President’s Update: 8/21/14

I hope this finds you well and enjoying summer.  I’m writing to report on a few matters.

•    Insurance Open Enrollment
•    “Enrollment Capacity Enhancement”
•    Grievances Update
•    All Faculty Meeting Sept 25 and New Association / Federation Offices Celebration

Insurance Enrollment
As Sharon Daniels in HR and Sue Ulrich, chair of our Association Faculty Insurance Committee, have previously announced, the annual OEBB “Open Enrollment” period has begun, and is open until September 15; please be sure to review your coverages. A few things to bear in mind:

As Sue alluded to:  in previous years we recommended that all faculty enroll in what is now called Plan B, and NOT enroll in Plan A, because while the deductibles and maximum out of pocket coverage in Plan A were better, the savings in “out of paycheck costs” to the employee from moving to Plan B would always at least meet and usually beat its higher out of pockets B.  In short, you couldn’t lose money (unless you were covered by the Early Retirement language and had single coverage), and likely would save it.  We now believe that this likely will be the case for Plan C, given the rate hikes, so we strongly recommend that faculty compare the coverage and out of paycheck costs for Plans B and C, and seriously consider Plan C.  For the first time in a while, the employee out of pocket rates for Plan B are going up, so this may be one way for you to reduce the impact.

Part-time faculty needing family coverage should closely examine the new option in our contract:  College part-time faculty selecting employee-only coverage shall receive the same employer contribution that contracted faculty receive.  Part-time faculty selecting employee plus spouse/partner or employee plus children coverage shall receive an employer contribution equal to 84% of the cost of employee plus spouse/partner for OEBB medical only Plan E.  Part-time faculty selecting full-family coverage shall receive an employer contribution equal to 67% of the cost of OEBB medical only Plan E.  Part-time faculty shall pay the remaining amounts of OEBB medical Plan E above 84% for employee plus spouse/partner or employee plus children coverage for OEBB medical Plan E.  Part-time faculty shall pay the remaining amounts of OEBB medical Plan E above 67% for full-family coverage for OEBB medical Plan E. Part-time faculty may select other OEBB plans and receive the same dollar contribution from the College as it would pay for medical Plan E according to the above formulas.

In short, while benefits for part-time faculty needing only employee – only insurance remain the same (receiving the same college support for employee coverage as contracted faculty), for the first time part-time faculty members having met the eligibility requirements and needing insurance for a family member or members, can receive a higher level of support from the College, based upon the percentage of the total cost of Plan E (84% or 67% of medical costs, depending upon the level of coverage).  You may, of course, select  a more robust Plan than E (e.g. Plan C), and still receive the same College contribution, paying the difference in cost.  Be sure to review the rate chart on HR’s insurance benefits for faculty webpage.

Remember to elect to participate in the optional Section 125 medical plan option when enrollment for that opens later this year, in order to receive the College contribution; only a portion of faculty are currently electing to participate in that, receiving the $150/$250/$300 per year from the College depending upon the level of insurance coverage you select; this is another good way to reduce your total medical expenses and offset the rate hikes and their greater out of pocket costs; processes for getting reimbursed for eligible costs are increasingly easy.

Enrollment Capacity Enhancement
As noted in our 2013 – 2015 Tentative Agreement (“TA”) report and as was discussed in Association TA meetings, the College proposed and we ultimately reached an agreement on language that allows the College to initially set the class sizes for a number of our classes at a level above the ‘assignable class size’ (usually four additional students), recognizing the normal attrition that occurs which, on average, will likely leave our classes at or below the “assignable class sizes.”  The agreement provided that the College and Association would develop a plan to implement this agreement starting this fall term.  We met with the Administration (primarily with Don McNair) and reached an agreement earlier this summer, which you will find below.  The agreement and oral understanding provides for a number of things, and met most, but not, all of our objectives.  In summary, the agreement:

Identified courses that have enough sections offered in a given term that raising the initial enrollment in anticipation of attrition in the first two weeks would allow fewer sections to be offered, and resulting in fuller classes.  Class sizes for courses without enough sections to produce such savings do NOT have their assignable class sizes effected.

Courses in which class maximums had previously been raised, typically unilaterally by the administration making the argument that early attrition would reduce the class sizes to the levels allowed, were NOT further raised in this plan (in fact, in some cases the size was reduced to a maximum of four additional students, while the department manager had raised the number greater than that).

