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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

FSU contract negotiations stall over meeting format debate

Elijah Horwath
The Faculty-Staff Union, which represents both faculty and librarians on campus, met with the university. Photo sent in by Elijah Horwath.

The Faculty-Staff Union, which represents both faculty and librarians on campus, met with the university bargaining team from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Monday, April 8. However, due to a difference of interpretation concerning an agreement on bargaining modality, the Administration Team—headed by Mickey Gallagher, the Executive Director of Labor and Employee Relations—said they were “unable to move forward” with substantive contract negotiations.  

According to Jason Rodriquez and Steve Striffler, co-chairs of the FSU team, the structure of the FSU’s bargaining team includes a “core” team, which communicates directly with administration and makes decisions about the contract, as well as an “expanded” team, which silently observes the negotiations to keep the process transparent.  

Usually, the FSU’s bargaining team meets with the university every three years to renegotiate the FSU’s contract. Last May, though, they signed a one-year contract that is now set to expire in June. The contract increased staff salaries and established some “ground rules” for 2024-2027 negotiations, which state, “The sessions shall take place on campus in a suitable location mutually agreed upon by the parties or, by mutual agreement, on Zoom.” 

The union conceded an all-Zoom bargaining session in their 2023 contract, but insisted on at least having a Zoom option.

“When we began working with the administration to begin this round of negotiations, our position was we wanted it to be entirely on Zoom for accessibility, for openness—basically for all of our schedules… The administration didn’t want to do that,” said Rodriquez. 

They made this request again in 2024, but the Administration Team refused, responding, “The text clearly states that in-person bargaining is the expectation and that any use of Zoom would be an exception upon agreement of the parties.” They also referenced other language in the ground rules, which state, “Both the FSU and Administration Bargaining Teams shall engage discussions seated at the bargaining table, with FSU Silent Representatives located in designated seating away from the table.” 

Many members of both teams have other commitments, but Rodriquez characterized administration as “totally inflexible.” 

“One main problem all the unions on campus are facing is simply getting the Administration to sit down and bargain with the unions in a timely, efficient and professional manner, so we can solve some of the issues that plague this campus,” said Striffler. 

Rodriquez and Striffler also highlighted that their key concern surrounding the Zoom issue is not one of convenience, but of inclusivity. 

“[Our members] may have childcare or eldercare responsibilities, they may be in another part of the world doing field research, they may be on sabbatical, and yet nevertheless are a part of our bargaining team…it’s about our commitment to an open process that includes all our members,” said Rodriquez.

Gallagher’s team holds that, “The Administration Team has, in good faith, provided the FSU Team with a comprehensive initial package of bargaining proposals. In addition, we have attempted to coordinate our calendars to assure the parties had an opportunity to meet, as prescribed in the ground rules, on at least three separate occasions this spring semester.”  

Gallagher also conveyed the “high value” that administration places on engaging in fair and robust bargaining. She emphasized how important it is “that the proceedings be meaningful in that, among other things, all written agreements reached by the parties—including those regarding bargaining logistics—be honored by those who enter into them.”

The Administration Team believes that the FSU’s refusal to budge on the Zoom issue demonstrates the FSU’s inflexibility. They wrote, “We are concerned that the insistence of the FSU bargaining team that they will not meet in-person represents a repudiation of the agreed to ground rules and may be a sign of bad faith. Until such time as we receive notice that [the FSU] intends to honor the terms of this agreement, as we do, we are unfortunately unable to move forward.” 

Once both parties eventually begin discussing the contract itself, the FSU and Administration both have several proposals covering a wide range of demands. Striffler stressed the FSU’s proposals for wage and salary increases and explained that whatever the outcome of this year’s contract negotiations, they will play a role in student’s quality of education.

“In the past decade, the Administration has hired more and more faculty who teach on a per-course basis, getting paid just more than $5,000 a course,” said Striffler. “It is not possible to live decently off of such a low salary in Boston. And they are not alone.” Other proposals include increasing faculty and staff access to gender-neutral bathrooms as well as ensuring that every faculty and staff member has a functioning computer.  

About the Contributor
Elijah Horwath, Opinions Editor