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Librarian Bargaining Update #4 September 7, 2012


Peter Chester, the previous Administration Chief Negotiator for Librarian bargaining, has been promoted to Director of Labor Relations at UC. He has now been replaced by Linda Ashcraft. She has about four years of experience bargaining at UC, but was previously active in HR work with Fortune 500 companies. We look forward to working with her.

As reported earlier, we told the UC team that we intend to discuss the relationship between the withholding of earned merit increases and the proposed pension plan later. In the meantime, we want to see what progress we can make on other issues at the bargaining table. And, as you all know, we are working on developing a campaign to educate the campuses and the public about the outrageous withholding of merits. We delivered a very strong statement at the bargaining table about how disappointed and angry all of our librarians are about the withholding of merits and made it extremely clear that we will be fighting back against the withholding of merit increases earned by about 1/3 of our members. We announced that we will not be signing any new Contract that has a provision allowing UC to withhold merits just because we have the temerity to bargain over salaries. Several members of the Administration bargaining team came to the meeting with copies of our recent postcard, so they have already begun to have some impact.

Last week, Librarians at UCSB finally received letters announcing the outcome of their merit reviews. Unlike all other UC campuses where people got letters announcing their successful merit reviews and a notice that the actual payment of the merit awards would be withheld , the UCSB letters announced that merits would be released and paid retroactively back to July 1, 2012. But apparently, the University Librarian at UCSB was out of step with UCOP policy and was forced to retract the statement that merits would be paid. We are considering some kind of award for the UCSB UL. Taking a page from 1960 slogans, we say “free the Denise 1!)

UC has stated that they will not bargain any financial arrangements, for example compensation, until two things occur: 1) the passage of Proposition 30 – Governor Brown’s proposed new tax and 2) we come to some agreement about the proposed new pension tier at UC.

So we are currently focusing primarily on non-economic issues at the table.  Our current MOU (contract) expires on September 30 and the Administration had proposed extending it for 30 days. We responded that we would consider an extension of the MOU at one of our bargaining sessions later this month; however, that we wanted to see how much progress we could make on other issues during our scheduled bargaining dates in September. As we have explained earlier, we are concerned that the UC Administration might simply put Librarian bargaining on the back burner. So we are seeking a demonstration of good faith in bargaining over non-economic issues.

The Librarian Bargaining (Unit 17) today focused primarily on three issues: 1) the merit review process and criteria, 2) questions about the methodology we used in determining that we are roughly 19% behind CSU Librarians in compensation for comparable experience and education, and 3) the proposed pension changes at UC. On the former, our team answered questions asked by the Administration team about our proposal to combine the current Articles 4, 5, and 6. As reported earlier, primarily we are proposing to combine the three articles to remove redundancy and contradictions, but we are also trying to fix a number of problems with the current MOU. These include, but are not limited to:

  • A provision to exclude people who comment on a file from sitting on review committees that consider those comments
  • Making sure that there is only one set of criteria for reviews that apply equally across all campuses
  • Making sure that, while there can be different procedures for review on different campuses (since campus cultures, past experiences, campus size, etc. may require slight modifications in the procedures used to carry out reviews), that no local procedures can be in conflict with the general review procedures outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
  • Requiring temporary workers to undergo the same reviews as other Librarians when they are advanced in steps or ranks.
  • Clarifying that although those carrying out the reviews may make decisions about what weight to give various evidence in an academic review file, the Librarians undergoing review can put anything in the file that they think provides evidence of their contributions to the four criteria relevant to Librarian reviews. For example, if Librarians want to include union activity, or research on substantive issues, say, for example, in their areas of responsibility, but that is not about librarianship per se, that is their decision and not up to the Review Initiator (RI) or their supervisors.
  • Limiting the formal recommendations in the review process to the RI and appropriate committees, but not several individuals in the chain of authority above the Librarian undergoing a review. We have some campuses and cases where a person gets three or even more individuals making formal recommendations in the process now. Of course, individuals familiar with the Librarian’s work may comment on it, but additional formal recommendations from several individuals who only base their recommendation on what they read in the file is not appropriate and would be prohibited in our proposed new review article.

Another issue we spent time on at the bargaining table was responding to questions about the quantitative study that we had earlier presented to the Administration demonstrating that UC Librarians are underpaid compared to CSU and community college Librarians. Harrison Decker, who did the primary work on that study and all of our team members, did a fantastic job of explaining and defending the methodology we used for the study. More importantly, perhaps, when we realized that the other team appeared to be looking for some way to now back away from their earlier statements accepting that UC is underpaying Librarians at least in the lower and middle ranks, we made the following offer:  If UC wants to conduct a joint study comparing Librarian compensation at UC, CSU, and community colleges, in which the two parties agree on methodology and then are bound by the outcome of the study and its implications for compensation increases at UC, we would be very pleased to conduct a more sophisticated study. Without such an agreement, there is little point on us spending more time and effort to restudy what we already know to be the case based on direct experience and the excellent work that Harrison already did for us. You will not be surprised to hear that the other side quickly declined our offer.

Finally, we spent about an hour hearing from the person at UC responsible for the implementation of the proposed new pension and retiree heath tier. He did a very clear job of presenting exactly what is being proposed. It became clear that almost all current Librarians in Unit 17 would remain on the current pension system, but a significant number of Librarians would be placed on the new system for retiree health. Retiree health coverage is for those who retire short of age 66 when their eligibility for Medicare will kick in. In this system, instead of having UC cover about 80% of the premium costs of retiree health coverage as they currently do, the University will only cover between 0% and 80% of costs depending on the retiree’s age and years of UC service.

Those who have worked for UC for at least five years, i.e. those who are already vested in the retirement system, and whose age and years of service add up to 50 will remain in the current retiree health system.  We had originally thought about 50% of Librarians would be moved to the new system, but it may be that the percentage of those affected is closer to only 20%. We have submitted an information request to determine exactly who will and will not be affected by the proposed changes to retiree health.

If Librarians on your campus would like a presentation by someone from the UC-AFT or from the UC person who did the presentation for us at the bargaining table, let us know and we will arrange a presentation.

So, in general, Librarian bargaining at UC is going slowly at present, but we are working to make advances – first in non-economic articles and then on issues including the withholding of merits and compensation. Most importantly, we are launching a major effort to publicly challenge the withholding of merits at UC and we are seeking your active involvement in that struggle. Please step up and get involved when you are contacted about efforts to publicize the merit withholding abuse at UC.


Mike Rotkin

Chief Negotiator for Unit 17