New course for union in contract negotiations

For months, faculty union president Roy Weatherford stood strong by his arguments for a new collective bargaining agreement.

At a Faculty Senate meeting Wednesday, Weatherford said he came to the realization last month that he had to choose another route.

Instead of negotiating for a new contract by allowing the Public Employee Relations Commission to certify the faculty union, the union would allow the Board of Trustees to voluntarily recognize it.

“I am therefore no longer requesting that the university agree with us in amended certification,” Weatherford said. “As Immanuel Kant once pointed out long ago, ‘ought implies can,’ and it makes no moral sense to criticize someone for not doing something that they cannot do anyway.”

Weatherford said the faculty union is preparing to start negotiations for a new contract that may retain the collective bargaining agreement, which expired Jan. 7. But if USF administration objects to the union’s position, another course of action will have to be taken.

“We may start with the existing contract if the union’s position prevails in the next several court rulings,” Weatherford said. “And if they don’t bite the bullet and make a ruling, we will charge the university with unfair labor practices. But, in one way or another, it will be resolved in legal form.”

However, Weatherford said the union may have to start from scratch to establish a new contract. He believes the administration wants to keep about 80 percent of the current contract.

Any charges filed against the university, Weatherford said, would go to PERC, rather than the court. Then PERC would have to decide whether the faculty union’s status quo applies in the case.

Before any bargaining begins, Weatherford said papers have to be filed with PERC, followed by a series of meetings. If the administration doesn’t want to retain a majority of the previous contract, it could take six months to a year to establish a new contract, Weatherford said.

Another concern Weatherford said he has with the negotiation process is how the Faculty Senate’s decisions will be presented.

Weatherford said, in the bargaining process, the union’s strength depends upon how much support it has from faculty. If the Faculty Senate votes against the union, it would undercut the union’s bargaining position.

“It would be harder for us to win if the administration did not believe the faculty supported our position,” Weatherford said.

One case where the Faculty Senate and the faculty union need to avoid conflict is in the development of the permanent rules addressing misconduct, academic freedom and grievances.

After the union’s contract expired, administrators implemented a set of temporary emergency rules for 90 days, which were extended for an additional 90 days April 11.

“The proper thing to do is to see that the rules proposed by the Faculty Senate mirror the rules, when appropriate, in the collective bargaining agreement,” Weatherford said.

He added that faculty members could benefit by dividing the Faculty Senate and the union to make stronger arguments from each side individually.

“(That) is fairly a common tactic in academic collective bargaining processes,” Weatherford said.

In other news from the meeting, the Faculty Senate permanent rules committee made an amendment to personnel rules. In the case of a conflict between the permanent rules and rules in the collective bargaining agreement, the collective bargaining agreement will take precedent to the rules.