In your leadership role, you will likely need to field questions while the universirt is engaged in a bargaining process with a union, and it is important that you understand how to best respond to these questions.
Know the legal parameters
Managers and supervisors should be aware of and take care to not be perceived as engaging in the following:
- Direct Dealing: Oregon law prohibits supervisors and managers from bargaining directly with individual GEs when they are represented by a union.
- Inducement/Retaliation: Similarly, Oregon law prohibits inducing behavior by promising a change or by retaliating or suggesting retaliation based on bargaining.
- Potential Strike: Oregon law prohibits managers and supervisors from:
- Asking individual GEs if they intend to strike or commenting on whether they should strike or not.
- Making promises of any type should they return to work.
- Making threats of reduced support or discharge if the GE participates in the strike. Any retaliation or incentive provided by the supervisor related to the GE’s decision to participate or not participate in a strike is unlawful.
Exercise care in discussions
With the above in mind, it is reasonable to assume discussions about bargaining, mediation, or a potential strike will occur among managers and represented employees. Consider the following when discussions arise:
- Establish that matters of represented employment and collective bargaining are being handled by the professionals tasked with resolving those issues. They are best equipped to manage the issues at hand, and they are the only people authorized by the university to represent its interests.
- Encourage everyone to stay informed about the bargaining process and seek out fact-based information about proposals and terms being negotiated at the bargaining table. The HR website provides the most up to date information including a list of proposals.
- If approached by a represented employee about their participation in a strike, advise them that whether they participate or not is a personal decision on which the supervisor cannot comment or advise.
- Share that the university is committed to reaching agreement on a successor contract that best meets the needs of represented employees and the entire university.
- Reassure that we will continue to engage in good faith bargaining as we also ensure continuity in support of academic progress and research should bargaining developments disrupt regular operations.
Be mindful of real and perceived power dynamics
It is very important that managers, supervisors, and advisors speak carefully, if at all, about a potential strike. Remember that in your role you have considerable authority over a represented employee, creating a power dynamic that can have a coercive effect that, if coupled with communications about the strike, may become unlawful. One can easily imagine how a conversation where a supervisor shares their personal perspective could be perceived by the represented employee as a threat, promise, or inducement even if not meant that way. Even if not a direct supervisor, a represented employee's perception of your authority is the critical factor. It is best to avoid anything that sounds like judgment, personal comment, encouragement, or discouragement.
Focus on relationships
That is not to say, however, that we ought to disengage, but the opposite. Building and cultivating positive relationships with employees related to their academic and professional pursuits, work assignments, and their contributions to our academic and research communities should remain a top priority. Preserving relationships is important to move forward as a community regardless of the challenges inherent in the bargaining process. You and other unit leaders play an important role in this effort, and your leadership and encouragement of others is greatly appreciated.