03/18/20 COVID-19 Discussions between Union & Administration
Last Thursday, the Union presented a Demand to Bargain to the Wayne State University Administration. The purpose of the Demand was to formally bring the Union and Administration together, on behalf of our members, to work together as the University transitions to serving our students remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic—while protecting the safety and rights of our members.
The challenges we face in this unprecedented rapidly dynamic period of change require collaborative and innovative efforts from the entire WSU community. While our members continue to contribute to the large number of efforts being undertaken to ensure continuity of teaching, advising, and supporting our students, your Union representatives have begun negotiating with the Administration on your behalf. As we have observed, changes are coming on daily (if not hourly) basis. Below is a brief summary from recent days:
On Monday we, myself, our Executive Director, Michelle Fecteau and Ricardo Villarosa, our Chief Negotiator for the upcoming collective bargaining negotiations met in a conference call with senior WSU officials, including Carolyn Hafner, Interim Director of Human Relations, and Boris Baltes, Associate Provost for Academic Relations—and representatives of other unions.
We discussed a number of issues that have been raised by the actions, the WSU COVID-19 web site and other announcements, related to the dramatic actions that have been taken to address the challenges presented by the closures at the University. We raised issues related to the safety and rights of our members in this time of transition in University operations. Ms. Hafner willingly agreed to adjust the administrative language related to these matters on issues that we raised. Since that group meeting, we have continued to work directly with the Provost’s Office, to ensure consistent communication and implementation of the negotiated changes as they occur.
Ultimately, our members, faculty and academic staff who must work with students remotely, and others on a face-to-face basis, must have the technical support to carry out their responsibilities. Academic staff must be enabled to reasonably establish the terms of their work-at-home situation with their supervisors. Faculty who are shifting mid-semester to online delivery of classes must be supported with regard to assessment tools, such as SETs, and related peer/administration evaluation practices. Other discussions have related issues arising from disruptions to research activities for faculty members. We are in ongoing discussions with the Provost’s Office in relation to protection against arbitrary administrative actions by individual supervisors in these negotiations.
As matters progress, we will work to provide updates of issues that will affect us all. During these days the Union office will be staffed only sparingly as we will be working from home much of the time. However, we will monitor our emails and will continue responding as promptly as possible to any inquiries that we receive.
 When the Wayne State University Administration ordered that the Spring Break would be extended a week and that all classes would cease meeting in person, and be taught online, the Union issued a demand to bargain the terms and conditions of employment that would affect the members of our bargaining unit. The demand to bargain is a formal mechanism used when an Administration acts unilaterally in matters that are legally mandatory subjects of bargaining. In other words, it forces the Administration to negotiate changes with the Union—even in rapidly changing dynamic situations.
Charles J. ParrishProfessor, Political SciencePresident, WSU AAUP-AFT Local 6075Vice President At-Large, AFT Michigan
Michelle FecteauExecutive DirectorAAUP-AFT Local 6075
Ricardo Villarosa, Esq.Grievance Coordinator & Chief NegotiatorAAUP-AFT Local 6075