Thank you to the 135 (!) faculty, staff, and students who came to the Board meeting last night to protest the lack of good faith bargaining by the Administration, and the continued attacks on our salaries, insurance benefits, and retirement plans, and their utter failure to even respond substantively to our non-economic proposals (e.g. enhancing safety provisions to better protect our classrooms and students).
Special thanks are due to our faculty speakers who so eloquently and powerfully called on the Administration and Board of Education to recognize the value of the faculty to our college and to start, finally, to negotiate in good faith with our Faculty Bargaining Team, nine months now after our contract expired and 15 months after we began negotiations. It is clear that the faculty is not going to take such attacks sitting down. While the Board Chair responded that the Board “fully respects LCC faculty,” when I had an opportunity to respond to the Board at the end of the meeting, I noted that the issue is not that the Board or Administration doesn’t speak respectfully (usually) to LCC faculty, it’s that we are not treated respectfully. Respect needs to be substantive, not simply formal. Failing to respond to faculty proposals at the Bargaining Table, continuing to cut faculty salaries and benefits, driving our workloads up, refusing to fill vacant positions, etc., etc., etc. is disrespectful to the faculty and harms our college and learning environment. Faculty suffer, and students suffer, as a result. It’s time the College started treating the faculty respectfully.
So how did the Administration respond? They wrote us this morning to notify us they would not attend our previously scheduled bargaining session tomorrow morning. Seriously. One hundred and thirty-five faculty, staff, and students come to the Board and ask them to instruct the Administration to bargain in good faith, and the Administration responds by canceling bargaining.
At this point, the next step is for state supported mediation next week. While the Administration has implied that we agreed to mediation, we did not; we have rejected the idea each time they brought it up. There is no reason at all that the Administration team should need a third party to get them to respond to our proposals. Bargaining over non-economic matters, and complex economic matters, becomes much more difficult because it is typically organized as “shuttle mediation,” with the bargaining teams in separate rooms and the mediator going back and forth, with the teams unable to directly interact. It takes hours just to get the mediator to understand the current status and issues at the table, slows bargaining down significantly, and makes certain subjects extremely difficult to negotiate. Perhaps that’s what the Administration wants.
Finally, the timing on last night’s action was ironic, in that the Administration finally presented their apparent plan (see attached) for balancing the books next year (although even that is much less than clear). Once again, the Administration puts almost all of the costs on faculty and classified staff, without a cent proposed to come from the estimated $8,000,000 Ending Fund Balance, or even presenting tuition rate adjustments as an option for consideration, despite the willingness of the Board to support tuition rate hikes apparent when they discussed it at the March meeting. Instead, the plan appears to be to keep virtually all open faculty positions vacant, to raise class sizes even higher, to “reduce the contracted employee OPE rate” (i.e., shifting more insurance costs onto employees), and to threaten to cut programs and layoff faculty and staff if we don’t go along with such attacks. So, despite publicly admitting just last spring that the “College is very well off financially,” President Spilde is now threatening to cut employee pay and benefits even further, and move our college closer to a “University of Phoenix” (a.k.a. Walmart) model of almost all part-time faculty positions with substandard pay, benefits, and little or no job security. As such, bargaining and budget work this spring takes on an important, more vital urgency. We are not simply fighting to protect our already much-sacrificed salaries and benefits: since eliminating even more faculty positions appears to be President Spilde’s permanent plan for Lane Community College, we’re fighting for our college.
Please watch for additional announcements and be ready to respond to calls to action from our Action Team, chaired by Lee Imonen. We will identify a number of ways for the faculty to support your Bargaining Team during the upcoming mediation sessions.