What if I was asked, “what is it like to be President of the VCCCD faculty union?” We have 3 campuses with approximately 1200 full and part-time faculty. We provide services for approximately 30,000 students. The vast majority of our faculty are union members. Well, I suppose the word “demanding” would first come to my mind in terms of answering such a question. Union business is 24/7. While many might think we are just involved in contract negotiations and the grievances that can result, your union is involved in many other activities. There is fiscal oversight of union funds, networking and cooperation with other unions including at the state and national level. We are involved in supporting legislation to benefit our students and faculty and we will be working to increase our local efforts in this sphere. There is a union office to maintain, record keeping, audits, website and social media outreach along with many other activities necessary to maintain a professional organization. And, of course, attending and reporting on the Board of Trustee meeting and other District committees is on our plate. We have a Committee on Political Education (COPE) that was actively involved in endorsing 2 recent Board of Trustee candidates who were both elected and are now serving. And, of course, one of the most important things for me is to respond quickly to all types of questions and concerns that reach me. I receive daily emails and messages that are left at the office. I teach online courses and firmly believe that a DE instructor must respond to students in a timely matter. My personal goal is to always respond within 24 hours. I bring this same passion for answering questions and concerns that I receive from faculty.
Frankly, all of the above would be overwhelming without the support of a highly motivated Executive Council. We have 14 voting positions in our by-laws and all of these positions are currently filled. The Executive Council hired a new full-time Executive Director last fall, Michael Sheetz. Michael literally hit the ground running and brings a wide range of necessary skills sets to make us a “union of professionals”. And as you all know, any office needs conscientious clerical and administrative help. We have amazing part-time help in this area in the persons of Joe Carroll and Julieanne Flores.
So, what is it like to be President? With all of the above working together, the position is still challenging, but I am confident we are moving forward in a positive way. And, in that respect, there is a sense of accomplishment.
Last newsletter I published the names of all members who are working on the Negotiating Team and on the union Health Benefits committee. I am confident that the coordinated efforts of these teams will result in achieving both quality health benefits and a salary increase in line with other college districts. Below I have an overview of some of these efforts (for more complete details read Steve Hall’s. newsletter article).
Regarding the above, it is very clear that our faculty salary needs to be in line with other comparative college districts to ensure our ability to recruit and retain the best faculty for our students. This will require a substantial boost in our existing compensation rates. Additionally, AFT Local 1828 is questioning the validity of the cost of current FT faculty health benefits since it was reported by our health broker, Burnham, that Anthem has given the VCCCD a pooled rate increase for this year and last year while the utilization rates for faculty have been lower than the ASCC group for these same years. In past years the rate increases were calculated separately. The significance of this information is that the HB calculations used for 18/19 in the last negotiations by management was inflated for AFT faculty. Since our claim history was less than the ASCC group, we subsidized the ASCC rate increase which caused our union a weaker negotiating position on salary increases. I have asked the Chancellor to consult with his staff on how this happened and what remedy for this inaccurate costing could be offered.
Below is different item that needs to be addressed.
However, I can report that our union has gained memberships since the Janus decision. The ratio of members who have resigned (which is roughly a baker’s dozen) is 9 to 1 in favor of the union. In other words, for everyone who has resigned, 9 new members have been added. We are a strong union thanks to your continued support. Your continued support will be necessary as we move through the upcoming negotiations process and work to achieve a contract that will meet the needs of our faculty who are in the front lines of servicing our large student populations.
President, AFT 1828