Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Retort to Bettsey Barhorst

In response to the fear-inducing* letter sent out to all P/t Union members from the office of Bettsey Barhorst last week:

Dear Part-time Faculty Member,

Earlier this week, you likely received a letter from Bettsey Barhorst, encouraging you to contact the union leadership and encourage us to schedule a vote on ratification.  The letter contains several factual inaccuracies, which we felt we should bring to your attention.

First, let’s concisely reiterate the reason we are delaying ratification.  In April, the college entered into an agreement with the Full Time Union that allows full time faculty to bump probationary part-time faculty out of courses and to claim those courses as overload.  Rather than openly and honestly informing us of this proposal while we were bargaining, the management concealed this information from us, and we were only able to discover the proposal when the full time union posted it on their website as part of their ratification packet.  It is ironic that Ms. Barhorst now speaks of the obligations inherent in good faith bargaining.

As I indicated in the letter we sent on July 2, 2010, we attempted to prevent the ratification of this toxic provision through numerous means.  These efforts were taking place parallel to our own bargaining process.  At no time did we concede to this new course assignment language in bargaining.  It never even came to the table.  After the Board ratified the Full Time contract in April, we brought in outside legal counsel.  We have never claimed that we were unaware of the provision.  It has always been our contention that the full timer language constituted an unfair labor practice.  It has always been our intention to contest it.  I personally told the MATC Board of Trustees on both March 17th and April 14th that our union viewed that agreement as an unfair labor practice.

After reaching our various tentative agreements (TAs) with management, we again met with our outside legal counsel, Lester Pines, about the unfair labor practice claim.  After researching the law, we concluded that ratifying the rest of the tentative agreements would be damaging to our unfair labor practice complaint. 

The bottom line is that, as long as we have not ratified the TAs, management cannot claim that we have waived bargaining over the course assignment issue.  If we have not ratified the TAs, we will probably win our unfair labor practice case.  If we do ratify the TAs, we run the risk of losing the unfair labor practice case.

Not surprisingly, the management REALLY wants us to ratify the TAs.  Also not surprisingly, they have refused to address the full time overload issue with us.  Their offer to discuss the issue only after ratification is disingenuous.  After ratification, we have little recourse if the college simply refuses to move on the issue. 

As to the second page of Ms. Barhorst’s letter, I believe the best response is to simply share the rest of the information that she neglected to mention. 

In the first paragraph, it is true that the college has always had assignment authority.  The new agreement takes the authority to assign overload away from the Center Deans and grants it directly to the full time faculty.  Voluntary overload has historically been compensated at rates ranging from the part-time course rate, to the regular full-time rate, and in very rare circumstances at 150% of the full time rate.  Involuntary overload is paid at 150%, and is unaffected by the contested Memorandum of Understanding   The agreement ended the practice in some centers of paying FT faculty at the part time rate for voluntary overload, and gave full time faculty control over the amount of overload they take.  There is no way this agreement could be characterized as a “cost savings.”  The attempt to characterize an agreement that takes courses away from part-time faculty at $2500/course and gives them to full-time faculty at $6000-7000/course as a “considerable saving to the taxpayers” simply does not comport with reality. 

In her second paragraph, Ms. Barhorst seems to suggest that the union’s concern that the FT language will result in part-time faculty losing work is inaccurate.  She suggests that this is because of a tentative agreement the college proposed which “clearly protects a level of work for bargaining unit employees.”  The tentative agreement Ms. Barhorst references states that the college will establish a “target” of no less than 25% of the courses at the college being taught by part-time faculty.  Currently, part-time faculty teach about 50% of the courses at the college.  In addition, there is no clear recourse if the college falls below the “target.”  The TA in question offers no protection against substantial job losses by PT faculty.

In her third paragraph, Ms. Barhorst suggests that a refusal to present the TAs for ratification is a “refusal to bargain.”  An interesting position, coming from a management team that is refusing to negotiate over the course assignment language they attempted to unilaterally impose on the bargaining unit.  Quite contrary to Ms. Barhorst’s assertion, the union is quite ready to bargain this issue with the administration and it is the administration that is refusing.  In addition, I think most of you are sophisticated enough to know that “stalled salary increases” mean little when you aren’t working.  Furthermore, I think most of you understand the concept of “back pay” in the event the contract was not settled before the fall semester.

In closing, in this letter Bettsey condescendingly suggests to you that she is a better judge and advocate of your interests than your union bargaining team.  That she thinks you might actually buy that line tells you everything you need to know about her opinion of part-time faculty.

In Solidarity,

Mike Kent
President- MATC Part Time Teachers’ Union 

*We occasionally like to use sarcasm on this blog.  This would be one such occasion.  Mrs. Barhorst - you cannot frighten us.  We stand strong.

No comments:

Post a Comment