Nov. 2016 Advocate: Negotiations Update
District sends misleading negotiations information to all faculty; AFT provides clarification
On Monday, October 17, Vice Chancellor Kathy Blackwood sent out an email to all faculty which suggested that the AFT had made false “claims” about the District’s contract proposal and then provided what she called “factual information” (apparently suggesting that the Union was providing inaccurate information.) In fact, a significant amount of the so-called “factual information” that Kathy presented in that email were new proposals and information that was not presented during negotiations. (The fact that the District was essentially presenting new proposals directly to the faculty rather than to AFT negotiators is a blatant unfair labor practice.) Since that email, along with other District actions, such as the proposals brought to the Associated Student Senates in support of more faculty evaluations (see box at right), seemed intended to sow more confusion and distrust than to really enlighten faculty, the AFT would like to provide a response to clarify some of the points presented in that message.
In 2015-16, property tax revenue in the county increased by 7.64%, and faculty received a 4.78% salary increase (in addition to other benefits.) The increase in property tax revenues in 2016-17 was almost identical to the prior year’s: 7.62%. The District now wants to keep a bigger cut of the increase in revenue and pass on a much smaller share to faculty.
The first paragraph of Kathy’s message ends: “we just want to ensure that you have all of the facts about the District’s proposal.” The information in that e-mail certainly does not provide all of the facts about the District’s proposal; it doesn’t even give full information about the four topics that were discussed.
When Kathy states: “All faculty could receive an evenly distributed 4.02% salary increase,” that is a totally new District proposal! Using the District’s last actual proposal before declaring impasse, it is impossible to get to a 4.02% salary increase for all faculty. Apparently, they are offering more money in order to get to 4.02%. Although more than the District previously offered, the 4.02% for total compensation is still lower than the 4.77% (applied entirely to salary) which we would have received under the old formula. Also, under the District’s new “total compensation” bargaining method, the 4.02% figure would be further reduced when increases for medical benefits are deducted. In our previous contract negotiations medical benefits, as well as any other monetary improvements, were negotiated separately, but the District now wants to deduct those benefits from their total offer.
In 2015-2016, property tax revenue in San Mateo County increased by 7.64%, and faculty received a 4.78% salary increase (in addition to other benefits). The increase in property tax revenues in 2016-2017 was almost identical to the prior year’s: 7.62%. The District now wants to keep a bigger cut of the increase in property tax revenue and pass on to faculty a much smaller portion of the new funds.
Kathy’s message says “the AFT has proposed to allocate the $3.6 million of new funding in a manner that would provide some faculty with an additional salary step resulting in a 6.21% increase for these faculty, whereas other faculty would receive a 3.21% salary increase.” The AFT negotiating team has never been presented with a proposal that allows it to allocate anywhere close to 3.6 million of new funding. Since the District did not offer a 4.02% salary increase, the AFT certainly could not have allocated those figures when that amount was not offered in the first place.
The AFT has proposed a new salary step to be added to the top of both the full-time and part-time schedules. This has been proposed because our faculty at the top step rank lower compared to other districts than those at lower steps. (This can actually be seen in the salary comparisons included in the attachment in Kathy’s email.) The 6.21% vs. 3.21% figures, however, also are new District numbers that do not come from actual negotiations.
Kathy writes that “the District’s faculty are among the highest paid and rank first in overall compensation in the Bay 10”, but the comparisons she refers to (in her attachment) do not give a full picture for a number of reasons. First, those comps do not include part-time faculty, who constitute roughly 2/3 of our faculty members.
