- Why is the bargaining committee asking us to authorize this process?
- What is interest arbitration?
- What exactly would the vote do?
- Does this mean we are giving up on reaching agreement with UConn?
- Why now?
- Does this mean we would not be able to vote to ratify the final contract?
- How long will this take?
- Where does the bargaining process currently stand?
- What are tentative agreements?
- How will an arbitrator be chosen?
- Why can’t we lawfully strike?
- Who votes?
- What are we voting for?
- How can I let you know what I want in a contract?
- How will the voting take place? (Voting is now closed).
As we have reported since the summer, UConn has been moving very slowly in our negotiations for a contract. We have made every effort to move them to schedule more time: 70 percent of GAs chose GEU-UAW as our Union last spring; more than 1,100 GAs filled out bargaining surveys over the summer, creating a huge mandate for our bargaining agenda; more than 1,100 GAs signed an open letter urging UConn to schedule more time for negotiations and reach agreement in a timely manner; delegations of GAs have visited bargaining and the Board of Trustees meeting to make clear the desire to have a fair contract; and GAs have been doing testimonials on our Facebook page to make clear our priorities. The bargaining committee feels that it is necessary to consider every possible option to win a fair contract, including the membership authorizing entering the interest arbitration process if the committee deems that necessary.
What is interest arbitration?
Connecticut state law does not grant the right to strike in the public sector. Instead, state law allows for interest arbitration, which is a process that enables a fair resolution of contract negotiations when the Union and employer cannot reach agreement on one or more issues. Under this process, which either the Union or the employer can initiate, each side would present arguments in favor of our position on each outstanding issue to a neutral arbitrator. After presenting these arguments and evidence, each side can submit “last best offers” on each topic to the arbitrator. The arbitrator would then decide, on each issue, which proposal will be part of the final contract. The final contract would also include any agreed-upon language that the Union and the University had reached prior to submitting last best offers to the arbitrator.
What exactly would the vote do?
Voting yes would mean you support the bargaining committee having the authority to initiate the interest arbitration process if they deem it necessary. The vote does not make interest arbitration happen; it just would give the committee the backing of the membership in entering the process as another effort in winning a fair contract.
Does this mean we are giving up on reaching agreement with UConn?
No. Our goal will continue to be to reach agreement with UConn on a fair contract and we will make every effort to do so. We believe it is in our interest and the University’s interest to do so. It is very common for issues to be resolved during the arbitration process. We also believe invoking the arbitration process could speed up the negotiation process with UConn in order to have a fair contract that goes into effect by Fall 2015.
A contract whether reached by agreement or through an arbitrators award needs to be presented to the General Assembly before it becomes final, and in 2015, the General Assembly goes out of session on June 3rd. So it is important that we do the best we can to get our contract or award to the General Assembly on time so it can be effective before the start of the September 2015 semester.
In fact, if we get a contract or award to the General Assembly at least 30 days prior to session’s end, the General Assembly need not even vote on the contract for it to be considered approved. Approval is automatic unless there is an affirmative vote by either chamber of the General Assembly to reject, which is extremely rare. Between 30 days and the end of session, we would need a vote by both houses to approve the contract or award for it to take effect, and that can be hard with the press of business at the end of the legislative session.
If we miss the deadline altogether, then we would likely be unable to get a contract approved until the next session of the General Assembly which begins in February of 2016.
Does this mean we would not be able to vote to ratify the final contract?
Not necessarily. If we reach agreement during the arbitration process, which we would make every effort to happen if we go to the arbitration process, that agreement would go to a membership ratification vote.
How long will this take?
Arbitration could take months, which is why we recommend giving us the authority to start the process if we deem it necessary. There is a hearing period and then a deliberation period. We will continue to negotiate as intensively as possible with the University during the arbitration period. We may reach agreement with the University before the neutral arbitrator makes a decision. Any tentative agreements we make with the University prior to an arbitrator’s award would become part of the final contract.
Where does the bargaining process currently stand?
Despite having had our union recognized by the University on April 17th, we have only had a total of 20 hours of bargaining with UConn. We have presented proposals on 21 topics, and received counter proposals on most of them. However, we have seen very little movement and only reached tentative agreements on three topics: contract severability, the formation of a union-management committee, and provisions for workspace and materials.
What are tentative agreements?
Tentative agreements are topics of bargaining on which both the Union and the University have reached an agreement. If there is a final agreement on all topics of the contract, members will vote to ratify those as a contract. If there is an arbitrator’s award, it would include any of the tentative agreements we reached prior to the last best offers being presented to the arbitrator.
How will an arbitrator be chosen?
Typically the parties agree on someone they both trust. If there is no such agreement, we get a list of eligible candidates from the American Arbitration Association. Both parties go through the list and eliminate people they don’t like until there is an agreed-upon arbitrator. If both parties can’t agree, then the American Arbitration Association will choose one.
Why can’t we lawfully strike?
Under state law, state employees in Connecticut do not have the right to strike. Arbitration is our legal alternative to striking. This allows us to continue working while giving us an avenue to settle our contract.
Any graduate student who has signed up as a union supporter and is in the bargaining unit is eligible to vote on this decision. Graduate assistants (GAs, TAs, or RAs) 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 deem it strategically necessary, 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 will continue to hold information sessions, where you can share your thoughts directly with the Bargaining Committee. If you wish to share your experiences, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How will the voting take place?
The voting will take place through an online ballot starting now. The link to the online ballot will be sent via email. If you did not receive an email, contact us at email@example.com.
Update: Voting is now closed. GEU-UAW members have voted by an overwhelming 96.2% margin to authorize the Bargaining Committee to invoke arbitration if they deem it necessary to win a fair contract, with a majority of UConn GAs participating in the vote.