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February 2002 aaUPBEAT
AAUP-Administration Contract Negotiations
Want More Salary? Better Benefits?
No faculty member, other professional or any individual who works for a living is likely to say, "No, I don't want a raise and improved benefits." But wanting such things and winning them at the bargaining table don't always go together.
During a union's contract negotiations, there is no such thing as luck. No matter what union we're talking about, winning or losing greater economic security and workplace protection during contract negotiations boils down to organization. If a union's members are unified in their demands and willing to mobilize themselves in the effort to bring those demands to fruition, the union's bargainers stand a better chance of success than if there is no membership consensus about the need for improved economic status and working conditions.
The AAUP has begun contraction negotiations with the Administration. The first session was held on Jan. 4 and the most recent on Feb. 14. As a result of these sessions, it is clear to us we will have our work cut out for us if faculty want a package that among other things includes (1) sufficient salary increases to keep pace with inflation and reward meritorious service, (2) an improvement in sabbatical programs, (3) long-term care insurance that covers services not usually covered by Medicare or health/disability insurance, (4) domestic partner benefits for gay and lesbian faculty couples who meet requirements similar to those for heterosexual married couples, (5) office space and reasonable secretarial help for faculty members who have been awarded Emeritus status, and (6) the development of regularized departmental merit criteria.
In the December newsletter we wrote, "Given the economy's months-long downturn, and how this trend has been further aggravated in Sept. 11's aftermath, we expect the Administration to argue that it can't afford to pay for a contract that the AAUP considers fair and just. Mindful of this argument, we have honed down our list of requests to a bare-bones list that is both affordable and reasonable."
It is now two months since we wrote those words and nothing the Administration has done suggests that our analysis of the Administration's attitude toward the current bargaining sessions was incorrect. This is evident not only from our initial bargaining sessions but also from statements made by the Administration outside of formal negotiations. For instance, in a memo to department heads in the College of Arts and Science on Feb. 13, the Administration stated the following position regarding their attitude toward educational spending.
"While the University remains committed to sustaining competitive compensation for faculty and staff," the memo announced, "there's no provision in the proposed state budget for any salary increases. At the same time many other expenses such as utility, insurance and benefit costs continue to increase significantly. It is no surprise to any of you that other sources of University revenue have not kept pace with rising costs; return on endowment has declined and tuition does not cover the full cost of education, particularly in-state tuition. To meet the financial needs of the university over the next three years basic budget obligations will need to be reduced."
Such a statement provides us with a context for analyzing the Administration's general mindset with regard to issues to be negotiated; clearly, at this moment in time, the Administration is intent on portraying itself as hard-pressed for money and therefore unable to afford unnecessary expenditures. Of course, the relevant question here is how accurate the Administration's definitions of "afford" and "unnecessary" are. With this in mind, the bargaining team has done its homework and is aware of what the University can and cannot afford in terms of faculty salary and benefits (see "Endowments and Higher Education Cuts" below). As we correctly stated in December, our demands consist of a well-thought-out, non-frivolous list of faculty needs that is affordable and reasonable. Consequently, with your help, the AAUP bargaining team will stay the course, negotiate with focus, and eventually leave the bargaining table with an agreement that UD faculty members consider a fair one.
The AAUP bargaining team knows that the answer to the question "Do UD faculty want reasonable salary increases and improved benefits?" is yes. But we also know, as stated above, that winning a good contract at the bargaining table is never a matter of luck. Instead, it is a matter of organization, of union members willing to mobilize themselves in a group effort to bring their demands to fruition.
Initial steps that faculty can take in doing this are:
As negotiations heat up and AAUP-Administration discussions become more detailed with reference to our specific demands, UD faculty cannot afford to forget this: if the Administration believes that faculty are unenergetic about salary increases and improved benefits, then no matter what we win at the bargaining table it will be less than what we could have won if we had convinced the Administration that faculty are dead serious about wanting the Administration to make a greater financial investment in the faculty and those things pertinent to creating a sound work environment.
The Negotiation Process
For those unfamiliar with the bargaining process, here are a few facts.
Endowments and Higher Education Cuts
Across the nation higher education administrations plead poverty as they point to the shrinking value of their endowments as evidence of their need to cut back faculty costs and other educational investments. An article in the Jan. 25 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education began, somewhat apocalyptically, "Last year, the average college endowment lost value for the first time since Los Angeles held the Summer Olympics and Newsweek put a Cabbage Patch doll on its cover. Suddenly higher education is having to make do with less."
It is true, of course, that endowments are down, and so it would be naive of UD faculty or faculty elsewhere to ignore this reality when thinking about higher education spending. The fact that nationally two out of every three endowments lost, on average, 3.6 percent of their value cannot be ignored.
But we also can't ignore our obligation to examine the specific ways such a trend is or isn't reflective of our own situation here at UD. The fact is that at UD, although there has been a decline in the endowment's earnings in comparison to previous years, the endowment still grew by 1.9 percent from June 2000-June 2001, the same period during which two out of every three endowments were losing money. Coupled with the fact that from 1995-2000 UD's endowment increased by approximately 10 percent annually, our endowment's growth during that period reveals the strength of UD's financial situation. Far from the endowment situation providing an excuse for belt-tightening, it in fact reveals that UD is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the current situation by providing its faculty with a salary and benefits package that will move UD into solid position within the top half of our comparator group. (See the "Salary Rank Averages table at the conclusion of the newsletter to review UD's current status within our comparator group.)
Endowments, of course, are not higher education's only concern when it comes to finances. An institution also must be concerned about other funding sources - e.g., revenues from the state. This has been a particular concern recently in the area of government support for higher education. Although nationally there was an average increase of 4.6 percent in state allotments for higher education in 2001-2002, this is the lowest increase in five years.
Given this, it is of concern to us that the state, whose budget allotment for UD comprises approximately 20 percent of UD's annual operating costs, will not be increased this year, which means that we are one of the states where no compensation is being made for inflation.
However, as the AAUP's annually commissioned Weber Report (an analysis of UD's financial condition) suggests, UD is not simply a state-sponsored institution but is rather a quasi-state university, which Weber defines as "having substantial inflows from sources other than students and stare appropriations, resulting in both a significant independence from variations in state and student income and significant differences in financial structure." UD's regular fund-raising drives, bolstered by its close ties to local corporations, exemplify what Weber means when talking about "a significant independence from variations in state and student income." One more example of this independence is the campus MBNA building, a symbol of the Administration's power to attract funding from private non-governmental sources.
Another sign of UD's financial strength even during difficult times is the University's net assets, which Weber describes as "perhaps the most significant indicator of University financial health." From 1995-2000, these net assets increased at an adjusted average annual rate of 9 percent.
The country's economic downturn over the last year has not been good for any individual or institution. Yet, comparatively, UD has done quite well during this period and is clearly situated to improve the economic condition of its faculty relative to other faculty in our comparator group. This means providing us with an economic package that includes substantive salary increases and a strengthening of benefits, ranging from long terms health care to domestic partner benefits.
The Current Contract Negotiations
Note: Below are the average faculty salaries for the Mid-Atlantic comparator universities. The averages were calculated using UD's rank structure in 1999-2000 as weights.