Stanford and SEIU contract negotiations are under way

Representatives from Stanford University and SEIU Higher Education Workers Local 2007 began negotiations July 1 on a new contract, using an "interest-based" collaborative approach that focuses on creating effective solutions for both parties.

In addition to negotiating the ground rules for the contract talks, the parties agreed to discuss realignment of certain job classifications and to address grievance issues prior to the receipt of the union's written proposals in mid-July.

"The initial session was positive, with comprehensive and respectful discussion by all," said Gayle Saxton, chief negotiator for Stanford and the university's associate vice president of employee and labor relations. "We look forward to completing negotiations by Aug. 31, with changes to the agreement that are satisfactory to both parties."

Paul Regalado, president of SEIU Local 2007, said, "For over 40 years, United Stanford Workers has been a big part of Stanford University. We are proud to have been part of Stanford's success. We are now working on continuing and improving the traditions that our students have come to expect from the union workers at Stanford University."

The current, five-year agreement expires Aug. 31. Negotiations are expected to run through August. The SEIU represents service and technical workers at the university.

In the past five years, representatives of the SIEU and Stanford management have made efforts to use an "interest-based" approach in a variety of ways to work together at the bargaining table and to manage the agreement.

Under interest-based negotiations, both sides seek common ground by sharing and exploring their overall interests and issues at the outset, before they exchange written proposals to modify specific contract provisions. The approach was designed to improve understanding, build trust and improve communication.

In preparation for the negotiations, union and management teams came together for two days in March to attend training on interest-based labor negotiations, just as they did before the 2009 contract negotiations.

While both parties are working to perfect the approach, they have used it to develop and implement joint programs, to support management-led trainings and to jointly solve workplace issues at Stanford since 2009.

New apprenticeship program

During the 2009 contract negotiations, Stanford and the SEIU developed the Apprenticeship Program for staff and worked together closely to implement the program.

Four apprentices were hired in January 2013 and hold four-year, paid, benefits-eligible apprenticeships in Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE) and Land, Buildings & Real Estate (LBRE), two of the units with the largest number of skilled union employees.

For details on the apprenticeship program, visit the University Human Resources website. The California Apprenticeship Council published a story about Stanford's apprenticeship program in its 2013 fourth quarter newsletter.

Both R&DE and LBRE have created successful, interest-based workplace trainings in their respective areas, which were greatly supported by bargaining unit employees.

For example, since 2010, R&DE has held annual respectful workplace training in each of its departments. All bargaining unit staff attended these trainings with their supervisors and managers. The training focuses on important topics such as addressing morale issues in the workplace, professionalism and appropriate peer-to-peer behavior.  

In March and April 2013, LBRE held interest-based problem-solving training for all union stewards, supervisors and managers in their various areas. Additionally, over the past five years, both LBRE and R&DE have held monthly summit meetings, where both the union and management teams gathered to collaborate and solve problems.