Wright State University explains cost savings/furlough days, workload and uniform healthcare benefits to union leadership

Wright State University values its faculty partners and strives to provide them with top-tier salary and healthcare benefits. In fact, based on AAUP data, our average faculty salaries exceed those of faculty at most Ohio public universities. Our healthcare benefits are similarly competitive.

The university has attempted to negotiate with the AAUP-WSU, which represents one-sixth of our employees, for over two years on a contract agreed upon in 2014 under circumstances vastly different than today. All efforts of labor negotiators, mediators and a fact-finder have been rejected by union leadership. On January 4, our board of trustees implemented new terms and conditions after it reached an impasse in negotiations and exhausted all statutory processes.

We continue to keep open lines of communication with AAUP-WSU leadership in an effort to avoid a strike. In a recent email included below, Wright State General Counsel Larry Chan further explained details of costs savings/furlough days, workload and uniformed healthcare benefits contained in the newly implemented terms and conditions.

From: Chan, Larry Y
Sent: Friday, January 18, 2019 6:51 PM
To: ‘Rudy Fichtenbaum
Cc: Guttman, Dan
Subject: RE: An Offer to Negotiate

Dr. Fichtenbaum:

I appreciate that we have begun the dialogue to return to the bargaining table. We will begin working with you and your team on our next contract immediately, but cannot do so if you impose an unreasonable pre-condition of first re-negotiating the past contract that expired in 2017. Once the AAUP-WSU Unfair Labor Practice is withdrawn with prejudice, and the AAUP-WSU continues under the same type of concessionary measures similar to the rest of our workforce, we can quickly look to “roll up our sleeves” and work on the next contract.

As I noted previously, since the last contract was agreed upon in 2014, the university has faced a financial crisis and countless unanticipated issues. Asking to return to the same contract negotiations that have failed to produce any AAUP-WSU agreement despite two years of bargaining encompassing over twenty formal meetings, despite the efforts of a mutually agreed upon federal mediator, and despite a separate fact-finder is not productive towards moving forward for our university.

Although we are willing to turn right away to our next contract, I do want to emphasize some of the assurances that your members have already been provided under the current terms and conditions of employment by the administration and Board. The university will abide by these assurances, and if it would further assure your membership we would be willing to clarify or more formally document these guardrails to encourage negotiations on the next agreement:

  • As to cost savings / furlough days, employees will not be expected to work, and in fact are not permitted to work, on a cost savings / furlough day. This is a reasonable alternative to a more permanent cost-savings measure like a layoff. Because a cost savings day can occur during a holiday break, for example, it provides immediate financial relief with minimal long-term individual or student impact. Wright State can only require cost savings days in limited circumstances, and AAUP-WSU members can only be required to take cost savings days on the same basis as other employees. And furloughs are specifically permitted and sanctioned under Ohio law in the Ohio Revised Code for faculty cost savings measures. Under the Board Resolution, which directs the administration’s use of the terms of employment, your members could only be furloughed after or simultaneously with other employees and could only be furloughed for two days per semester until June 30, 2020.
  • As to workload, in no way will this be used in a manner to hurt students, spread faculty thinner and lower the quality of education at Wright State. During November’s Faculty Senate meeting, Provost Edwards made it clear that the university has no intention of adjusting standard teaching workloads from the parameters found within the “Workload MOU.” Wright State will continue to maintain its workload requirements in line with its classification as an R2-Doctoral University-High Research, and the university is not planning to change those requirements. But the university is required by law to remove workload from the AAUP-WSU labor agreement. Under state law and rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Ohio Supreme Court, it is illegal for workload to be bargained as the fact-finder found. The fact-finder made clear it is an inherent management right. As the Provost has stated, in developing a workload policy, she will work with the Faculty Senate through committees that are composed of faculty from both NTE and TET ranks from across all colleges currently covered by the MOUs. The leadership of the Faculty Senate has and will continue to be involved in the development of a workload policy. It is our understanding that all but one other comparable Ohio public university (Kent State) maintains workload requirements in policy rather than in a MOU that is subject to the adversarial collective bargaining process.
  • As to the ‘uniform approach’ of healthcare being equal and consistent across the university, medical (with prescription), dental and vision insurance will be provided to your members on the same terms and conditions as other university employees (i.e. unified, consistent plan designs and premium structures based upon elections); with a ‘guardrail’ to ensure fair treatment that when health insurance changes university-wide then the AAUP-WSU member’s will also change, but the change has to be consistent with similarly-situated employees. After transitioning your members into the university-wide plan, we do not anticipate changing the plan outside of our annual “open enrollment” that occurs once a year.

Finally, you are fully aware of the State Labor Board’s prohibition on bypassing a party’s designated bargaining agent and directly dealing with my clients; this is called an Unfair Labor Practice for “direct dealing” and is in place to assure orderly and non-coercive labor processes. So I ask again on matters that involve labor negotiations or collective bargaining, please address only me and our Chief Negotiator, and not directly deal with President Schrader or Chairman Fecher.

Larry Y. Chan

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