Thoughts on the New Agreement

Patricia V. Markunas, MSCA President

MSCA Perspective, April 2001

I am pleased to report to you that, at its meeting of April 6th, the MSCA Board of Directors voted to recommend ratification of the new 2001-2003 BHE/MSCA Agreement by you, the membership.

This agreement was negotiated despite some of the most antiunion, anti-academic positions and tactics used by any employer, anywhere, and during a period of intensely difficult internal union politics. The membership made enormous sacrifices during the past three years to provide support to the bargaining committee's positions to preserve tenure and academic freedom and to achieve significant economic gains in salary and benefits. Your participation in strategies and activities intended to bring pressure on the employer to change their destructive proposals and your patience throughout the entire process enabled the MSCA to achieve an excellent economic package while insuring due process and just cause provisions in the newly negotiated post-tenure review process.

When I was elected to the presidency in November, I took the margin of my victory as a mandate to do everything possible to settle the contract. I always believed that the deal was at the table and that a renewed effort at hard bargaining would bring results. The employer continued to seesaw between positions of compromise and bad faith bargaining tactics, right up until the last meeting of the parties on March 26th. The bargaining committee persevered in getting as good a deal as possible for the membership, by sticking to its positions and not walking away even when the circumstances warranted it.

This contract has some remarkable accomplishments and changes with long-term implications for the faculty and librarians at the state colleges. For the first time, we bargained two one-year contract extensions with economic provisions that prevented zeroes for any year and paid promotions, terminal degree adjustments, chairs' stipends and, at least on most campuses, professional development. We achieved automatic across-the-board increases in the minimum salary formula, promotion adjustments, and other economic components in the contract, a goal first envisioned when the salary equity formula was negotiated in 1987. In exchange for our continued participation in campus decision-making, payments of chairs' stipends, promotion and terminal degree adjustments, and professional development at ALL campuses will continue despite the expiration of the contract in June, 2003. The sick leave buyback benefit, static for years, will increase dramatically for unit members retiring over the next two years.

On its side of the deal, the employer insisted on post-tenure review and merit payments. These changes represent alterations in the culture of our institutions that could be perceived quite negatively by the membership once the general euphoria about the settlement and its economic benefits have subsided. The college presidents have been given two powerful tools with the potential to cause great division and disharmony among the faculty and librarians at the state colleges. We will see how each college's chief executive officer responds to this potential and act accordingly.

In closing, I want to thank every member who supported our positions and strategies over the past three years. Your picketing at BHE meetings, your refusal to participate in governance and voluntary activities, your writing letters and signing petitions, your contacting college presidents, legislators and the governor to demand good faith bargaining by the employer, your participation in any and every union activity during this time, made it happen. On behalf of the Board and the Bargaining Committee, I thank you.We could not have done it without your help.