Today, I have some information and a request regarding the VLRB, and some information about the current situation regarding this year’s faculty raises for full time faculty.
First: I have received a number of questions regarding what will happen to this past year’s salaries, as our salaries have been flat ever since our contract expired last June. Will salaries be retroactive? Will we get any raise at all? The current situation is frustrating for everyone and for some faculty can be a hardship. So here's what I can say. Because our contract expired in July ’17 and negotiations are ongoing, we do not yet know the terms of raises for this past year. The fact finder’s report is due around May 8, and while we hope that the contract can be settled shortly thereafter, we can’t be sure. It depends on what the report recommends and what the administration will do in response. As regards to retroactivity, while there are no guarantees, in the past, raises have always been retroactive to the end of the past contract, delivered in a few installments once the contract is signed. Fact finders, including the one we are currently working with, have in the past disallowed proposals for non-retroactivity because to do so would encourage stalling on the part of management. In some previous contracts, however, raises have been “backloaded,” which means the raises are lower in year one of the contract and higher in the subsequent two years. If that turns out to be the case, retroactive raises could be small.
When UA’S EC and Delegate’s assembly considered whether or not to go to fact finding instead of accepting the administration’s near-inflation raise proposals last fall, we made our decision, not because we knew for sure how things would turn out, but because we felt we owed it to faculty to do everything in our power to gain a decent raise, and because we did not want the administration to be allowed to think they can use fact finding as a threat to force us to cave in future negotiations. Up through the release of VSEA’s fact finding report, the comparative numbers that often drive decisions both in Vermont and nationally were looking very much in our favor. A recent VLRB decision regarding the Vermont State Employees Association contract that largely ignored the fact finder’s report is a data point in the not-so-good column, as it looks like the Board is for the moment stacked with management-oriented members. None of this is 100% predictable, but we are confident we have been doing the best job we can to support faculty.
Second, not least because of that recent VLRB decision, I write to ask you to consider sending an email, or even better, calling your Senator in the Vermont Legislature (https://legislature.vermont.gov/people/) to ask them to look closely at, and consider disapproving, the pending confirmation of Karen O’Neill to the Vermont Labor Relations Board (VLRB). This may seem a bit far afield to you, but the terms of our contract are bounded by Vermont law and the decisions made by the VLRB, so it is necessary for UA to keep an eye on developments around the VLRB.
The background is this: the law requires the VLRB to have two representatives from labor, two from management, and two who are neutral. Karen O’Neill was approved for a “neutral” seat on the board in February by Phil Scott’s administration, and the law allows her to serve before being confirmed by the VT Senate. She was thus seated when the VLRB made a decision regarding VSEA that sided with Phil Scott’s administration and against the VSEA, rather shockingly ignoring the fact finder’s report that is normally central to VLRB decision making. Union groups have found, among other things, that she has worked for a law firm that advertises itself as anti-union, which calls her neutrality into question. (A flyer with more information is attached below.) If she is not confirmed by the Senate, that could right the balance on the VLRB, pressuring it to stay objective and neutral, which is in the interest of UA and Vermont. Please consider contacting your senator.
And of course stay tuned for more things you can do to support faculty, UA, and teaching and research at UVM. We have more plans to come.
As always, please be in touch.
President, United Academics
P.S. you can read more about what UA has done for UVM here: http://www.unitedacademics.org/new-page-2/
United Academics is the union of full- and part-time faculty at University of Vermont, with over 700 members from departments and colleges across the campus. We represent faculty in negotiating and upholding contracts, and we advocate for fair labor practices within and beyond our academic community. We are a member-led union committed to academic freedom, shared governance, social and environmental justice.