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University of Northern Iowa union seeks to restore faculty contract in initial bargaining
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University of Northern Iowa union seeks to restore faculty contract in initial bargaining

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CEDAR FALLS — The University of Northern Iowa faculty union still wants to restore items removed from its contract four years ago after a change in state law.

Administration officials still say they don’t have to talk about it.

United Faculty made the pitch Thursday during a virtual initial bargaining session on behalf of the more than 600 full- and part-time employees and adjuncts it represents.

“We call on you to join public employers from all across the state, large and small, urban and rural, Democratic and Republican, who have chosen to maintain or restore the now-permissive contract topics established through years of dialogue, consensus-building, and negotiation,” Becky Hawbaker, United Faculty president, said in presenting the union’s proposal. “Restoring this language still costs you nothing in dollars and cents but buys you an increase in trust and morale at a time when faculty morale is low and stress is high.”

The Iowa Board of Regents, though, “reserves its right to refuse to negotiate” on “non-mandatory subjects of bargaining,” according to its written initial proposal.

Michael Galloway, an attorney with Ahlers & Cooney of Des Moines who represents the board, said UNI is offering a “1% wage increase applied to the existing contract” during each of the next two years. A new contract would begin July 1.

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United Faculty’s proposal would expand the contract from five to 24 pages as it seeks to add back items stripped out when changes were made to state law limiting public employee collective bargaining.

Many of those provisions became part of a new faculty handbook, but Hawbaker noted “that a current or future administration could sweep this language away, as well. As UNI prepares to search for a new provost, the protection of a contract is even more important practically and symbolically,” she added. Provost Jim Wohlpart announced last week that he is leaving UNI in June to become president of Central Washington University.

Hawbaker outlined how faculty salary increases have been outpaced by inflation and the consumer price index over more than a decade as well as impacts by other factors, such as growth in employee insurance costs.

She called for a boost in the minimum base salary. Now ranging from $42,351 for an instructor to $68,245 for a full professor, it would rise to a range of $43,000-$68,329 under the proposal.

The union also proposed expanding contract guidelines to include minimum salary reference points in five-year increments going up to 25 years. At the top of that range, an instructor would be paid $67,286 next year and a full professor $94,502. In 2022-23, year two of the proposal, the table shows a 1.5% increase across the board.

“We also propose a reasonable increase of 7% to the rate paid to our most vulnerable and marginalized faculty: our adjuncts,” said Hawbaker. For probationary, term, renewable term and tenured faculty, a 3% wage increase was proposed in each of the next two years. That money would be divided up for across-the-board, incremental and individual increases.

Language was also proposed in the contract supporting tenure and non-tenure track faculty. For the third year, a state lawmaker has introduced a bill to eliminate tenure protections at Iowa’s public universities.

“We continue to be grateful for the board’s opposition to the legislative assault on tenure, but call on you to put that support in writing and in the contract,” said Hawbaker.

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Education Reporter

I cover local schools and higher education for The Courier, where I’ve been a reporter for the past two decades. I’m a Minnesota native and have previously worked for newspapers there and in Illinois.

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