EVP's Statement on Negotiations with Employees at the Faculty Club

Various articles, opinions and letters-to-the-editor published last week in campus media paint an incomplete picture, at best, of the differences between the University of Pennsylvania and the union representing Faculty Club workers.

The fact is, the Faculty Club also is staffed by managers and administrative staff (non-union). Doubletree, who will operate the Inn at Penn, is prepared to offer employment to 70 percent of those full-time eligible managers and administrative staff who apply to work at the Inn at Penn. In addition, those managers and administrative staff hired to work at the Inn at Penn will be eligible for a tuition benefit for a ten-year period with provisions substantially comparable to the University tuition benefit in effect at the time it is used as long as they are employed by Doubletree at the Inn at Penn. For those choosing not to apply, or who are not hired, the Uni-versity severance program would apply.

The Faculty Club is a non-profit corporation whose membership consists of a number of faculty and administrators. The University of Pennsylvania had a collective bargaining agreement with Local 274, Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE), AFL-CIO, which expired on July 31, 1998. The University and the union have agreed to extend the term of the contract. This agreement covers certain employees who provide food and beverage services to the Faculty Club at the facility located at Skinner Hall on campus. The union is the exclusive representative of the employees in question, and it is our obligation under the National Labor Relations Act to deal only with the union regarding terms and conditions of employment. Those are undeniable facts.

More than six months ago, both prior to and during negotiations for a new agreement, the University advised the union that the Faculty Club functions would be served in the newly-constructed hotel to be known as the Inn at Penn, which will open in September 1999. At the Inn at Penn, food and beverage service for the Faculty Club would be provided by the hotel operator, Doubletree, using its own employees. The Doubletree employees providing this service would be part of a much larger food and beverage operation in connection with its overall hotel operation. Did the University consult with the appropriate representative groups? Yes, consultation has been, in fact, an important part of this decision, and we have consulted extensively with both the Faculty Club Board of Governors and the leadership of the Faculty Senate. The fact is that this issue has been public since November 1997. The union employees and the campus community at large will have been notified at least one year prior to the planned closing of the Faculty Club in Skinner Hall this summer. These, too, are undeniable facts.

The University and the union have been in formal negotiations since the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement; the union has not presented its economic proposals as of this writing. Indeed, we have been waiting almost six months for its proposal. On numerous occasions, the Penn negotiating team has invited the union to discuss proposals about economic issues or the effect of the closure (severance, etc.) on its membership. The union has refused to do so in each instance. The University asked a Federal Mediator to help facilitate an agreement. And, even though the union has not requested an economic package, the University, in an effort to settle the contract, made what we believe is a very competitive offer via the Federal Mediator to the union on October 5, 1998, with the specifics as follows:

  1. Three percent (3%) wage increases to all non-tipped Club employees.
  2. A $500 lump sum signing bonus to each employee, if the proposed contract was ratified by 5 p.m., Oct. 19, 1998.
  3. A union pension fund increase (most staff are under the terms of the Union's pension plan).
  4. Two unpaid days for union shop steward education.
  5. One week severance pay for each full year of service.
  6. Interviews for staff interested in working at the Inn at Penn, which will be facilitated by Doubletree at the request of the University.

This offer--an offer we believe to be fair--remains on the table. But, the fact is the union has not responded as of this writing. Again, we are waiting for a response; it's now been more than three months. The union has demanded, however, that its current contract apply to employees at the Inn at Penn, where the number of employees will be much greater than the current Faculty Club staff. The fact is, Doubletree, not Penn, will be the employer at the Inn at Penn. Doubletree will run a much different business --a 250-bed hotel, not simply a private club. We simply cannot, indeed it's improper, for the University to force terms and conditions of employment and a pre-determined staff on Doub-letree and its many other employees.

Unhappily the union will move no further and has refused to make even the most basic economic demands. It is rigid in its stand that its contract apply to present staff who work for Doubletree at the Faculty Club's new location. The union has refused to discuss any "effects" issues such as severance.

Last fall, the University notified the union that Doubletree indicated that it may offer positions to a number of the current Faculty Club employees. Since then, Penn has informed the union that Doub-letree will hire at least 70 percent of the current full time Faculty Club staff who apply to work at the Inn at Penn. In addition, despite the union's refusal to bargain, the University has recently supplement-ed its basic offer in an attempt to reach an amicable resolution. Penn has offered, for current full time Faculty Club employees hired by Doubletree to work at the Inn at Penn, eligibility for a tuition benefit for a ten-year period, with provisions substantially comparable to the University tuition benefit in effect at the time it is used, as long as they are employed by Doubletree at the Inn at Penn.

We think it is most unfortunate that the union will not respond to Penn's proposals but instead is engaging in misleading communication. Nevertheless, we will continue to bargain in good faith to reach a fair and equitable agreement for its employees. That is our commitment to this campus community.

--John A. Fry, Executive Vice President

Almanac, Vol. 45, No. 18, January 26, 1999