Panel: COVID and Higher Education: The Role of Unions and Arbitration Regarding Vaccine Mandates

Panel Description

The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-21 has changed working conditions for millions of Americans quickly and dramatically. Employers responded by requiring employees to quarantine, implementing workplace COVID policies, disciplining employees who violated those policies, changing work schedules, cancelling leaves or vacations, and furloughing or laying off employees. Unions have challenged many of these actions, raising a variety of novel issues including vaccine mandates that are now being resolved through labor arbitration. This panel surveys those labor arbitration awards and analyzes the awards, as well as looking in depth at the negotiations process at UMass Amherst, which avoided arbitration by collaborating on an extensive series of COVID-related policies.

Panelists Bios

Richard Bales, Professor of Law, Pettit College of Law, Ohio Northern University. Rick Bales teaches a wide variety of ADR and labor/employment courses, Torts, and Civil Procedure. He has spoken throughout the world (particularly in Southeast Asia) on using full-course simulation projects to enhance experiential learning. He has published more than 80 scholarly articles and authored or co-authored eight books on a variety of topics related to labor/employment/ADR. His most recent book is Cambridge Handbook of US Labor Law: Reinventing Labor Law for the 21st Century (co-edited with Charlotte Garden). In addition to teaching and writing, Rick is a part-time labor arbitrator. He is a member of the National Academy of Arbitrators and serves on FMCS and AAA panels.

Eve Weinbaum, Co-President, Massachusetts Society of Professors, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Eve Weinbaum received a Ph.D. in Political Science from Yale University. She also holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, and a B.A. in Political Philosophy from Yale University. Weinbaum teaches Labor Studies at UMass, where she directed the Labor Center for a decade.  Before coming to UMass, she worked in the labor movement, including ACTWU, UNITE and HERE.  Weinbaum’s research focuses on organizing, labor and politics, women and low-wage workers, and higher ed unions.

Michael Eagen, Associate Provost for Academic Personnel, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. A lawyer by training, Mr. Eagen also served as the Director of Faculty & Staff Labor Relations for the University of Connecticut where he provided leadership and direction for the University’s employee relations and collective bargaining functions. As well, he served as Counsel for Labor and Employment within UConn’s Office of the General Counsel. His primary focus at UConn was to oversee academic personnel administration and to ensure positive and constructive relations between the administration and UConn’s faculty and graduate assistant unions. Eagen has been an adjunct instructor for the UCONN School of Business teaching labor law and labor relations in the Business Mastery Program for Public Service Professionals. Prior to joining UCONN, Eagen was Director of Personnel and Labor Relations for the Waterbury Board of Education.  He is an active participant in numerous professional associations including the Academy of Academic Personnel Administrators and the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education.  Michael Eagen received his B.A. in economics from the University of Connecticut and his J.D., cum laude, from Western New England University School of Law.

Charles Toombs is Professor and Immediate Past Chair of Africana Studies, San Diego State University (SDSU). His areas of specialization and publications are Africana literature and Black Queer Studies. His degrees are BA (English), MA (English), MS (Industrial Relations), Ph.D. (English), all from Purdue University. He is President of the California Faculty Association (CFA) and a Vice President of SEIU California. He was one of six U.S. union leaders invited by the Shanghai Education Union for meetings in China, March 2018. He was selected as the San Diego State University Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Unsung Hero for 2018, 2014 SDSU Faculty Diversity Award recipient, and African American Educator of San Diego County for 2011 by Phi Delta Kappa, Inc. He is committed to antiracism and social and cultural justice and is a national and local leader in these areas. He has presented on numerous panels and meetings addressing strategies for labor unions to prioritize anti-racism and social justice in their organizing, structures, and other work. He has published several works on African American literature and culture, including, “Harlem Renaissance in San Diego: New Negroes and Community” in The Harlem Renaissance in the American West, Routledge, and “African American Uprising” in California Literature, Cambridge UP and works on James Baldwin, Nella Larsen, Joyce Carol Thomas, Ntozake Shange, Josiah Henson, and others. He has presented papers, chaired panels, and served on panels at professional meetings and conferences, including lectures and workshops on African American Literature and Africana Studies at Gorlovka State Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages, Gorlovka, Ukraine.