Panel: Contract Negotiations under COVID and Beyond

The advent and persistence of COVID has changed much about labor relations, including the process of negotiating collective bargaining agreements. Aside from impact bargaining over COVID policies, the content of proposals and the arguments for them have on the whole, remained constant, yet team meetings and the drafting and the presentation of proposals have been completely altered to meet the new, public health-driven circumstances. At Wayne State University we have been carrying out all negotiations online, using both Zoom and Teams as communication platforms. The University of Michigan and the Lecturers’ Organization recently completed a nine-month bargaining process entirely on Zoom.

During this panel, lead negotiators from both sides of “the table” (Winters for the administration and Villarosa for the AAUP-AFT Local 6075), will review the negotiation process as it unfolded at Wayne State, using Zoom and Teams, with, what they agree, are good results. From the University of Michigan, Fanelli, Associate Director Labor Relations and Herold, President, Lecturers’ Employee Organization, AFT Local 6244 will discuss the advantages and challenges of this new world. This panel will also comment on lessons learned and the future of online negotiations and open a discussion with the audience about experiences and projections for years to come. Herold, President, Lecturers’ Employee Organization, AFT Local 6244 will present for the University of Michigan. This panel will also comment on how permanent such online negotiations may become and open a discussion with others in the audience about experiences and projections for years to come.

Panelists Bios

Margaret E. Winters is former Provost and Professor Emerita (French and Linguistics) at Wayne State University where she worked from 2002 – 2016.  Prior to serving as Provost, administrative positions include Associate Provost for Academic Personnel, and founding Chair of the Department of Classical and Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures.  Previously from 1977, she worked at Southern Illinois University Carbondale both in administration (Interim Provost, Associate Provost, and Chair) and as a member of the faculty.  She recently returned to Wayne State University to serve as lead negotiator for the administration in negotiations with the faculty/academic staff association (AAUP-AFT).  A native of New York City, she attended Brooklyn College.  She spent a year in France after receiving her B.A. and subsequently did graduate work at the University of California Riverside (M.A.) and the University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D.).  

Ricardo Villarosa, Esq. has been a Coordinator of Student Life for the Wayne State University Dean of Students Office since January 2014. Prior to his current position, he served as the Director of Student Life and Educational Outreach for the Law School for 13 years.  Since fall of 2009, Mr. Villarosa has served as a member of the Wayne State University AAUP-AFT Executive Board as the Grievance Coordinator for Academic Staff; and a member of the Union’s Contract enforcement Team (CET). He was appointed as the Union’s Chief Negotiator in 2020. In that role, he led smaller teams in multiple rounds of impact bargaining related to policy changes and implementation addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and simultaneously engaging with the full bargaining team to negotiate the first renewal of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in eight years. As an elected member of the WSU Academic Senate, and the Senate’s Policy Committee, Mr. Villarosa is also involved in the shared academic governance functions of the University. For more than a decade, he has served on the contractually established peer review committees for Selective Salary, ESS, and Promotion and Tenure at the division and University levels; and has been a frequent presenter for workshops related to the submission and review processes.  Mr. Villarosa has held a variety of leadership roles with responsibility for strategic planning, implementation, and evaluation of programs and organizations outside of the WSU community. He has served on a number of nonprofit governing boards and advisory boards. Mr. Villarosa is a past president of the Michigan Asian Pacific American Bar Association. He was appointed as a Trustee of the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Foundation (DMBF) and served as a member of the DMBF’s Pipeline Committee until he retired from the Board in fall 2013. He was elected and served a three-year term on the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) Board of Trustees from 2009 to 2012.  Mr. Villarosa received his B.S. in Corporate Finance, M.B.A. in Entrepreneurship, and his J.D. from Wayne State University. Prior to his current career portfolio, Mr. Villarosa spent more than a decade in various leadership roles in the hospitality and retail industries—coaching, training, and mentoring have been a consistent theme throughout. He is also a licensed attorney; an adjunct faculty member for the Master of Science in Administration and Bachelor of Science in Administration programs for Central Michigan University; an occasional chef; and a certified therapeutic lifestyle coach.

Dominick Fanelli, Associate Director Labor Relations, University of Michigan. Dominick Fanelli has been with the University of Michigan for almost 8 years.  Mr. Fanelli currently serves as the Associate Director of Labor Relations for the University of Michigan Staff Human Resources.  Over the past year, Mr. Fanelli has assisted the University of Michigan Academic Human Resources in negotiating their contract with the Lecturers’ Employee Organization and has served as the contract’s primary administrator. Mr. Fanelli has over 14 years of labor relations experience including work with the New York City Office of Labor Relations and in the Office of the General Counsel for the New York State United Teachers union. Mr. Fanelli received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan (’05) and a Juris Doctorate from Widener University School of Law, Harrisburg (’08).

Kirsten Herold, President, Lecturers’ Employee Organization, AFT Local 6244. Kirsten is a Lecturer at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor School of Public Health, where she runs a small writing lab.  In addition, she is President of the Lecturers Union, LEO, which represents about 2,000 non-tenure track instructional faculty on the three UM campuses.  She was the Union’s longtime contract administrator, has been on all six bargaining teams, and served as team lead on three of them. 

Homer C. La Rue, Arbitrator, Mediator, Professor of Law.  Professor La Rue has a MA in Industrial & Labor Relations and a JD from Cornell University.  He has a BA from Purdue University.  He is Professor of Law at the Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C. He is the founder and co-director of the Howard Law ADR Program.  Professor La Rue also is the founder and director of the Law School’s ADR Certificate Program.  He also directs an ADR externship program for third-year law students with the World Bank Group’s Internal Justice System. Professor La Rue has extensive experience as a preeminent and highly sought-after labor and employment law attorney. For more than 35 years, he has served as an arbitrator and a mediator in numerous complex national and global matters, including labor, employment, and commercial disputes. Professor La Rue is President-Elect of the National Academy of Arbitrators, and the recipient of the 2020 D’Almeberte-Raven Award for outstanding service to the ADR field. The Award is the highest honor given by the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution.  La Rue is past Chair of the Council of the Section of Dispute Resolution of the American Bar Association. He is the permanent arbitrator for several collective bargaining agreements.  Professor La Rue is a member of the labor-management and employment roster of arbitrators of the American Arbitration Association and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. He is a Fellow in the College of Labor & Employment Lawyers.  He also is a Distinguished Fellow in the International Academy of Mediators (IAM) and has served on its Board of Governors.  The Peggy Browning Fund’s 2015 DC Awards Reception recognized Professor La Rue for his fair and impartial work as a labor-management neutral.  Professor La Rue was the 2017-18 Neutral-In-Residence at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) at Cornell University. He has published several scholarly [articles], including contributing a chapter in “Evolution of a Field: Personal Histories in Conflict Resolution”, eds. Welsh and Gadlin (DRI Press, December 1, 2020). One of his current initiatives, known as the Ray Corollary Initiative (RCI), now a non-profit organization, is designed to address the lack of persons of color and women selected as ADR neutrals, particularly in labor-management disputes.