The Association and College will complete a review of the “assignable class sizes” this Fall, which may modify the assignable class sizes, either directly or through the workload dispute process (see Article 35), if the College and Association or faculty disagree on what the appropriate class size for a course or courses should be.  Sorting out class sizes was also partially accomplished in the initial establishment of “assignable class sizes” for this fall, and we anticipate resolving this long standing issue with the Administration during the implementation of the full agreement this year (the Administration had at times taken the odd position that “only departments listed in Article 35.1 had class sizes established and that managers in other departments could assign any class sizes they want”; this agreement eliminates such an argument, and will result in all departments having the clear protection on class size that the departments listed in Article 35.1 benefitted from).

The initial enrollment enhancement is only allowed up to the end of the first week, and class maximum sizes are required to be returned to the ‘assignable class sizes’ at that point, so that potential students will not see “open seats” or be able to enroll in seats that were “opened up” when students drop (we pushed for this date to be the first morning of classes, and will monitor actual attrition closely this year to ensure that attrition is occurring and that this plan doesn’t result in classes above the assignable class sizes).

Things this agreement and 2014-2015 plan accomplished:

•    Established or will establish the “assignable class sizes” language for ALL classes and initial assignable class sizes for multi-section courses
•    Reduced or eliminated managerial over enrollment of classes
•    Recognized and did not add to the increases in class sizes that had already been established, either by the manager unilaterally, or with some participation of department faculty but NOT the Association
•    Produces less “under enrollment” as measured per Article 35.1.1, resulting in cost savings that were used to balance the budget without further Administration cuts to our college

Things this agreement and 2014-2015 plan did NOT accomplish:

We proposed and strongly pursued language that would allow “flexibility” within the department for faculty and the department manager to adjust the assignable class sizes for sections in ways that would still produce the same projected savings while reducing the harm in raising class sizes for particular classes.  Despite the President’s refusal to agree to such language in the Memorandum of Agreement, we do believe it is in all parties’ interest for such flexibility and recommend that faculty in departments with such concerns attempt to work with their department managers along these lines.  While there is no language requirement that they do so, proposals that meet the budget goals while protecting some courses from the effects of raising enrollment (e.g. due to safety, pedagogy, class room size, etc) should be a “no brainer” that all can support.

We didn’t have the data on previous enrollment levels at key times, nor, given the late date of the TA, the ability to work with closely enough with faculty to ensure the initial enrollment enhancement was implemented fully recognizing the various factors that we all recognize need to be addressed in such an endeavor (we did meet with many LCCEA Department reps, many of whom pressed the need and benefit of such flexibility).  However, we will  have the data (see below) and the ability to work with departments this year as we study, review, and adjust the implementation this year, as provided for in the agreement.

We recognize, of course, that the initial agreement and the 2014-2015 implementation plan will raise some actual class sizes, with all of the obvious effects.  However, we encourage faculty to recognize that in many of the sections enrollment at the beginning of the third week of the course was often well below the “assignable class size”; the argument for this agreement was and is that this mechanism will allow classes to be initially over enrolled but at levels that, on average, will result in fuller, but not over enrolled courses (in some departments the “up to four additional students” would still not result in class sizes reaching the assignable maximums, given past enrollment levels).  That won’t always be the case of course, as attrition doesn’t happen evenly, either per course or likely between departments.  While we did not have the data necessary to adjust for such aspects in this initial year, our agreement does provide that the College will collect and provide us the data on enrollment as it progresses, and that we will jointly review and may adjust the plan as we proceed.  While that won’t prevent individual variations in class sizes due to uneven attrition, of course, that was and will always be the case, both in terms of initial enrollment and student attrition.

Grievances Report
As noted in previous reports, we have been facing an unprecedented number of grievances with the Administration this year, as they have time and time again apparently chosen to either not read or simply try to ignore our contract.  At the May Board of Education meeting we reported that we were currently tracking 15 grievances at various stages of the grievance process (from inquiry to preparation for arbitration).  We have made progress in resolving some of the grievances, and can report that Human Resources has been making an effort in recent months to resolve some of the outstanding issues.  Most recently we resolved our grievance over the College’s informing three faculty members serving in the “Teaching Only” positions that their assignment would not be renewed for next year.  While such positions are temporary contracts with no guarantee of renewal (one of the reasons that we oppose such ‘contingent’ assignments and want such positions to be made regular, permanent faculty positions), the College had agreed to notify the Association in advance of any such decisions and notifications to faculty members, but then provided no notice to us at all, preventing us from negotiating on the effected faculty members’ behalf, and giving the faculty only a few weeks notice of their “lay off” (despite in some cases working as temporary contracted faculty members for five years!).  Our resolution restored the three affected faculty members’ assignments for next year, a great relief to them and their families and their colleagues who depend upon them.

