FA Victory on Furlough Days

Dear Colleagues,
I am more than pleased to announce that the Illinois Education Association legal team has won an important victory for the Faculty Association and our bargaining unit members (FA members, and non-FA members) who were furloughed for four days in 2011. On July 2, the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board ruled that in 2011 the SIUC Administration in place at that time practiced “bad faith bargaining” in negotiations with the Faculty Association, as well as with the Non-Tenure Track Faculty Association (NTTFA) and the Association of Civil Service Employees (ACsE). According to the decision, SIUC violated the Illinois Education Labor Relations Act when they “unlawfully” declared an impasse in negotiations and unilaterally imposed terms that included four unpaid furlough days. The judge in the case, Colleen Harvey, awarded a “make whole” remedy for affected employees: four days’ pay, plus interest. The entire ruling is on-line at http://media.ieanea.net/media/2014/07/SIUC-Impasse-ALJ-RDO-7-10-14.pdf

According to the ruling, in the bargaining sessions leading up to the illegal impasse, the SIUC bargaining teams’ conduct “demonstrated that it lacked an open mind and a sincere desire to reach agreement.” The judge determined that SIUC “pushed the Union to the point of impasse, simply so it could impose its offer on the bargaining unit.” The decision was supported by evidence from the minutes of the SIUC teams’ internal meetings, where a strategy was laid out to “get to impasse quickly” by saying “‘no no no’ so that we have 3-6 bargaining sessions of no movement.” The decision quotes one team member as saying, “we just have to get them to a point where they (the FA) aren’t proposing and they aren’t agreeing to our proposal – [we] need to box them in.” Meanwhile, according to the ruling, the FA, NTTFA, and ACsE teams continued to present proposals in an effort to move negotiations forward.

During the same period, the Administration publicly portrayed the unions as unreasonably blocking bargaining progress and thus causing an impasse. This ruling counters that portrayal decisively. The illegal impasse and imposition of furlough days resulted in a severe deterioration of relations between the unions and the SIUC Administration. As you know, in November, 2011, the Faculty Association went on strike for five days before a settlement was finally reached.

This decision represents a victory not only for the unions that filed the Unfair Labor Practice charge and the employees they represent, but also for the principles and practice of good faith collective bargaining. By continuing their efforts to reach a mutual agreement during the bargaining period, and by challenging the administration’s illegal imposition through three years of legal procedures, the unions have protected all represented employees from the unilateral decisions of our previous Administration. The decision also reaffirms both parties’ legal obligation to approach collective bargaining as a problem-solving process, rather than as a means of manipulation. In the words of the judge’s ruling, “Good faith bargaining presupposes an open mind and a sincere desire to reach an agreement.”(p. 42)

The ruling comes at a time when collective bargaining for a new contract is under way, and also coincides with the SIU community welcoming a new system President, Dr. Randy Dunn, and a new SIUC Chancellor, Dr. Paul Sarvela. The concurrence of these events presents an opportunity for everyone on our campus. As our new administrators review the actions of the previous four years, they can use this decision to learn from the mistakes of the past, and join the Faculty Association in a constructive and respectful approach to collective bargaining in the future. As SIU and other public universities face increasing budgetary restrictions, the IELRB ruling highlights the central role of good-faith bargaining in developing strategies for meeting these challenges.

Many thanks for this victory are due to FA members for their continued support, to the 2011 bargaining team and officers for all the hours of volunteer work they put in, and to the IEA and its legal team for their efforts on behalf of Tenured and Tenure-track Faculty at SIUC.

You’ll be hearing more about the decision in the coming days, and you may have many questions. The Faculty Association will be holding an informational meeting to discuss the details during the first week of classes. Watch your regular mailbox for a postcard invitation with location and time. Meanwhile, enjoy the rest of your summer!

Best wishes,
Rachel Stocking
Faculty Association President

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