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Professional Staff Organization History


This year, the UW held the first bi-annual Northwest Coalition of Professional Staff in Higher Education (NCPS) Conference at Alder Hall on July 19-21. This conference was possible in partnership with Western Washington University, Washington State University and the University of Washington Professional Staff Organizations. The conference was a success with over 100 participants from all over Washington State and the Pacific Northwest Region. Board Member Deci Evan's led the front as NCPS Executive Chair. The next conference in 2017 is expected to take place at Western Washington University.

PSO also sent a letter to the UW Presidential Search Committee Chair Kenyon Chan expressing concern over the lack of non-administrative staff members on the search committee. We did not feel that staff were adequately represented in comparison to the multiple administrator, faculty members and students appointed.

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This year saw the completion of several long-term efforts. Most notably, the Professional Staff Organization (PSO) finished updating its bylaws and became incorporated as a 501c5. To improve our working relationship with Human Resources, we established quarterly meetings of the PSO president and vice president with HR vice president Mindy Kornberg. This led to more pro staff representation on university committees and the resolution of several remaining issues related to the pro staff program, in particular the grievance procedure, mediation, and requiring a letter stating reasons for termination.

To improve PSO's "historical memory," we developed an official archiving process, established the position of historian, and appointed Marjorie Reeves, who spearheaded this effort.

We put considerable effort into improving and expanding our communication with our members. The communications committee redesigned the newsletter and developed appealing flyers and posters for PSO events. We also sent regular monthly e-mails with announcements of items of interest to the members.

After learning that a number of unions were sponsoring legislation allowing professional staff to organize for collective bargaining in the state legislature that would affect professional staff at all state higher education institutions, in January PSO distributed a fact sheet (/see appendix/) on the legislation and polled professional staff (via Catalyst) about their opinions of the legislation and whether PSO should support, oppose, or remain neutral regarding it; 1580 people (23% of the 6860 full-time UW professional staff) responded. Of those who voted, 871 (55.13%) opposed the legislation and 851 (53.86%) opposed PSO supporting the legislation. The board voted to remain neutral on the legislation.

We held two annual membership meetings. At the fall meeting, held November 1, 2006, President Mark Emmert talked about his vision for the university. At the spring meeting, held April 24, 2007, Eric Godfrey, vice provost for student life; Ed Taylor, vice provost and dean for undergraduate academic affairs; and Sheila Edwards Lange, interim vice-president and vice-provost for Minority Affairs and Diversity spoke on the undergraduate experience. We also held four brown-bag presentations for the membership: a reception for Ms. Kronberg, a presentation on the LCVI, an interactive presentation on managing stress by Clive Shearer, and an information session on the newly passed enabling legislation.

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A significant achievement of the Professional Staff Organization (PSO) during 2005-2006 was the completion of its review of the Professional Staff Program (the university regulations under which professional staff are employed). The process took two years of dedicated work by the Review Committee. After conducting a thorough review, the committee met with representatives from Human Resources and worked together to update the Program. Although not all of the PSO's requested changes were agreed upon, notable gains were made in clarification of release time for University service, program levels and overtime status, performance evaluation input, and the complaint processes. In addition to the program review, PSO held its two annual meetings. At the fall meeting, held on November 16, 2005, a panel of speakers provided an overview of the President's Leadership, Community, and Values Initiative, initial findings, and information regarding next steps in the process. On the panel were Ana Mari Cauce, Executive Vice-Provost; Jill McKinstry, Head, Odegaard Undergraduate Library; Joanne Suffis, Acting VP for Human Resources; and Bob Roseth, Director of News and Information. At the spring meeting, held on April 26, 2006, guest speaker Steve Charvat, Director of Emergency Management, provided a general overview of the UW's new Office of Emergency Management and talked about what PSO members need to know in case of a regional disaster.

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In summer 2004, the PSO Board embarked on a process to develop a five-year strategic plan. The plan was adopted by the Board in the fall. As we began to implement the plan, we focused on outreach, membership building, and communication. We had increased participation by non-Board members on committees and work groups. A new "mailman" list was set up, allowing quick and easy communication with all professional staff members throughout the UW system. In May 2005, a completely redesigned PSO Web site was launched.

Over the year, the PSO hosted several informational meetings for professional staff. UW President Mark Emmert gave the keynote address at the Annual Fall Meeting. Also in the fall, Randy West from the UW Compensation office spoke about the Fair Labor Standards Act changes and the impact on UW professional staff. In winter 2005, we hosted a discussion of the proposed UW Performance Contract, with Randy Hodgins (State Relations) and Harlan Patterson (Planning and Budgeting). The academic year concluded with our Annual Spring Meeting, featuring UW Psychology Professor Randy Kyes speaking about his experiences assisting with relief efforts in Indonesia, following the devastating tsunami of December 2004.