While some grievances have been resolved, several have not and are scheduled or in the process of being scheduled for arbitration:

The Administration’s violation of Article 10.7 and 12.5 regarding faculty vacancies.  For years the College and Association negotiated resolutions of this ‘annual grievance’, given the Administration’s failure to fill vacated faculty positions; only this year, with the Academic Vice President’s position vacant, did the Administration refuse to even attempt to negotiate a resolution, claiming no contractual need to do so, despite our language and five year history of agreements resolving our annual grievances.  This arbitration is, obviously, crucial to our ability to protect our college from being pushed further down the road to being another “University of Phoenix” with only one full time faculty member in each area and the rest of faculty work divided up into “part-time assignments” paid to faculty at lower wage and benefit levels, on contingent assignments (a.k.a. “the Walmart strategy”).  The President and the rest of the administration have made it clear in recent years that this is one of their primary strategies, a strategy that not only threatens family wages and benefits, but would further dramatically undermine the role that a faculty plays in a college.  It is difficult to overstate this arbitration’s importance to our college and our faculty.

The Administration’s failure to provide part-time faculty with the second half of the salary steps they earned but had delayed, per our 2011-2013 Main Agreement.  As a result, all part-time faculty not on the top stop did not receive step increases they earned during those years (the College also didn’t provide the full steps earned during the 2013-2014 year, but did agree to correct that error, so that part is no longer a grievance).

The Administration’s error in applying our contract language on the portion of the insurance rate hike they were to pick up during the 2010-2011 year (they were supposed to pick up 17 percentage points of the huge approximately 26% rate hike that year, but instead raised their contribution by 17%, a lesser amount of course; we discovered this during bargaining this past year when the College encouraged us to study how much their contributions had gone up, and we are seeking to have the error corrected, retroactively and moving forward.

The Vice President’s office completely ignored and continues to ignore our language in Article 25.9 governing complaint investigations, refusing to provide the contractually required explanation of what exact alleged policies have been allegedly violated, to “provide the evidence” so that accused faculty members may respond and ensure investigations adhere to “due process” principles, and, most bizarrely, argues that the “20 working days” that our contract provides the Administration to complete investigations ‘starts at the time that the investigation is completed’ (yes, you read that correctly:  the beginning starts at the end!).  Such cavalier disregard for the fundamental and contractual rights of faculty members facing accusations is both outrageous and common for this administration, which seems to think that they have no responsibilities for protecting the rights of those facing complaints, or to even read our contract language on the processing of complaints.  Currently we have two arbitrations moving forward based on these violations, and likely will have at least one more as well as other possible processes challenging the Administration’s refusal to respect faculty rights in such matters.

As preparations for these arbitration hearings are made, we will continue to report on them and our Action Team will identify ways that faculty members can actively support the enforcement of our contract and rights.

All Faculty Meeting and New Association / Federation Offices Celebration
Our annual Fall All Faculty Meeting will be held, as usual, Thursday afternoon of in-service week, precise time and location TBA.  Please plan on attending this meeting, where we will discuss the above and many other matters, faculty will receive copies of our new 2013 – 2015 Main Agreement and OEA materials, and which will conclude with a celebration of our new “union suite” in the basement of the Center Building, where we and our colleagues/comrades in the classified staff’s Federation now have a nice new suite of offices and a shared conference room that we can use for meetings, bargaining, etc.  It will be great to have an office a bit easier to find (we were previously located in the back of the upstairs of the library, down the hall to the bathroom) and next to one another, where we can more easily work together toward our shared interests.  Please plan on attending and checking out our new digs!  Refreshments will be provided.

I hope everyone enjoys the rest of summer and gets a chance to get a break and get away.  Personally, I’m off to the mountains of Washington with some friends, riding our motorcycles off road from Oregon to Canada, something that should take me very far away from the demands of work and modern life.  As they say in Ireland:  we’ll try to “keep it between the hedges,” although in this case it may be more a case of keeping it between the rocks and cliffs!

Jim Salt
LCCEA President

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