Librarian (Unit 17) History
The Higher Education Employer Employee Relations Act (HEERA) was passed in 1979. This gave employees at UC and CSU the legal right to bargain collectively with their respective employers, following an election of an exclusive bargaining representative. In 1983, the librarians at UC were determined by the Public Employment Relations Board to be a bargaining unit with a community of interest. However, a number of librarians were designated as “supervisors” and were excluded from the bargaining unit and from voting in the representation election. The election was held and in June 1983, we won with a narrow margin of victory – 12 votes. The next step was to develop a list of issues we wanted to bargain for. This was done and a bargaining team was selected; bargaining began on December 7, 1983 and went on with almost weekly sessions until July 14, 1984. From Pearl Harbor Day to Bastille Day, we met with the University’s bargaining team and tried to reach agreement on what would become our first contract.
The Bargaining Unit
Although at the time of the election, a number of librarians were already excluded from the bargaining unit, the union position has always been that everyone below the AUL level should be included in the unit. (This is the case at CSU.) Two members of the bargaining team went to every campus and discussed with local administrators and labor relations staff the composition of the bargaining unit on that campus. A number of people were moved back into the unit. The problem was that each campus wanted to define “supervisor” in very different ways – some claiming that supervising a student assistant was enough – others agreeing that a unit head position would be the boundary. The decisions as to who is in and out of the unit are still made on a campus by campus basis, so that the same guidelines are not applied uniformly.
The original contract proposals presented to us by the University were not written with attention to the reality of librarians’ work. On January 9, 1984, the union received a letter from UC Collective Bargaining Services which stated: “The University is very interested in negotiating a labor agreement which is silent about governance issues and professional concerns. We realize that to do so we will have to maintain a sense of trust and mutual dependency. We are convinced that if the parties can reach agreement on how these issues should be handled, they can agree to experiment by keeping those agreed upon items outside the labor agreement.” Rightly or wrongly, the union agreed to trust the University and an addendum outlining principles that would be incorporated into the Academic Personnel Manual was included in the printing of the Memorandum of Understanding. Two specific points that we agreed to leave out of the contract related to salary: the continuance of a salary scale based upon an individual’s performance, not the presence or absence of administrative duties and the understanding that LAUC’s agreement would be obtained before any APM changes would be made. We also proposed that the points be included in the APM and they eventually became Section 360A.
The initial contract, signed in 1984, has been amended over the years through “reopener” negotiations, where only a few articles are open for discussion and the rest of the contract remained unchanged. It was not possible to reach agreement on all issues that were brought to the bargaining table in 1984 or subsequently. The union made a conscious decision during the first round of bargaining to leave certain issues outside of the contract – namely peer review. LAUC had established itself as the governance body responsible for carrying out the peer review process within the guidelines outlined in the Academic Personnel Manual, and since we did not want to destroy a system that seemed to be working for all librarians (in and out of the bargaining unit), Article IV, Process for Promotion and Advancement, dealt only with standardizing procedures that should be in place on each campus. This was done to insure more equal treatment for librarians on all the campuses and to address local concerns brought to the bargaining table by team members from affected campuses.
The funding for professional activities was ensured in Article III. This money was defined as a base which could be augmented by ULs. The significance of this was that in the years prior to bargaining there were times when NO money was given to librarians for professional activities or staff development. By having the money committed in the contract, it could not be withheld at an administrator’s whim. This actually happened at UCLA in the pre-bargaining days when automation was absorbing all available funds.
Article III also established the principle of “reasonable flexibility and reasonable individual discretion for librarians in the use of University time…” This is important for us as academics. It is a recognition that we will meet our commitments (e.g., reference desk hours, committee meetings, instruction sessions, etc.) but that we can also work on activities that are necessary for us to function as academics (i.e., professional activity, university service, research and other creative activity).
