A SHORT HISTORY OF THE USFFA
One day in April, 1975, four University of San Francisco professors sat waiting in the offices of the University’s president. The University’s faculty had elected them, together with three others who could not attend that day, to advise the University regarding faculty salary, benefits and other material interests.
These seven Faculty Welfare Committee members and their 220 colleagues had grown increasingly restive in the two years since Fr. William McInnes, S.J. had imposed a one-year salary freeze at a time of 12 percent inflation. In the year following the freeze, Fr. McInnes had awarded the law faculty – who had organized their own union in response to the freeze - a larger raise than the remaining faculty. Meanwhile the other employees on campus – engineers, groundskeepers, laborers, kitchen help and secretaries – had also organized in response to the freeze.
The faculty in Arts and Sciences, Business, Nursing and Education now felt vulnerable, without a union and or collective bargaining rights. Could the Welfare Committee adequately represent them? Would faculty salaries ever catch the cost of living? Would the freshly organized unions on campus gain while faculty lost? The law faculty had already bargained its way to a bigger slice of the pie. What would prevent the other unions from doing the same?
The Committee had asked Fr. McInnes for a 12 percent raise to compensate for past cost-of-living shortfalls. When Fr. McInnes refused, t he Committee pared that request back to 5 percent to cover the current cost-of-living increase. The president held firm. What could the Committee now propose? It had scheduled another meeting with Fr. McInnes, but its role was solely advisory. Fr. McInnes had rejected any cost of living benchmark. If that was the case, what term of reference could the c ommittee employ? What size salary increase could it suggest, and how could it justify that number? Fr. Mcinnes had rejected the Committee’s earlier recommendations and the University had already begun bargaining with the new unions on campus.
The four faculty now waited nervously for the meeting to begin. When Fr. McInnes entered the room, the four rose in accordance with the custom of the day. After they were seated, Michael Lehmann came to the point.
The Committee had consulted with Fr. Andrew Boss, S.J., director of USF’s Labor-Management School, and he had made an appealing suggestion. Lehmann now proposed Fr. Boss’s recommendation on behalf of the committee, without disclosing the source, that the faculty receive a raise equal to the weighted average of what all the other employee groups on campus would receive. If the others received a 10% raise, then faculty should receive the same. If the others received 5%, faculty should receive 5%, but it would be inadmissable to give the others raises and award the faculty nothing.
Fr. McInnes quickly said, “No.”
"Why not?” Lehmann asked.
"Because I won’t commit the University to equal increases for all employee groups.”
“But that’s not fair. Why give more to some than to others?”
“Because I have to bargain with them, and I don’t have to bargain with you.”
Lehmann repeated his protest. “Why give more to some just because they’re organized? Where’s the justice and equity in that? You’re not rewarding performance; you’re rewarding bargaining power. The only thing that separates them from us is that they have collective bargaining and we don’t.” Fr. McInnes had had enough. “If you don’t like it, you can go to collective bargaining.” Fr. McInnes rose. The four faculty also rose. The meeting was over, and they filed out of the President’s office.
The full committee met and a number of c ommittee members discussed the general erosion of respect for faculty on campus, reminding the others that Fr. McInnes had muted the faculty’s voice in academic as well as economic affairs. The c ommittee concluded that under present circumstances further discussions with Fr. McInnes would be fruitless. Only collective bargaining could change the situation . The committee authorized Lehmann and Simini to visit the local offices of the National Labor Relations Board to request that the Labor Board conduct an election on campus.
The National Labor Relations Board held the election in the fall of 1975, and the faculty voted 155 to 48 for the USF Faculty Association to represent it for purposes of collective bargaining. The vote confirmed an old saying: Every management gets the labor relations it deserves. A half decade of mistreatment and assaults on its dignity had driven the last employee group to collective bargaining. The USF campus was now wall-to-wall under union organization.
The hard work now began. Faculty and librarians had to fashion a constitution and by-laws for a new Faculty Association, collect dues, elect officers and commence negotiations with the u niversity for a collective bargaining agreement. The membership elected Lehmann as its first president. Joe Simini, who was no longer active in the Association, soon retired.
Bargaining for a first contract began in November of 1975. Meanwhile the University had projected a budgetary shortfall although its auditor’s report would subsequently reveal a record surplus. In response to this inaccurate projection, and just prior to the end of the fall 1975 semester, the University sent roughly 110 termination notices to all non-tenured faculty – about half the 220 total. In response to an imaginary crisis, the University succeeded in driving its freshest and youngest faculty into the Association’s arms.
