A Democratic Scott Walker?

Last week I posted an item reporting on the bargaining efforts of two AAUP/AAUP-CBC affiliated faculty unions, the California Faculty Association (CFA) in the California State University system and the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) in the City University of New York.  Now comes word that the AAUP’s own collective bargaining chapter at the Connecticut State University (CSU) is facing a major challenge as it opens negotiations with the Board of Regents over a new contract.  Apparently the implosion of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s pathetic presidential campaign (and his accompanying collapse in the polls at home) hasn’t discouraged a Democratic imitator.  For under the administration of Governor Daniel Malloy the CSU Board of Regents has released bargaining proposals that amount to nothing less than a wholesale assault on the faculty in the true spirit of Scott Walker.  But don’t just take my word for it — or for that matter the word of our CSU chapter.  Read instead what Connecticut political blogger Jon Pelto, a former state legislator, has to say:

“In a stark reminder that action speaks louder than words, Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration has dropped a stunningly anti-union, anti-faculty, anti-Connecticut State University proposal on the table as it begins its contract negotiations with the CSU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the union that represents faculty and a variety of education professionals at the four universities of CSU.

“This development comes on top of the news that Malloy’s political appointees on the University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees have authorized a contract with an extremely controversial, high profile, anti-union, Governor Chris Christie affiliated New Jersey law firm to lead the negotiations against the UConn Chapter of the AAUP. That contract could cost taxpayers and students as much as $500,000 or more.

“The Malloy administration’s approach to the faculty who teach at Connecticut’s State Universities is particularly troubling since there has already been a growing recognition that Malloy’s initiative to merge the Connecticut State University and the Connecticut Community College System into the Board of Regents has been an utter failure.

“In just three years, the first two presidents of the Board of Regents were forced to leave under a cloud and Malloy’s political appointees on the Board of Regents have wasted millions of dollars in taxpayer funds on out-of-state consultants and some of those contracts apparently violated state law.

“Earlier this fall, in an effort to put his Board of Regents program back on track, Malloy had his chief-of-staff, Mark Ojakian, appointed as the [Interim] President of the Board of Regents.

“However, if the move was an attempt to turn over a new leaf and bring stability to Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges, that notion was blown away by the unbelievable anti-union, anti-professor, anti-Connecticut State University contract proposal that Malloy’s administration recently submitted.

“The proposal also includes language that will be of concern to Connecticut’s other public employee unions.

“For starters, it is safe to say that by proposing to insert a major new “agency fee” section into the CSU union contract, reducing release time for union activities and adding language that states, “Use of the Employer’s email system by CSU-AAUP staff or members for the purpose of transacting union business is strictly prohibited,” the Malloy administration’s proposal would be better suited to the likes of right-wing Republican Governor Bruce Rauner who is infamously working to destroy public employee unions in Illinois or Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker.

“The issue of Agency Fees are well settled in law and the unwarranted inclusion of such language in a Connecticut State Employee contract is not only unprecedented but mirrors a broader effort that is taking place across the country as corporate and conservative-funded anti-union front groups work to undermine collective bargaining rights in the United States.

“A key strategy that these groups are using is to try and pass laws that limit a union’s ability to communicate with its members.  In this environment, suggesting that the new contract outlaw AAUP-CSU’s ability to use their university’s email system to share information with faculty who are represented by the union is appalling.

“In fact, having studied the history of public employee unions in Connecticut and reviewed nearly every contract since public employees were given the right to collectively bargain in 1970s, Malloy’s CSU-AAUP contract proposal may very well be the most anti-union plan ever dropped on the bargaining table.

“And making matters worse, the anti-union provisions of Malloy’s proposed contract pales by comparison to the other proposals related to the Connecticut State Universities and its faculty.

“This includes eliminating all funds for faculty research, community service and professional development.  If adopted, the Malloy administration’s contract proposal would dramatically reduce the ability of CSU’s faculty to conduct the research and community service the state needs in order to grow and prosper.

“It is disturbing to say the least that Malloy, who spends much of his time claiming to be an advocate for Connecticut’s economy, would seek to destroy the important contributions that the Connecticut State Universities are making to Connecticut and its economic future.

“Equally troubling for faculty and students is that while tuition and fees have been skyrocketing due to Malloy’s record budget cuts to Connecticut’s public institutions of higher education, his new proposed contract for CSU would actually allow far more part-time faculty to be used when it comes to teaching courses.

