AFSCME Updates

Posted on Mar. 17, 2012

The following is a message sent to the university community from Willis Walker, Vice President for Human Resources and General Counsel on Mar. 16, 2012

Earlier this week President Lefton wrote to you with an update regarding negotiations between Kent State University and Local 153 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Since then, both the union and the Kent State University Board of Trustees have voted to accept the recommendations issued in the fact-finder report.

The fact-finder report was issued on March 9 and both sides had seven days to accept or reject it. Trustees approved the recommendations at its March 14 meeting and AFSCME voted on Thursday to accept the report by a count of 121-49.

The new three-year contract is effective Oct. 1, 2011 and includes a 2-percent salary increase for each year, retroactive to the effective date of the contract.

The new contract also includes an increase in the aggregate contribution level for health care, from the current 13.74 percent to 15 percent in the first year, to 16 percent in the second year, and to 17 percent in the final year. The university's cost for health care is spread over a 12-tier structure based on salary, with employees in the lower tiers paying a lower percentage and those in the higher tiers paying a higher percentage.

As President Lefton mentioned in his earlier message, Kent State will assume the additional expense of the first-year increase in health care contributions. This means AFSCME employees will not pay any extra costs for calendar year 2012.

My team in Human Resources will notify AFSCME employees about the salary increase and when it will be reflected in paychecks.

I am pleased both parties were in agreement with the fact-finder report and that negotiations have been completed. The jobs performed by our AFSCME employees help create a welcoming environment on the Kent Campus and provide a valuable service to all members of the university community.

Posted on Mar. 14, 2012

The following is a message sent to the university community from President Lester A. Lefton on Mar. 13, 2012

In keeping with my commitment to inform you about important university matters, I write with an update regarding negotiations between Kent State University and Local 153 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). The negotiations began in September 2011. You may recall that last November, a mediator was requested by both parties and that in late January of this year, the parties entered into fact-finding. Fact-finding is part of the bargaining process outlined by the State Employment Relations Board to address unresolved issues.

This past Friday (March 9), the fact-finder issued a report that addresses those unresolved issues. I am recommending to the Kent State University Board of Trustees that the fact-finder report be accepted at its March 14 meeting. I want to share two significant aspects of the long and detailed report:

  • A three-year contract is recommended that would be effective Oct. 1, 2011, through Sept. 30, 2014. The contract includes a 2-percent salary increase for each year of the contract, retroactive to Oct. 1, 2011.
  • The university's cost for health care is currently spread over a 12-tier structure based on salary. Our 3,400 benefits-eligible employees pay an aggregate 13.74 percent of the university's cost for health care, with employees in the lower tiers paying a lower percentage and those in the higher tiers paying a higher percentage. Employee contributions range from 6.5 percent to 22 percent of the university's cost for health care.
  • The fact-finder report recommends increasing the aggregate contribution level to 15 percent. As a result of this proposed change, employees would make contributions of 7.5 percent to 25 percent in the first year of the contract. In the second year, the aggregate contribution would increase to 16 percent, and in the third year the aggregate contribution would increase to 17 percent. As noted in the fact-finder report, this proposal reflects the importance of maintaining high-quality health coverage at the best possible rates for employees and their families.
  • Although it is not part of the fact-finder recommendation, if AFSCME members approve the report, Kent State will assume the additional expense of the first-year increase in health care contributions. This means AFSCME employees will not pay any extra costs for calendar year 2012.

The recommendations submitted by the fact-finder are not binding. They are submitted to both parties, each of which may choose to accept or reject the recommendations by a 3/5 vote within seven days. Without a vote, the report findings are accepted automatically. You can view the entire report at http://www.kent.edu/hr/labor/collective-bargaining.cfm.

With the fact-finder report on the table, I am hopeful that these negotiations will soon conclude with a contract that is agreeable to both parties. I look forward to moving full speed ahead with Kent State's excellence agenda, which includes an ongoing commitment to providing students, faculty and staff members with an environment in which we can all thrive and succeed.

Posted on Feb. 2, 2012

Fact-finding was conducted last month as part of the contract negotiations between Kent State University and Local 153 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

Fact-finding is part of the bargaining process outlined by the State Employment Relations Board (SERB). The fact-finder heard from both sides on a number of unresolved issues from previous negotiations and mediation. The fact-finder will issue a written recommendation on the unresolved issues, and that report is expected by the end of February. The recommendations are not binding. The recommendations must be submitted to both parties and will be accepted unless either party rejects them by a 3/5 vote.

There have been some inquiries from managers and department heads about issues related to union employees in the event of a strike. Human Resources has prepared some FAQ for managers and department heads, in case you receive questions from employees. The FAQ are provided for information purposes only; AFSCME has not indicated any intent to strike. Any intent to strike would have to be filed with SERB 10 days in advance of any work stoppage. 

