December 5, 2021

AAUP November Chapter Update

AAUP Update-Return to Campus Plans, Vaccine Mandate, Negotiations, Organizing Group Update

November 2021

Return to Campus Plans:

On November 8 all administrators, staff, and faculty counselors were expected to return to their offices five days a week and each employee can request the ability to telework one day a week.  The regular telework policy of allowing employees to telework up to three days a week has been suspended until later in the spring semester.  Whether you agree with this plan or not, we are back. 

Those of us who work in student service areas are very concerned that we are being asked to come to the office at least 4 days a week and possibly meet with current students or visitors who may be unvaccinated. The fact that instructional faculty and counseling faculty are being treated differently is problematic. Instructional faculty have been told that they can do their office hours remotely while we counseling faculty members are expected to work from our offices at least four days a week.   Despite the fact that all of us are vaccinated, we all know that breakthrough cases of COVID are being reported on a regular basis in the county and at the college.  I believe the administration is counting on the fact that the number of people in the county who are vaccinated is very high and that reduces the likelihood that we will be exposed to unvaccinated people.  We shall see if this plan works or not. 

On behalf of the faculty in the student services area I asked that this plan be revisited and that we be allowed to work with our respective Chairs/Deans to create a 5-day a week presence while at the same time allowing us to limit our individual on-campus presence.  We believe the on-campus demands of the students don’t currently require all of us to be here 5-days a week and we have the data to prove this. Despite knowing this data, the administration did not relent on their decision and we are expected to be here 5-days a week with the understanding that we can telework one day a week.  So much for saying that we are a data driven institution.

Employee Vaccine mandate:

A very important part of the return to campus plans was the Administration’s announcement that all employees, including student employees, were supposed to submit proof of their COVID vaccination to the posted website by November 8.  Requests for religious or medical exceptions were granted on an individual basis and those requests should have been submitted by October 29. 

An integral part of this return to campus plan, included the development of the Employee COVID-19 Vaccination, Safety & Disciplinary Action Protocols document.  See the attached.

employee-covid19-vaccination-compliance-protocols.pdf

Within this document are the discipline and discharge protocols the College developed for all employees who do not provide evidence of receiving their vaccination or those who do not receive a medical or religious exemption.  Several of us on the Executive Committee met with members of HRSTM a few times to help with the development of this document. It is important to note that the discipline and discharge procedures in this document do not comply with the discipline and discharge procedures specified in our contract. The Administration tried to come up with a one size fits all document, remember there are three different unions at MC, and the Administration has asked representatives for each union to sign off on a memorandum of agreement. Last week I received notification from HRSTM that 100% of the full-time faculty were fully compliant in submitting their verification of receipt of the COVID vaccination.  Based on this information I have signed off on the memorandum of agreement and submitted it to HRSTM. 

Student Vaccine Mandate:

The student vaccine mandate goes into effect on January 8 and this mandate only applies to students registered for face-to-face classes.  There is an expectation that those students who are registered for distance learning and structured remote classes who need to come to campus for student services, will also comply with the mandate.  However, there is no mechanism in place to ensure that this happens. 

On behalf of the full-time faculty I submitted a written request to Kevin Long, Chair of the RTCAT, asking that they recommend the Administration reconsider the student vaccine mandate and require that all registered students be required to submit verification of their vaccination status unless they receive a religious or medical exemption. I did this because any student can come to campus and use the services in the learning centers, the library, counseling and advising, the Financial Aid Office, etc. and no mechanism is in place to stop them if they are not vaccinated.  This policy is creating an unsafe environment for all of us.

Kevin brought my request to the senior leadership and as of the writing of this update no change has been made in the student vaccine mandate. I will continue to request that this mandate be changed whenever I meet with members of the administration.

Negotiations Update From Sharon Piper, Chief Negotiator:

Negotiations between AAUP and MC management started on Tuesday October 12. This year we are negotiating for financials (salary, overload and EAP) for the 2022-23 academic year. Both management and AAUP have brought some additional issues to the table, and we are currently in the process of sorting out which of those issues both sides are willing to discuss. In addition to negotiations, we are discussing a possible plan for a return to IBB (Interest Based Bargaining) in future negotiation sessions. The timing for this is optimal with a new management team to work with as we go forward. 

At our first session, we shared with management the 300+ signatures and support statement for the negotiating team organized by the membership. That act was much appreciated by the team and the statement and signatures have been entered into the session notes as permanent documentation of faculty support. 

