It has only been two weeks since classes started, and relations between the Lecturers’ Employee Organization and the University already appear strained. LEO successfully negotiated its first contract with the University last June after months of talks and a one-day walkout the previous year, but the University has still not complied with all of the contract’s provisions. About 30 lecturers are misclassified as Lecturer II rather than Lecturer III, meaning they are performing additional duties outside the classroom without compensation.
In addition, the University has told 100 lecturers their pay increases may not be coming for another 18 months. LEO has kept pressure on the University to fulfill its promises since the contract was signed, picketing the University last winter and threatening to walk out just before commencement. With the deadline for the University to resolve these few remaining issues coming up in the end of September, administrators should listen closely and act quickly to comply with all elements of the contract.
What the University has already done to appease LEO is noteworthy. It has set an admirable example by giving the organization the benefits, job security and pay increases it requested. Now, all the University needs to do is finish the job by completely following through with its promises. Given the relatively minor scale of these last few issues, the University should not balk at the requests. Rather, the University should take the opportunity to resolve LEO’s demands right now to avoid problems once Sept. 30 arrives.
Out of respect for its teaching staff, the University must uphold its end of the deal. Lecturers’ classifications should be clear and accurately represent their set duties and compensation for each level. Also, the University should define a set schedule for pay increases and adhere to it.
It is also in the University’s own interest to ensure compliance with the LEO contract. From a negotiating standpoint, a swift effort to resolve these issues will solidify the University’s credibility in future negotiations. In the past, the University has set a high standard for the treatment of lecturers and graduate students that many universities nationwide have followed. It would be unnecessary and unwise to compromise that reputation over the relatively small issues of job misclassification and delayed pay increases. The University must be fair and receptive to its lower-tier instructors, and by doing so it will attract top-quality lecturers to teach its classes and be able to maintain its high academic quality.
Walkouts by LEO and the Graduate Employees’ Organization over the past several years were the result of apathy and lethargy by the University in working with these unions. Work stoppages, unfortunately, are highly disruptive. This sort of action may become necessary, however, should the University not fulfill its contract obligations. The University owes it to its students and employees to maintain good relations with LEO and should promptly bring itself into compliance with all aspects of last year’s contract. Now is the time for the administration to act.