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Local 796 Enjoys
‘Really Different’


Contract Settled!

The "hellish" negotiations reported three years ago (UE News, Jan., 2000) went in an altogether different direction this year, with union-represented staff at Antioch University’s McGregor School gaining their biggest-ever salary increases following brief but productive negotiations.

Salaries rise by 6.5 percent, 5 percent and 4.5 percent over the term of the three-year contract, unanimously ratified Oct. 15. The McGregor School, which offers academic programs geared towards working adults, is a sister institution to Antioch College, home of UE Local 767. UE Local 796 represents McGregor employees.

Local 796 leaders interviewed by the UE NEWS explained why this year’s bargaining went more smoothly.

"This time the major difference was the university didn’t have an attorney present," said Local Pres. Diana Tomas. "That made a difference because generally the attorneys are just there to drag things out, they don’t add much that’s constructive."

The university waived legal representation in part to reduce expenses. Management presented the union a deal: no attorney, no UE staff. With some reluctance, Local 796 agreed to the arrangement, but on a two-week trial basis. An initial half-day bargaining session with Intl. Rep. Dennis Painter present "got management’s attention," commented Rec. Sec. Sue Roderick

The experiment "worked really well," said Vice Pres. Christine Coates. "Dennis has a lot of great advice for us, but we did just as well if not better on our own."

"It was really different this time, because of what we did last time," observed Roderick, referring to the tough fight for a new contract in 2000 that sparked campus protests. By a happy coincidence, a panel was on campus for the 10-year review of Antioch’s accreditation. Tomas said, "They were extraordinarily concerned that there would be an embarrassing public display." Roderick added, "They were well aware what we were capable of."


"There was a great sense of solidarity, it really felt like the members were behind the e-board while we were in there," said Coates. "In my opinion, that’s what the word ‘union’ means. We fed off of each other’s strength." Roderick agreed, observing that members sent emails to the university president and talked to their bosses about contract issues. "It’s a lot easier to fight with the membership behind us, and they were," she said.

The 6.5 percent first-year salary increase is retroactive to July 1. In addition, Local 796 members each receive a $500 signing bonus. The continuous service bonus due on fifth, tenth and fifteenth anniversary dates is increased from 30 to 40 cents.

The university agrees to contribute an additional 1 percent to the employee retirement plan. An improved severance package is now equivalent to that achieved by Local 767 members. Additional sick days will particularly benefit newer hires.

Improved academic benefits will allow McGregor staff to take graduate courses tuition-free.

The "downside" to the new contract, Local 796 officers said, is this: McGregor staff will now pay a small amount towards the cost of health-care premiums. Local 796 members reluctantly agreed to this management proposal on the basis of the unusually large salary increases (more than double the percentage of raises received by administrators), the quality of the plan, and the fact that administrators and faculty already pay many times more each month than the $20-$30 imposed on union members.

"We know it’s going to be an ongoing struggle with the premium," said Pres. Tomas. "Once they start taking money out of our paychecks it’s going to be hard to stop it. "We’ll have a struggle in the future."

Overall, the local union president said, "We’re really pleased with what we managed to get."

The Local 796 negotiating committee consisted of Pres. Diana Tomas, Vice Pres. Christine Coates, Rec. Sec. Sue Roderick, Treas. Stephanie Robinson, and Chief Steward Tom Blessing. They were assisted (away from the table) by Intl. Rep. Dennis Painter.

UE News - 12/02

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