Another focus in 2004-05 was on building and strengthening PSO's role as a liaison between professional staff and UW Human Resources and Administration. PSO representatives met monthly with HR leaders. In collaboration with HR, we began a review and revision of the Professional Staff Program. PSO representatives participated in the final interview process for the UW Provost. Additionally, professional staff representatives served on a number of Faculty Councils and Committees, the UW Work/Life Advisory Group, and the Professional Staff Salary Survey Advisory Committee.

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PSO worked to improve administrative relations, meeting with the new President, Executive Vice President, and Human Resources. We participated in interviews of the finalists for the position of Vice President for Human Resources. The Legislative and Outreach Committees were restarted. Plans were started for a review (with Human Resources) of the professional staff program and for development of a PSO strategic plan. Due to civil service reform, negotiation of ASE contract, and so on, the biannual professional staff salary survey was postponed until 2004-05. Three new Board positions were established: Bothell, Seattle, and Tacoma campus representatives. Policy was established to provide reimbursement for travel expenses for official PSO business. The Board of Directors held meetings at the Bothell and Tacoma campuses.

There was an overflow crowd at the 2003 autumn meeting. Our special guests were Interim President Lee Huntsman, who spoke on the state of the university and answered questions, and Katy Dwyer, Director of Benefits, who gave an update on benefits. New Vice President for Human Resources, Patti Carson, was the guest presenter at the spring meeting. The PSO provided a representative to the newly formed UW Fund Review Committee.

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The PSO Bylaws were revised in October 2002. The IRS approved the PSO application for tax exemption reclassification under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(5). (The state legislature had passed enabling legislation for faculty and for academic student employees, but professional staff were not included under either bill.) Chair Eng was a member of the planning committee for the 2002 UW September 11 Commemoration event.

The PSO cosponsored and participated in a two-day conference: "Building for Our Future: A Conference Addressing Campus Unions." PSO continued to participate in subsequent meetings of the UW Coalition. PSO Chair Eng served on the Advisory Review Committee of the Executive Vice President. PSO requested that the UW Board of Regents appoint PSO Chair Eng and Vice Chair Gray as members of the 2002 Search Advisory Committee for the UW president. The request was declined.

PSO fall meeting: panel discussion on enabling legislation (panel: PSO Past-Chair Bob Roseth, Washington Federation of Teachers Lobbyist Wendy Rader-Konofalski and UW Faculty Senate Chair Sandra Silberstein). PSO spring meeting: Executive Vice President Weldon Ihrig was the keynote speaker. HR Vice President Karen Kavanagh was a guest speaker at the December 5, 2002, PSO Board of Directors meeting.

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Work began to incorporate the Professional Staff Organization. HR did a new salary survey, and PSO representatives served on the committee. Changes to the Research Scientist classification were implemented in February 2002. At the request of Human Resources, the Board reviewed the professional staff Web site; one of the suggested changes that was implemented was removal of the phrase, "serve at the will and pleasure of." Also reviewed a proposal by HR to use internal resources for the biannual salary survey rather than continue to use outside consultants. The Board provided evidence and opinion that support continued use of outside consultants and opposed any change. HR decided to continue using outside consultants for the survey.

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In February 2001, a Professional Staff Research Advisory Group (RAG) was formed to develop tools to evaluate Research Scientist and Engineer jobs and determine appropriate salaries/ranges. The PSO Board reviewed and commented on draft policies on Disability Leave and Sick Leave/Medical Verification Policies for Karen Kavanagh, Assistant Vice President for Human Resources. The PSO Executive committee met with Karen Kavanagh and Liz Coveney to discuss composition of the Human Resources Committee, and the disability leave and sick leave/medical verification policies. Karen Kavanagh met with the Board in February to brief us on various HR activities. We discussed the salary survey, job evaluation and compensation, what it takes to recruit and retain employees, the strategic leadership program, and employee benefits. The Board reviewed the revised Policy on Workplace and Domestic Violence and provided comments to Karen Kavanagh.

Dick Thompson, Director, UW Office of Government Relations, attended a board meeting to discuss the upcoming legislative session, the UW budget proposal for FY01-02, and how we can work together. We talked about how PSO can be better advocates for professional staff during the current legislative session. Our discussion proved to be a valuable in helping us to understand the budget climate, and to formulate strategies. Carolyn Busch, Assistant Director, Government Relations Office, met with the PSO Board in December 2000, to share her perspective on the coming year in the state legislature. Carolyn also discussed the legislative session at PSO's Spring Social in May 2001. Dick Thompson was the featured speaker at the autumn annual meeting.

We held our April 17th board meeting at Harborview Medical Center. Although it was a small meeting, we learned about some of the challenges off-campus employees face: limited parking, limited shuttle service to main campus and lack of a central campus shuttle stop, mail address (home department payroll address vs. work location address), and the difficulty of attending on-campus training and development classes.

We discussed incorporation but made no progress on the issue.

