TENTATIVE AGREEMENT aka MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING aka MOU
Between last fall and February 17th, UFCT local 1460 engaged in negotiations for a new contract on behalf of Pratt faculty. The negotiations took place behind closed doors. We do not believe the resulting Tentative Agreement (aka MOU or Memorandum of Understanding) is a good deal, especially given the pro-union moment we are in. The newly elected leadership did not negotiate this contract nor is it the contract we would have fought for. But it has put membership in a precarious position. All union members will vote on whether to ratify this 5-year contract, which would govern our working conditions for the next 4 years. (One year is retroactive.) There are low rewards for voting YES and sizable risks for voting NO. We encourage you to vote your conscience. Most strongly, we encourage you to help us build a powerful majority union so that we can work towards achieving a contract for which we’re proud to vote YES.
LET'S TALK ABOUT IT
Before we dive deeper into the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding), we would like to state our belief that a successful negotiation ends with a win-win. It is also clear to us that not every demand can be addressed in one go. We reviewed the proposed terms through this lens and were disappointed.
It does not sufficiently listen to us faculty. It does not consider high inflation. It does not consider the loan we gave Pratt during the pandemic. It does not consider inequities in a substantive way. It does not address the question of administrative work performed by faculty outside of the classroom.
Our criticism is aimed at parts where we are either not moving or moving in the wrong direction. On the one hand, this MOU represents a “more of the same” with different numbers. On the other hand it enshrines bad practices and offers no contractual obligations on the Institute or even pathways toward reducing inequities now or in the future.
Now, here is a more detailed look at our top take-aways from the MOU released Friday Feb 17th, breaking down our math and adding context to the proposal.
1. 4% Annual Raise is Below Inflation and Doesn’t Make Up For Lost Raise During Pandemic (MOU Page 1 section 1)
Due to inflation, a dollar today is typically worth more than a dollar tomorrow. For this reason, your salary should increase year after year, so you can maintain your standard of living. At Pratt, this has been the case over many of the previous years. Our salaries, while not as high as we’d all like them to be, have at least kept pace with inflation. In some years, even outpaced it.
At first look, the proposed 4% annual across the board increases retroactively from Fall 2022 through Fall 2026 appear promising. This is higher than in the last CBA. However, when comparing these increases with actual and projected rates of inflation, we realized our salaries are no longer tracking inflation. In fact, due to high inflation and our deferred increase in 2020, by 2026 your salary would actually be 5.3% lower than necessary to be on par with inflation. Here is our detailed projection:
A few points for context:
All numbers in gray and italics are projected.
We used the following formula to calculate the increases:
Start year + (Start year x Rate of inflation) = End year Example: $2,000 + ($2,000 x 0.014) = $2,028
We are starting in 2019, because that is the last year before our deferment, so the last year in a long stretch of annual increases, which kept us at least on par with inflation.
We are using $2,000 as a baseline, because that is the average rate per credit hour for part-time faculty.
$2,000 bought you a certain amount of goods and services in 2019. Given inflation, you needed $2,028 in 2020 to purchase the same amount of goods and services, $2,137.51 in 2021, and so on (see third column). According to our projections, in 2026 you will need around $2,654 to purchase the same amount of goods and services that you could get for $2,000 in 2019.
We are using 3.5% inflation rate for the years 2023 - 2026, as projected by the Federal Reserve Bank.
Following the MOU, your salary will have increased from the baseline $2,000 in 2019 to $2,512.39 in 2026 (see fifth column). Compared to the ~$2,654 required to purchase our goods and services, that is a net negative of 5.3%!
Additionally, the proposed terms:
Will not catch us up for having deferred our increase in 2020 in order for Pratt to minimize layoffs. So the reward for helping Pratt that was promised by current union leadership in 2020 turns out to have increased Pratt profits at the expense of faculty.
Are nowhere near the new MLA recommendation of $12,500 for a 3-credit course (revised up from the $11,500 we quoted previously).
Do not include any kind of Pandemic Pay or Admin Pay for labor outside the classroom, which were won in many recent faculty contracts at similar schools.
Therefore, from our perspective, this is a pay cut!
2. The Equalization Fund Perpetuates Inequity and Is Not Transparent (MOU page 1 section 2)
The MOU includes an Equalization Fund of one million dollars over the life of the contract to be distributed to “address identified salary inequities among faculty.”
The fund has the potential to make a difference for long serving underpaid faculty. However, there is no clarification how this amount was determined and, more importantly, no contractual language that explains how the distribution will work. In the past (our past contract also had Equalization Funds), dispersal has happened behind closed doors without publishing any objective metrics. This is exactly the lack of transparency that begets pay inequities. This also is what leads to many faculty that received Equalization Funds in previous rounds still being at the bottom of their departments’ pay rolls.
3. This Contract Would Weaken Tenure and Job Security (MOA Article XVI 16.2,3, Article XX, and Article XXIX Sec. 29.12)
The MOU gives the Institute more control over promotions to full- or part-time tenure by asking the Dean to solicit up to two of the required three letters of recommendations from external reviewers. In effect, this gives the Institute the power to reject “unsuitable” letters of recommendation.
In conjunction with the new requirement of service (see below) these provisions can function as roadblocks to keep tenured faculty numbers, which include CCE, low.
For full-time faculty, the provost would have exclusive power to review tenured faculty for “dereliction of duty” and would be able to cite “interviews” and “electronic recordings” as evidence against tenured faculty. This would contribute to the national trend of undermining tenure in favor of perpetual surveillance.
4. Higher Requirements of Service (MOA Page 3 Section 5)
The proposed MOU includes a new vague requirement for full-time and all part-time adjuncts to perform service “in proportion to their rank and status”. The MOU does not define “service”, what “in proportion” means, or provide any contractual obligation for the Institute to compensate us for this additional labor, let alone set any clear standards for such compensation. Considering how unevenly and inequitably this labor is already being treated across the Institute, this new section enshrines current bad practices into a contractual obligation and opens the door to further exploitation. In conjunction with a broadened ability to review tenured faculty for “dereliction of duty” this could be used to oust tenured faculty. In the context of advancement, it could be used as grounds for promotion denial as it is contractual and not voluntary as before.
5. Weaker Retirement and Pensions (MOA Page 1 Section 3)
Pratt’s average TIAA contributions (i.e. contributions to our retirement fund) for CCE and full-time faculty over the course of the contract remain essentially unchanged from before: from 2016-2021 we averaged 5.8%. Now we will average 6.2%.
Of larger concern is the fact that during the pandemic, Pratt’s contributions were reduced by 50% for one year and there is no proposal to catch up on this loss. We simply lost that 3.5% contribution, and now continue to lose, forever.
6. There are some positives (MOA Revise Section 26.1 (b) (2))
A reduction in health care premiums could be good news for adjuncts without CCE, but there is no improvement to coverage or language to protect against health plan changes. PUFF still has some questions, front of mind would be why can’t adjuncts simply be on the same plan as CCEs and full time faculty?
A new parental leave policy is also promising— it allows faculty to take leave for an entire semester instead of just the 12 weeks stipulated by state law.
It is also great to see that the MOU includes a provision to allow an increase in salary upon receiving tenure or being promoted from Associate Professor to Professor. This begins to address salary inversion at Pratt, but it gives the power to administrators to pick and choose which faculty get raises.
For an even deeper dive into the actual language of the contract, take a look at our side-by-side comparison of our previous CBA and the proposed language of the MOA.