EDITORIAL: BIG VICTORY YESTERDAY IN MEDIATION . . . FOR THE DISTRICT?

Posted: December 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

If I understand the union email of yesterday, I think I’m very unhappy. I hope my understanding is wrong. I don’t think it is.

1.) First of all, faculty have been told more than once that there was fact-finding yesterday and Tuesday. Yesterday, we were told that the salary increase was a result of an “intense mediation.” So, what is it? Mediation or fact-finding? They are very different actions with very different purposes and results. Accurate language and reporting are critical for faculty’s understanding.

2.) After multiple emails with the CCFT president yesterday, I still don’t have a clear answer to my questions. I often tell my writing students that if their thesis is muddy to them, it will be really muddy to me. This applies here. I wasn’t clear about the answer because the union was less clear than I was.

From what I was able to gather, and again, I may be wrong, this is what we received:

(a) A 1% salary increase for the 2013-14 contract year, going back to January 2014. (At first, Debra said it was a “bonus,” and then I got really confused. But, she then said it wasn’t a bonus).

(b) A 1% salary increase for the 2014-15 contract year, beginning in January 2015.

We were told that we got a 2% salary increase. This is not so. We got two, 1% increases over 2 contract years. This is not the same as a 2% salary increase—the wonders of compounding interest and such. It is an important distinction.

Debra didn’t express understanding that we bargain for one-year periods; typically, college unions bargain for academic years, sometimes fiscal years. So, essentially the first 1% raise we received was for the academic year of 2013-14 (July 2013 through June 2014, the year that impasse was declared). So, saying the increase “goes back” to January 2014 doesn’t make any sense since it was imbedded in the 2013-14 academic year. What it does mean is that we got a 1% raise for only one semester of that year—Spring 2014. You might recall the union’s email that said “The request for the 1% COLA was actually put forward in Fall 2013!” We received nothing for Fall 2013.

3.) A 1% increase for the 2014-15 contract year– We’re going to receive this 1%, beginning in the second semester of the contract year (January 2015). This increase should have begun in Fall 2014, the first semester of the contract year. So, we have lost out on another full semester of possible increase.

4.) We were told that the next round of negotiations will begin in April 2015. Those would logically be the negotiations for the 2015-2016 year. So, what this means is that yesterday’s agreement with the district closed out any other salary negotiations for 2014-15!  Settling for 1% for 2013-2014 is one thing. But, for the current year? Not good.

So, in short, our first increase since our 3% raise in January 2008, almost seven years ago, was a 1% salary increase for one semester of our last contract year (2013-14) and a 1% salary increase for one semester of our current contract year (2014-15).

Say what?? Why in the world would the union give this gift to the district? And, a gift it is. The district, who proposed the decimation of part-time faculty health benefits and stipends; the district, who timed this discussion to occur after the November 4 election; the district, who had a huge ending balance and a million dollars over the required reserve.

The union itself has proclaimed faculty’s dismal salaries in comparison with just about all others; the union, who has said that a 10% increase would only bring us to the median of our comparable districts; the union, who raised the costs of health insurance to families. Why didn’t the union hold out for more?

But, now we are stuck with pennies and a possibly higher tax bracket. Yes, I understand; the union is thrilled it got anything. It’s not easy to do, that’s for sure.  But, it warrants no back-patting nor celebration. Because what does it really amount to?

I’ll use myself as an example. I am at the top column, top step. For the 2013-2014 contract year, the 1% raise would have amounted to less than a $100 a month ($97.64 to be exact), but since we only got it for half a year, it amounts to a whopping $48 a month increase for that year. I pay more in union fair share fees. The same applies to the 2014-15 year + the compounded interest from the prior year. And, this is for the top of the salary schedule. What about those making $62,000? Or, $76,000? And, god forbid, what about part-timers? We all will get a retroactive check back to January, I’m assuming. That is a good thing. But, in the continuous fight back up of the rung of the salary ranks, it is less than negligible. It is nowhere near enough for what the faculty have endured.

Further, the union did not get the part-time office hour situation resolved nor the large-lecture increase, so it gave those up as well.

5) This salary increase doesn’t even touch the hugely increased out-of-pocket costs for families’ health insurance. We breeders are taking home hundreds less than we were in September before the insurance increases went into effect—even with both of these 1% raises.

Where is the faculty insurance pool and offsets for this rise in insurance that the union promised us? Was that even discussed? Being at impasse for over a year, the union has spent a great deal of time and money on legal expenses. Was the result worth it?

Truly, it is our belief that we would have been much better off holding a job action and rejecting the district’s paltry offering. After 7 years, we deserved a great deal more.

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