Posted on Jan. 19, 2012

Kent State University and Local 153 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) will enter into fact-finding on Monday, Jan. 23.

Contract negotiations between the university and AFSCME began in September. In November a mediator was requested by both parties. The last mediation session was held on Dec. 14, at which time the union declined to mediate further.

Fact-finding is part of the bargaining process outlined by the State Employment Relations Board. The first step is for the two parties to agree on the selection of a fact-finder.  Both Kent State and AFSCME have agreed that the mediator will serve as the fact-finder.

The next step is for both parties to submit a fact-finding pre-hearing brief outlining the unresolved issues, followed by the private hearings that will begin on Jan. 23.  At the last bargaining session there were 40 unresolved issues from AFSCME and less than a half-dozen from the university.  Although AFSCME has reduced the number of issues to 18, there are still a large number of issues for the fact-finder to resolve.

Once the hearings are completed, the fact-finder has 14 days to issue a written recommendation on the unresolved issues. The recommendations are not binding and must be submitted to both parties to accept or reject by a 3/5 vote.

Posted on Dec. 16, 2011

Contract Negotiations
The latest mediation session was held on Dec. 14. No agreement was reached and the union has declined to mediate further. The parties will begin fact finding on Jan. 23, 2012.

Informational Picketing
AFSCME has filed notice with the State Employment Relations Board (SERB) to conduct informational picketing on the Kent Campus during fall Commencement ceremonies on Saturday, Dec. 17. Commencement is held at the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center (MACC).

Members of AFSCME Local 153 have the right to engage in informational picketing and this is not a strike. Typically with informational picketing, union employees carry signs and distribute informational leaflets, asking for public support for the unions position. Union members who picket must do so on non-working or non-shift times (times when the employee is not normally scheduled to work).

On Dec. 14, the Portage County Common Pleas Court issued a temporary restraining order that places restrictions on the AFSCME picketing. The temporary restraining order was requested by the university to ensure that the commencement ceremonies are not disrupted for the graduates, their family and friends.

Under the temporary restraining order, AFSCME picketers may not:

  • Have more than four individuals at any entrance or exit to a university building;
  • Stand within 300 feet of the MACC;
  • Block access to the MACC or prevent any one from entering or leaving the premises; or
  • Engage in any acts of physical violence, harassment, verbal insults, abuse or intimidation toward anyone attending the commencement ceremonies.

Response to Employee Questions
There have been some inquiries from managers and department heads about picketing and other issues related to union employees in the event of a strike. Human Resources has prepared some FAQs for managers and department heads.  The FAQs are provided for information purposes only; AFSCME has not indicated any intent to strike. Any intent to strike would have to be filed with SERB 10 days in advance of any work stoppage. 

Posted on Dec. 1, 2011

The Kent State chapter of the American Federation of  State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has filed a notice of intent with the State Employment Relations Board (SERB) to conduct informational picketing on the Kent Campus. The picketing will take place on Saturday, Dec. 17, which is the date of Fall commencement ceremonies at the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center.

Members of AFSCME Local 153 have the right to engage in informational picketing, as long as the union notifies SERB of their intent.
Informational picketing is conducted by a labor union for the purpose of informing the public about matters of concern to the union. Typically, union employees carry signs and distribute informational leaflets, asking for public support for the union’s position.

Contract negotiations continue between the university and AFSCME and a mediator has been called in at the request of both parties.  The next bargaining session is scheduled for Dec. 8.

Posted on Nov. 16, 2011

Contract negotiations continue between the university and Local 153 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).  Several bargaining sessions have been held in recent weeks but to date no agreement has been reached.

The next bargaining session is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 17. A mediator has been requested by both parties. The mediator, a representative from the Federal Mediation Conciliation Services, will meet with both teams to facilitate a positive bargaining climate.

Posted on Oct. 5, 2011

Contract negotiations are underway between the university and Local 153 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). The current contract with AFSCME expired Sept. 30. We continue to operate under the terms of the expired contract and the next bargaining session is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 9.

Posted on Sept. 1, 2011

The first negotiating session is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 7.

Posted on Aug. 31, 2011

Negotiations between the university and Local 153 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) will begin in September. The current contract with AFSCME expires Sept. 30. The AFSCME Local represents 361 full- and part-time employees on the Kent Campus working in Dining Services, Residence Services and University Facilities Management.

The chief negotiator for the university for is James Kurek, with the law firm of Fisher & Phillips LLP.  

Future negotiation updates for managers will be communicated through Management Update and on this website.  

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