After Wednesday’s negotiations failed to halt
yesterday’s walkout, members of the Lecturers’ Employee
Organization and the University administration said they will
tenaciously pursue a contract settlement as the semester draws to a
close. The first of several meetings will occur today at 9 a.m.

Both LEO members and University administrators said they are
optimistic that they will be able to negotiate their first contract
by the end of the semester.

Next week, the union members will meet to discuss whether
further action is needed to receive their contract
demands.Currently, there are no formal plans to walk out again this
semester.

Faced with the walkout, both sides held two rounds of talks
Wednesday in an attempt to reach some tentative agreements. But the
negotiations — which lasted until shortly after 4 a.m.
yesterday — focused primarily on job security and salary,
only two of LEO’s crucial economic issues.

For a large part of the meeting, each side crafted proposals to
present to the other, a method that facilitated some fruitful
dialogue, University spokeswoman Julie Peterson said. “It was
a really good discussion,” she said. “One of their most
productive sessions to date.”

LEO President Bonnie Halloran also said negotiations went better
on Wednesday than they had in the past, but poor timing precluded
any definitive settlements.

“I think the problem was that they were trying to do this
at the last minute of the (11th) hour. The University knew that
this one-day strike was coming, and they waited until the day
before,” Halloran said. “The evidence would say that
there was a mad flurry of bargaining and more flexibility on the
part of the University that we had never seen up until
yesterday.”

Since last August, LEO has met with the administration 37 times,
tentatively agreeing on 18 contract articles — most of them
regarding noneconomic issues which are not among LEO’s core
concerns. During the next few weeks, they will attempt to reach
agreements on their remaining issues, including improved health
benefits.

LEO is not the only union to cite difficulties in negotiating
with the University. In her experience working with the
administration, Graduate Employees Organization Vice President
Holly Burmeister said the University often “will not make
substantive offers at the bargaining table until they’re
forced to do so by labor power.”

GEO negotiates its contract every three years and has been
bargaining with the University for nearly 30 years. The
organization also staged a one-day walkout two years ago, and it
reached a new contract agreement shortly afterward.

Peterson said, because both sides are capable of lobbying
sufficiently, the University does not believe a strike is ever
necessary.

LEO estimated that 175 lecturers picketed yesterday, and even
more canceled classes. LEO serves more than 1,500 non-tenure-track
faculty on all three University campuses.

But there were also numerous signs of support from graduate and
undergraduate students, along with other unions. In a sign of
solidarity, nearly 100 construction workers near the University
Hospital halted production yesterday morning when informed of the
strike by LEO organizers.

LEO secretary Marc Ammerlaan, stationed outside Haven Hall, said
he saw a number of students take picket signs instead of going to
class. “There are many of us, and we have many
friends,” Ammerlaan said.

But the impact on students may not have been significant, the
University said. According to an “informal survey of most
colleges and departments,” few classes were canceled,
Peterson said. The canceled classes occurred in some LSA
departments.

“The impact of the strike campuswide was not that
great,” she said.

University Provost Paul Courant added, “The effect of the
walkout per se is quite small. They said they would do it, we hoped
to avoid it, but now we can get back to work and get a
contract.”

But the Angell Hall complex was visibly less crowded than on
normal school days. Few students passed through the hallways, and
many computers were available at the Angell Hall Computing
Site.

Despite the progress achieved in Wednesday’s meeting, many
LEO members expressed uncertainty about the negotiations ahead.
While both sides are optimistic and eager to reach an agreement,
LEO’s concerns about working conditions will influence what
LEO decides to do in the future.

Halloran said job stability is important both to students and
lecturers. When lecturers stay for long periods of time, students
develop relationships with mentors, which is necessary for students
seeking recommendations.

But Courant has said LEO’s proposal would provide
lecturers with more job security than most other faculty at the
University, including those with tenure.

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