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June 2014

 

The Same but Different, revisited
by Kevin Peterman

 

The September 2013 issue of The WORD opened with an article about the FA leadership being the same but different. Well, it has been a different year. It is the year of labor.

This academic year the FA leader- ship was able to honor long-time FA president Ellen Schuler Mauk with a retirement tribute recognizing her leadership and contributions to the labor movement and advocacy for community colleges. And in doing so, we were able to raise over $55,000 for an SCCC Foundation scholarship in Ellen's name. Then we worked with the SCCC Foundation on its recent gala entitled "The Year of Labor" which honored labor leaders. It is the first time the college has recognized labor in any of its events. As a result, the college raised more money than any previous gala. Labor was in the house and labor delivered. The FA was able to deliver as well. We reopened our contract as we did in 2010 and were able to extend our collective bargaining agreement until August 2019. Now, we realize that many faculty were not present in May 2006 when we settled our last contract.

The previous contract had expired in August 2005, and we had many negotiation sessions. That was the last time we were in the mode of full blown negotiations. Before we sat down at the negotiating table we asked for input, met on each campus and had a 20-member negotiating team. In the past, 90% of faculty input was focused on compensation. Yes, there were other issues from non- classroom faculty, but compensation was the driving issue. We had a list of demands, as did the college. Prior to 2010 all negotiations were lengthy and both sides would have interesting demands: the FA wanting sizable increases, additional steps, etc. Management would want salary freezes, etc., and one year actually proposed that English faculty have a 15-credit load and all other faculty have an 18-credit load. There is some interesting history beyond that too. In the past, we've demonstrated at the H.L. Dennison building, picketed a board member's house on Thanksgiving, actually moved our FA office off campus and had a vote of the faculty authorizing the FA, if necessary, to call a strike! After two years of working without a contract, we settled days before the start of the semester. I believe we settled at 3 a.m. So, when Dr. McKay approached me in January and asked if the FA was interested in extending the contract, I said I would ask. I went to the FA's Executive Council in February and asked for authorization to negotiate, which your EC granted. In discussing the possible extension of the contract again, I mentioned the college was facing the sunset of the +2 class size agreement and they probably wanted it to continue. The +2 saves the college $700,000 per year. I was keenly aware of the timetable need to get another contract extension finalized. We met with the college to extend the contract knowing full well we had to agree on a stipulation by the March 13 EC meeting. We did reach an agreement with the college on March 11 and presented the stipulation to the EC on the 13th, which they unanimously approved.

We knew that, in order to have another contract extension, it would have to be fast tracked and the process had to be completed by commencement. We did not want any lingering issues to drag on during the summer when faculty might not be available to vote on the stipulation. The contract is not finalized until all parties approve it: the membership, the college Board of Trustees and the county legislature. For the legislature to approve the contract before commencement, there was a very compressed timeline in order for them to vote on it at their May 13 meeting. Thus, the stipulation: • had to be "laid on the table" at the legislature's April 29 session: • assigned to the education and technology committee for consideration at their May 6 meeting; and • had to be approved at the college trustees' meeting on April 17 at 7 p.m. to get it to the legislature on April 29. And for all that to happen, the membership had to have ratified the stipulation before the Board of Trustees met. That is why the ballots were counted at 12:30 p.m. on April 17 and why we had to present the stipulation of agreement to the membership on March 26 and 27.

According to the FA's bylaws for contract ratification, there needs to be a membership meeting and a waiting period of seven days before we can mail it to FA members. So the ballots went out on April 2, and we allowed two weeks for the voting. We thank you for your overwhelming yes vote. At the gala on April 24, the labor leaders and elected officials marveled at the cooperative spirit and working relationship between the college and