As we cover this story, it is important for readers to know that negotiations are ongoing. Information in this article is subject to change.
Once again, professors took to Gleeson Plaza to continue their campaign against administration’s contractual offer of an initial 2 percent salary increase. Administration said that raise would amount to an effective annual average increase of 3.5 percent over the life of the proposed three-year contract; a pay increase over the Bay Area Consumer Price Index, they added.
Dead hour on Thursday Nov. 3 proved anything but dead, as professors publicly opposed that offer by holding up signs that read “University of being able to live here,” and “2 percent won’t pay the rent or mortgage!” Another had “I am tenured and I cannot afford to live here,” scribbled on it, with one more saying “USF works because WE DO!” Dr. William Melaugh, who teaches in the Chemistry department, even brought along a sign from the faculty protests that happened during the 1985-1986 school year. “USF Faculty Association Protests Unfair Labor Practices at USF,” read the poster that was used during a span of 18 months, when professors and administration could not reach an agreement for a new contract.
Back then, faculty and librarians set up picket lines, wrote letters to Trustees, donors, parents of students, high school guidance counselors and alumni. The faculty association even picketed the Columbus Day parade, when former USF president Rev. John Lo Schiavo S.J. was its grand marshal, hiring a biplane to fly past Market St. trailing a banner proclaiming that USF was unfair to its faculty.
Nov. 30 would mark five months without a new three-year contract for current full time professors. Although they have not gone as far as sending letters to students’ parents or commissioning a plane to make San Francisco proper aware of a stalemate in negotiations, the professor union has retroactively stepped up its efforts in letting administration know of their displeasure with current offers.
The end of September saw professors begin to wear “Remember: Respect Your Faculty,” buttons on shirts. At the Major/Minor Fair on Oct. 20, the professor union handed out flyers explaining their obligation of avoiding university commitments that are not included in their contract. The informational picketing that occurred last week is the most recent, and by far the most noticeable, demonstration the professor union has done.
The ambiance felt more festive than one would expect. Resembling a high school pep-rally, the group of professors kicked things off by spell chanting U-S-F-F-A. At least one cowbell was present.
Alan Heineman, who served as USFFA President for 20 years, was passed the microphone from current union president Elliot Neaman to give perspective on how these contract negotiations stack up to those during his tenure.
“You’ve got a crisis here, but it’s kind of a mid-level crisis so far, do not worry,” said Heineman to the crowd of around 50 professors. “USF not only got through the struggles of the ‘70s, and ‘80s and ‘90s, it got better every time. We have a better university facility than we ever had, we have a better student body than we ever had and I can tell you, having sat on I don’t know how many search committees, we have a better faculty today than we ever had,” said Heineman.
The union’s founding president, Michael Lehmann, thinks the struggle that he faced back in 1975 during the union’s first year of existence is still the same struggle current USFFA members face today. “It’s never changed, it’s always the same, [only] the issues are different,” said Lehmann, who offered an analogy of what the professor union has experienced throughout all the years of negotiating with the school. “It’s like going down to Ocean Beach and thinking you can walk to Japan. While the waves are going to push you back, you make a little progress, then the waves pushes you back again; and if you’re not alert you’re going to get swamped,” said Lehmann.
“Takes Two to Tango” played ironically in between speeches from current and past members of the USFFA, just as professors chanted “No new normal, no new normal, no new normal!” In past years, the faculty association might have been able to expect a 3 or more percent increase as the norm. Those days are long gone according to some professors; 2 percent is the “new normal” that administration expects the professors to adhere by.
“The ‘new normal’? Bah. Thank God I’ve never been normal,” said Heineman in a dissenting tone.
Photo Credit: Brian Healy/ Foghorn