Although we in Akron-AAUP are hopeful that we will successfully reach an agreement with the Administration on a new contract, we must prepare our members for other possibilities.
Click on one of the questions below to go directly to that section.
The central issues here are the quality of education at The University of Akron and the Administration’s misplaced priorities. We believe that the Administration should prioritize the educational mission of the institution in a way that supports student learning.
The Administration is proposing a contract that would:
Impose conditions that would remove the protections of tenure and multi-year appointments for NTT.
Allow them to retrench faculty effectively whenever they want, and cherry-pick faculty for release without regard to rank or years of service.
Reduce compensation from between 0 -12%, depending on salary, for one year.
Renege on promises made when recruiting now-retired faculty for dependent healthcare benefits and life insurance.
Only have a 1.5 year term, meaning that we will be back at the negotiating table in another year.
Is this a contract that will enable this institution to retain and attract quality faculty who are passionate about teaching, research, and serving their university? Will it give those faculty the stability they need to deliver an excellent education to their students while developing their programs and pursuing their research?
Both sides have submitted their proposals upon all issues we agreed to negotiate at the beginning of the process. We expect to have tentative agreements on some of the minor issues that deal with language shortly. We will continue to negotiate on every outstanding proposal in order to reach an agreement. If both sides cannot reach an agreement on a particular issue, that issue is referred to fact-finding. We hope that, if we get this far, the factfinder will issue a report that leads to a fair and reasonable contract which is acceptable to our members and the Administration. However, we must plan for the worst-case scenario: the Administration attempting to impose unacceptable terms and conditions of employment on the faculty that would push us to strike. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about strikes.
It takes an affirmative vote to reject fact-finding on either side. That means ⅗ of the voting members have to vote to reject. For the Administration, that is ⅗ of the Board of Trustees. For the Chapter, ⅗ of current dues-paying members have to vote to reject. By way of illustration: if the Chapter had 1000 members, 600 would have to vote, and all 600 must vote to reject for the fact-finding report to be rejected. If only 599 vote, the fact-finding report would be accepted no matter how they voted because there would be less than the 60% (600) needed to reject.
If the report is rejected, the report will be posted by SERB and the Akron-AAUP may strike seven days after the report is posted (and after giving advance ten-day notice). As a practical matter, the parties would try to negotiate a final deal. However, given the length of negotiations, further attempts at negotiation may be pointless. Legally, if the parties are at impasse, then the University could implement its last offer. If the University implements, be it before or after further negotiations, it must implement its entire offer, both already agreed-upon proposals and its remaining proposals on the table. It cannot cherry-pick which contract articles to impose.
Only the Chapter members can authorize a strike. The Akron-AAUP Executive Committee may recommend that a strike authorization vote be conducted. If the vote is positive, the leadership may schedule a strike at the appropriate time. A positive vote does not mean a strike is inevitable, but it does signal to both the union leadership and the Administration that there is support for a strike.
In that event, the Akron-AAUP would have no leverage at the bargaining table, and we would be forced to try to bargain a contract on the Administration’s terms. With no leverage, faculty would end up with either no contract or an unreasonable contract.
Although we hope that all faculty members will participate in the strike, the choice of whether to join us is yours. It is clear that some faculty members have responsibilities that cannot be neglected, such as time-sensitive grant-funded lab research, medical and therapeutic care for patients, or the maintenance of laboratory animals. We must decide on an individual basis which activities meet this standard and which do not. At the same time, it’s essential to keep in mind that a high level of participation is what allows a strike to succeed. If a strike occurs, your individual choices will affect the collective outcome. Although individuals can choose not to strike, they can NOT choose to be exempted from the contract finally implemented.
As long as we are bound by our current contract, which expires December 31, 2020, it is unlawful for us to strike under the provisions of Article 6, ‘No Strike, No Lockout’. If the contract expires with no resolution, we may legally strike if the fact-finder’s report is rejected.
Yes. In 1984, Chapter 4117 of the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) established the collective bargaining law for public employees in Ohio, including the right to strike. Before that time, public employees in Ohio were forbidden to go on strike.
According to ORC 4117, public employees may have recourse to informational picketing and/or striking. Before striking, Akron-AAUP will engage in informational picketing events. A strike must be scheduled for full, consecutive workdays. Ohio law does not recognize “blue flu” (i.e., employees calling in sick on the same day), intermittent strikes, or other types of quasi-strikes; such actions could be deemed illegal. However, an individual’s decision not to participate in voluntary activities is legal.
If the factfinder’s report is rejected, the unit may decide to strike by refusing to report for work. Typically, striking employees engage in picketing at the entrances to the premises and other strategic areas. The purpose of the picket lines is not to block access to the premises, but to let everyone who passes by know that the employees are on strike. Traditionally, people who support the goals of the striking employees, as well as members of other unions, will refuse to cross a picket line to do business with the employer during a strike.
