Grad Employees Choose to Negotiate; The Administration Chooses to Procrastinate

At the beginning of the semester, GEO members were hopeful that a contract agreement could be reached quickly. After all, employees and management are required by law to negotiate in good faith toward a common goal — establishing a productive, just, and safe working environment.
The concept of negotiation infers that “it takes two to tango.” Nevertheless, University officials are unwilling to dance. Following our third bargaining session held on Tuesday, April 1, various stalling techniques employed by the administration’s bargaining team are now evident.

Citing busy schedules, only three times this semester has the administration’s team agreed to meet us at the bargaining table. Yet in order to accelerate the process, GEO bargaining representatives are prepared to meet on evenings and weekends, a commitment unmatched by their administrative counterparts. At this pace, just five bargaining sessions will be completed by semester’s end.
Our negotiators and observers at the April 1, 2003 sessionA limited number of meetings might have been adequate if the administration had prepared to tackle important topics. However, this is not the case. While mutual promises of good faith should be sufficient, significant portions of the initial bargaining sessions have been spent simply establishing ground rules.
Much time is also wasted in caucus (private discussion sessions). Either side is entitled to call for a caucus at any point during negotiations. Not surprisingly, the administration’s team caucuses are much more frequent and unnecessarily long. This tactic interrupts the flow of negotiations and delays coverage of important issues until later dates.
When proposed by the GEO team, language relating to non-discrimination was met by objection from the administration’s chief negotiator, Peg Rawles. University officials want to exclude a non-discrimination contract article because the University’s broad policy on anti-discrimination already exceeds state and federal regulations. This argument was well-countered by GEO bargaining team member, Vahagn Minasian, who reasoned that elaborating upon existing policy will strengthen the University’s commitment to non-discrimination and further discourage discriminatory behavior.
Moreover, anti-discrimination language is common to many other union contracts between the University and campus employees. Does the administration really believe that some employees should work in environments free from discrimination while others should not? More likely, they oppose the GEO proposal simply because they can and because doing so wastes time.
This newsletter provides a few examples indicating the University’s inability to demonstrate good faith bargaining. Their reactions to the GEO’s proposed contract are unacceptable by any union’s standards. Considering the overwhelming support received by the GEO in last fall’s election, some readers may be surprised to learn about these frustrating complications. Nonetheless, the road to a contract appears unnecessarily long. But it does not have to be. GEO members are encouraged to energize the union by attending upcoming bargaining sessions and stewards council meetings. Nonmembers are encouraged to join: there’s power in numbers! The bargaining team alone cannot make the administration cooperate, but together union members can compel University officials to negotiate, not procrastinate.