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The Very Beginning

The Professional Employees Association began in 1971 when Frank Napolitano and others on the professional staff felt the need for an organization to express the desires and concerns of staff members. At that time, the University lacked a coherent personnel policy directed toward professional staff who were not in the faculty ranks.

At first, UCPEA operated as a voluntary association under its own constitution, governed by an elected five-person Executive Committee. Its most notable achievements included the installation of a grievance procedure in 1973 team and the investigation and eventual endorsement of the process of collective bargaining.

To become a member of UCPEA dues of $2 per year were sent to Phil Booker, who sent a membership card by return mail. In 1973, after gathering and sharing information about working conditions here and at comparable New England colleges and universities, professionals in the Division of Student Personnel drafted a Personnel Policy. It was submitted to the University administration in December, 1974. The purpose of this document was to establish a more clearly defined personnel policy for non-teaching professionals. However, professionals continued to be governed by a loose collection of rules from various supervisory levels.


The Association became sharply aware of the problems of having a method to address the conditions of employment. One significant frustration at the time was the loss of a guaranteed annual increment initiated by Governor Thomas Meskill and implemented by the University administration. The administration opposed its own employees in a court challenge, arguing that increments have never been annual, since they were referred to as "merit increases."

Another significant frustration was the practice of revising the salary scale upward without the corresponding adjustment of salaries of current employees. Professional staff could earn several increases and nevertheless be at the bottom of a new salary scale implemented for new employees.

Collective Bargaining for State Employees

In January, 1975, the Connecticut General Assembly finally authorized state employee collective bargaining by enacting Public Act 75-566, "An Act Concerning Collective Bargaining For State Employees."

This act specifically authorized the faculty of The University of Connecticut to form a bargaining unit for the purpose of bargaining collectively with the University's Board of Trustees. Non-teaching professional staff were authorized to join the faculty by mutual agreement or to form a separate bargaining unit. The act enumerated conditions to be met in designating an exclusive representative for any group of state employees.

Seeking a Union

The UCPEA 1975/76 Executive Board, Pat DeCesare, A.J. Panaia, Marian Rollin, Jackie Seide, and Bill Whitacre, scheduled open meetings with various unions and associations during the fall semester of 1975. These unions included the Connecticut State Employees Association (CSEA), the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the Federation of University Teachers (FUT), the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

Response to a questionnaire mailed to all non-teaching professionals during the late fall of 1975 ran 5 to 1 in favor of collective bargaining. A majority of non-teaching professionals indicated a preference for maintaining a separate identity as collective bargaining unit.

Consequently, the UCPEA Executive Board narrowed its focus to the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the Connecticut State Employees Association, and the American Federation of Teachers in its efforts to determine an endorsed bargaining agent.

It was decided that a union with demonstrated ability in negotiations could help us more than an association could in the collective bargaining process, especially in the actual determination of an appropriate bargaining unit and enforcement of a workable contract. Two unions, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), campaigned for our support. Both were affiliated with the American Federation of Labor - Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).

From Association to Union

The 1976-77 UCPEA Executive Board, James M. Makuch (President), Paul J. Haskew, Althea J. McLaughlin, Steven J. Smith, and Megan Thomas, endorsed UCPEA-CSFT/AFT as the superior union. AFT, it was felt, could offer the desired autonomy to make decisions as a professional staff on the critical issues involved with collective bargaining. The AFT constitution was more democratic than the AFSCME constitution that empowered its international president to place a local unit under administratorship whereby an AFSCME administrator assumed complete control of the local unit including its funds, properties, and assets, and could suspend any local unit officers. The AFSCME International Executive Board could levy special assessments in addition to dues.

Moreover, because AFSCME sought to represent the classified staff at the University, professionals believed that such an affiliation could limit autonomy and pressure could be applied for participation in any classified job action. AFT sought only to represent professionals and had none of the objectionable constitutional provisions that characterized AFSCME.

The American Federation of Teachers, founded in 1916, represented an autonomous national union of educational employees, including almost half-a-million public school teachers, college faculty, non-faculty college staff, para-professionals, and others in more than 2,000 locals, including 270 locals on college or university campuses. In addition, AFT represented more than 50,000 faculty and professional employees in more than 150 bargaining units in higher education.

Due to the eroding status of state and university employees during the mid-1970s and out of concern for poor and inequitable working conditions, UCPEA endorsed collective bargaining. UCPEA was concerned about the neglect of state employees and educators in harsh economic times. UCPEA was also fearful of further erosion of job and financial security. UCPEA believed that if others had won benefits through collective bargaining, professionals should also participate in order to do more than maintain current status or suffer further cutbacks.

Pursuant to the Agreement for Consent Election, dated September 13, 1976, an election by secret ballot was scheduled for Wednesday, November 17, 1976. On November 2, 1976 the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 16, AFL-CIO withdrew from the election. Under the supervision of the Connecticut State Board of Labor Relations, the election was held at six sites in the state. The result was as follows: 319 ballots were cast; 234 votes were cast for representation by UCPEA-CSFT/AFT; 63 votes were cast for no agent and 22 votes were challenged.

UCPEA-CSFT/AFT was certified to represent the University's professional staff for the purpose of collective bargaining by the Connecticut State Board of Labor Relations on January 24, 1977. In March, 1977 UCPEA officially became Local 3695 affiliated with the Connecticut State Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO.

Fifty-seven staff voluntarily paid dues of $8 per month in order to officially establish UCPEA before arrangements for payroll deduction of dues and agency fees became effective with the implementation of the first contract.

The First Contract

On March 4, 1977 the UCPEA negotiating team of Dick Gorham, Bill Massett, Betsy McIlvaine and Al Starke, supported and advised by Bob Jensen of AFT and the full resources of the CSFT, held its first meeting with the representatives of the Board of Trustees for the first round of collective bargaining on behalf of professional employees at the University of Connecticut.

On Monday, April 4, 1977 the first contract settlement was approved. Two hundred and forty-four bargaining unit members approved the offer arrived at, at the last minute, on Sunday evening, April 3. The offer was presented to the membership at the polls on Monday morning, April 4. Nineteen members voted for the previous best offer of Thursday evening, March 31. Fifteen members voted "no."

On July 1, 1977 the professional staff at the University of Connecticut began work under the terms of a contract negotiated by our own representatives.

The Dues and Budget Committee, appointed by the UCPEA Executive Board, consisted of Marian Rollin, Joe Racicot, Sandy Van Gelder, Mary Langley, Barbara Lott, Marianne Michaels, and Thomas Meddick. The committee studied and recommended a dues structure. After balloting by the entire membership, dues were established at .825% of gross salary, effective July 1, 1977.

A Constitution Committee, composed of George Butterick, Steven J. Smith, Irene Conlon, Ron Harrison and Bill Whitacre, prepared a draft of new constitution that was renewed and revised by the UCPEA Executive Board. On March 7, 1977 it was sent to all bargaining unit members for criticism and comments. The final draft was approved by the Executive Board, ratified by the membership, and went into effect on July 1, 1977.

On July 1, 1977 the following elected individuals took office: President, Paul Haskew; Vice President, Betsy McIlvaine; Treasurer, David Sykes; Recording Secretary, Joan Jensen, and Corresponding Secretary, Robert Whittles.

On November 9, 1978 James Makuch, UCPEA Grievance Officer, explained what state employees had lost and gained with unionization. "Many employees feel they lost their role as part of management. We are now clearly defined as employees - but it was an illusion to imagine that we were ever really anything else. What we have gained has been rights in our employment situation, and the ability to define them."