TLDR: We had our first mediation session with federal mediator Andrea Cancer. 

On Thursday, April 8, we met for our first bargaining session in mediation. Both sides agreed on Andrea Cancer, who was assigned to our case by Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services and has a long background in labor, including time as a shop steward for the labor union SEIU. In this process, the mediator hosts the session, and most of the time is spent in caucus in separate breakout rooms. The mediator talks to one side at a time, listening and asking questions as we identify our priorities, reasoning, and points of disagreement. Each caucus is a confidential space, and the mediator only shares information with the other side if agreed upon. 

At the start of this session, we met briefly with the University team to set dates and go over a new costing spreadsheet from the University, but spent most of the time in caucus otherwise. Initially, the University’s next proposed date was only Thursday, April 15; after talking with the mediator, we were able to set additional dates at the table starting this Sunday, April 11 at 10 am. We hope to be able to quickly determine whether we are making substantial progress through mediation in the coming week. 

The University’s new costing includes their estimate for bringing hourly workers up to either $20 or $25 per hour. Our current proposal is $20 for undergraduate workers and $25 for graduate workers, but they said they did not have the data to break out the numbers of undergrads versus grads. As we see it, the University is overestimating both the cost and number of workers involved. The University insists they would have to bring all student hourly wages up to this standard, even for those outside the unit, which is limited to instructional and research workers. We certainly believe that every worker on campus should be making this rate; however, it is unfair to use these additional costs as a reason to deny raising wages for members of our union. 

In caucus with Andrea, we discussed our position on neutral arbitration for discrimination and harassment, as well as our reasoning on the outstanding economic items. This session felt foundational, as we got to know the mediator, and she began the process of understanding our disagreements. 

Our next sessions are scheduled for

  • Sunday, April 11, 10 am-12 noon;
  • Monday, April 12, 4:30 pm;
  • Thursday, April 15, 9 am-2 pm; and
  • Friday, April 16, 9 am-2 pm.

Please use this link to RSVP if you would like to attend.