In the May AFT elections, I ran for President based on providing relevant information to the membership when it became available to union leadership. I have received many emails thanking me for pursuing this policy of transparency. We now have a Chief Negotiator, Steve Hall, who sent out a call for faculty negotiating members last week. Frankly, I have some reservations regarding this process. What I am concerned with is not personal. It is about achieving the best result for 1200 faculty members in this district. Yes, post Janus, this Federation is still responsible for negotiating for all faculty whether they are union members or not. Steve is also the Chair of the Health Benefits committee. One of my concerns is that the HB committee is a fact-finding committee, not a negotiating team. I want to make sure there is no conflict of interests. The task of the HB committee is not to push anything off the table but to forward alternatives for further evaluation. I believe there may not be a clear understanding of “no cap” vs “no change” with respect to F/T Health Benefits membership-wide. No cap means that the dollar amount of health benefits cannot be capped; the District could not pass on the rising annual costs of the health plan to the employee. No change would mean no change from the current plan; no alterations or the adoption of other plans which could cost less and still have a no cap provision. The current cost of the F/T plan now in effect is approximately $24,000 annually per F/T faculty. The Health Benefits committee is meeting with a new insurance broker. Their job is to explore all potential cost saving options to the current plan as well as exploring other plans that would also contain a no cap provision. Then, they present findings to the Executive Council which will be forwarded to the negotiating team.
I believe this HB committee should function in a similar manner as our recently appointed AFT Lab Task Force that will work with a management team to present facts and coherent alternatives to achieve equity. This committee is required by the CBA to complete their findings prior to the start of negotiations. If the HB fact-finding committee continues without providing all needed information from the new HR broker this will impact the progress of negotiations. Hopefully we can work through these issues to ensure comprehensive research is completed thereby increasing our effectiveness when active negotiations start in several months
Another concern I have is associated with our last negotiations process. Based on a survey completed at the start of negotiations (which continued for 20 months) the number one priority that was announced was “no cap” for current F/T Health Benefits. Survey or no, it defies common sense to say that the number one priority of the 1200 plus faculty in this college District was, in fact, “no cap” and no change for the F/T health benefit plan. I say that because approximately 800 of those 1200 are P/T faculty who receive no benefit whatsoever from this priority. For the sake of argument, suppose we just dismiss that group out of hand. Suppose it was the case that for F/T faculty “no cap” and “no change” to HB was the number one priority.
Well, this priority quickly became “no cap” “no change” “no raise.” When it was clear there was no movement by the District on the range of contract demands being sought last year, faculty began showing up in large numbers at the Board of Trustees meetings last fall. This had some impact. The “no cap” and no change was offered in October of 2017, but no F/T salary increase was forthcoming. Both the District and the BOT were adamant on this issue. The next steps would be impasse and beyond. I have been an active union member for the past 53 years in 3 major unions. I started as a steelworker in 1965 and except for 3 years in the USMC, I was a member of the United Steelworkers of America, Local 6828 in Louisville, Ky until 1979. I moved to CA and became a member of the CPOA (Californian Peace Officer Association) from 1979-2001 and served on numerous negotiating teams in Santa Barbara. I have been a member of AFT 1828 since 1996 when I began teaching P/T at MC prior to retirement from SBPD. I have seen serious job actions during those many years including disappointing mediation results, “work to rule” slow-downs, and a host of other tactics. I participated in 4 strikes as a steelworker. In one of those strikes a member of the Teamsters Union was shot trying to cross a union picket line in his semi-tractor trailer. Many of our union pickets carried guns in their pockets but the assailant was never identified. I was involved in the disastrous SBPD strike in 1980.
For a public employee union strike to be effective requires a 100% commitment from all members and an extremely strong commitment by the local community to back such an effort. In our case, this would involve a county wide commitment to forego the education of nearly 30,000 students in our three community colleges to meet our multiple contract demands. While it is always possible to build this type of commitment, none of that was in place when our current contract was settled in the early spring of 2018. The solution to the above problem is to go into contract negotiations with completed research and facts to support our bargaining position. All negotiations start at opposite ends of the spectrum, the trick is to present the better arguments and facts to support the objectives of the union. And clearly, a labor friendly Board of Trustees goes a long way as well.
Going over the past negotiating experience is rear view mirror stuff. Moving forward, the AFT EC approved the hiring of Michael Sheetz as our Executive Director this summer. His eclectic resume included his prestigious law degree awards with an emphasis on labor law (and service with the 4th District Court of Appeals). His complete profile is elsewhere in this newsletter. The EC also approved Budget Analyst, Michael Frohnauer who is an active CPA and adjunct instructor at VC. Steve Hall has expressed his desire to use the expertise of these persons in his role as Chief Negotiator. I have asked both of them to lend their full cooperation and support to achieve our mutual goals.
Here is what I know. Our F/T faculty cannot have another contract with zero salary increases. Last week the CFT released their salary survey for all community colleges in CA. A short article on this is contained in this newsletter. We are not being compensated appropriately.
It is highly undesirable to have situations where newer F/T faculty have few options but to work overload assignments and summer sessions to support their families and attempt to purchase homes in Ventura County. All the while dealing with class sizes that often reach 55 students. P/T faculty in our District only received a meager 1.75% salary increase for duration of the 3 year contact. The increase in COLA during those 3 years was 4%. This salary increase was offered by management because they realized that their P/T faculty would not receive any benefit associated with the F/T HB plan. The limited amount of Kaiser health plans available for P/T employees have risen dramatically this past year in terms of employee contributions (approx. 78%). Currently for a HB plan a P/T single person pays $387 monthly, a single person with spouse pays $1,239 and a family $1,807. This is not about doctor visits and other co-pays. This is about an employee contribution deducted from their paychecks each month. Many P/T faculty live on the margin…and depend on their previous assignments not being cancelled to pay the rent. The turn-over of this group continues to escalate as many seek other higher paying assignments in nearby college districts.
In terms of other membership groups, senior faculty face lower retirement allowances. Retirement calculations are based on salary earnings and not on benefits.
The above is what is on my mind. I do not want to see a repeat of the protracted negotiations we just went through last time that did not produce across the board benefits for all. I firmly believe any number “one” priority of this Federation of faculty must achieve the greatest good for the greatest number. And in our case that would be salary increases. I will keep you updated on data I will receive from the last contract to show where the money went. You are all an intelligent group of people and you deserve to be informed of the all the facts before you fill out a survey that rates your next contract priorities. For my part, I will work to ensure these surveys are well crafted.