My name is Denise Youngblood. I have been a faculty member at UVM for 26 years and am currently the president of United Academics, the faculty union. These are difficult times in which to be a union activist and faculty member in higher education. Challenges to our collective bargaining rights are mounting across the country, and university administrations nationally are subscribing to a corporate model that pushes faculty, staff, and students to the periphery of university governance. UVM is no exception.
We have been negotiating for six months with the administration for a fair and equitable contract. This past Thursday, the administration shut down negotiations and declared impasse. We agreed, because it was clear from their so-called counterproposals that they were not interested in true negotiation. In its communications to the faculty, staff, and students about impasse, the administration has sought to present itself as “the University.” I strongly disagree. A group of highly paid administrators sitting in Waterman Bldg. is NOT the university! We—faculty, staff, and students—the people who actually do the hard work of education, are the University!
What do we need from a new contract? In our last contract, negotiated during the recession, we made sacrifices and givebacks as responsible university citizens. Now the administration is asking our members in the LOWEST wage brackets to take actual CUTS in salary, due to minuscule salary increases and an exorbitant rise in the percentage we pay for health care premiums. This is indefensible. But our negotiations have been about much more than salary and health care. For example, United Academics has always stood strong for the most defenseless in our ranks—the lecturers. We are working to get modest severance pay, so that a senior lecturer who taught at UVM for 15 years will not get booted out without a penny while the administration gives themselves outlandish golden parachutes and pay increases.
The administration has attempted to pit faculty, students, and students against one another. We are here to say NO! and to stand together in solidarity. We need your support. Stop Corporate U.!