In 1987, the union proposed language that would describe/define the nature of the work performed by covered employees. The language we proposed was in fact the exact language from APM 360, which defines the work done by appointees to the librarian series. The University refused to accept this proposal. The University’s reluctance to allow a definition of the work performed by members of the bargaining unit remains a mystery. An obvious condition of employment is to know what work is expected of the employee. The union’s desire to maintain the high standards that set the University of California apart from other institutions of higher education was the motivating force behind our proposals in the Recognition Article. We also were told several times at the bargaining table that the University’s negotiators had no authorization to accept certain proposals made by the union.
In 1988, the major article under discussion was Layoff, with the union position that layoffs should be avoided at all costs, but having librarians faced with a layoff due to lack of funds being transferred to an open position on the affected campus. The university position was that “layoff units” be very narrowly defined so that there would not be as much protection for librarians facing possible layoff, since there would not likely be a vacant position in the layoff unit, especially in libraries with only one librarian.
In 1991-92, because of budget cutbacks, merit/promotion pay increases approved for implementation on July 1, 1992 were not paid until 1995. When the Academic Senate got their money in their November 30, 1994 paychecks, the union filed a grievance on behalf of librarians negatively affected by this.
In 1993 the University proposed to defer merit pay for Unit 17 from July 1, 1993 to January 1, 1994.
Also in 1993, the university announced that all employees would have their salaries reduced by 5%, to cover the continuing budget shortfall. Although the union was willing to negotiate about the issue, and even told the university that we would be willing to work with them to achieve the sought-after savings in return for some non-monetary changes to the contract (such as defining our work) in return for the 5% pay cut, all librarians in the bargaining unit were notified that they would be laid off 5%. This action was an example of the university’s unwillingness to work with its employees. We filed a grievance on the basis that the university had violated the Layoff Article which laid out actions that should be taken to avoid layoffs by not even making an attempt to follow those guidelines.
In early 2000 we reopened the entire contract, with the goal of improving the existing contract, offering more protections to unit members and refining contract language to be less ambiguous and more easily understood by everyone. In addition, we wanted to bargain about the salary scale adjustments proposed by the University Librarians. Negotiations were painstaking, with not much progress made for the first six months. In June, we went to impasse and a mediator was appointed by the Public Employment Relations Board to work with the Union and the University to resolve our differences. Mediation continued through the summer. Concessions were made on both sides and we reached tentative agreement in November, 2000. One of the major changes in the current contract, which will expire on June 20, 2003, is the incorporation of language from the Academic Personnel Manual pertaining to librarians into the contract. At this time, we are still watching to see how this is working.
Salary is always an important issue. Historically, librarians’ (and other non-Senate academics’) annual range adjustments were calculated at the same percentage used for Senate faculty increases. In fact, in at least one year in the 1970s, academics got no increase when staff did get some. During the initial bargaining, the union felt that this past practice was fair and we incorporated such language into the contract. Then, in 1995, the University announced that this would no longer be the case and that non-Senate academics would receive the same range adjustment as staff while Senate faculty would get a much larger increase. The University did have to bargain about this change with the union and we were able to get a retroactive increase that was equal to the percent increase given the faculty for that year. However, the bifurcation of Senate and non-Senate salary increases was incorporated into the final contract in July 1996. Soon after, the University proposed to pay administrative stipends to librarians outside the bargaining unit. Although both LAUC and the union vehemently opposed this proposal (as they had successfully done the three previous times it was proposed over the last two decades), the University implemented it anyway.
“The Union” is sometimes perceived as a distant entity. However, the reality is that we are the union and only by our actions does anything get done. The University knows how many librarians are union members and acts accordingly. What the union can accomplish depends on the effort and energy that union members contribute. At UCLA, LAUC-LA approved a recommendation that “union activity” be listed under Criterion 3, University and Community Service. This was accepted by the University Librarian and UCLA librarians list their membership and activity accordingly. As we engage in the first bargaining of the new millennium, we need to show the university that librarians covered by the contract support it through increasing our membership.