felt that the college was not acting in good faith.

Tito asked Harry to briefly explain how we might have to handle these kinds of issues at the college down the road because of recent rulings on class action lawsuits.  Harry shared that if “class action” is not mentioned in a contract, we may not be able to file one grievance on behalf of all faculty members, so each faculty member would have their own filing, which we would likely oversee. The language of the previous ruling was not necessarily binding so we still are not exactly sure how we will need to proceed should a similar situation arise in the future. Harry said that filing individual lawsuits for each aggrieved faculty member would result in a significant amount of work for the college but is not our concern given their response in to our aforementioned grievance and lawsuit.

Sharon and Harry shared that we do have some concerns about the fact that some county groups will get a raise next year so we may need to be a bit more aggressive on negotiations next year, and we will remind the county at budget time that we have done our part this year to help the county recover economically and we hope they remember this next year.

Ginger encouraged everyone to come to Tim or an executive committee member to come to us as soon as they have any issue or concern. Several others spoke about instances where Tim has helped in the past and why having him there is helpful in process, fact finding, and corrective action. If we wait too long to address problems, it may be too late to avoid undesirable corrective actions.

We had some casual conversation on general issues that might arise and how best to address them. But Tim reminded everyone that he welcomes all inquiries and is willing to assist when needed.

III. Involvement with The Chapter – Harry Zarin

Harry did ask again for folks to consider joining us in whatever capacity they feel most comfortable / qualified. This was another attempt to remind faculty that they are welcome and that we need their participation.

After Harry was done, Sharon asked about the timing of these forums and everyone seemed to agree that late afternoons seem to work well. We had about 10-15 faculty, deans, and chairs join us at various times during this session, in addition to the negotiating team and Executive Committee members. Sharon thanked Tim and the Negotiating Team for their efforts on this forum.

With no other questions or concerns apparent, we adjourned at 5:07 PM.

tb/SP

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