To the Editors:
Many people have asked what caused Oberlin College Office and Professional Employees to file charges with the National Labor Relations Board and take grievances to arbitration. Simply put, these actions were taken to protect the contractual rights of administrative assistants on campus. Oberlin College refused to adhere to long-standing policies and practices that were agreed upon and included in the OCOPE-Oberlin College contract years ago. Some of the disputed matters include hiring procedures, assigning administrative assistant work to non-bargaining unit positions, and refusing to provide information necessary for OCOPE to properly administer the contract and represent members. Language in the contract that regulated these practices has existed for decades. When OCOPE was unable to resolve the issues through discussion with College administrators, usually in the Department of Human Resources, it became necessary to file grievances. When the College refused to negotiate resolutions to grievances, OCOPE was forced to take the issues to arbitration. Forcing unions to spend money to arbitrate every dispute is a common tactic employed by entities interested in union-busting. One arbitration hearing was held in December, and the arbitrator ruled last month that “the Employer shall treat the position of [the AA position in question] as included in the bargaining unit, and shall follow the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement in filling the position.
Another arbitration was canceled four days before the scheduled January hearing when the Union and College finally reached agreement in accordance with contract language after nearly a year of discussion. The NLRB charge initially contained several issues, and OCOPE withdrew those that were included in the January arbitration settlement agreement. The NLRB issued a complaint on the remaining charges, and ordered the College to post the notice for 60 days in 25 campus buildings.
Oberlin College spent many thousands of dollars on lawyers to defend their actions — money that far exceeded what the union would pay to successfully defend the contract. OCOPE is supported by the Office and Professional Employees International Union, while Oberlin College bears the burden of their decisions alone.