“There is widespread recognition that Connecticut’s public institutions are already relying on too many part-time faculty when, in fact, university students need and deserve to learn from full-time faculty who can provide the knowledge, expertise, training and support that students will need in this increasing complex world.  The General Assembly has actually been very proactive on this issue, making Malloy’s maneuver all that more inappropriate.

“The Malloy administration’s plan suggests other extraordinary changes in the contract, changes that would immediately be thrown out of any reputable university or college in the nation.

“The proposed contract strips the provisions that the Board of Regents would need to declare financial exigency before firing tenured faculty and removes the Board’s duties to notify and work with the union on how to avoid financial exigency in times of extraordinary economic problems.  This change alone would ensure Connecticut State University’s national ranking and reputation would drop significantly considering the issues related to financial exigency and cooperation with faculty are deemed among the most important elements of a high quality institution of higher education in the United States.

“Eliminating the right to a termination hearing in cases of reprimand, suspension and termination is also among the proposals.  Such a change would not only be unfair to existing faculty, but open the state up to extraordinary lawsuits since there would be no mechanism to guard against politically motivated attempts by “management” to unfairly fire particular professors.

“The plan also calls for the implementation of an evaluation system worthy of George Orwell’s 1984, in which the measure of professional duty shifts from “productive service” to service that is also “collegial” (a term that is undefined) and one that requires faculty to adhere to “official policy statements,” which are not only undefined, but downright scary considering what such a phrase could possibly mean in a community built on the notion of academic freedom.

“The proposal also eliminates important job protection language for librarians, counselors and coaches.

“And, in a move that should worry all of the state’s public employee unions, the proposed contract would terminate any and all side-letters to the contract, a traditional and important mechanism that is used to make contract changes that are separate from the day to day contract or deal with special issues that arise.

“And the list goes on and on…

“With perhaps the most mean-spirited award going to the Malloy administration’s proposal that would change how the Board of Regents would deal with the children of long-time faculty who have died while employed.

“For the last twenty-five years, the State’s contract with AAUP-CSU has provided that, like other faculty dependents, children of professors who have worked at least ten years and passed away while employed by the institution could take classes tuition free, although those students would still have to pay for all fees related to course work, dormitories, meal plans, etc.

“The new proposal states that only students who are already enrolled as matriculated students could continue to take those courses.  If the faculty parent dies before the child is enrolled at the college, for example if they are still in high school, then that child is, as the saying goes is , “s**t out of luck.”

“While few rank and file union members actually believed Dannel Malloy when he said he would be a “friend of labor” in a second term, many voted for him out of fear of what his opponent Tom Foley might do if elected.

“Now with Malloy proposing anti-union, anti-faculty contract language and pushing the need for public employee concessions as a way to balance the budget – a budget Malloy promised would not need new taxes, cuts or concessions – Connecticut’s public employees are getting a taste of what they feared most.”

12 thoughts on “A Democratic Scott Walker?

  1. I universally agree with virtually every point Dr. Reichman makes concerning Malloy’s proposed “reforms”- which, actually, seem more suited for “reform” schools that anything else. Very scary stuff.

    But I was curious about the language concerning use of employer email servers:

    “Use of the Employer’s email system by CSU-AAUP staff or members for the purpose of transacting union business is strictly prohibited…”.

    I’m not trying to play devil’s advocate, or split hairs, but this seems like it might be one area where the Governor might have ground to stand upon, regardless of his motivations. I could be very mistaken, but I seem to recall from many employment experiences that employers can- and very often do- limit use of their servers to official business sanctioned by the employer. And so I am simply asking a question out of curiosity- do state or federal governments retain the authority to issue mandates on how their servers are used?

    I appreciate any feedback you provide, as I suspect the issue is not at all very well clarified in many professional settings.

    Thanks.

    • Why should you have to pay for roads, or bridges, or courthouses? Why should you have to pay for the salaries of state workers? Paying for their pensions is no different. You have to pay for these things because you benefit from them.

    • Gregg- Although I now work in the private sector, I have logged a great many years in public sector work. At least in my field (science) degreed professionals probably earn about 1/3 of what they would command in the private sector. And so universities remain competitive concerning quality & competent faculty by providing alternatives: enriched benefits, academic freedom, personal freedom and so on. It’s a trade-off, but a good enough of one that many opt for university work.