Negotiations continued into the Spring of 1976 and the Association membership had to authorize a strike before bargaining concluded. When a deal was struck, the Association had won most of its objectives: a 15% salary increase, rescission of almost all the layoff notices, 5-year recall rights for those laid off (only one faculty member with recall rights and who wished to return could not eventually do so), binding grievance and arbitration to settle all contract disputes including denial of tenure and promotion and for economic layoff, and a union shop (all faculty and librarians were required to become Association members).
The contract’s term extended from July 1, 1976 to June 30, 1981 with annual contract re-openers on salary, fringe benefits and a handful of other items (the remaining contract provisions to remain fixed until the contract’s expiration on June 30, 1981).
In the fall of 1976, the University’s Board of Trustees dismissed Fr. McInnes. He had made a mess and the Trustees wanted someone who could rebuild. They chose a fellow Trustee: Fr. John LoSchiavo, S.J., a former campus Dean of Men and former president of Bellarmine college preparatory school.
Fr. LoSchiavo’s presidency began smoothly enough. The Association membership hoped that Fr. LoSchiavo could and would choose to rebuild cooperation and trust between the University and its faculty and librarians. But the honeymoon was short lived.
The 1977 salary negotiations were hard fought but successfully concluded. When salary negotiations stalled in 1978 and the University feared that the Association would authorize a strike (as it had done in '76), the University instituted a modular plan that reorganized the semester into five three-week modules. Faculty would teach and students would attend one class – and only one class - all day, every day for the duration of the three-week module, and then move on to the next class in the next module, completing five classes in 15 weeks. If the faculty struck, then replacements would be needed for only one-fifth of the faculty during any module. There was no strike, but the modular plan lasted long enough to hurt student recruitment and enrollment throughout the 1980's.
Following the bitter 1978 negotiations the Faculty Association and the University agreed to binding arbitration to settle all future salary disputes. Sometimes the Association had greater success in achieving its objectives under arbitration, and sometimes the University enjoyed greater success. In 1981, however, following years of escalating inflation, and after the University’s representatives had made a poor showing in arbitration proceedings, the arbitrator awarded a large salary and benefits increase to the Association. The University responded by unilaterally declaring that it would no longer deal with the arbitrator even though the collective bargaining agreement stipulated that the arbitrator would serve as permanent arbitrator under the agreement and despite a tri-partite contract retaining the arbitrator’s services signed by the Association, the University and the arbitrator.
Without an arbitrator, the grievance and arbitration provisions of the collective bargaining agreement became moot. Due process ground to a halt because the University had little incentive to settle grievances absent the possibility of an arbitrator reversing the University’s actions. Without due process the collective bargaining agreement became a scrap of paper, something the University could disregard at its pleasure. The Union sued the University for breach of contract, and so did the arbitrator. The Association feared that the University intended to drown the Union in legal fees as the Association sought to preserve its rights in court. In an act of self-preservation, the Association turned to and affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO. The Teachers Union’s deep pockets, and the San Francisco Labor Council’s sanction in the event of a strike, might be needed.
After a couple of years of litigation the University settled the Association’s and the arbitrator’s breach-of-contract lawsuits. The arbitrator walked away with a check with many zeroes on it. The Association won a permanent panel of three arbitrators and reached a unique damages settlement with the University. In lieu of a monetary award to the Association and/or its members, the University agreed to create the Faculty Development Fund and negotiate its size in subsequent contract reopeners.
For all practical purposes, the University in the past had provided its faculty with no research support. The USFFA had for years proposed a research fund to assist faculty in their scholarly endeavors and the University had refused to establish such a fund. Now, as the result of the Association’s litigation, initiated to preserve the faculty’s due process, the University agreed to establish a faculty-research fund. It was a happy ending, but a sad commentary on the University’s priorities.
In the mid 1980s, following the settlement of the bitter litigation surrounding the University’s unilateral refusal to deal with the arbitrator, the Association attempted to reach a smooth working relationship with the administration. Unfortunately, the University's priorities lay elsewhere.
