May 2020 Advocate: Negotiations Report

May 1st Negotiations Report

By Paul Bissember, AFT 1493 Executive Secretary and Negotiations Team Member

The AFT and District bargaining teams met on Friday, May 1, for the first contract negotiations session following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. We had negotiated a successful MOU in two sessions, and now our bargaining teams are back at the table to focus on the contract negotiations, which have been going on now for 15 months. At Friday’s session, the district prepared counter-proposals on informal complaints and formal Investigations.

Overall, our AFT bargaining team found that the district’s counter-proposals covered our main priorities that we outlined in our previous proposals: it provides for notice to the union around investigations, rights to union representation in investigatory meetings, union rights to investigatory information, and it includes links to current and appropriate district policies. The new district negotiator, Laura Schulkind, indicated that the investigations language she created comes from another district, where she had negotiated the same language.

Schulkind explained that, “We considered [this contract language] positive for both the union and the district… Faculty have concerns that informal complaints, become invisible until it comes to discipline and that’s not fair. So, the union should receive notifications so they happen in a fair way. Once things rise to the level of formal investigation, I think faculty protections should be higher.”

Furthermore, Schulkind argued that with more formalized notification that is provided to faculty, there tends to be less grievances and disputes. “I see this as a useful tool for both sides, to have heightened notice to faculty. I do not see it interfering with investigations.”

In past negotiations sessions, the AFT argued that faculty should have their rights protected, treated with dignity, and that there should be mutual respect for a fair process. Schulkind agreed, stating that the District needs to “remind administrators that when we investigate faculty, they are presumed innocent.”

Finally, the district’s counter-proposal includes additional language around investigations of allegations posted to social media. This language also came from a case in another district, which Schulkind argued allows districts to outline policy and provide protections for faculty.

At our next session on May 13, we plan to discuss workload and compensation, including part-time pay parity. We were not yet able to have a discussion on a new COVID-19 MOU, but we will bring this up at the next session. At our May 20 session we will focus on the Counselor Workload issue.

Our upcoming bargaining dates are:
• Wednesday, May 13, 9-11am,
• Wednesday, May 20, 12-2pm 
• Friday, May 29, 2-4pm