Hello VCCCD colleagues,
I hope everyone has had a safe and happy return to school. Although I am enjoying being back in the classroom and interacting in-person with students, I recognize this is a stressful time for all of us. I am working on my department’s schedule and trying to staff classes for Spring while also returning to teaching Human Anatomy in-person for the first time since Spring 2020. Faculty across our campuses are engaging in campus shared-governance committees, running tenure committees, revitalizing student clubs, and engaging in the many other jobs we do outside of our normal assignments. If you are like me, you also carry unresolved frustrations with the district or campus with you. Hang in there. Together, we will make things better.
Since our last update, AFT met with the District on August 9th and August 22nd. I’ll begin with where we stand today. I’ll then address what you, as a faculty member, can do at this time. Finally, for those who are still curious about what we are attempting to achieve, I’ll provide more information on our recent meetings and specific articles at the end of this update.
While negotiations have been productive on many issues, the district has not responded to proposals, or portions of proposals, with financial implications. Negotiations always require great patience, but this delay is a key reason why this seems like a slow process.
We have not yet received a counter to our proposal on Article 3 (Salary) that was presented to the District on April 28th. We cannot yet say what the district will offer us, but they have suggested we will likely see a counter at our September 16th negotiations meeting which follows the September 13th Board of Trustees meeting. (See more on Article 3 after the update)
·We are close to an agreement on Article 4 (Health and Welfare Benefits). There are no significant changes to health benefits – we are still with CalPERS; however, there is still some language yet to be resolved.
We received a counter from the District on Article 5 (Workload and Assignment) on July 26th. Our counter to their initial proposal of April 7th was delivered on April 19th. Their counter did not address lab pay – the key financial aspect of Article 5. This article also relates to distance education classes, remote work, and non-contract assignments. (See more on Article 5 after the update).
We have not received a counter on our Article 7 (Safety) proposal which we presented on March 15. While our proposal contains minor changes, we do have a proposal regarding COVID-19 and/or similar contagious illnesses. In our view, we have developed a reasonable plan that allows us to adjust to changing conditions in the event we experience another COVID-like event in the future. Give the removal of the vaccine mandate, and a return to “normal” without any plan for dealing with future concerns, we feel it would be in both parties’ best interests to continue discussion on this article.
We have made significant progress on Article 12 (Evaluation) and have addressed some of the concerns regarding the evaluation of online classes. We are currently waiting to hear back on some of the other articles (e.g. Article 3) before we provide another counter on Article 12 since there are financial implications in this article as well.
Article 23 (Distance Education) is largely on hold since it has financial implications (DE trainings that are currently paid that the District does not wish to continue to compensate faculty for) and has items that should be moved to Articles 5 and 12. The District no longer considers DE a separate thing we do as it has become the norm.
We are essentially done with Articles 6 (Class Size), 9 (Calendar), 11 (Tenure), and 13 (Department Chairs/Facilitators).
We are close to agreements on Articles 8 (Leaves) and 17 (Federation Rights and Activities) and are working towards a plan outside the contract that will protect Intellectual Property Rights (Proposed in our new Article 25).
What can you do?
The District team will be seeking guidance from the board on financial matters during the closed session at the September 13th Board of Trustees meeting. Watch for the invite and consider making a public comment (written, zoom, or in-person) during the comment period prior to the closed session. The board must be reminded of the high cost of housing in our area as well as the recent inflation that has placed additional burden on our members. We all need to provide personal insights about how this has impacted us.
The board knows that the state has provided a COLA of 6.56% this year, in addition to significant funds targeted for specific purposes. They may be less aware that this COLA does not always make its way to employees or that some districts automatically pass this COLA down to their employees, lessening the tension associated with bargaining and raising employee morale. We’ve repeatedly informed the District of the problems with lab pay, but does the board know how inequitable pay for labs has impacted your or the ability to hire and retain faculty in your area? We are sure you have other things you may wish to inform the board of, but this is a good time to address the fiscal issues. The District has money and our salaries and lab pay are uncompetitive with surrounding districts.
Please note that there is also a special Board of Trustees Meeting scheduled for August 29th. Negotiations are not on the agenda, but a study session on the budget is. You can find documentation of the budget, including the COLA we will be receiving this year and are anticipating in the years to come as well as documentation that district expenditures on personnel (81.5%) are well below generally recommended levels (85-90%). Public comments at this meeting should be focused on budget issues such as utilizing some of this revenue to provide competitive faculty salaries.
In Unity,Ty Gardner AFT 1828 President/Chief Negotiator
August 9th Meeting– Budget meeting with David El Fattal and James Zavas.
We had a brief meeting with Vice Chancellor El Fattal and Budget Director Zavas at the District Office to discuss the estimation of costs associated with our proposals.
