Contract Victory at Salisbury University

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MCEA members at Salisbury University scored huge in their fight for a fair, updated contract. On September 8, 2020, MCEA bargaining unit members, voting unanimously, ratified their new memorandum of understanding (MOU). The MOU took nearly two years to negotiate and finalize—in large part, due to the tenacity of MCEA’s bargaining team, who took the contract to mediation and ultimately requested the intervention of a fact-finder under Maryland’s collective bargaining act.

 

The contract was not set to expire until February 2019, but MCEA asked to begin negotiations in January 2018.  The bargaining team—Chapter President Karen Penuel, and MCEA members Delrita Jackson, Dawn Carey, and Eric Harmon, supported by Chief Negotiator Mike Keeney and attorney Hillary Galloway Davis—finally got the University to the bargaining table in November 2018. The University and the Union each came to the table with a long list of demands and long overdue modifications to the MOU. 

 

Management’s position was unequivocal from the start: there was no money for SU’s nonexempt unit.  During one bargaining session, the administration’s finance officer even gave a formal presentation about how the University had no money to dedicate for these employees.

 

In July 2019, negotiations reached a virtual impasse. In order to push forward, MCEA took Salisbury University to a mediator from the State Higher Education Labor Relations Board. While some progress was made, it was not enough, and so MCEA became the first higher education bargaining unit in Maryland to take management to fact finding. Through that process, the parties reached a resolution. So what did SU employees gain?

 

  • Fought back and defeated University efforts to strip away how overtime is calculated;
  • Successfully negotiated contract language to address the severe compression and leapfrogging issues;
  • Between January and July of 2020, SU employees received a 5.5% pay increase, including a $500 bonus;
  • Secured contract language that eliminates supervisory approval for the use of personal leave and added that employees may now use personal leave in 15-minute increments 4 times a year;
  • Streamlined the process for reclassification requests, forcing management to process and complete the request in a timely manner;
  • Increased pay for shift differential and on-call pay;
  • Recognition of seniority in shift assignments;
  • Expansion of employees’ right to “sick and safe” leave, allowing leave to be used for matters involving the security of employees and their families; and
  • Improvements and revisions to the disciplinary matrix and attendance policies.

This represented the first wholesale modification to the SU contract since its original ratification. So it is crucial to understand how the MCEA bargaining team attained these important victories. The MCEA bargaining team stood strong and firm in the face of management throughout this difficult process. They refused to bend to the University’s demands even in the face of acts of intimidation by management, one which resulted in the filing by MCEA of an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) against the University.

But this is not the end of the struggle to improve pay and workers’ rights at Salisbury University. With more membership and more mobilization, we can be even more successful in the future.