March 7, 2014
Plainfield, VT—Members of the Goddard College Faculty Union have overwhelmingly rejected a contract proposal from the Goddard administration. With over 80 percent of eligible voters participating, the tally was 73 “no,” 8 “yes” on the offer. The result came despite signals that, in the event of a rejection, the administration might declare a bargaining impasse and unilaterally impose steep cuts to pay and benefits.
The Goddard faculty, who are members of the United Automobile Workers, Local 2322, have been working without a contract since last July. Following the beginning of faculty contract negotiations in February, 2013, the Goddard administration revealed that it was projecting significant budget deficits and demanded cuts in pay and benefits from all employees, including a newly unionized staff bargaining unit also in contract negotiations. In what faculty negotiators have stated was a sign of bad faith bargaining, the administration publically announced in June that if its demands were not accepted by August, it expected to “declare impasse” and unilaterally impose its terms. Both faculty and staff unions contend that a declaration of impasse would violate federal labor law.
When the parties to the faculty negotiations met with a federal mediator last month, the administration was still threatening impasse. The Union agreed to submit the administration’s last offer to an up-or-down vote of members without an endorsement. The offer included a more than fifty percent reduction in severance benefits, on top of cuts in pay and other benefits.
Faculty Bargaining Committee Chair Jan Clausen noted that the administration’s focus on cutting severance is widely perceived as a sign of plans to radically restructure or even sell the college. Clausen said, “Faculty pay has been frozen since 2012 and many of us have taken furloughs to help cut costs and make layoffs unnecessary. On top of those sacrifices, we made it clear that we would accept temporary pay cuts to help stabilize the budget. What we aren’t willing to do is to help dismantle Goddard–a leader in progressive education that just last October celebrated its 150th anniversary, and an important economic and cultural presence in Central Vermont.”
The administration has been in transition since August, when former President Barbara Vacarr announced her resignation, effective December 31. During the search for a replacement, Board of Trustees Chair Avram Patt has served as Acting President. On Thursday night, an estimated 100 students, faculty, staff, and community supporters held a “Solidarity Vigil” in the college’s historic Haybarn Theater, calling on the Board to uphold Goddard’s mission by pursuing good faith negotiations leading to a fair contract.
Faculty Union President Muriel Shockley said, “In the run-up to this vote, we’ve seen an amazing surge of support and resolve. We hope that sends a powerful message that not only are the faculty united, but the whole college community–staff, students, and alumni–are deeply committed to making Goddard work for the long haul. We call on the administration to affirm that positive spirit and avert further conflict by returning to the bargaining table so we can settle this contract as soon as possible.”
Jan Clausen, 718-469-3322 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Muriel Shockley, 805-448-3182 or email@example.com