Let the bargaining begin

Part-Time Faculty Association and administration in talks for new contract

USF Part-Time Faculty Association entered negotiations with the administration this past summer and have spent the semester gathering student support. PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL HAMMOND/USF Part-Time Faculty Association

The USF Part-Time Faculty Association (PTFA) and the administration have officially entered  contract negotiations as financial articles under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expired. 

In a Foghorn article back in May, PTFA President Jill Schepmann previously stated that their team expected dialogue to be drawn out similarly to the near 11-month-long negotiations in 2018 and 2019

According to PTFA, among the issues in these ongoing negotiations are salary, healthcare and retirement benefits, equitable promotion for adjunct faculty members, and teaching development funds. 

Kellie Samson, spokesperson for USF, said “The administration remains committed to engaging in a good-faith effort with the PTFA to reach an agreement that acknowledges the dedication of adjunct faculty to our students and is fiscally responsible.”

Schepmann said the arduous talks and many of the issues left on the table have impacted their members’ work experiences. “Ultimately, when we are fighting for a fair contract, our working conditions are student learning conditions,” she said. “We are trying to find more stability through the contract so that we as teachers can focus on the important work in our classrooms.”

The University is currently only offering “a one-year economic, two-year contract extension,” according to Samson. 

Both Schepmann and PTFA Vice President David Masterson revealed that aside from salary cuts, retirement benefits might also be affected. “The administration is in concession bargaining, and they want us to accept cuts, even though they haven’t given a fair or thorough justification why,” Masterson said.  

The administration defended its proposals and said, “The University has proposed a salary reduction to the PTFA equitable with other employee groups on campus. Administrators and full-time faculty have experienced salary cuts and salary freezes as a result of COVID. The University Budget and Advisory Committee (UBAC), which has two PTFA representatives, unanimously recommended salary cuts/salary freezes for all employee groups, including the PTFA for the fiscal year 2022 budget.”

The relationship between the two sides has been rocky. Two months prior to official bargaining, the PTFA made headlines in the San Francisco Examiner, where they alleged that USF was using a loophole to withhold payment contributions to part-time faculty members’ healthcare reimbursement accounts. 

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors took note and unanimously passed a resolution covering said loophole. This was later approved by the mayor’s office on July 2. 

Schepmann said that healthcare benefits have been an important issue in the negotiations given the pandemic. “We realized that although we are one of the lower paid groups on campus, our monthly [insurance] premiums are higher than full-time faculty and staff.” 

When asked if there were any plans on changing health or retirement benefits, the administration clarified that the “University does not unilaterally change employee health or retirement benefits.” However, they further added that “The University looks to join with the PTFA and its membership to determine whether, in the midst of pandemic-related financial crisis, the needs of those members with access to retirement contributions or benefitting from University-sponsored healthcare outweigh those related to salary and wages.” 

The University did recognize the impact of COVID-19 on its budget and labor relations. “COVID has reduced enrollment and increased expenses, which has a direct impact on the operating budget. This is the first time in over 40 years the University has proposed salary cuts to any of its unions,” Samson said. 

Masterson pushed back and argued that although the administration claims strenuous economic times, “enrollment is basically on track from previous semesters and the University did receive some federal aid from the CARES Act that covered some of those shortfalls,” he said.  

The University says it is committed to negotiating with the union at any time and in good-faith until an agreement is reached. PHOTO COURTESY OF BEAU TATTERSALL/SAN FRANCISCO FOGHORN 

The current fiscal year 2022 budget is “based on enrollment targets, projections, and revenue forecasts” from March 2021. Nevertheless, USF has advertised that admissions for this fall semester were “the largest number of applications in its history,” touting over 1600 admitted students according to its latest announcement two weeks ago. 

Since meeting at the bargaining table, the PTFA has reached out to the wider campus community, including students, for support. Rebecca Mason, Vice President of the USF Faculty Association (USFFA), who represents full-time faculty said, “USFFA stands in solidarity with the PTFA and we’re ready to support them during bargaining in any way we can.”

The administration said they too have backing on their proposals. “The University has similar support from students, full-time faculty, department chairs, alumni, trustees and Deans on the vital issues central in proposals we have advanced, such as increasing our ability to continue to diversify our faculty and adjunct teaching excellence.” 

Both sides indicated that there currently is not a clear timeline in resolving the issue. 

The University says it “seeks to reflect fair treatment across all employee groups which have made considerable sacrifices during the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

However, Schepmann added “As members of the USF community, we believe that changing the world from here starts here. When we ask for more equity in our working conditions, we’re asking the administration to walk their talk.”

Miguel Arcayena is a senior politics major and the Foghorn’s news editor. He covers COVID-19-related campus news and administrative issues. He can be reached at marcayena@sffoghorn.com.

One thought on “Let the bargaining begin

  1. As the two Part-Time Faculty representatives on the University Budget Advisory Council, we were surprised to read that UBAC “unanimously recommended salary cuts/freezes for all employee groups, including the PTFA for the fiscal year 2022 budget.” We were at the UBAC meeting in January 2021 where this issue was discussed, but there was no vote recorded in the minutes on this item.

    As the body that advises the President on budget matters, UBAC did discuss a possible recommendation that “previously planned compensation increases for fiscal year 2021 and 2022 should be suspended,” but this is different from recommending cuts, and this item was ultimately not voted on and thus not included in UBAC’s official recommendations. However, In most recent bargaining sessions, administration is still asking Part-Time Faculty to agree to cuts in pay and/or benefits.

    These conversations were taking place in January of this year, when it was still unclear how much the university’s budget would be affected by the ongoing COVID crisis. Many of the recommendations that UBAC did approve in that January meeting have already been deemed unnecessary by administration due to strong enrollment this fall and additional federal stimulus money. This stronger than expected budget outlook should guide administration’s bargaining asks now.

    In solidarity,
    Julia Schulte & Brad Morrison
    Part-time Faculty Association (PTFA) Members and representatives to the University Budget Advisory Council (UBAC)

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