Two weeks ago, the University’s Office of Human Resources (OHR) informed our faculty organizing committee that they would agree to continue merit increases under current policies while we await our union election (and later sent a mass email to this effect). Today, we reached a written agreement on this important issue.
We are delighted that after three months, OHR reversed course on this matter and agreed with us that merit raises should be given. This sudden reversal was in fact the culmination of a concerted effort by faculty working together to make the central administration change course, and it demonstrates what we can achieve when we act together.
Here’s the full story: When we filed for our union election, the state issued what’s called a “maintenance of status quo order” that barred the administration from unilaterally changing terms and conditions of employment that a faculty union will bargain over if we vote to form one. Legal doctrine has established that this order applies narrowly to wages and working conditions (benefits, hours, pay, etc.) and that the employer must maintain the dynamic status-quo – that is, continuing the same HR processes – not the static status quo by freezing everything. It does not impact the U’s ability to continue existing practices like merit pay and promotion raises.
The Faculty Organizing Committee asked BMS to clarify the order to this effect in January, just days after it was released, to allow the administration to “continue its current practices regarding periodic raises, hiring and promotion processes, course assignments, retention offers, merit or tenure review, and granting of sabbaticals.” BMS issues clarifications when both parties agree to them, so all OHR would have had to do to settle this issue right then was send a letter agreeing to our position.
OHR said they would reply to our letter shortly, then did nothing for over two months. When they used this order, which is supposed to be a worker protection, to instead sow confusion and anxiety amongst the faculty, we took action:
On March 30, 10 faculty senators sent this letter to the Faculty Consultative Committee expressing concern about this issue. This letter was crafted by three members of the faculty union’s organizing committee who are also members of the Faculty Senate.
We don’t think it’s a coincidence that the administration contacted us about a resolution the day that letter appeared in the Daily. This shows what we can accomplish when we stick together, and that’s what a union is all about.
The Rapid Response Team of MN Academics United