Administration denies withdrawing from bargaining talks
Talks for a new contract between USF Part-Time Faculty Association (PTFA) and the University took a critical turn last week. On Feb. 1, the union filed unfair labor charges against the administration with the National Labor Relations Board. PTFA alleges the University is refusing to “bargain economic contract articles,” effectively pausing current negotiations.
“They just refuse to bargain. They refuse to respond to our latest proposal, which we gave them on January 12. And so we’re just like, you can’t do this. This is not ‘good faith bargaining’,” said PTFA President Jill Schepmann.
In a statement to the Foghorn, the University denies the claims. “The PTFA statement is inaccurate. USF has held many bargaining meetings right up until 2 weeks ago. The parties are now needing a cooling-off period,” said David Philpott, assistant vice president of labor and employee relations.
However, Schepmann contends that “the National Labor Relations Board tells us that we keep bargaining, keep working together until we figure it out.” Adding, “no one side can decide that we’re done,” she said.
After filing this charge, the labor board will investigate the claims made by the union. Still, PTFA Vice President David Masterson said, “we’re just hoping that this will get the administration to at least come back to the bargaining table, and to continue bargaining with us.”
This situation is similar to the last bargaining negotiations between the union and USF. As reported by the Foghorn in spring 2019, the union previously filed unfair labor charges against the University. Those allegations were later withdrawn as the two sides agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). That CBA, which expires in June 2023, is the contract that is currently being negotiated.
Progress between the two sides have stalled, particularly on the issue of salary increase. “What is really sad is that when we started in July, we were told that we were very far apart. And when we ended in December, we were still told we’re very far apart,” said Sarita Kumble, an adjunct biology professor and member of the PTFA bargaining team.
PTFA said their talks started with “management seeking $600,000” in salary cuts. This was later confirmed as Philpott said that “in early November, proposed cuts to salary and benefits were withdrawn.” Currently, the union is proposing a 2% salary increase, citing rising national inflation, proposed USF tuition hikes next fall, and a financial surplus that the University is experiencing over the 2021-2022 academic year.
Meanwhile, according to Philpott, “The University’s current proposal is a zero % increase this spring and a ‘me-too’ clause for next year.” The “me-too” clause offers adjunct faculty members the possibility of receiving the same salary increase as University administrators. However, this offer does not provide enough guarantees, Schepmann said.
Additionally, the University is seeking to implement “a higher standard for promotion,” which would change the current preferred hiring pool (PHP) system. PHP secures adjunct faculty greater stability and seniority. Philpott said, “The vast majority of our comparator institutions do not have a promotion provision for adjuncts.” PTFA argues that this proposal will instead make it more challenging for their members to get into PHP, given that only 23% of adjunct professors are part of it.
Philpott also revealed that the union wants to change language in the “Duration clause,” which would allow adjunct professors to strike. He stated, “the University is not willing to compromise on this proposal.” Currently, PTFA is barred from striking according to its CBA, giving them less leverage in negotiations, beyond drawing out bargaining talks.
Since this development, PTFA has contacted the San Francisco Labor Council and Board of Supervisors. The union has also garnered support from other faculty unions, including the USF full-time faculty union.
Schepmann stated the decision to file charges was not easy. Philpott maintained that University labor conflict “does not reflect poorly on the union or the administration.” However, Schepmann and her colleagues agreed that “sometimes it feels like the administration doesn’t feel like they have to follow the rules. And so we have to reach outside to help them remember that they need to follow the rules.”
Miguel Arcayena is a senior politics major and the Foghorn’s news editor. He covers campus breaking news and administrative issues. He can be reached at email@example.com.