Monday, April 14, 2014

Greetings Colleagues!

Last Friday I was installed as the second president of the HSSU-NEA chapter---the most dynamic higher-ed chapter in Missouri! It is indeed an honor. In just two years, the HSSU-NEA has been able to re-constitute the faculty senate (after a 10 year hiatus), negotiate a the university's first labor contract on behalf of the full-time faculty, and force one of the most despotic administrative regimes in the country to grudgingly accept the concepts of shared governance and transparency! Even more, ours is the first chapter in Missouri to offer full voting membership to adjunct professors and instructors. What we have done is admirable and our chapter is the envy of many other institutions.

The next chapter of our story is critical. As I see it we have a number of challenges:
1) The chapter needs to build its membership and support in order to leverage contracts for the professional staff and adjunct faculty.
2) We need to assert our prerogatives of shared governance in every arena--from university meetings to the faculty senate.
3) We need to continue gathering information on university finances, personnel and initiatives until the administration is fully transparent.
4) Membership needs to directly engage the Board of Regents and the President of the university every month with reports and issues of concern.
5) We need to record every incident of intimidation on our members by administrators and address it with firm resolution.
6) We need to continue to share our story with our students and the community.
7) We need to cement our legacy within the NEA as a dynamic chapter and continue to send our members to national conferences in order to build relationships within the union.
8) We need to change the culture of the university by reminding our administrators that they work for us--not vice versa.
9) We must endeavor to change the oral culture at the university into one of written policy and communications.
10) We must work through the summer to keep up the pressure and achieve our goals in a timely manner.

These are challenges we all must face together. Simply paying your dues is not enough; membership in a union requires robust debate, resolution and action. In the coming months, I will be looking for ways to promote greater inclusion and involvement from our membership and our supporters. 

I have attached copies of our next meeting agenda, scheduled for Friday, April 24 as well as an updated copy of the chapter's bylaws. We will be using Robert's Rules of Order for chapter meetings. Some guidelines about the parliamentary process follow below:

I would be remiss if I failed to thank outgoing president Mark Abbott for his work over the last two years. He endured a very difficult situation with patience and steadfast determination. He understood that membership in  a union is like a marriage: sacred and worthwhile but stressful as hell.

It's hard to believe that we first met with the NEA only three years ago! There had been layoffs the previous year and the whole mood on campus in 2011 was a state of gloom. My, how far we have come! I believe that as a union we can work to make Harris-Stowe State University a great place to work and a great place for our students. As your president, I promise to do everything within my power to achieve these goals. 


Brian Elsesser, PhD

Sunday, October 27, 2013


In order to keep the Harris-Stowe community informed of ongoing developments since the historic election of October 1 where HSSU faculty authorized HSSU-NEA to represent them for the purposes of collective bargaining, HSSU-NEA has decided to email a short newsletter each Sunday.  Please feel free to distribute.
1. Board of Regents Invite HSSU-NEA to an Initial Meeting:  The Board of Regents and the administration has invited HSSU-NEA to meet this Wednesday to establish ground rules and to identify primary issues for the upcoming negotiations.  The meeting will take place at 8:30 in the board room (HGA 101).
2. Sunshine Requests:  The Board of Regents has honored MNEA and HSSU-NEA's request to provide salary information with respect to the three recent promotions and President Gully.  They also honored the request for information concerning the status of Emeritus President Givens' consulting contract.  MNEA and HSSU-NEA are still waiting on the Board of Regents to honor the sunshine request for the last four years of financial audits for the university.  MNEA and HSSU-NEA are pursuing legal remedies to obtain this information.
3. Organizing Campaigns: HSSU-NEA is meeting with professional staff, part time faculty, and support staff to assist them with their organizing efforts.
4. Campus Equity Week: HSSU-NEA is organizing an event this Monday as part of National NEA's "Campus Equity Week."  CEW is a campaign to draw national attention to the plight of adjunct and part time instructors across the country.  HSSU-NEA will be distributing literature about the campaign and the plight of contingent faculty outside of Busch stadium before Monday night's World Series game.  HSSU-NEA will also distribute CWE buttons that will be worn during the week.  For more information, contact me at
Mark Abbott, PhD
HSSU-NEA President

Friday, October 11, 2013

HSSU-NEA's Media Message

Over the last week, several articles have appeared in St. Louis media outlets that have portrayed Harris-Stowe State University in a negative light, and which have been attributed to HSSU-NEA.

