Bargaining Update #1 — December 3, 2007

Librarian Bargaining Update #1
December 3, 2007

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that governs the working conditions and compensation of Unit 17 librarians at the University of California is about to be re-negotiated. On December 3, 2007, opening proposals were exchanged between the UC Administration and the University Council of the American Federation of Teachers (UC-AFT) on behalf of the librarians. The UC-AFT is proposing to open and seek improvements in about half of the articles in the current MOU; however, of primary concern are librarian salaries, workload, and support for professional activities.

After a number of years in which the librarian unit has had only minimal success at the bargaining table, there is a new militancy among librarians, who are better organized and have a clearer set of bargaining goals than in many years. We have recently held labor-management meetings on the local campuses that have uncovered a common set of concerns among librarians throughout the UC system. Although conditions do vary widely among campuses, there are clear and common concerns about issues of compensation, workload, and professional development opportunities. Librarians across the system have been meeting at the local level to plan our bargaining strategy and clarify our opening proposals to the University.

We have held multi-campus meetings in Berkeley and at UCLA and had conference calls among librarians to make sure that our approach to bargaining this time is unified and supported by the vast majority of librarians in the UC system. In each of these meetings, the local campuses were well represented by their respective librarians. The UC-AFT as an organization, and its leadership and staff, have committed to put its resources behind the effort to make major advances at the bargaining table during the current negotiations.

Below, we discuss in some more detail the following topics: 1) the issues we are raising in this round of bargaining; 2) the structure of our negotiating team and the larger bargaining committee which will guide its work; and 3) where we are going from here.

UC-AFT Opening Proposals

The UC-AFT is seeking significant increases in salaries because UC librarians have fallen far behind their colleagues in the California State University system and even behind many community college librarians in pay. Consequently, the opening salary proposal sets forth a new salary scale based on the minimum of the range in comparable titles for CSU librarians. Under this proposal, the minimum annual salary for Assistant, Associate, and full Librarians would be as follows: $55,944; $61,678; and $82,650.

The issues of salary and workload are intertwined. On many UC campuses, low librarian salaries have resulted in recruitment and retention problems. In addition, budget cuts have led to reductions in the numbers of library assistants and library workers represented by other unions or lower-level management positions. The result is increasing workloads for the remaining Unit 17 librarians who often take on the work previously done by other library workers. The increased workload, in turn, exacerbates the retention problem, as additional librarians seek better paid and less stressful employment elsewhere, leaving even more vacancies to be filled by the overworked librarians who remain.

The current librarian MOU has no workload article, perhaps because in the past librarians believed that their professional status and membership in LAUC would provide them with reasonable solutions to workload problems outside of the MOU and the union bargaining process. However, time has demonstrated that, like other professional units at UC, only a strong, enforceable collective labor agreement can provide librarians with a mechanism to respond to workload abuses when short-staffing and other problems result in librarians taking on additional, uncompensated duties for their missing colleagues. We have drafted an entirely new Workload article to address some of these serious problems.

One of the more common outcomes of staff shortages is that librarians are doing increasing amounts of routine work in the library and have less and less time for activities related to their professional development. In addition to making the work less challenging and satisfying in professional terms, this is then held against librarians when they go up for periodic reviews and consideration for merit increases.

As a result, the UC-AFT is also opening and seeking improvement in several articles related to professional development, the use of temporary workers, and temporary assignments, many of which last for years and involve significant uncompensated or under-compensated work. We are working to create incentives for the University administration to avoid the improper use of temporary and other uncompensated appointments. At the same time, we are working to reduce the hiring or new library employees, for what used to be librarian work, outside of the librarian series because it has been so difficult to recruit within the series given the current low pay of the unit.

The UC-AFT is also seeking significant increases and greater equity in the provision of professional development funds which allow librarians to attend professional conferences, upgrade their education and training, and conduct other professional activities which enhance their value to the faculty, students, and others who use library services. We are also looking for improvements the opportunities for leaves and other mechanisms that will enhance professional development opportunities for librarians.

Ostensibly, UC librarians have a peer review system for advancement in library careers. While certain aspects of the process seem to function well, all too often, individual managers or members of the administration inside and outside of the libraries have inappropriate control of the process of merit reviews and other promotional and career-related decisions. Consequently, in the current bargaining, the UC-AFT is seeking to clarify some of the more ambiguous sections of the MOU as it relates to various kinds of reviews affecting Unit 17.

