Faculty voted on opening day in favor of the most recent version of the collective bargaining agreement. Wages have waned for faculty over the last decade, failing to keep pace with the cost of living or broader market for teachers thus hurting recruitment and retention. In the last academic year, the campus saw student protest highlighting the overlap in student and faculty interest as well as numerous advocacy efforts from faculty on behalf of establishing a new contract that offered fair pay for faculty. “I absolutely think that student and faculty coordination and protest had a big impact,” said faculty member Tim Jones.
The tentative agreement takes the new approach of allocating approximately 1.3 million dollars of local funds as a means of funding faculty compensation. Funds will primarily come from student tuition, international student programs and Running Start. This funding will not result in an increase of tuition but rather reallocation. “The trustees have taken the unprecedented and very innovative and courageous decision to publicly and officially apply local non-state resources,” acknowledged Doug Brown, president of the faculty association.
The Board of Trustees called for a special BOT meeting and will vote on the tentative agreement on Tuesday, Sept. 30 at 4 p.m. in room B201. “Rather than leaving faculty uncertain about things for […] whatever it would take to get the details worked out, it was important to bring it for ratification on opening day,” said Brown. “Also so that the new pay rates can take effect promptly rather than being delayed and retroactive. I think in the same spirit the Trustees have decided to go ahead and pursue ratification even before all of the housekeeping details have been worked out.”
Salaries can effectively only be increased through two avenues: more work for more pay or a well-defined promotion system with criteria for promotion and where promotions come with added responsibilities. This agreement does so by adding three non-instructional days and one instructional day to the calendar in addition to pathways for full time faculty promotions relative to skills and contributions.
“We are really very limited, in that the college does not have the ability to simply across the board increase faculty salaries,” said Brown. “That power is reserved for the legislature.” While local funds may be a short term solution to the ever-decreasing state funding, Brown expresses concern with allowing that to progress and become a default means of funding. “One thing that I think it’s important for faculty, students and administrators to join together in the upcoming election and advocating with the legislature, is not to simply take it for granted that this easy out can be continued.” Jones also highlighted a need to pivot to the legislature on a united front in an effort to replenish state funding.
The contract will last for three years, likely to be reopening after two, with the exception of a finite list predetermined topics. Which topics will be deemed ‘reopeners’ is unsure. If the legislature allocates more funding then anything to do with the usage of those resources will automatically be reopened. Should the reverse occur and the legislature decreases funding the contract will still be binding. The only exception to this is the unlikely event that the college declares financial emergency.
The contract is tentative, “Most of the really central issues have been agreed [upon], certainly in principal,” said Brown, “and in some cases in fairly detailed language, in others cases some of the language, […] details and implementation needs to be worked out.” There is a lot of work to be done as the existing contract follows a more K-12 style contract. While various modifications have been made over the years, this will be the first year where the contract is recast and reformatted to allow for a more appropriate organization system. Fair pay for faculty is one of many issues the contract will address. “The administration should be given credit for the gains that we’ve made but that doesn’t mean that we should stop asking for things,” said Jones. Finalizing the contract is expected to allow for dialogue on other issues such as working conditions.
President David Rule offered his words of gratitude, stating that: “I would like to thank the bargaining teams for their unprecedented diligence, creativity and sheer effort they invested to reach this agreement. My almost daily updates on the process lead me to believe that the teams worked through a myriad of challenging issues with open and honest dialogue, and a shared commitment to improving the College for faculty and students. The collective bargaining agreement will be finished in the months to come though no due date has been set.”