The articles this past week do not reflect the core values and goals of HSSU-NEA, including our commitment to good faith bargaining.  HSSU-NEA wants to:

  • ·       Strengthen the enrollment management strategy for student recruitment and retention.
  • ·       Enhance student campus life.
  • ·       Increase salary and benefits to attract, recruit, and retain the best possible full-time and adjunct faculty for HSSU students.
  • ·       Recruit a more diverse population.
  • ·       Broaden professional development opportunities, create and implement best practices for tenure and promotion, expand the number of sabbaticals available, and straighten the selection process to produce a more robust faculty.
  • ·       Own the development of a curriculum that will offer students more academic choices.
  • ·       Have more direct involvement in advising HSSU students.

We look forward to working with the board of regents and the administration as equals through good faith bargaining to achieve these goals.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Myth and the October 1 Election

The Myth of Union Dues

As classroom faculty we know that clarity and truth are vital communication elements.  Our students deserve it, and we work hard to provide it.  So it should come as no surprise that the goal for the HSSU-NEA in these days before the October 1 election is for clarity and truth.

In a letter to the faculty dated September 11, the Interim President and Chairwoman of the Board of Regents stated, “Further, please bear in mind that if you vote to join the union, your take-home pay will be reduced by your union dues.    In their letter to the faculty dated September 24, they again raised the spectre of “paying union dues.”

It is true that members of the HSSU-NEA pay “union dues,” but as Maya Angelou so elegantly put it, “Half a truth is often a great lie.”

1.    The election on October 1 is not “to join the union,” it is to elect MNEA as your representative for the purpose of collective bargaining, and negotiating a collective bargaining agreement for the full time faculty.  You are not voting “to join the union.”

2.    Union membership is not a requirement. In fact, the HSSU-NEA fully embraces the duty of fair representation, which obligates an exclusive representative to enforce a collective bargaining agreement for all members of the bargaining unit, in this case, all HSSU-NEA full time faculty, HSSU-NEA members or not.  Know this:

·      All full time faculty will be consulted as we prepare for bargaining. 
·      All full time faculty will participate in an agreement ratification vote. 
·      All full time faculty will enjoy the rights and benefits of a collective bargaining agreement. 

Ultimately, the HSSU-NEA is confident the majority of full time faculty will come to see and understand the benefits of membership, and will decide as individuals to voluntarily join us in solidarity.  But union membership is not, will not, and cannot be a requisite for either the election or the benefits of having MNEA as your representative for bargaining.

 The Myth of Relinquishing Your “Right of Communication” to a Third Party

The ballot you will receive on Tuesday will read, “I wish to designate Missouri National Education Association to be my exclusive representative for purposes of meeting with representatives of Harris-Stowe State University on matters related to collective bargaining.”

The HSSU-NEA’s goal is a collective bargaining agreement to secure our individual rights as Harris-Stowe faculty.  Academic freedom, professional development, sabbaticals, and tenure and promotion - for example - are core values and rights which each of us as individual faculty members deserve to have clearly articulated in writing.

Know this:  Our individual right (not “privilege” as the interim president and chairwoman referred to it) to speak openly and honestly as Harris-Stowe faculty members  - whether to the administration or Board of Regents or in another university forum – will be enhanced by a YES vote on Tuesday.

Clarity and truth.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

HSSU Board of Regents / Administration and the October 1 Election

Since the publication of the letter from the administration and Board of Regents two weeks ago, many of you have asked about their role in the October 1 election. 