According to state law, the University is prohibited from paying employees for the days they are on strike. It is possible, though not guaranteed, that negotiations to end the dispute would include the rescheduling of any classes missed during a strike and appropriate payment for those lost days.
According to state law, public employees are not entitled to pay or compensation, including benefits, for the period they are engaged in a strike. However, the University is required to provide COBRA continuation coverage in the event that a “qualifying event,” including a strike, occurs. For more information, please see this resource. Employees can elect COBRA coverage – continuing their current coverage – by paying 102% of the premium equivalency rate (e.g. the full monthly cost of coverage for each month). COBRA coverage may be elected after the fact, that is, you don’t have to sign up unless or until you need it, so long as you sign up within 60 days from when you would lose coverage. An alternative may be “special enrollment” in a spouse’s health plan. If an individual does not elect COBRA coverage, the University will presumably instruct the vendor not to process insurance claims for the dates during which a given employee was determined to be participating in a strike.
While the decision whether to cross a picket line is a matter of personal conscience, the success of a strike depends on maximum participation of all faculty who are members of the bargaining unit, whether they are dues-paying AAUP members or not. Most full-time faculty at UA, including non-tenure-track and tenure track or tenured professors, are members of the bargaining unit. Therefore the decisions each of us makes has an impact on the outcome.
As professors, we care about our students. We understand, more fully than any Board of Trustees member, how they would be affected by our absence from the job. Nobody would suggest a strike if we did not have a collective sense that all other avenues have been explored and that only by taking resolute action can we bring this dispute to a close. Yes, in the short run, there may be some disruption, but in the long run, students will benefit from an educational environment that attracts and retains quality faculty, provides enough job security that faculty can focus on their work, and that supports mainstream academic values.
A university focused on student development requires a stable and secure faculty. In this time of pandemic, faculty are more stressed than ever before, and need job security as never before. As this InsideHigherEd piece (November 19, 2020) reports; “faculty worries about the pandemic have morphed into chronic stress — with serious implications for professors’ mental health, their students and the profession as COVID-19 drags on.” Of most urgent concern, a recent study cited in the piece shows that “more than 40 percent of survey respondents considered leaving their jobs as a result of COVID-19’s impact. Early-career faculty members were most likely to be considering leaving, at 48 percent.”
For the sake of our students, we must do everything we can to keep the quality faculty we have, and a fair and reasonable contract is the best way to do this.
Technically, the Administration has the right to prohibit employees who strike from having access to University facilities and equipment. However, it is unlikely that the Administration would engage in such conduct because this would prevent ALL professors from working during the strike. You may want to back up any emails or documents that are stored on University property in case you will not be able to access them while you are on strike.
Yes. In the event of a strike, our advisors from National will be on hand to help with strategy and execution. They have already assisted us by awarding the Chapter grants to help pay legal costs from this summer and for the organizing work we will be doing. Furthermore, we should receive ready support and help from our sister institutions that have either had strikes or come close to having strikes. Our faculty colleagues at other AAUP chapters such as Kent State, Cleveland State, Bowling Green State, and Wright State also will assist, just as we’ve assisted our sister chapters when asked. Finally, we hope that our friends in the community, particularly from other unions, will help. Our membership in the Tri-County Labor Council will help to ensure the active support of local unions.
There is no way to answer this question in advance, but we do have two lines of evidence to give us an indication. First, the Board of Trustees has been aggressive in its behavior toward faculty thus far. We should not expect them to capitulate just because we authorize a strike. If we authorize a strike, we should mean it and be prepared to execute it. Youngstown State recently resolved their strike after three (3) days. In what is reported as the longest faculty strike in Ohio history, Wright State University faculty were on strike for twenty (20) days in 2019. In 2016, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education faculty went on strike for three (3) days. It’s hard to know how long a strike may last, but we should each start making financial preparations now.
It is illegal for the Administration to punish individual faculty members for participation in union activities up to and including participation in a strike. Should any retaliatory actions be taken, Akron-AAUP would aggressively pursue legal remedies, as we have in filing past unfair labor practice charges. To our knowledge, the Administration has not engaged in this type of punitive activity with regard to tenure and promotion decisions.
Historically, strikes have been rare. However, there has been a flurry of strikes or near strikes of late, prompted by newly aggressive behavior from Boards of Trustees. Public universities vary in that some states have collective bargaining, which makes a strike legal, and others do not. While it is legal for public sector faculty to strike in Ohio, in other states, such as Connecticut, faculty have the right to collective bargaining, but the state prohibits strikes and instead mandates binding arbitration to resolve contract negotiations. In university situations, strikes are often averted at the last minute. The bottom line is that if we are pushed to call for a strike, we had better mean it.
You can find more information on the State Employee Relations Board (SERB) website on this page, under “Strikes”.