OCOPE Clarifies Facts

To the Editors:

It has come to our attention that incorrect information about Oberlin College Office and Professional Employees continues to spread across campus. We know the source of much of this misinformation and have requested that the College correct the errors, but since that is not happening, we believe it is important to share the truth.

The College’s continued refusal to provide requested information or adhere to the collective bargaining agreement has forced OCOPE to take extraordinary action. An unfair labor practice charge was filed with the National Labor Relations Board Monday, Feb. 20. We will continue to defend the rights of our members and our contract both by continuing our effort to work with the College and by holding them accountable through every available means when they refuse to respect our contract and members’ rights.

Thirty-two OCOPE members participated in the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program. The College has eliminated some of the vacancies and distributed the work from those positions and four additional eliminations/reductions to other employees, including non-bargaining unit staff. OCOPE continues to request information and status for vacancies not yet eliminated or posted to fill.

Two OCOPE executive board members participated in the Dean’s task force. We had no vote and neither approved nor recommended any positions for elimination, reduction or additional workload. Those decisions were made by Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Tim Elgren and senior administration. We pointed out where cuts would reduce necessary services to faculty and students, discussed relevant contract language and explained the process and consequences of the bumping procedure.

At a recent meeting of the general faculty, OCOPE was blamed for causing delays in processing vacancies and communicating with faculty and staff about changes to their departments or positions. OCOPE accepts full responsibility for demanding that errors in nearly every document produced by the College be corrected before implementation and distribution. OCOPE did not make the errors and accepts no responsibility for the delay caused by the time it took the College to fix its numerous mistakes.

The College implemented position eliminations and “restructuring” without consultation with the most affected department chairs or supervisors. OCOPE was excluded from this decision.

OCOPE repeatedly asked for financial information to aid in identifying areas for savings, as OCOPE has done in the past. No information or savings target was provided, other than the stated goal to eliminate administrative assistant positions.

OCOPE called attention to contract language that would have cost the College a considerable amount if ignored. This is not the first time OCOPE found ways for the College to save money.

Several administrative assistants retired in July and August 2016. Instead of posting and filling these positions in a timely manner, including some that provided the sole support to academic departments, the College notified OCOPE of their intent to violate the contract and continue the use of $14-per-hour temporary employees in positions that should have been filled last summer. Grievances were filed.

The contract between Oberlin College and OCOPE contains articles that benefit and/or restrict both parties. It was mutually negotiated, and every word of the language was carefully studied, analyzed and approved by College attorneys and administration. Poor planning and financial management are not just cause for either side to intentionally ignore past agreements and violate the contract.

In Solidarity,

– Tracy Tucker

OCOPE President

– OCOPE Executive Board