Best Practices for Labor Management
Keep historical records that can be passed on—make sure members that were present review the notes so as to have an accurate record.
Send a memo after each labor management meeting—this is what was decided, this is what was agreed, if you don’t send a message back, we’re assuming confirmation.
Take minutes and send minutes to management promptly after the meeting. Bring unresolved topics back to upcoming meetings.
Most of us don’t make minutes public, but issues are included in the chairs report at chapter meetings.
Several Chairs talked about Inaction/ foot dragging on the part of the administration. Some ideas:
If they say yes to something, force them to delegate it at the meeting. Whom should we follow up with to keep working between meetings? Establish a timeline in the meeting: “You’ll get ____ by _____ date.”
Start every meeting with follow up items, this is where we have progress, this is what we still need to work on.
Create a google doc to track agenda items within your EC and follow up.
B. How Do You Get Issues to Bring to L-M? What Kinds of Things Should be Addressed?
Most chapters bring concerns from members/departments to the EC meeting and discuss how they will be placed on the agenda. We also use chapter meetings to solicit agenda items for upcoming L-M meetings or to report on recent L-M meetings.
The chapter EC meets to discuss the agenda for each L-M meeting, and the participants in that meeting change according to the issues presented.
“No’s” from the boss: Labor management is the last place to bring difficult things—build the pressure first, don’t start with something you think will get an immediate “no.”
A “no” can be an opportunity for us to frame an issue on our own. If things are bounced off an agenda, you can sometimes get them back on by pushing in the meeting (might have sympathetic ears beyond your labor designee).
Incorporate issues from the faculty senate or that are arising from other areas (Provost, Dept Meetings).
Most chapters use L-M meetings to raise concerns of our members over a host of workplace issues. Most are directly related to our contractual rights and shared governance. Others refer to broader social concerns, economic conditions, or disturbing trends that affect our jobs, such as the increasing adjunctification of our faculty. In general, we are trying the inform the president and provost of faculty and staff concerns that affect the educational experience of our students. We also sometimes play a reciprocal role of passing on to the membership messages that the administration wants to get across, such as meeting deadlines or completing required training sessions or surveys.
One proactive approach can be to submit the L-M agenda early, and as a result sometimes, administration might try and take care of the item before the meeting.
C. How to Report What Happens in Labor Management
Many chapters report out to the chapter in a strategic way—we want to show that management is dragging but we also want the union to be seen as effective. Report the gains, even if small.
Some chapters discuss what happened in L-M in the chairs report at the chapter meeting.
Other chapters advertise the L-M agenda to members and let them know the outcome.
D. Who Should Be Invited to L-M?
Some chapters bring all EC members to L-M meetings.
Others invite people who have issues to present the issues themselves, including HEOs and CLTs.
Bringing people from outside campus, such as principal officers, can be effective on some issues.
How do we get wide participation in the labor-management meetings from the chapter membership? (Is it desirable?)
Make sure that most of the EC attends the LMC with CLT/HEO reps so that there is more than the Chapter Chair meeting with the President and the campus administration. The latter can create a power dynamic where power is located in just the chapter chair or a few EC members.
Many noted that it’s important to invite the elected HEO Delegate(s). See DA resolution. There is generally at least one elected HEO delegate on each campus. If the HEO delegate is not attending when invited, contact Cindy Bink, HEO Chapter Chair, for support in getting a HEO representative to attend.
If there is not an elected CLT delegate, then reach out to an activist CLT on campus to attend.
Another chapter chair says, “We usually have about six or seven people attending L-M meetings on the union’s side of the table. We’ve had up to eight and have endured some complaints from our labor designee. The chapter chair, vice chair, and secretary, and a HEO have attended each and every meeting since I became chair. A rotating group of EC members also participates, either to raise a specific issue or simply to observe. I have made a point to give all EC members this experience and to demystify these conclaves. Other members are invited to take part if they have brought the issue to our attention or have some valuable expertise. We have had adjuncts at virtually all L-M meetings, including NTAs and our chapter’s liaison for part-timers. On one memorable occasion contract enforcement director Debra Bergen attended our L-M meeting and set the administration straight about their misinterpretation of the contract. Chapter organizer Brian Graf routinely attends the meetings and brainstorms with us ahead of time. We all engage in postmortem analyses of what went on.”
