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Higher Education Board Meeting Minutes

Board Meeting, October 25, 2001,
George Meany Center for Labor Studies,
National Labor College ,
Silver Spring, Maryland.

Chairman Raskin called the meeting to order at 9:15 a.m. Present were Board members Raskin, Gant, Merkowitz, and Schurman.
By unanimous consent, the Board laid over the minutes from August 31 and September 20 till the November meeting.

Chairman’s Report:

Mr. Raskin reported on the work during the interim on the regulations. He reminded the Board of the decision to offer an informal input period. To the audience, he remarked that about 100% of the inputs of a non-controversial nature—which accounted for 75% of them all—were adopted in the draft that later in the meeting would be voted on. Of the remaining 25% of the comments, which were on more controversial matters, on such topics as how to proceed, all were taken into account. So, in baseball terms where a .300 batting average is pretty good, all the parties batted about .700 on this process and should feel pretty good about it. The Board exchanged ideas in putting this together and will have every right to say once this is complete that we have the best regulatory set in the nation.
At the same time, the Chairman continued, we have also been dealing with the existing petitions to set up the orders and a process on each campus among the institutions and the unions involved.

Executive Director’s Report:

The Executive Director began his report by commending Mr. Monte Magee of the Attorney General’s office for his invaluable assistance during this process. Mr. Magee will be handing this responsibility over to the newly hired AG by Nov. 5. He also commended Mr. Jeffrey Lubbers for his work on the regulations and Mr. Fred Feinstein ’s work as his own legal consultant during the process of preparing election orders.
Mr. Pence informed the Board that he has petitions filed for 21 unit elections on 11 campuses, all but one of which must be completed prior to January 1 under the 90-day limit in the statute. He complimented the institutions and the unions for their cooperative and collaborative approach so far and indicated that he had issued five orders for unit elections on two campuses, Frostburg nonexempt and sworn police and Baltimore City Community College all three units. The Frostburg and BCCC elections will be on site, November 14 and 29, respectively.

Public Comment

Mr. Sansbury of the University System of Maryland had signed up but indicated he would not speak at this time because the Board had indicated it had reviewed on the inputs on the regulations and was likely to go forward.
American Federation of Teachers (AFT) spokesperson Mr. Gary Pagels addressed the Board with concerns about access issues. The AFT considers obtaining cards a protected activity since the statute went into effect July 1, that access opportunities should be afforded all unions, and that the personnel at institutions who were resisting union access were “well meaning” but not necessarily doing it correctly. AFT, Mr. Pagels said, renews its request that the Board give some interim guidance on the access issues as if it doesn’t then there will be more challenges and the fundamental fairness of the election may be compromised.

The Maryland Classified Employees Association (MCEA) were represented by a panel including a Ms. Davis, Ms. Ogle, and Mr. Terry Taylor, Executive Director. They “echoed” AFT’s concerns as a candidate in several elections and stated their view that voters need to meet candidates and find out for themselves what that candidate stood for. Ms. Davis expanded to say that MCEA wants employees educated on what can be guaranteed as to access and Mr. Taylor asserted the need to “have access indoors.”

The Chairman stated that while the regulations were not in effect all parties should recognize they do reflect the current thinking of the Board pending the notice and comment period.

American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), represented by Kim Keller and Sue Esty, also addressed the Board. They asserted that union speech is being treated differently than other speech and association and said police were being used in at least one site threatening that AFSCME workers would be arrested “on sight.” AFSCME also requested that the Board meet at night sometimes so the workers could attend.

Ms. Esty went on to reiterate the key points of her input on the regulations, namely, that revocation of certificates language was too wide open; that the ULP prevention of the union intervening between an employee and the employer ignored the union’s potential damage otherwise; that the ULP should not go to the Office of Administrative Hearings, due in part to the weight given OAH decisions, resulting in too limited grounds for appeal.

Continuing Business:

Chairman Raskin then moved on to indicate where the Board currently is on a number of issues after pointing out that later the Board will adopt to send to AELR for review, which is a ten day period, then to publication in the Maryland Register which will probably occur between Nov. 30 and Dec. 28—which then commences a 30-day comment period, followed by another 15 day period before the regulations could be finalized. Furthermore, any substantive changes the Board would make would restart the process on that section, at least. The Chair then began a treatment of one of the issues that clearly is arising within the process:
ACCESS—the Board’s current thinking

Assume that 1st amendment rights apply on campus to all employees and that universities are to be considered public fora;
Employers allow all lawful conduct under the principles of fairness and neutrality;
Eligible employees/election candidates have the same rights of access for speech activities as enjoyed by other members of the community;
Employers may not alter existing rules for the sole purpose of limiting access to unions;
What is afforded to one entity must be afforded equally to others;
Institutions may not discriminate against and employee’s right to speech based on its labor-related content/ i.e., labor talk can’t be censored;
E-mail issues—we cannot satisfy every circumstance, so the idea is to both union and employer, “Don’t be a jerk.” If you can use it for one thing or one cause then the union should be able to use it, too. But the union cannot demand to be able to e-mail to 4000 people and shut down the system. The divide occurs between endless spamming on one side and censorship on the other. The Board would ask all parties to arrive at solutions that make sense.
All parties should not hesitate to call on the Executive Director or a Board member to work out some of the differences that arise.
Mr. Merkowitz added that the Board supports the application of common sense in these matters. Under numerous rulings, he said, academic freedom has a special place in a college or university and it is therefore incumbent, he believes, to work to preserve it, to encourage a liberal view of access and even to promote the debate.

Mr. Gant emphasized the educative functions of the process and offered to help with the educating early on.

Ms. Schurman supported the access statements as given by the Chair. She noted the axiom, “Management gets the union it deserves,” and noted that under U.S. law employers have the bounds of authority to protect their interests. The nature of the relationship they will have with unions is established, however, now and will last until 3rd or 4th generations from now. Addressing herself to the unions present, Ms. Schurman observed that despite some real issues there is a tendency to find worst case examples of management conduct and that itself can be a destructive approach. She pointed out her own beginnings in the union movement but her current position has her deal as a manager with 5 unions. In closing she indicated she will react strongly to violations.

New Business:

The Board entertained the following motion:
**Moved by Ms. Schurman, seconded by Mr. Gant

That the State Higher Education Labor Relations Board adopt proposed regulations for publication in the Maryland Register to implement the requirements of Senate Bill 207 adopted by the 2001 Maryland General Assembly.

The motion passed.

Executive Session:

The Board entered into Executive Session to discuss legal and personnel matters.

Following Executive Session, the Board announced it would forward to the Board of Public Works a resolution as follows:

Consistent with the legislative mandate under Senate Bill 207 adopted by the 2001 Maryland General Assembly and consistent with its fiscal note, the Maryland State Higher Education Labor Relations Board requests approval by the Board of Public Works of a reimbursable fund budget amendment to fund HELRB operations and staff positions, including a Director estimated at Grade 25, a Professional Staff person estimated at Grade 22, and a Support Staff person estimated at Grade 14, as well as professional consultants as needed to augment this staff.

This motion was made by Mr. Gant and seconded by Mr. Merkowitz.

The motion was adopted.


The Board adjourned at approximately 12:30 p.m.
The next meeting of the Board will be at 7:30 p.m. , November 29, 2001 , in the Forum at the Baltimore City Community College Harbor Campus.

Respectfully submitted by Karl Pence, Executive Director

[Minutes approved at the December 20, 2001 board meeting.]