      I considered private sector work on many occasions- but at least in science, this tends to be very industrial in nature. There is nothing at all wrong with that approach, but it was never for me. Academic settings allowed me the freedom of choosing the projects I worked on (if funding could be secured, anyway). My sister, also a scientist, went into private sector work. She likes it, but there were heartbreaks- like having a supervisor walk in and shut down your program, and fire your entire staff, because the industry was going in a new direction.

      My father (retired 22 years) was a university faculty in psychology his entire career. He never earned over $60K per year. Alternatively, a member of his department once departed and opened a private counseling practice. He earned in 5 years what my father did his entire career. And so, if we eliminate pensions and many of the other benefits that make academics competitive, then we shall lose our brightest minds to the private sector.

      In that scenario, Gregg, universities would be left with only the low-hanging fruit. The quality of secondary education would plummet. As such, if you are comfortable with substandard schools providing substandard education, then I find nothing at all objectionable in eliminating faculty benefits across the board.

    • Gregg — Others have already replied (I”m in California, so I’m a few hours behind) but at the risk of overkill I will answer your question first by posing another one to you. Why should I have to pay for the Bush-Cheney disastrous war in Iraq or for the NSA’s massive and incredibly costly spying on our private communications or for the salaries and pensions of the dysfunctional Republicans now making a circus of our Congress? I neither support nor benefit from any of these things, which taken together are far more costly to taxpayers than any public employee pension system. The answer is that I’m legally required to pay my taxes and that these decisions, whether I like them or not, were made in a constitutional and reasonably democratic manner. So too with decisions to hire and compensate public employees. Moreover, you (or a similar you in California) don’t pay for my pension at all. My pension is part of a total compensation package to which my employer and I both contributed in exchange for the WORK I did for the public. In other words, I earned my pension just as much as I will assume you earned whatever income you have received. That some of my income is deferred is irrelevant. And I might add that my teaching in a public university system for 25 years involved larger and more classes each term and lower salary than my counterparts in the private sector.

  2. On the email issue: Recall that all traffic on the employer’s network is able to be monitored by the employer. That means, of course, that all union emails on the employer’s servers can be read by the employer.

    The agency fee issue cuts both ways: In New York State, for example, it is guaranteed to public employees by a state law. Given that the US Supreme Court is apparently poised to hear a case which might make mandatory agency fees problematic at best, their inclusion in the contract might actually preserve them in the event of the close-off of other avenues. In which case, the inclusion of agency fee in the contract should signal to employees that the union may be tempted to compromise on their rights in negotiations in order to keep the money flowing.

    This was the case in the matter of the AAUP and SUNY UUP “relationship”: AAUP leaders were not willing to defend adjunct academic freedom in SUNY because the UUP President had already agreed with the SUNY Chancellor not to pursue academic freedom grievances for adjunct/part-time contingent employees. The AAUP leadership was more interested in money than in principles.

    As for the weakening of the financial exigency standards, AAUP leaders are actually hard pressed to object, because recently, in a supreme act of subservience to corporatist higher education administrations, the AAUP statements on financial exigency were modified to include just such deviations from the past stringent strict construction of the terms “financial exigency.”

    Another development, discussed at Inside Higher Education, is the state’s demand for the ability to move tenured professors to other campuses (cf. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/10/09/connecticut-state-u-professors-see-administration-proposal-attack-tenure?utm_source=Inside+Higher+Ed&utm_campaign=49e358182c-DNU20151009&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1fcbc04421-49e358182c-197616541).

    Once again, AAUP leaders are hard-pressed to object, given their past track record on contracting out. When AAUP leaders were approached by SUNY faculty who objected to the UUP’s acceptance at the bargaining table of the NYS Governor’s demand for contracting out, and the ability to transfer faculty to other positions and to terminate them or their tenure, the AAUP General Secretary Mary Burgan wrote to one of those faculty to say that she was sure that whatever the UUP was doing was in the best interest of the faculty.

    The reader can guess that, yes, that was just as the AAUP leadership was courting UUP leaders for a “relationship” that would grant AAUP a six-figure sum annually. AAUP leaders weren’t going to let AAUP longstanding principles get in the way of the flow of monies to the Treasury. And that AAUP leadership stance continues to this very day…

    “The AAUP is dead. Long live the AAUP!”

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