LCCEA Update: May 1, 2015

LCC Faculty Colleagues,

Greetings. I hope this finds you a well. A quick update on a few matters:

A.) As you have likely heard already, our OEA-supported lawsuit against the illegal reductions in PERS rights was largely victorious yesterday. The Oregon Supreme Court threw out most of the “revisions,” restoring the right to a proper COLA adjustment for retirees. While they did let stand the elimination of the provision covering state taxes for PERS retirees living outside of Oregon, and the COLA reduction will apply to employee income earned after this cut was enacted (May 2013), this still represents a huge victory for Oregon’s public employees and our retirement rights. We’re told it results in over $4 billion in restored benefits for retirees over the next 40 years! This welcome and expected development should serve as a positive message to Salem that funding Oregon’s schools and public services needs real revenue reform, not further reductions in public employee compensation and retirement benefits.

B.) The Administration informed us this week that they are withdrawing THEIR proposal to discuss modifications of our contract renewal, and plan to implement the contract “rollover” as-is. While that is their right, it is surprising since they were the first to propose such modifications. It appears that once the idea was raised to the higher levels of the Administration, such “discussions” were overruled, something that we find surprising since had we agreed to discuss “moving money” that otherwise goes to picking up insurance costs and instead put some of it on the salary schedule, which would have saved the college money in the long run since insurance inflation rates almost always are higher than consumer inflation rates. And since faculty would also have paid taxes on any monies moved to the salary schedule, the Administration’s decision is ultimately a good thing for faculty as a whole and in the long run.

As a result of the Administration’s change in position, the contract will be rolled over as is, meaning:

•    The salary schedule will be reduced by 0.09% (i.e., -.0009, just under one tenth of 1%) to reflect the virtually zero inflation in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). It’s possible the Administration will decide to keep the schedule the same since it may not be worth the effort to change all of the salary schedules and associated documents and procedures to reflect the tiny change; the Administration hasn’t clarified that issue yet;
•    All faculty — contracted and part-time — will earn full steps (3.75%) as they earn eligibility until they reach the top of the salary schedule (contracted = one step per year; part-time faculty = one step per each 21 credits taught;
•    Employee “out-of-paycheck contributions” for Plan A will remain the same and the employer will pick up the full 8.05% insurance rate hikes that we were notified of yesterday; other medical plans’ out-of-paycheck rates will decline somewhat, since they receive the same employer dollar contribution (up to 100% pick up) but have lower premiums. With the insurance rates now known (OEBB will formally post these by today), the Association’s Faculty Insurance Committee will meet to review the plans, make any changes in what plans are available to faculty, and make recommendations for faculty to consider in plan selection for our next insurance year. Once the Insurance Committee finalizes the plans for next year, Human Resources will be able to produce final plan rates for faculty to review and consider.
•    MOAs that are set to expire on June 30, 2015 likely will do so. These MOAs include the “teach out” provision (Article 41.6), the “overload rights” for part-time and contracted faculty, and the “Teach Only” MOA. The Administration was opposed (in some cases strongly) to extending these MOAs, so there was no guarantee that the “modification discussions” (or formal bargaining) would have provided any different outcome, and some of them were jointly established to reflect needs arising from the “student surge” during the Great Recession, the former of which has obviously disappeared.

The Association has discussed with the Administration issues arising from the ends of these agreements, including clarifying the final date for faculty to notify the college of their election of the “teach out” provision. By contract, that deadline is June 30, although there are other considerations that we are discussing with the Administration, and it may need to be sooner than that; we will report on this when matters are more clear. As such, faculty members considering using this provision should make a near-final determination now. However, we do note that even without Article 41.6, faculty members may always request partial unpaid leaves of absence, and thereby reduce their workload similarly. Doing so would provide similar benefits of Article 41.6, with the advantage that one’s PERS retiree benefits would continue to grow. (Under some circumstances employees may be able to do so even while retiring from PERS, provided one remains below the 1039 hours worked per calendar year; more on this after further study and discussions with HR).

C.) Finally, the struggle continues to get the Administration and Board to recognize that the Administration’s proposal to eliminate the Auto Body & Paint, Electronics, and Medical Office Assistant programs would result in a net negative impact on the college budget. We met with Administration representatives last week and provided detailed evidence that the Administration’s numbers exaggerate the expenses that would be saved, ignore the majority of the revenue these programs bring in, and assume with absolutely no evidence or logic (despite the counter evidence we provided) that up 88% of the students who come to LCC for these programs would somehow come here anyhow, and bring with them the tuition dollars and state reimbursement that our college depends upon. The Administration’s “response” was simply non-responsive, saying they “stand by their analysis” despite all of the evidence against it. Frankly, it is little more than stereotypical bureaucratic stonewalling, the kind that has no place at an institution of higher learning, let alone in a matter that will have such significant effects on the lives of faculty members who have dedicated their lives to these programs, not to mention to impact on our would-be students and our fiscal bottom line!

We will have two more chances to get the “powers that be” to recognize this would be a net fiscal hit on the college: first, in the Budget and Finance Subcomittee’s work, and if not successful there then to the Board of Education itself. The Subcommittee is supposed to be the place where budget recommendations to the Board come from and where such economic issues are resolved; next week’s Budget Forum (Tuesday, May 5, 2:00-3:00 p.m., CEN 103/104) is an excellent opportunity for faculty and others to come see if the Administration will agree to adhere to simple empirical norms, or if they’ll stick to their “we’re management, we don’t have to pay any attention to reality or empirical evidence, we get to decide” stance. If it’s the latter, it will be up to all of us to demand that the Board of Education stop listening to the Administration’s recommendations when administrators simply refuse to respond to the overwhelming evidence and basic logic that their recommendations are obviously fatally flawed. (The Association’s empirical analysis of their proposal is nearly complete, awaiting only the Administration’s provision of information we formally requested weeks ago but that they have refused to provide, citing “FERPA” issues. Even without the “missing” data, it’s clear that our college will be worse off financially without these programs and the revenue that they attract)

Finally, we note that when pushed, some administrators have implicitly recognized this conclusion, but then responded bizarrely that “but there were other factors that were used to select these programs for elimination.” Such a response completely ignores the fact that the ONLY reason for cutting the programs was because the Administration claims they need to do so to save money. The “other data” they cite are only used to determine WHICH programs should be cut. Obviously, if cutting the programs costs the college in the end, the need to determine which programs to cut is beyond pointless and the “other data” are moot! Of course, the Administration’s “other data” are as flawed as their economic numbers, but once the fatal flaw in their economic projections are recognized, there’s no need to go to the “so which net revenue generating programs should we cut” stage.

Frankly, the Administration’s entire “management” of this issue would make Alice prefer to head back down the rabbit hole in the search for sanity and logic. Since we don’t have that choice, and since the Administration has yet to show any signs of recognizing the illogic and empirical vacuousness of their proposal, please plan on attending the Board of Education’s May 13th meeting, 6:30 p.m., where a final decision on the Administration’s proposal is expected to be made by the Board. If the Administration can’t be made to recognize reality, we all need to come together to implore our Board to do so.

D.) We’re finalizing the date/time for our Spring LCCEA Membership meeting, and will announce it shortly.

Happy International Workers Day!

Jim Salt
LCCEA President

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