By Steve Hall
What’s Been Happening
It’s only been a month since I was appointed by the AFT Executive Council to serve as your Chief Negotiator, but during that month we’ve made a great deal of progress in preparing for our upcoming contract negotiations. Here are a few of the highlights:
I spent the first few weeks talking to, and interviewing interested faculty to serve on the negotiations team. I am pleased to report to you that we have selected an exceptional team that is a diverse group of faculty which includes full-time & part-time faculty, classroom & non-classroom faculty, and faculty with considerable past negotiations experience, but also several who are new to the team and can bring a fresh perspective to the process.
In particular, our team is comprised of myself, three full-time faculty, three part-time faculty, the Executive Director, and, we are in the process of hiring a transcriptionist to take notes during face-to-face negotiations. I am particularly excited about this development because accurate notes are critical to not only our negotiating strength, but also indispensable when our grievance team needs to advocate for faculty in future contract enforcement actions.
With our team in place, we held our first meeting on October 5. We used this time to lay the foundation for what I am sure will be a busy and demanding process. To make sure we are fully prepared to advocate for the faculty, we have agreed to meet every Friday until formal negotiations begin after the first of the year.
Our first order of official business has been to prepare the initial faculty survey. During our most recent meeting, the team finalized the first of several faculty contract surveys which we will distribute to all faculty in the next few weeks. This is a great chance for me to remind everyone why this survey is so important to the process.
If you are new to this, you might not know that for us to be effective we need to know what is important to our members. We all have things that are important to us in our work life, but not everyone has identical needs and situations. The surveys that we send out give us a chance to see what is important to everyone. As a team, we want 12 AFT 1828 to advocate for what the faculty need, the survey tells us what that is, so please keep an eye on your email and fill out the survey just as soon as you get it--your contract depends on it.
We have a general membership meeting scheduled for Friday October 26. Part of the meeting will be a great opportunity for you to meet the two great board candidates we are supporting, but also it is a great chance for us to hear directly from you so we hope to see you there.
Where Are We Right Now?
The district is in an era of unprecedented prosperity. Currently, the district holds a staggeringly large financial reserve. While we certainly appreciate the need to plan for the inevitable “rainy day,” the size of this reserve, is approximately $30 million and is approximately 3.5 times the amount recommended by the State Chancellor’ Office. In addition to this large reserve, we expect to receive another $11 million in additional funding based on the the new California Community College Funding Formula for this year. Financially, this puts the district in a very strong position to provide increased compensation to make our salaries more competitive with other community college districts. Unfortunately, in past years management has not acknowledged the contribution faculty make to the quality of instruction and service it provides and has not agreed to share this windfall with faculty. Most of you need no reminder that the district’s 2018-19 adopted budget allocates a record low percentage of general fund dollars being spent on faculty.
To be blunt, the VCCCD has the ability to increase salaries and also maintain benefits. However; this is only possible if management decides that increasing faculty compensation is a priority. Our three colleges are consistently ranked among the leaders in California community college education and we all know that is true in large part because our faculty are second-to-none, and yet the district fails to recognize that when they come to the bargaining table.
We are intent on changing that, but we can’t do it without your help. The negotiating team has some hard work ahead of us, but we are ready, willing and able to advocate for what is fair and equitable on your behalf. But to be successful, we need you to do your part too.
Ventura County Federation of College Teachers, AFT Local 1828
Steve Hall may be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org