OPE, Part-time Faculty Association Stand in Solidarity with USFFA

Brian Healy

News Editor

The informational picketing demonstration on Thursday, Oct. 20 saw full-time professors — who were all a part of the University of San Francisco Faculty Association (USFFA) — raise hand made signs with messages opposing the administration’s offer of a 2 percent salary increase. “Solidarity with other USF unions pegged to the Faculty,” read one sign.

One of the unions “pegged” to the faculty association’s standing contract dispute is the Office of Professional Employees (OPE), consisting of program assistants, library assistants and office assistants who support the work of the faculty, librarians, administrators and others.

Kelci Baughman McDowell, who serves as a library reference assistant on-campus, is also one of OPE’s union stewards — a volunteer position she has undertaken since 2009. McDowell said that the union and its members agreed on a new contract over the summer which saw them get the same salary increase that the full-time professor union is currently being offered. “We bargained a three year contract this past summer of 2016, which secured 2 percent across the board increases for us in years 2016, 2017 and 2018,” said McDowell, before adding that a 2 percent bump was not ideal for many, but what had to be accepted.  

“While most of our membership did not believe this was an adequate raise, many of our members were not in the financial position to hold out and extend bargaining — they needed that 2 percent as quickly as possible due to the rising cost of living here in the Bay Area,” she said.

McDowell said it was easier to accept the offer since OPE’s contract was subject to change, depending on the outcome of negotiations between administration and the USFFA. “Additionally, we were able to bargain a ‘me too’ [clause] with the faculty union, who we knew were also heading into contract negotiations, so if they get something better than 2 percent, we get it too,” said McDowell.

This ‘me too’ clause allows one bargaining unit to demand the same terms negotiated by another bargaining unit specific to a certain area of the contract — in this case, salary — and is often seen as an automatic contract upgrade when another union bargains for better benefits.

If the USFFA manages to receive the 3.5 percent they are bargaining for, administration would be forced to give OPE and all the other unionized groups on campus an increase in salary. “Because of this, we have a lot riding on the contract negotiations USFFA are currently engaged in — if 2 percent is not enough for faculty, whose annual salaries are two or three times higher than OPE, you can bet 2 percent is not high enough for our members, who are struggling to afford housing in San Francisco and the Bay Area and pay the bills,” said McDowell. “Therefore, OPE 100 percent supports the USFFA negotiations and wish our brothers and sisters well in their contract struggle. This place works because we do.”

USF’s Part-time Faculty Association is also involved with other unions on campus in supporting the full-time faculty’s cause. In a statement from Media Studies professor John Higgins, the president of the part-time faculty union, he said, “The part time faculty are in solidarity with the full time faculty’s financial goals of a 3 and a half percent increase, which would extend to adjuncts’ pay as well. And we are asking full time faculty who are department chairs to support provisions in our CBA (collective bargaining agreement), particularly regarding adjunct PHP (Preferred Hiring Pool) seniority in course assignments.”

The PHP, referring to Article 12.1 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between administration and USF’s Part-time Faculty Association, states, “All adjunct professors who upon evaluation are determined to be good teachers and competent in their teaching assignment in accordance with Article 13, and who have taught at least thirty-two (32) units and have a minimum of two (2) years of service, may apply for the preferred hiring pool (PHP).”

Adjunct professors that meet the criteria for the PHP are immediately placed at the top of the list for potential candidates that could fill future vacancies, possibly securing for some of the benefits of a full-time role on staff.

In some instances, full-time professors who act as department chairs will hire outside of the PHP, something former USFFA President Michael Lehmann said was unacceptable. “People must be selected from the preferred hiring pool, not some Joe Schmoe outsider,” said Lehmann, while throwing his support behind current part-time faculty president John Higgins. “It’s a historic role because there will be more and more adjunct faculty teaching in the coming years, and what they need is more and more private sector representation and he is the man to to do it,” said Lehmann.

Photo Credit: Racquel Gonzales/ Foghorn

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