E. How do you make new participants comfortable in speaking and/or attending?
The best way to make new participants feel comfortable in speaking is to be sure they are well prepared to present the issue and have anticipated objections. Experienced PSC officers also need to protect them from intimidation. It’s also important to model collegiality while standing firm for our contractual right to raise issues of concern to the college community. One EC member suggests, however, that we “let go of any notions of appropriate decorum. If it’s truly a democratic space, they should be listening to all voices from the CUNY community.” He also suggests that we find a way to communicate among ourselves (and with members) while in the L-M meeting, perhaps through a WhatsApp group.
Many chapters discuss in advance who will ask which questions.
If HEOs, CLTs or new members are reluctant to speak, allow them time to sit in and not speak, Eventually, they may become more outspoken as they become regular participants.
F. Sample Agenda Items
Baruch Our agenda over the last five years has included:
- Summer workload credit
- Three-year appointment for adjuncts
- Adjunct hiring practices and improper coverage for absent faculty
- Proper maintenance of personnel files
- Need for a lactation room
- Need for a faculty lounge
- Fixing problems with the Mail Room
- Impossible online grade submission deadline
- Late payroll enrollment and payment to adjuncts; discontinuance of email access
- Ratio of adjunct to tenured/tenure-track faculty
- Physical plant issues: deterioration of classrooms, restrooms
- Problems surrounding mandated increase in hybrid and online courses
- Academic freedom and negative student evaluations, post-2016 election
- Post-election protection of rights of immigrant and undocumented students
- Enhancing Faculty/Staff awareness of CUNY policy on protecting immigrant students
- Making Baruch a Sanctuary Campus
- Faculty concerns about the CIA on campus
- Faculty concerns about the Confucius Institute’s threat to academic freedom
- Non-Teaching Adjunct issues
- Preventing abuse of HEO compensatory time provision
- Understaffing of veteran services and mental health counselling
- Class size increases
- Online teaching observations
- Campus reopening plan
- PSC input of possible budget shortfalls
- Maintaining a discrimination free environment; stats on discrimination cases at Baruch
We have routinely brought up health and safety issues at our L-M meetings, securing campus walk-throughs, better communication about construction inconveniences, elevator and escalator breakdowns, water interruptions, and other physical plant issues. We have demanded mold inspections and protested the lack of a fire alarms in our buildings. We also challenged the president’s failure to close the campus in March 2020 until the governor issued the order. We have consistently pushed for the safest policies during COVID, even protesting—and halting—the college’s laptop distribution scheme at the height of the pandemic in the summer of 2020. We called for distribution via mail, which eventually made it unnecessary for students and “volunteers” to return to campus. This fight is ongoing and necessary. As one EC member said, “We must have a choice about where our bodies are put, literally.”
G. Is there a L-M success story you would like to share?
Baruch Yes. This came early on when we pushed hard for a lactation room for staff and faculty who did not have private offices. We were told there was no room and no money, and that staff and faculty could continue to use the student lactation room during the limited hours it was open. In this case, state law was on our side and management built a lactation room in the library building.
Second, we secured a clearer, more sensible mailroom policy after faculty complained that valuable materials were not delivered because someone in the mailroom arbitrarily deemed them non-work related. This has included books, cleaning supplies, and office supplies.
Third, we won union representation on the campus reopening committee. Yet we have failed to get appointed to other important committees and task forces. Management insists that the union is effectively represented if a PSC-affiliated faculty member or HEO is on the committee. We respectfully disagree.
On a few occasions management has announced a new policy the morning of our L-M meeting so as to preempt our discussion. In effect, they have neutralized our complaint by acceding to it. We take this as a win. One example is their informing the Baruch community on construction delays and hazards at 17 Lex after we pressed for greater transparency and put it on the agenda.
In most cases success does not come so clearly because we are seeking extra-contractual institutional reforms, such as asking for adjuncts to be renewed, class sizes to be reduced, workloads to be equalized among the three schools, and working conditions to be improved in a building that is essentially a construction site. We have also sought more diversity in hiring, better funding of the SEEK program, and an end to Baruch’s cozy relationship with the CIA and Confucius Institute. In these cases, we find it is more effective to make common cause with other faculty governing bodies, such as the Faculty Senate and through department chairs. This strategy of triangulation, coupled with patience, keeps us going.