The HSSU administration and the Board of Regents have the right to educate  full-time faculty on the benefits or disadvantages of electing MNEA as their collective bargaining representative.  They may do this in large or small groups, one-on-one engagement, or – as you saw – through a letter to the faculty at-large.

However, between now and the election the university cannot do the following.

  •        Spy on you or watch you to see if you are participating in election or organizing activities.

  •        Cruise by organizing or HSSU-NEA election meeting locations or engage in surveillance through a third party.

  •        Promise you special “perks” or “favors” to keep you from organizing or participating in election activities.

  •        Make negative threats or promises to you.

  •        Interrogate you about your organizing or election activities.

  •        Ask you about your relationship to HSSU-NEA or how you intend to vote.

  •        Hire you or fire you based on your organizing or election activities.

  •         Ask you about the specifics of the HSSU-NEA or its meetings.

  •        Threaten you with adverse consequence if you vote for recognition.

  •        Discuss your organizing or election activities with you either individually or in small groups in the office of administrators.  

  •          Initiate a “do not vote for” or “do not organize” petition.

If a faculty member believes at any time one of these have occurred, he or she should document the situation and report it to the HSSU-NEA.

We are excited to be moving forward to shared-decision making and a brighter future for our students and our university.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sunshine on HSSU "Transparency" and "Effectiveness"

As a state supported public institution, HSSU is bound by the legal requirement that records be open and accessible to the public.  We all know that we are just a few clicks away from being able to access the salaries of public employees – by name--through the Blue Book.  When those records are not readily accessible, the Revised Statutes of Missouri, through the Sunshine Law, Chapter 610, provide just such an avenue.

 The HSSU-NEA has two outstanding Sunshine requests pending with the university.


In a letter dated August 29, HSSU Interim President Constance Gully reported that the Board of Regents had approved a revised organizational structure “in its efforts to improve effectiveness and continued growth in size, scope, and service to the students of Harris-Stowe University.”

The HSSU-NEA believes in “effectiveness”, and we also believe in open records of public institutions.  To that end, on September 12 MNEA staff, utilizing the Sunshine Law, requested the following information from Harris-Stowe State University:

  •       Salary, stipends, bonuses, and job description for each of the threenewly promoted vice presidents and the interim president.

  •      Records for any consultant contracts with specific compensation issues by Harris-Stowe State University for the 2013-2014 school year.

  •      Salary, stipends, or consultant fees to past president Dr. Henry Givens for the 2013 2014 school year.


Last week Interim President Gully and the president of the Board of Regents, Thelma Cook, issued a letter to the full-time faculty addressing the upcoming October 1 election.  In closing they stated, “Transparency is our goal.  We want you to have honest information in a candid manner.” MNEA requested the following information from the university two months ago:

  • Audited university financial records for the past four years.

A thorough review of HSSU financial records is the first step in engaging the Board of Regents in serious, collaborative, and thoughtful collective bargaining.

You can trust the HSSU-NEA will keep you apprised of our efforts for effective transparency.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Importance of a Collective Bargaining Agreement for Harris-Stowe Faculty

Following a successful election on October 1, the HSSU-NEA will engage the Board of Regents in a collective bargaining process where the HSSU-NEA and Board will negotiate – as equals – to arrive at a collective bargaining agreement (CBA).  A legally binding agreement which cannot be changed unilaterally by either party, the CBA will define the rights and terms and conditions of employment for Harris-Stowe regular full-time faculty.

As a Harris-Stowe faculty member you receive a personal employment contract each year defining (minimal) terms of employment as unilaterally determined by the Board of Regents.  That contract is not a Collective Bargaining Agreement.  On this page are links for the collective bargaining agreements for the faculty of SIU-Carbondale and FAMU.  In addition, view the CBA for St. Louis Community College by clicking here.

We invite you to review each one carefully in order to appreciate the comprehensive breadth of a CBA, and to contemplate not only what it can mean for each of us as Harris-Stowe faculty, but what a stronger faculty can mean for our students.

A “Yes” vote on October 1 will be a major step to ensuring the fair working conditions, rights, and benefits you deserve.


Florida A & M  University CBA