Vote to Allow Arbitration if Necessary to Win Fair First Contract

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE CURRENT VOTE
AND THE PROCESS OF INTEREST ARBITRATION

Why are we voting to authorize the Bargaining Committee to invoke interest arbitration if necessary?

After numerous bargaining sessions and a complete exchange of initial proposals, the University has failed so far to agree to any of the meaningful improvements on salaries, benefits and workplace rights that a majority of Postdocs endorsed through bargaining surveys and our initial bargaining goals vote in the fall.

Given the University’s position so far, and our strong desire to finish negotiations by the end of April so we can have a contract in effect going into Fall 2019, we strongly recommend that Postdocs vote to authorize those of us on the bargaining committee to invoke interest arbitration if it becomes necessary

We believe that voting yes will increase our power to secure a strong first contract. Interest arbitration is the strongest available legal process that can help us secure a contract if we cannot reach agreement with the University on certain topics, since it allows a neutral arbitrator to resolve our differences, and we do not have the legal right to strike. We remain committed to reaching agreement with UConn and will continue working to do so, but believe it is necessary to have the authority to invoke this process in case it becomes necessary.

A yes vote would not necessarily mean that the Bargaining Committee invokes interest arbitration, but it gives the committee the power to do so if necessary. As background, GAs have voted to authorize arbitration in both rounds of contract negotiations but successfully reached agreement with UConn each time without actually invoking the process. In both cases, voting to authorize arbitration was instrumental in reaching that agreement.

What are we voting for?
We are voting to authorize the Bargaining Committee to invoke binding arbitration if they find it necessary to do so, as well as to accept the tentative agreements the Bargaining Committee and the University have already agreed upon.
Who votes?
Any postdocs who have signed a union card can vote on this decision. Postdocs who are working for UConn can sign up for the union at any time. There are no dues or fees for signing up until we have finished contract negotiations and our first contract goes into effect. The outcome of the vote will be decided by the majority of people who vote.
What is binding arbitration?
Connecticut state law prohibits strikes as a means to resolve disputes in contract negotiations. As we do not have the right to strike, interest arbitration is a lawful procedure in Connecticut for adjudicating unresolved disputes in the bargaining process in an equitable manner.

Under interest arbitration, if the Union and University cannot reach agreement on one or more topics, we can take our final positions on each topic to a neutral arbitrator. After listening to both sides make their case and present evidence supporting their positions, the arbitrator would decide which position will be in the final contract on each of the disputed topics. The arbitrator’s decision would be binding on both parties.

How will an arbitrator be chosen?
Typically the parties get a list of eligible candidates, either from the American Arbitration Association or the state. Both parties then go through the list and work to identify a mutually agreeable arbitrator. Or we can simply agree directly with UConn on an arbitrator. If both parties cannot agree on a neutral arbitrator, then the American Arbitration Association can choose one for us.
How long will this take?
The steps of the process can take a little over three months, including hearings and deliberation by the arbitrator. If the Bargaining Committee invokes this process, they would continue to negotiate as intensively as possible with the University during the arbitration period. The goal would still be to reach agreement with the University before the neutral arbitrator makes a decision. Any tentative agreements we make with the University prior to arbitration will not be decided by the arbitrator. In short, the sooner we take the vote to authorize the process, the better, in case it does become necessary.
How does the arbitrator determine whether to decide in favor of the Union versus the University on a disputed issue?
If we are unable to reach agreement, state law says the following to guide the arbitrator: “The factors to be considered by the arbitrator in arriving at a decision are: The history of negotiations between the parties including those leading to the instant proceeding; the existing conditions of employment of similar groups of employees; the wages, fringe benefits and working conditions prevailing in the labor market; the overall compensation paid to the employees involved in the arbitration proceedings, including direct wages compensation, overtime and premium pay, vacations, holidays and other leave, insurance, pensions, medical and hospitalization benefits, food and apparel furnished and all other benefits received by such employees; the ability of the employer to pay; changes in the cost of living; and the interests and welfare of the employees.”
Why now?
Because we are state employees, our contract with UConn must be submitted to the state legislature in order to take effect next academic year. Our goal is to submit a contract to the state legislature by the end of April to take effect in advance of Fall 2019. The Bargaining Committee believes that invoking interest arbitration may be necessary to ensure that we finish a contract on this timeline. The vote authorizing the Bargaining Committee to take that step, if necessary, will help make clear to the University that we intend to have a new contract in effect next Fall.
Why can’t we legally strike?
State employees in Connecticut do not have the legal right to strike. Arbitration is our legal alternative to striking when we are unable to reach agreement with UConn through the negotiation process. This allows us to continue working while giving us an avenue to settle our contract.
How will the voting take place?
The voting will take place through an online ballot starting now. The link to the online ballot
will be sent via email. If you did not receive an email, email us at [email protected]
How can I let you know what I want in a contract?
If you have not completed a bargaining survey over the summer, you can still complete one now. In addition, we have and will continue to hold information sessions, where you can share your thoughts directly with the Bargaining Committee. During the arbitration hearings, the Bargaining Committee will collect testimonials from the membership to present to the arbitrator.
Why should I give up my vote on the final contract?
It could be the only way to have a fair contract for next Fall. As we do not have the right to strike, interest arbitration is the lawful procedure in Connecticut for adjudicating unresolved disputes in the bargaining process and the University, as well as the Union, would have to respect the final decision of the arbitrator.

Keep in mind that the Bargaining Committee would still prefer to reach agreement. Since the University has been slow to reach fair agreements on our proposals and to put in enough time at the bargaining table to do so, the Bargaining Committee strongly believes that having the full authority to invoke arbitration is necessary at this point.

Even if the Bargaining Committee invokes the arbitration process, there will be many opportunities to have a voice in the negotiation and arbitration processes before any final positions would be submitted to an arbitrator.