Retirees Association

DBJ: Wright State trustees accept fact-finder’s recommendations for new faculty contract

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Excerpt from the Dayton Business Journal

The Wright State University board of trustees has accepted recommendations made by an independent fact finder who was brought in to help resolve an ongoing labor dispute with more than 500 faculty members.

On Thursday, the board voted unanimously to accept the fact-finding report, which was conducted by labor and employment arbitrator/mediator David Stanton. The acceptance of the report signals that the board wants to include Stanton's recommendations in the next faculty contract, which the two sides have been negotiating since January 2017.

However, the union that represents faculty, the American Association of University Professors — Wright State University Chapter, is recommending its members reject the report. The union says the report was "overwhelmingly negative" on behalf of faculty, and that Stanton's recommendations "would damage the academic mission of the university if accepted."

“These recommendations would do permanent damage to Wright State, to our students, and to the community," stated Noeleen McIlvenna, contract administration officer for AAUP-WSU. "All faculty must stand together and draw a line in the sand now.”

Recommendations made by the fact finder included unpaid furlough, or "cost-savings" days for employees; no wage increases; no increases or decreases in minimum salaries; "drastic and immediate changes" in the way health care benefits are handled; and a shorter time frame for Wright State administrators to lay off employees, among other findings.

The union says these recommendations benefit the administration and not employees, though Stanton did rule in the faculty's favor on merit pay and non-tenure eligibility appointments.

Each issue is related in some way to the university's financial troubles, which has resulted in layoffs and a $91 million budget shortfall between 2013 and 2017. McIlvenna says there is an apparent contradiction in the trustees' stance on the university's financial health, which may have affected Stanton's decisions.

“They told the fact finder in their legal brief this summer that Wright State would not recover for 20 years. Meanwhile, they were telling everyone else that, due to their sensible management, they had ‘done the impossible’ and saved the university’s finances," she stated. "The fact finder made his drastic decisions based on information that the board admitted at their last public meeting was ‘misleading.'"

In the trustees' perspective, the recommendations did not give either party all of what they were seeking, and it did not give all of the long-term solutions they were hoping to agree on during negotiations. However, trustees say the report did provide some short-term relief for the university to help facilitate financial recovery.

Trustees also noted how the fact-finder’s resolutions included language that made it clear many of the changes would not be permanent and would be subject to renegotiation at the end of the contract.

“The trustees felt that approving this report was in the best interest of our students and the university and it will help Wright State move forward,” said Wright State University President Cheryl Schrader. “I think both parties would have preferred to have negotiated a longer settlement.”

Wright State administration and AAUP-WSU finished a stage of the bargaining process known as fact-finding last summer. This process came at the end of negotiations where an independent fact-finder heard and reviewed evidence from both parties to make a recommendation on open contract items.

The fact-finder’s report was issued Oct. 29 for review by the university administration, the board and AAUP-WSU. Within 14 days of the delivery of the report, each party must determine if it wants to accept or reject the suggestions from the fact-finder as the new faculty contract.

The board of trustees, by a three-fifths vote of its total membership, and AAUP-WSU members, by a three-fifths vote of the union’s total membership, are provided the option to reject the recommendations. If neither party rejects the recommendations, they are deemed agreed upon as final resolution of the issues submitted to the fact-finder.

Noeleen McIlvenna, contract administration officer for AAUP-WSU, stated she is certain the unions members will vote to reject the report. Voting among AAUP-WSU members began Wednesday and will continue until 5 p.m. Nov. 7.

"I am confident that the faculty vote will reveal they are ready to strike if necessary to preserve quality education at Wright State," she said.