In the Spring of 1986, with the entire contract up for renegotiation, the University proposed to terminate binding grievance and arbitration over economic layoff and terminate the union shop. The Association realized that such a change in contract language would permit the University to fire any tenured faculty member at its pleasure, without due process and without recourse, under pretext of economic layoff. Tenure would become meaningless. Who could actively support the Association or faculty rights under those circumstances? The University also proposed an end to the contract’s union shop-provisions in the hope that faculty and librarians would abandon the Faculty Association.
Once again, the University refused to process grievances to arbitration, insisting that the Association’s access to grievance and arbitration had expired with the collective bargaining agreement at the end of the 1985-86 academic year. And once again, faculty and librarians would not bend under the University’s pressure. They set up picket lines, wrote letters to Trustees, donors, parents of students, high school guidance counselors and alumni. The Association even picketed the Columbus Day parade when Fr. LoSchiavo was its grand marshal, hiring a biplane to buzz Market Street trailing a banner proclaiming that USF was unfair to its faculty.
After 18 months without a contract, and with morale on campus plummeting and increasing difficulty in recruiting new students, the University modified its demands so that they were now acceptable to the Association. The new contract, signed in the spring of 1988, included a conscientious objector exception to its union shop as well as modified due process over economic layoff that retained faculty and librarian access to arbitration. Since the conclusion of that agreement, however, there has never been an economic layoff of a tenured faculty member or a librarian and only a handful of faculty have availed themselves of conscientious objector status.
The USFFA had won. Due process and union security had been preserved. Mike Lehmann retired from his position as Association president and Alan Heineman, Association vice-president, succeeded him.
Despite the conclusion of a new agreement, Fr. LoSchiavo remained bitter at the Association and publicly displayed his bitterness at a campus ceremony, attended by the chairman of the Board of Trustees, convened in order to foster reconciliation between the Association and the University. Faculty morale continued to deteriorate due to grim enrollment statistics, the shrinking number of full-time faculty and the University’s failure to adequately maintain and upgrade its academic infrastructure. Some faculty began to circulate a petition expressing “no confidence” in Fr. LoSchiavo, although the Association neither sponsored or assisted in this effort. In any event, the Trustees had had enough. They asked Fr. LoSchiavo to retire after a dozen years of bitter relationships between faculty and administration, chronic campus turmoil, low faculty morale and deteriorating academic standing. Fr. LoSchiavo stepped down in 1989 and the search for his successor began.
During Fr. LoSchiavo's presidency the University treated faculty and librarians as if they were the University’s liabilities rather than its assets. Every retirement became an opportunity to reduce their ranks, and the number of faculty and librarians dwindled. TheUniversity risked jeopardizing its future as it jettisoned expense without realizing the impact on revenue. The USFFA saved the University by preserving due process and tenure, by improving faculty and librarian compensation and by maintaining academic freedom and academic standards. These efforts helped preserve and maintain a good faculty, which kept the University from tumbling down into the ranks of the small Catholic denominational colleges that dot the San Francisco Bay area.
Fr. John Schlegel, S.J. replaced Fr. LoSchiavo in 1989. The new president avoided confronting the Faculty Association, and the University prospered. As enrollment grew and the University’s financial circumstances eased, the Association won benefit improvements that had earlier eluded it. For instance, a year’s sabbatical traditionally came with half a year’s pay, keeping a year’s sabbatical out of many faculty’s reach.
In 1998 the USFFA succeeded in negotiating three-quarters pay for a year’s sabbatical, putting the sabbatical within most faculty’s reach for the first time. Many faculty swiftly availed themselves of this improved benefit. Among the many improvements won by the USFFA, a few others stand out: a mortgage assistance program, childcare assistance, promotion possibilities for term faculty and improved retirement security. Above all, the wages and benefits of faculty members at USF have vastly improved over the last fifteen years and compare favorably in every respect to our comparator schools.
Fr. Schlegel stepped down to become president of Creighton University, and USF chose Fr. Stephen Privett, S.J. as his successor. Fr. Privett made the advancement of social justice the central theme of his administration, precluding a virulently antiunion stance. The Faculty Association continued to make advances at the bargaining table, negotiating day care for faculty and librarian children and concluding arrangements to assist faculty in the purchase of their first home.
When Alan Heineman stepped down as Association president in 2005, to be succeeded by Vice-President Elliot Neaman, fresh faces filled most of the Association’s executive offices. The Faculty Associationion had been preserved for, and was now being run by, a new generation. There could be no finer legacy.
The last photo (left) shows Professor Uldis Kruze (History) at informational picketing on Harney Plaza, October 2008.