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PSO reviewed and participated in the Telework policy creation with HR. In addition, PSO helped review the VEBA policy and worked to further improve the Professional Staff Salary Survey process. We had to develop a new mailing process to meet new Supreme Court rulings on free mailing. We tried to get PSO voting rights on all Faculty Councils that include PSO representatives. We helped interview candidates for the head of HR. PSO carried on three open discussions on campus as part of the President's "Conversations About the Future." The final list of recommendations provided by the campus Professional Staff was presented in print and at several committee meetings around campus. We modernized our voting system to be Web-based for the election of eight new Board members that year. An effort was put forth to increase the number of Professional staff present on our mailing lists. We coordinated with the campus lobbying group to provide a "united" vision of the needs of the PSO in decisions made in Olympia. Several members of the Board went to Olympia to discuss issues with state senators. Former-Senator/Governor and UW regent Dan Evans spoke at our annual meeting.

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PSO went to Olympia and gave testimony to several committees, working to keep faculty and staff salaries at the same level while the legislature debated the budget. Eventual salary increases were higher than expected, in part due to the effort of PSO. Also, the Professional Staff Salary Survey was improved and made more accurate because of the active contribution of the PSO members of the UW Salary Survey Committee. At our annual meeting, Representative Tom Huff (R, 26th District) and State Senator Jeanne Kohl (D, 36th District) were the invited speakers. Their topic was "The Future of Higher Education in Washington."

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PSO demanded to have input into the Market Gap Remedy Plan II after Plan I was rejected by the Legislature as inadequate. A meeting with the administration led to an acceptable document that PSO could support in lobbying efforts, which resulted in $3.2 million special allocation to remedy professional staff salary gaps. Also, a letter/communication campaign spearheaded by PSO helped to bring legislature closure for a positive UW biennial budget. PSO relationship with Administration took its first major positive turn in discussions, lobbying efforts, and Administration participation (and financial support) of the Fifth Annual Professional Staff Awards Ceremony.

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The Faculty Senate proposed that PSO be granted ex-officio representation on faculty councils (change was adopted in 1995). A professional staff representative was appointed to the Presidential Search Committee. Administration changed the procedure for handling workplace disputes to incorporate mediation for those disputes that do not qualify for legal remedies.

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Although no salary increases were granted to state employees, the legislature passed budget language requiring the UW to develop a plan for dealing with the equity problems of professional staff and librarians (Market Gap Remedy Plan). PSO found the language of the Administration response to be unacceptable and lobbied in Olympia for redress. The result was the Market Gap Remedy Plan II. High-level meetings between UW Administration and PSO officers were terminated for lower-level discussions. A professional staff representative was appointed to the Presidential Task Force charged with reviewing important academic issues in the future of the institution.

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Administration hired Johnson/Lindstrand to assess needs of Professional Staff Personnel System and make recommendations for updates and revisions. PSO inaugurated a Mentor Program for new staff, in cooperation with Personnel.

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PSO began regular meetings with members of the Administration. Provost Laurel Wilkening suggested that PSO be represented on the University Budget Committee. When PSO suggested the name of our representative, it was informed that selections for representation on the Budget Committee are made by the President, who declined to put a PSO representative on that body.

The 1991-93 draft budget contained funding for professional staff market/equity considerations in addition to regular increases. However, the final budget did not include additional monies, but set aside a percentage of the general state employee increase for professional staff equity. The Professional Staff Advisory Council, appointed in 1991, made recommendations for allocation of this equity money. PSO had two representatives on PSAC.

In May PSO held its first recognition event (eventually to become the UW Distinguished Staff Award). Administration declined to participate in selection and staging of the event. PSO representative began attending the Faculty Senate council developing new policies for faculty adjudication process.

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PSO is born. The first board and officers are elected. Johnson/Lindstrand conduct their first local market survey of professional staff salaries. PSO proposes hiring a consultant to develop new policy recommendations for Professional Staff Personnel System and for compensation. PSO also proposes a system of workplace mediation to deal with workplace disputes that do not qualify as harassment or discrimination. Professional staff volunteer lobbying in Olympia begins, headed by Kathi Foisie. PSO begins regular meetings with Bob Edie, director of government relations.

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Meetings occurred throughout the year to create an organization. PSO Steering Committee met with Personnel to develop a common plan for allocation of 1989-91 merit money. Result of meetings was instead separate proposals from Personnel staff and PSO to Professional Staff Policy Group. A public opinion survey was conducted by PSO in the fall. More than 70% of those responding (about half of all staff) indicated that the professional staff needed better representation on campus and in Olympia.

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The Association of Professional Advisors and Counselors (APAC) held a "Show and Tell" session for legislators in the Walker-Ames Room. APAC invited selected professional staff to talk about what they did. Several of the speakers conferred and a consensus emerged that in order to make an impression on Olympia, we needed a more permanent organization to represent professional staff.

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