The state Labor Relations Board has “upheld the charge and issued a complaint” concerning the University of Rhode Island professors’ union unfair labor practice accusation against the Board of Governors for Higher Education, said Robyn Golden, administrator for the board.
The complaint alleges that the Board of Governors violated state labor laws when it declined to vote on the professors’ contract that had been agreed to in scope after Gov. Chafee indicated he thought 3 percent raises for professors was too expensive for the state.
Golden said the board voted unanimously to hear the charge. That a hearing date has been set does not indicate fault, she said, but added that Labor Relations Board members “see something there. Now they need to take testimony to see if it is a valid charge.” A hearing at which both sides will testify is set for Tuesday, October 23, she said.
Louis Kirschenbaum, president of the URI professors’ union, in an email to union members said the unanimity of the decision may bode well for their complaint. “According to our attorney, unanimous decisions are extremely rare. Such unanimity indicates the gravity of the Board of Governors actions in bargaining in bad faith with the URI AAUP.”
The professors’ union brought the unfair labor practice complaint after Governor Chafee intervened in their contract negotiations with the Board of Governors. The Board was prepared to take action on the contract in March that included 3 percent raises, but it delayed a vote. In April, Chafee was vocal about the salary increases being too expensive. On May 6, the board voted 7-5 to reject the contract proposal. Two days later, the AAUP filed an unfair labor practice complaint.
Chafee could not be immediately reached for comment. I’ll update this story when i hear back from him or his staff.
The Board of Governors have a meeting on September 24. Spokesman Michael Trainor, who would not comment on the labor board’s fidning, said he did not know if the matter would be on the agenda for the next meeting.
Kirschenbaum, in his email, said:
We have written the Board of Governors to ask them to reconsider our collective bargaining agreement at their September 24, 2012 meeting. We have informed them that because of the unanimity of the decision they have little or no chance to prevail and that they should ratify our contract in everyone’s interest. We have also let them know that we intend to depose every board member, under oath, to ascertain what happened in Executive Sessions and whether members of the Executive Branch may have interfered in matters of the Board of Governors, in violation of the RI separation of powers statute.
I would like to make it clear that our goal is to have our contract ratified and put into effect. URI faculty should receive one year of a retroactive 3 percent pay raise (minus the increase in the premium sharing), and should have started on July 1, 2012 to receive their second three percent pay raise.