Some of the other areas where we are seeking improved MOU language include, changes related to involuntary transfers, the right to use telecommuting where appropriate, University pay for library stewards and the recognition of union work as professional work, and better access to University housing, child care, educational, and other resources for librarians and their families.

The UC-AFT is opening several articles in order to increase the enforceability of their provisions. In too many cases, articles have language that provides reasonable guidelines for library practices; however, because the provisions lack the support of full grievance and arbitration arrangements, they are essentially unenforceable. Unfortunately, time has demonstrated that MOU promises that are not backed up by enforcement mechanisms often go unrealized in practice.

In our initial proposal, the UC-AFT is seeking a three year MOU with each side able to open one article each year the agreement is in existence. Of course, our final approach to the duration of the agreement will be directly impacted by the kinds of salary, workload, and other improvements we are able to achieve at the bargaining table.

Structure of the Bargaining Committee and Negotiating Team

In the current round of bargaining, the librarians will be represented by a broadly representative Bargaining Committee consisting of:

Two representatives from each campus
Miki Goral, Chief Negotiator Emerita
Mike Rotkin, Chief Negotiator
Karen Sawislak, Executive Director of the UC-AFT

This group will be fully informed before and after each bargaining session and will have the power to determine the parameters within which the UC-AFT’s Negotiating Team will operate. Decisions will be made by consensus whenever possible, and by majority vote when time constraints make that impossible. In addition to setting the parameters for negotiations, the Bargaining Committee has a primary responsibility to keep the librarians on their respective campuses well informed about the bargaining process and to engage the local members in support actions when they are necessary. Please respond positively when your Bargaining Committee representatives call on you for your active support of the bargaining process. This is the group that any member of the librarian unit can contact, along with your local Field Representatives, for further information about the progress of bargaining.

Here is the roster for the current Bargaining Committee:

Harrison Decker, UCB
Axel Borg, UCD
David Michalski, UCD
Ken Firestein, UCD
Mitchell Brown, UCI
Julia Gelfand, UCI
Brian Williams, UCI
Michelle Jacobs, UCLA
Louise Ratliff, UCLA
Lise Snyder, UCLA
Michael Yonezawa, UCR
Steve Mitchell, UCR
Gary Colmenar, UCSB
Chimene Tucker, UCSB
Sally Weimer, UCSB
Kenneth Lyons, UCSC
Annette Marines, UCSC,
Mike Rotkin, UC-AFT,
Miki Goral, UC-AFT,
Karen Sawislak, UC-AFT,

We are currently working on a process to finalize the Bargaining Committee with two representatives from each campus. As you can see, we still need representatives from a couple of campuses and some campuses have more than two representatives.

From the above group, an initial Negotiating Team has been selected and is composed of the following members:

Mitchell Brown
Harrison Dekker
Ken Firestein
Miki Goral
Michelle Jacobs
Ken Lyons
Steve Mitchell
Mike Rotkin – Chief Negotiator
Karen Sawislak
Chimene Tucker

What’s Next?

We will issue a brief bargaining update after December 3, when we know what issues the UC administration raises in their opening proposals. Our first face-to-face bargaining will take place on Wednesday, December 19, 2007 in Oakland. We will issue a bargaining update after that session and after every session in the future. Future bargaining may take place at either locations in northern or southern California. At times, we may schedule bargaining on one or more of the campuses and ask members of various locals to demonstrate their concerns before the beginning of bargaining that day. We will be producing pubic literature in support of the librarians at UC. As necessary, we will engage the support of our CFT and AFT affiliates and public officials as well as the general public.

We know that we will not get everything we have outlined in our opening bargaining proposals; however, if the locals continue their organizing efforts and we gather the support we expect from our Unit 17 members, from other members of our union, from other unions, from other UC faculty, staff, and students, and from the general public, we know we can make substantial gains during the current round of bargaining.

We are not asking for anything that is unreasonable. We are not asking for anything that the University cannot afford. We asking only for things that will help improve the quality of service that the University libraries provide to the University community. If we stick together, and if we work together, we shall win a contract of which we can all be proud – a contract that the librarians at UC deserve.

In solidarity,

Mike Rotkin
Chief Negotiator
Unit 17

 

posted by Karen Sawislak : 10:01 AM

 

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