We are preparing for at least three more negotiation sessions (and possibly four if needed) before the end of the semester. We will make a final report to the membership once negotiations are completed, and the contract is ready for a vote on ratification. Please reach out to any NT member if you have any questions and as always, thank you for your support. 

One final note: the negotiating team is sad to say good-bye to a longtime member, Robin Flanary, who retired from MC this past summer, and happy to welcome a new member, Carrie Fitzgerald, who joins Tito Baca, Ginger Robinson, and myself. We wanted to thank Robin for all her hard work in representing the FT faculty and AAUP, and to thank Carrie for her future time and efforts as a new member of the team. 

Organizing Group Update From Michael LeBlanc:

In September, organizers made one final push to get 300 signatures on our Negotiating Team Support Letter, and we met our goal exactly by the end of the month.  This is a fantastic achievement, and the membership deserves a pat on the back for speaking with such a strong and supportive collective voice.  The organizing email list continues to be a robust forum for collegial conversation around faculty issues.  Faculty exchange information and stories, ask questions of union leadership, and develop opportunities and strategies around faculty issues, especially return to campus issues.  For the rest of this semester and into the spring, organizing leaders will turn their attention to membership outreach, strategic planning, and election forums.  Stay tuned if you’re interested in becoming involved in these initiatives. 

The administration has to make a strong request for funding to support a raise for the employees. We are the only county funded organization that didn’t receive a raise this year. It is time for the Administration to go to bat for the employees. Declining enrollment can’t be used as an excuse to not ask for raises for us. 

ESH Limits:

Prior to the start of our winter session and spring semester I wanted to remind everyone about the ESH limits stipulated in our contracts.  When planning your winter and spring classes please remember that you may work no more than 20 ESH in any one semester, winter ESH counts towards your spring ESH load, and you may work no more than 36 ESH in any given academic year.  Exceptions to these ESH limits are granted in very rare cases by the Chapter upon request from Management. 

Future Chapter Forums:

The Executive Committee is planning on offering more Contract 101 type forums to help involve the faculty in learning more about Chapter activities, what it is like to serve in a leadership position for the Chapter, and about various articles in our Collective Bargaining Agreement.  Look for information about these forums in future Chapter updates.

Spring Opening Meeting:

In case anyone was wondering, our spring opening faculty meeting will be scheduled as a Zoom meeting.  A Zoom link will be sent out to all of you in early January.  The meeting is scheduled for the morning of Tuesday January 18 which is the day the faculty are due to return to work from the holiday break.

Meeting with Dr. Dukes:

Several weeks ago I was fortunate enough to have had an opportunity to meet with Dr. Dukes, Steve Cain, and the Presidents of the other two unions that represent the bargaining staff and the part-time faculty, Chris Standing and Victoria Baldassano.  We talked about a variety of topics that were of interest to each of us. 

During this meeting I took the opportunity to speak about our current negotiations and the fact that we are the only county funded agency that did not receive a raise this year. I stressed that it is important for our administration to fight for us and to make a very strong ask of the County and State for sufficient funds so that each of us can receive a substantial raise next year. We took the hit this year and it is another groups turn to take the hit next year. Below are examples of the raises negotiated by some of the employee groups in Montgomery County, Maryland state employees, and employees in the University System of Maryland.

  • All Montgomery County employees (union and non-union) received a 1.5% GWA (General Wage Adjustment) effective June 20, 2021.  Employee groups also received a 3.5% service increment for FY21.
  • The Montgomery County Council unanimously approved FY22 increases for MCGEO (County Employees) 3.5% or 4.75% increment plus a $1,684 GWA, FOP (Fraternal Order of the Police) 6%, and IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters) 5%, on April 27, 2021.
  • Maryland State Government Employees-2% GWA plus a step increase
  • University System of Maryland-2% COLA plus 1.9% increment
  • MCPS Step plus 2% in FY21 and Step plus 1.5% in FY22.

I don’t care if our enrollment is down. The amount of work we are all doing and have been doing during these crazy COVID times has not decreased due to the decline in enrollment.  In fact, just about everyone I have spoken with over the past two years has said they are working more now than ever before.  We don’t mind working hard but we deserve a raise and we need to be rewarded just like any other County funded agency. 

Thank you to the members of the Negotiating Team for fighting for us during these negotiations.

Personally, I hope that all of you and your families are staying healthy during these difficult times.  Please take some time to take care of yourself, get away from work, relax, read a good book, take a vacation, and just be good to yourself.

On behalf of the Chapter,

Harry Zarin, President AAUP

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