Barnard Contingent Faculty, a union for Barnard College faculty in conjunction with United Auto Workers, has announced a strike deadline for four weeks from today.
The union posted on their website earlier today with a statement announcing this decision. It said the union voted in December to “authorize the BCF-UAW Bargaining Committee to call for any action, up to and including a strike, if necessary, to secure a fair contract.” Yet in bargaining sessions, “the administration’s positions on job security, wages, and health benefits fail to improve [adjuncts’] working conditions tangibly.”
As a result of these unproductive bargaining sessions, the Committee set a strike deadline of February 21, two weeks before President Spar departs from Barnard. There will be several more bargaining sessions before this deadline, during which the union hopes to come to an agreement that satisfies their concerns. “We all hope that a strike can be averted, but the administration has left us no choice but to prepare now for this possibility,” the statement reads.
Later in this evening, Provost Linda Bell sent the Barnard community an email in regards to the union’s strike deadline. The Provost seems confident that “progress has been achieved on key economic and non-economic terms, and that even the bargaining committee’s own notice to its members acknowledges this progress.” She wrote that “new ground has been broken” on “mechanisms for appointments and assignments,” as well as other key issues for the Union. The College bargainers believe that “the departments themselves should decide how best to maintain the integrity of the academic program and determine whether and how certain courses will be taught in any given semester,” but have “offered measures that would increase individuals’ employment security in other ways that do not compromise [the College’s] mission.” The email also includes descriptions of those measures. However, Provost Bell seemed defensive in the email, when she cited an instance in which “unilaterally cancelled a bargaining session… only hours before it was to take place” as opposed to College bargainers who attended all sessions “prepared and ready to negotiate in good faith.”
In early December, we voted overwhelmingly (119 yes – 15 no) to authorize the BCF-UAW Bargaining Committee to call for any action, up to and including a strike, if necessary, to secure a fair contract. Since that time we have met with the administration at the bargaining table several times. During these meetings there has been some movement on both sides (see this document for a full update). However the administration’s positions on job security, wages, and health benefits fail to improve our working conditions tangibly, and leave our bargaining unit vulnerable to erosion.
In response, the Bargaining Committee has set a strike deadline of February 21, 2017. If no agreement on a contract is reached by this date the union will call a strike. This date is two weeks prior to the departure of President Debora Spar, who leaves Barnard March 5 to become the CEO of Lincoln Center.
In the interim we are working to secure a contract before the deadline. We have several bargaining sessions scheduled before the strike deadline and we have also agreed to bring in a federal mediator to help facilitate bargaining. The federal mediator is a neutral party who cannot order a settlement, but can use persuasion and diplomacy to facilitate an agreement.
We all hope that a strike can be averted, but the administration has left us no choice but to prepare now for this possibility.
Barnard Hall via Bwog’s file photos.