Tentative contract agreement reached by PSU-AAUP and administration

After a year of contract negotiations between the Portland State chapter of the American Association of University Professors and the PSU administration, a tentative contract agreement was made early Sunday morning after 30 hours of mediation.

Faculty union members still have to vote to approve the contract before it’s official.

“The members of AAUP were able to achieve unprecedented advances on faculty stability, providing two and three-year contracts for a much larger number of full-time non-tenure track faculty, while also maintaining historic rights essential for academic freedom,” stated a press release issued by PSU-AAUP on Sunday. “This comes after nearly two decades of cutbacks and concessions on the part of the PSU faculty and academic professionals at the bargaining table.”

The administration agreed to increase all salaries to a minimum of $40,000; a 2.5 percent salary increase at the beginning of 2014 and 2015; a one-time salary raise of 1.5 percent for fixed-term, tenure and tenure-track faculty for the 2014-2015 fiscal year; a one-time salary raise for some faculty based on years working at PSU; increased job security for non-tenure track faculty; and maintaining contract language.

“We are pleased to announce that we have come to a fair agreement with the AAUP that offers salary increases for faculty for each of the next two years and settles the issues of the union’s role in tenure and promotion and post-tenure review guidelines,” said PSU President Wim Wiewel in a statement released by the university. “The agreement also is fiscally responsible for PSU, as our priority has been to balance our budget and protect academic and student programs.”

The agreement was made three days after a strike notice was issued by the faculty union, which would have seen a strike start April 16.

Amid fears that a strike would severely impede the student learning environment, 24 out of 25 department chairs in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences issued a statement warning the administration of the dire consequences of a strike, stating in their letter, “In our professional opinion as educators and scholars, the student experience in a classroom staffed by anyone (regardless of his/her qualifications) besides the usual instructor is highly unlikely to match the quality of the planned instruction that we pride ourselves in offering through our departments.”

This statement was issued prior to the strike notice.

Rayleen McMillan, director of university affairs for the Associated Students of PSU, expressed uncertainties that would have come with
a strike.

“A strike would pose significant challenges to the campus community,” McMillan said, “as it would be the first public university faculty strike in Oregon history. We don’t really have a comparator model to follow.”

According to Cameron Frank, a PSU Student Union organizer, “Typically when a union goes on strike, almost everyone goes on strike, both to show solidarity with your friends and with your colleagues, and also to get the contracts you need.”

He also said that while adjunct faculty and graduate instructors would not have been allowed to sympathy-strike alongside AAUP members, graduate instructors could have opted to hold their classes off campus in solidarity with the strikers.

Following the announcement of the tentative contract agreement, Mary King, professor of economics and president of PSU’s Chapter of AAUP said, “We are extremely happy to have resisted the administration attempt to eliminate valued protections for the promotion and tenure process that underpin academic freedom and constitute a critical element of the faculty role in university governance; made significant strides toward improving faculty stability by gaining longer-term contacts for a substantial proportion of full-time, non-tenure track faculty; set in motion a process for better incorporating academic quality into PSU’s strategic planning; and achieved a more equitable pay structure, especially by providing sizeable raises for those earning the least, and for academic professionals who have not been well rewarded for their dedication to PSU.”

While this is significant for all impacted, King said that PSU-AAUP is not yet done with their efforts.

“There’s still plenty of work to be done,” King said. “This contract fight is just one step in a long campaign toward re-prioritizing students and academics on campus, and improving learning and working conditions at PSU.”