Director Zavas presented some spreadsheets that can be used to calculate the cost of faculty raises and changes to lab loads. Director Zavas led us through the spreadsheets and some of the assumptions used in their creation. Additionally, we discussed the need to receive a proposal from the District on these financial matters. We learned that our previous calculation of the cost of our proposed changes to the FT faculty salary schedule matched those of the district. It is important to note that neither the Vice Chancellor nor the Budget Director are on the District negotiations team, but like your local campus leaders they are consulted by the team on a regular basis and have the role of determining fiscal policy.
Later that week Director Zavas sent our team the cost-estimate spreadsheets so we could confirm the calculations and investigate costs associated with different proposals. It should be noted that non-contract salary estimates are more difficult to make. We will investigate these salary calculations in more detail and apply them to future counterproposals as needed.
Investigation of the lab pay estimates led to us uncovering what looks like a significant error in the District’s calculations that results in the overestimation of costs. We also identified a concnrn about the underlying assumptions of the lab pay model that also suggests cost overestimation. Based on what we see in the assumption (increase in load taught by FT faculty members results in increased contract salary costs rather than non-contract/extra-hourly cost) I suggest we may be better off calculating a cost estimate with a high and low values based on the proportion of additional load picked up as a non-contract assignment, understanding that the actual outcome is likely to fall on the low end of the estimated range.
August 22nd Meeting – Short negotiations meeting on Zoom.
We had a brief meeting with the District negotiations team on Zoom. We discussed the progress made thus far in negotiations and the status of outstanding articles such as those discussed above. AFT presented the idea of addressing Intellectual Property (IP) rights through an MOU that would result in a cooperative effort to develop a draft Administrative Policy on IP rights to fulfil the promise of Board Policy 3715 on IP rights. This draft policy could then be evaluated through the shared-governance process. The district presented a counter on Article 17 (Federation Rights) that addressed our need to provide compensation through reassigned time for negotiations team members from each campus. The district also delivered a counter on Article 8 (Leaves). We are evaluating some language that relates to the sick leave pool to ensure it clarifies the process but believe we are close to an agreement on this article.
More on Article 3:
Both AFT and the District know that the state is providing a large COLA and lots of additional money. We have proposed raises over the three years of the CBA in recognition of the District’s positive financial status and the simple fact that our salaries are remarkably low relative to other districts.
We also recognize that our salaries are not currently equitable and have proposed that we address this immediately. Currently, if you are on the low end of the full-time salary schedule (left side) you are not only paid significantly less in actual dollars (you know, the ones that pay your housing and fuel costs) but you are also paid less than those on the high end (right side) as compared to faculty with your qualifications/experience in surrounding districts. For example, VCCCD pay for a contract faculty member with a masters and no experience ranks 69th out of 72 community college districts in the state while pay for a faculty member with an MA + 60 units and 20 years of service would rank 51st of 72 districts. This inequity is a result of the natural drift of applying across-the-board raises to different salaries over time. We have proposed a shift in the salary structure to address this inequity. The District recognizes that such a shift, or a similar mechanism of decreasing the gaps between the salary classes, would help address the low starting salaries that make it difficult for the colleges to hire and retain new faculty. Additionally, a shift in the contract faculty salary schedules will cost less than the COLA for this year.
We also recognize there is a fundamental inequity in non-contract salaries and as a potential step towards a solution, we have sought to tie the non-contract salary schedules to the contract salary schedule so that we can continue to make progress on pro-rata pay for part-time faculty and extra-hourly assignments.
We have also proposed ways to remove some of the tension from future salary negotiations, either of which would represent a positive step in labor relations for the district and help ensure that VCCCD faculty receive fair pay, both now and in the future.
1) automatic COLA passthrough
2) contractual salary comparison/equalization relative to surrounding/competing districts.
We understand that people may have more questions about salaries. We encourage you to send your questions to us so that we may address them in future communications.
More on Article 5:
Unfair lab pay is an issue that threatens the successful hiring and retention of FT and PT faculty on all our campuses, particularly in the sciences and health-related fields, and that may ultimately limit the opportunities students in our communities have to receive training linked to high-demand, high-paying jobs in these fields. Our local campus leaders all know this, but we have not seen the District’s plan to address it.
Our initial proposal is to raise all lab pay to match lecture pay, which was the first recommendation of the Lab Value Task Force Report of 2019. As a part of their work, the Lab Value Task Force studied how other CA Community Colleges treat lab loads. Cuesta College performed a similar study in 2021. Some districts, such as Santa Clarita, pay all labs equal to lectures. Others have designated those labs which have significant prep and grading as “enhanced” or “teaching” labs, which they pay the same as lectures. Other courses, designated as “activity” or “skills” courses, are paid at a lower rate. The rate varies, but the .67 paid by the VCCCD is lower than many. The Lab Value Task Force proposed such a mechanism as a fallback full equalization of pay be too expensive.
We are currently trying to ensure that we have an accurate cost estimate of our initial proposal while we await any counter by the District.