What is binding arbitration?
Connecticut state law prohibits strikes as a means to resolve disputes in contract negotiations. As we do not have the right to strike, interest arbitration is a lawful procedure in Connecticut for adjudicating unresolved disputes in the bargaining process.
Our goal is to reach agreement with the University. But if the Union and University cannot reach agreement on one or more topics, we can take our final positions on each topic to a neutral arbitrator. After listening to both sides make arguments and present evidence supporting our positions, the arbitrator would decide which position will be in the final contract on each of the disputed topics. The arbitrator’s decision would be binding on both parties.
Under the Union’s bylaws, the membership must vote on whether to authorize the bargaining committee to invoke interest arbitration if it deems necessary to win a fair contract. A yes vote would not necessarily mean that the Bargaining Committee invokes interest arbitration, but gives them the power to do so if necessary.
How will an arbitrator be chosen?
Typically the parties get a list of eligible candidates, either from the American Arbitration Association or the state, both parties go through the list and strike down people they don’t like until they get to a finite list. If both parties can’t agree, then the American Arbitration Association will choose one.
How long will this take?
The steps of the process can take a little over three months, including hearings and deliberation by the arbitrator. If the Bargaining Committee invokes this process, they would continue to negotiate as intensively as possible with the University during the arbitration period. The goal would still be to reach agreement with the University before the neutral arbitrator makes a decision. Any tentative agreements we make the with the University prior to arbitration will not be decided by the arbitrator. In short, the sooner we take the vote to start the process, the better.
Because we are state employees, our contract with UConn must be submitted to the state legislature in order to take effect next academic year. Our goal is to submit a contract to the state legislature by the beginning of April to take effect for the Fall 2018 semester. The Bargaining Committee believes that invoking interest arbitration may be necessary to ensure that our contract will take effect by Fall 2018. The vote authorizing the Bargaining Committee to take that step, if necessary, will help make clear to the University that we intend to have a new contract in effect next fall.
Why can’t we legally strike?
State employees in Connecticut do not have the legal right to strike. Arbitration is our legal alternative to striking when we are unable to reach agreement with UConn through the negotiation process. This allows us to continue working while giving us an avenue to settle our contract.
Anyone who is both a member of the union and the bargaining unit is eligible to vote on this decision. Graduate students who are working for UConn can join the union at any time. The outcome of the vote will be decided by the majority of people who vote.
What are we voting for?
We are voting to authorize the Bargaining Committee to invoke binding arbitration if they find it necessary to do so, as well as to accept the tentative agreements the Bargaining Committee and the University have already agreed upon.
How can I let you know what I want in a contract?
If you have not completed a bargaining survey over the summer, you can still complete one now. In addition, we have and will continue to hold information sessions, where you can share your thoughts directly with the Bargaining Committee. During the arbitration hearings, the Bargaining Committee will collect testimonials from the membership to present to the arbitrator.
Why should I give up my vote on the final contract?
It could be the only way to have a fair contract for next fall. As we do not have the right to strike, interest arbitration is the lawful procedure in Connecticut for adjudicating unresolved disputes in the bargaining process and the University, as well as the Union, would have to respect the final decision of the arbitrator.
Keep in mind that the Bargaining Committee would still prefer to reach agreement. Since the University has been slow to reach fair agreements on our proposals and to put in enough time at the bargaining table to do so, the Bargaining Committee strongly believes that having the full authority to invoke arbitration is necessary at this point.
Even if the Bargaining Committee invokes the arbitration process, there will be many opportunities to have a voice in the negotiation and arbitration processes before any final positions were submitted to an arbitrator.