Also, very importantly, now that we are a “basic aid” district, comparing ourselves with other Bay Ten districts is not necessarily the appropriate comparison group anymore. Within the Bay 10, only College of Marin and, just recently, San Jose/Evergreen and West Valley/Mission are “basic aid” districts. Revenues for “basic aid” districts are generally significantly higher than “revenue limit” districts. SMCCCD became a “basic aid” district in Spring 2012. From the 2011-12 academic year to the current 2016-17 academic year, our District’s total projected revenue has increased over 53%, an average of over 10% per year! It is reasonable that a fair share of those revenue increases go to employee compensation. It is also reasonable to look at how our faculty salaries compare to other districts around the state. If we look at the data from the annual “Statewide Study Comparisons” developed by the All Faculty Association of Santa Rosa Junior College, the 2016 “Salary Study Summary” which shows the ten top-ranked districts in the state, SMCCCD is not among those top-ranked districts.
Proposal on evaluations
Moving to the District’s faculty evaluation proposal, the AFT feels that it is inappropriate that after a 3-year process of revising the procedures led by a Performance Evaluation Task Force which included faculty and administration representatives, with extensive opportunities for input from faculty and administration, the District would now propose major changes to our evaluation procedures. While Kathy says that “The increased feedback will likely confirm what we already know: the District’s students rate 80% of the faculty as ‘excellent’ or ‘good,’” this new push from the District to increase the frequency of classroom evaluations as well as the number of evaluators will both require significantly more work from more faculty (and administrative) evaluators as well as being more disruptive of the teaching process. Additionally, research does not support the idea that student evaluations are the best (or even a good) measure of faculty performance. Finally, the District’s proposal to carry out all student surveys online, in light of the dismal response rate and the existing problems with our current online system, is simply irresponsible.
Kathy’s reference to the District’s proposal on flexible flex begins: “Flexible flex will be unchanged,” but then, almost comically, after “with the exception of,” goes on to explain how their proposal would change flexible flex to be significantly less flexible: “requiring faculty to seek prior approval for alternative activities in advance of a Flex Day” (which could be months before an activity that a faculty member wants to attend.) Kathy’s next sentence begins, “In addition”, which makes it sound like “all part-time faculty would be compensated at the ‘special rate’ for participation in Flex Day activities” is an improvement. The special rate would actually be a significantly lower rate than what part-time faculty currently get when flex days occur on days they are already scheduled to work, which are the days part-time faculty are most likely to be available to attend. The AFT fully supports the idea of paying part-time faculty at the special rate if they are able to attend any additional flex activities outside of their regular scheduled days.
The fourth and final item that Kathy’s message addresses is workload equity, asserting that “the District proposal calls for the formation of a committee with representatives from the AFT, Academic Senate and the administration to gather data from faculty and develop a comprehensive plan to address faculty workload issues.” This proposal was not made during negotiations. All the District said was that they could not negotiate on this issue because they needed data. AFT said that the data existed, in the form of a survey conducted by AFT a few years ago, with very high faculty participation, plus all sorts of documentation which contains data on duties performed by faculty, such as committee memberships and minutes of meetings (including attendees) – for hiring committees, evaluation committees, a multitude of participatory governance committees– program review documents, records of curriculum development, etc. The District negotiators responded that meeting attendance doesn’t show if faculty members really participate in those meetings! The District never responded to the AFT’s proposed language which attempts to provide an actual mechanism that addresses the inequities of faculty work beyond their primary duties, such as teaching for instructional faculty or counseling for counselors.
While the four main items that Kathy focused on are key issues, there are also many other unresolved issues as well.
Next Step: Fact Finding
So where do we go from here? Our case has been referred to Fact Finding, which means that a public hearing will take place in which representatives from the District and the AFT will present their positions to a Fact Finding panel, including a representative from each side and a neutral chairperson. The chairperson will then make recommendations for a settlement to the District Board of Trustees. Because we do not have binding arbitration in our contract, the Trustees can choose to either follow the recommendations from Fact Finding or they can decide to implement the District negotiators’ last best offer. While we currently do not know when the Fact Finding hearing will take place, it is most likely to be some time in December. We will inform faculty when we know the date of the hearing.
If you have any questions about negotiations issues, please contact either Joaquin Rivera, AFT 1493 Chief Negotiator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Monica Malamud, AFT 1493 President and Negotiating Team Member, at: email@example.com.