Historic vote on MSU-Bozeman's first contract

Oct. 26 - Today is a big day in the history of MEA-MFT and especially for our affiliate at MSU-Bozeman as members there vote to ratify their first contract.


Read more in the following Bozeman Chronicle article:


Historic vote today on first MSU faculty contracts

GAIL SCHONTZLER, Bozeman Daily Chronicle | Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Professors and instructors at Montana State University will vote today on whether to approve the first faculty union contracts ever negotiated at the Bozeman campus.


“We’re very excited. This is historic,” said Sandy Osborne, president of the Associated Faculty of MSU, the union representing roughly 400 tenured and tenure-track faculty. “We hope our members vote yes to ratify it.”


Osborne, a professor of family and consumer sciences, said a key advantage of the contract is that it would secure in a binding document the faculty’s rights and protections, things that may have been followed in some MSU departments in the past but not in others.


Kari Cargill, president of the union representing non-tenure-track faculty, said the contract gives roughly 200 adjuncts rights and protections they’ve never had before.


“Our members are thrilled,” said Cargill, an adjunct instructor who has taught microbiology for 22 years at MSU. The bargaining team was unanimous in supporting it, she added.


Yet physics professor John Neumeier, chair-elect of the MSU Faculty Senate and a union member, was less impressed with the contracts.


“It doesn’t seem an improvement over our current situation,”Neumeier said. “I don’t think it is a very strong document.”


Union members will vote in person today from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in room 230 of the Strand Union Building. In addition, ballots will be mailed in by faculty teaching around the state, such as nursing faculty in Kalispell and Great Falls. All ballots will be counted starting at 3 p.m. Friday.


Kevin McRae, associate commissioner of higher education, negotiated for the management side for over 18 months, which he said was rather fast for first-time contracts. McRae said the tentative contracts would provide “fair pay and pay raises” and provide “reasonable balance,” for example, between management’s right to direct workloads and the faculty’s right to appeal workload concerns.


“From our perspective, it means MSU’s faculty unions and MSU administration share the same goals and worked hard to put them in the contracts,” McRae said.


Both proposed contracts would give faculty the same pay raises that all other MSU union and non-union employees are getting – a 1 percent plus $500 raise in base pay this academic year and a 2 percent plus $500 raise in the 2012-2013 year.


The contract for tenurable professors sets out pay raises of $3,000 for promotions to associate professor and $6,000 for promotions to full professor.


In addition, it sets aside a pool of $100,000 each year to award $1,000 in merit pay raises to 100 faculty members, plus another $100,000 for market raises of $1,000 for 100 professors whose pay is barely above or even below that of newly hired faculty.


The contract for tenurable faculty covers everything from sabbatical pay to grievances, workload appeals, academic freedom, leaves, intellectual property, consensual romantic relationships and stopping the tenure clock for childbirth, adoption or caring for a disabled family member. The union agrees not to strike, and the university not to lock out faculty.


The contract for adjunct faculty says they would receive“normal” pay raises, like other MSU employees, in the future. Adjuncts could apply for merit pay and professional development awards. They wouldn’t get pay raises for promotions, but salary floors would be included for each rank.


MSU faculty voted to create two unions in April 2009. Bozeman was the last campus in the University System without a faculty union.


For decades, the Faculty Senate has represented the views of professors to the MSU administration, but with creation of the unions, its role is receding to just academic issues, not issues like merit pay.


Neumeier said he sees in the contract no improvement in benefits and salary raises that are the same as the president announced for all employees. Faculty would have to pay union dues of 0.8 percent of their salaries, or $400 a year for someone earning $50,000. Non-union members would have to pay a union representation fee of slightly less.


Adjuncts are considered temporary or part-time instructors with no job security, but in reality many, like Cargill, have taught atMSU for decades. “We have never had a document dedicated to us,” she said.


Osborne said the “overwhelming majority” of faculty who have emailed or stopped to talk with her are “very excited” about the contract.


The proposed contracts can be read at www.afmsu.org.

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