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The Point: A Primer for Expanded Bargaining


From Steve Striffler, FSU bargaining team:

Last week UMB Administration rejected calls by the union for expanded bargaining – and refused to allow FSU faculty and librarians into the bargaining session.  This raised a few questions from members:

What is “expanded” bargaining?

Democracy and transparency.  Expanded bargaining means that union members are part of the bargaining team and are allowed to observe bargaining sessions between the FSU Core Bargaining Team and the Administration.  It is a broad approach to winning contract campaigns that encourages member participation at every step.

How does it work?

It’s both easy and hard.  It is simple in that bargaining takes place through a zoom webinar and consists of negotiations between the Administration’s bargaining team and the FSU’s Core Bargaining Team.  Other FSU members observe bargaining as part of a silent audience, and periodically meet separately with the Core Bargaining Team to help make decisions. It’s hard work in that it requires greater member engagement and participation – but it’s worth it!

Why is expanded bargaining important for the FSU?

Union strength.  An informed membership that participates in decision-making makes for a stronger FSU.  More members at the bargaining table builds power and will help compel Administration to take a less obstinate stance (i.e. they can’t be as difficult when there are more of us!).  It also makes for a better university, one that is run transparently through shared governance.  This is particularly important in the middle of a health and economic crisis – where the administration, Faculty Council, and campus unions all need to work together.

Why is the Administration resisting expanded bargaining?

Power and control.  The Administration recognizes that expanded bargaining would strengthen the union both at the negotiating table and in general – and give faculty and librarians more voice in the workplace.  Administrators couch opposition to expanded bargaining in terms of “chaos” -- the sky will fall if faculty see how bargaining works!  But opposition is ultimately about keeping the bargaining process secret and retaining administrative power over our workplace.

Have other unions embraced expanded bargaining?

Yes.  On our own campus, the Department Chairs’ Union is also calling for expanded bargaining in its negotiations with administration. More broadly, the MTA is encouraging its local unions to move in this direction.  The most prominent union to embrace expanded bargaining is the Chicago Teachers Union, which utilized transparency around bargaining to mobilize members and deliver concrete gains – the union knows what its members will support and fight for because they are engaged in the bargaining process. 

This is your union.  Let us know what you think about expanded bargaining.  Would you like to attend a bargaining session this summer?  Write us and let us know:

Steve Striffler,

Director of the Labor Resource Center

Professor, Anthropology

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