Dear Fellow Goddard College Staff Union Members,
We are writing to update you on our first bargaining committee meeting with GC management and their attorney held at the college Tuesday March 12, 2013. We will be providing regular updates to notify our members of how thing are progressing at the bargaining table. We are also looking for feedback and will be seeking participation from members in any actions that may be necessary to bolster our work at the bargaining table.
Those present were all of the members of our bargaining committee, our 4 primary members, M.E. Lawlor, Lise Couture, Dvora Zipkin, and Jonathan Shapiro and our two alternates, Adam Woogmaster and Josh Hayes-High. Our UAW representatives, President/Servicing Rep Ron Patenaude and Vice President/Servicing Rep Ryan Quinn were also at the table.
Management’s representatives included Attorney Joe McNeil (of McNeil Leddy & Sheahan PC of Burlington, VT), Faith Brown GC CFO, Mickey Cronin GC Academic Dean, and Jill Muhr, GC Director of Human Resources.
We want to start by saying that while we had a great victory in winning with such an overwhelming majority in our election, as you know, that is only half the battle. Winning a first contract that is fair and equitable and JUST that helps us gain real inclusion in discussions and the decision making process will be as difficult. As we learned through the election process though, anything is possible when we work together, join forces, speak with one voice and make ourselves heard.
The session opened with our team outlining areas we felt would need to be addressed in the negotiations, such as a lack of evaluations and job descriptions for staff. We also stressed bringing more equity and access to benefits to all staff, particularly “temp” and hourly workers. We also made a couple of primary proposals such as meeting times and that our members be paid or get release time just as are the GC Faculty Union bargaining committee members. While the tone and tenor of the discussions was professional and polite, there were several issues that became immediately apparent that could be impediments to having an honest and open bargaining process.
The first was Goddard’s lawyer almost immediately dismissing our proposal that the members of our team be paid and/or get release time as part of the bargaining team. The most troubling aspect of management’s dismissal of our proposal was their lawyer’s portrayal of it being a “statutory obligation” for management to engage in negotiations. The inference was that our members didn’t have to be at the table and the union representatives were sufficient; however, it is our assertion that the bargaining committee members are critical representatives of our union in contract negotiations.
As Ron, our Union President pointed out in response, there is no legal or other requirement whatsoever that a company employs or uses a lawyer, yet the college management is willing to incur that cost. Ron also noted that it’s been said that companies don’t use lawyers to “comply” with the law – they use them to get around the law. It was also another reminder of the divide between top administrators and the rest of the Goddard Community as it was clear that management’s team were being paid for their time spent for preparation and in negotiations.
For many of us, this was a continuation of one of the reasons many of us voted to join the UAW: that we feel our roles and contributions to the function and success of the college are not recognized or respected by upper management.
Equally as troubling was management’s proposed time for future meetings: 4-8pm, which we felt was clearly intended to make it difficult for our members to participate in the negotiating process. For many of us, it also felt that it was a retaliatory action intended by management to say, “You wanted a union and you won, but we still don’t have to listen to you or address your issues and we’re going to make it difficult for you to participate in the process.”
We received “updates” on the college’s finances and the recent GC Board of Trustees (BOT) meetings from GC CFO Faith Brown, which painted a rather bleak financial picture, as we had expected. She also portrayed the administration as having somehow gone to bat for the staff because, in addition to asking the BOT for increases to the budget deficit, they also suggested that there be no layoffs.
For us, this was another indication that management does not seem to understand that Goddard works because we do (Staff and Faculty), and that we view much of the college’s financial difficulties as being attributed to increases in management ranks and the increased use of consultants and associated costs with questionably measurable results.
That disconnect was apparent again when in response to questions, Faith claimed that there is “shared sacrifice” at Goddard. While we have seen positions cut and increased workloads for our members, it seems that at the same time upper management (who enjoy disproportionately higher salaries) has increased in numbers, leaving us to question where the “shared sacrifice” is.
Finally, among the “ground rules” management has proposed through their paid attorney, is a condition that we not discuss or provide information to the media or other members of the community unless or until, “we have reached impasse.” This is clearly intended to impede our ability to leverage or exercise our power in the community if we feel we need to, and is also intended to impede or prohibit our engagement in the rights we are entitled to under the National Labor Relations Act, Section 7, rights to engage in “collective, concerted activity.” We believe it speaks volumes about management’s continued failure to recognize not just our rights, but also the history of transparent, open communications and a critical and democratic dialogue at Goddard. We will not accept any stipulations that limit our members’ rights or impede our ability to bargain a fair, equitable and JUST first contract for ALL of our members.
Thank you in advance for what we know will be your strong and continued support.
The UAW/Goddard College Staff Union Bargaining Team