Panel: Pandemic Organizing and Bargaining Lessons in Higher Education

Panel Description

The COVID-19 pandemic shifted the landscape of collective bargaining and union organizing in higher education, creating both crises and opportunities for academic staff associations and university boards. This panel will cover a case study of a virtual organizing campaign at St. Petersburg College in Florida and a case study of a virtual round of negotiations during the pandemic at a University in Ontario.  These case studies will serve as a basis to explore the implications for collective bargaining and union organizing in the University sector more broadly.

Starting from the question of what were the pitfalls and advantages of virtual bargaining and organizing, the panel will consider the strategies that were adopted by unions and employers including, from a union perspective, engagement and mobilization tactics, and which of these strategies are likely to continue, possibly with some adaptation, going forward.

Panelists Bios

Larry Savage is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Labour Studies at Brock University. His teaching and research is focused on collective bargaining, union strategy, and labour politics. Professor Savage is also a faculty association activist, having served in various positions in the Brock University Faculty Association, including acting as the Association’s Chief Negotiator in 2017 and 2020. He is also a former member of the Executive Council of the Ontario Federation of Labour.  Professor Savage has authored or edited six books on the Canadian labour movement, including his latest co-edited book with Stephanie Ross, Rethinking the Politics of Labour in Canada, 2nd ed. (2021). He and Professor Ross recently concluded a SSHRC Insight Grant exploring the relationship between bargaining structures and bargaining outcomes for contract academic faculty.

Lauren Byers, United Faculty of Florida, Unit Service Director, Organizing Specialist.

Barry Miller, is Senior Policy Advisor on Labour Relations at York University in the Office of Labour Relations, which reports to the Vice-President Equity, People and Culture.  He has been involved in academic labour relations at the University for over 20 years, first as an associate dean with labour relations responsibilities and, following, as Director/Executive Director of Faculty Relations for the period 2001 to 2017 prior to moving to the Senior Policy Advisor role.  Dr. Miller has extensive negotiation experience, including as University lead and chief table spokesperson.  In his current role, he works closely with the AVP Labour Relations and Faculty Relations to support negotiations, including the development of proposals, negotiation strategy and collection and analysis of negotiation-related information, and other strategic and policy matters.  Dr. Miller has a tenured faculty position with an academic specialization in linguistics.