This week’s Wednesday meeting between the UFF and Board of Trustees (BOT) teams was an “Impact Bargaining” session around the University’s Covid-related policies. To its credit, the FSU BOT is the only SUS institution willing to engage in Impact Bargaining so far. The good news stops there, unfortunately.
The UFF had sent its proposal for an MOU earlier in the week, and we went over it at the beginning of the meeting. Here’s the crux of it:
Individual faculty members teaching face-to-face may require a Covid-19 risk mitigation plan, which may include masks, social distancing, or vaccinations for students in their classes or office hours. If a student chooses to not honor this request, the faculty member may elect to teach the course remotely.
It also refers to an existing section of the CBA (5.4 d) specifying that faculty can cancel a class if a disruptive student poses a risk to personal safety or the safety of others.
The BOT’s response boils down to proposing no mitigation other than already-announced policy informing students they are expected to mask. It offers no help to the majority of instructional faculty who face real danger in packed classrooms and even office hours, which the BOT team breezily advised us can be offered in alternative locations, including outdoors. As for classrooms, they offer no relief from worry. When pressed about their nonchalant orientation to faculty safety, the BOT team explained that they were following through on the Board of Governors’ months’-old policy of returning to pre-pandemic normal, with full classrooms meeting in face-to-face settings. Our pointing out the absurdity of acting as though the Delta variant hadn’t made earlier plans obsolete gained no traction.
The University clearly has discretion over some policies—namely, the treatment of faculty with high-risk concerns. One possible response is compassion, since it is within their power to permit remote work for faculty caring for high-risk family members, as the University permitted last year, or even to expand the options to include co-residence with an at-risk person. That is not how they see it. Instead, the BOT team—made up mostly of HR employees—points to chairs and deans as the group to turn to, as though it is they, not HR, who decides who does and does not merit accommodations. Such deflection of responsibility is disingenuous. The BOT’s only other acknowledgment that high-risk faculty might need a hand is to point to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which merely provides a framework for accommodating employee health conditions but does not cover concerns related to caregiving.
Their offer adds no options that aren’t already available without a Memorandum of Understanding.
We spent a few minutes going over the UFF’s latest Salaries offer, which (along with raises), proposes a $5,000 bonus, as the BOT can use non-recurring funding for this purpose.
Next week we will meet remotely for Impact Bargaining on Tuesday, August17, at 3:00—note the atypical day and atypical start time. We will turn to regular bargaining later in the session. Forty-nine faculty members attended the last session, and we hope for a strong turnout the next time around, as well.
Bargaining Link (Tues, Aug. 17, 3:00): https://fsu.zoom.us/j/93387209867
If you are a member of UFF, you are also welcome to our caucuses, which typically occur once or twice during bargaining and at its conclusion.
Caucus link (Tues., Aug 17, 3:00): https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87805365154
We encourage you to show up. It makes a difference.
Regular updates can be found at our webpage: http://uff-fsu.org/
The key to a strong collective bargaining agreement is a strong membership base, so if you are not a member, please join! There has never been a more important time for us to stand together. http://uff-fsu.org/wp/join/
Irene Padavic and Scott Hannahs
Co-Chief Negotiators, UFF-FSU