November 2019 Advocate: Campaign for a fair contract
Amping up the campaign for a fair contract
by Paul Bissember, AFT 1493 Executive Secretary & Katharine Harer, AFT 1493 Vice President
After over 8 months of bargaining, without mak-ing much progress on the major issues affecting SMCCCD faculty, AFT 1493’s Executive Committee felt it was time to go out and speak with our colleagues. We wanted to hear from faculty about their priorities and work together to decide which steps we can collectively take to win a fair contract.
We started by holding Negotiations Town Halls in late September at each campus to provide updates and get important feedback from our colleagues. Next, we organized our first Negotiations Outreach Drive at Skyline College during the week of October 7th. The drive at Skyline was just the beginning; we’ll be holding similar outreach drives at CSM and Cañada in November.
What is an Outreach Drive?
An outreach drive is a method of union organizing where volunteers (Executive Committee members, CFT organizers and, most important, faculty members on each campus) visit colleagues in pairs to engage in conversations. It gives us a chance to talk with one another — to hear one another’s stories and experiences of working in the district and to identify issues, concerns, and ways to bring about positive resolutions.
In the outreach drives, our volunteers also provide faculty with negotiations’ updates, collect feedback on bargaining priorities, and ask members to fill out blue “Count on Me” cards. These cards allow us to assess ways each faculty member can get engaged in collective action to win a contract that meets the needs of all faculty members. Our aim is to hear from as many members as possible across the district.
Some of the faculty activists participating in the outreach drive at Skyline were (l. to r.) Jacquie Escobar (Counseling), Rika Yonemura-Fabian (Sociology), Lachlan Batchelor (CFT), Nick Langhoff (Engineering), Tina Watts (Child Development), Paul Bissember (AFT 1493 Executive Secretary) , Valarie Bachelor (CFT)
Common theme: Excessive workload
Many faculty members we spoke with expressed concerns about excessive workload. As one instructor asserted, “There needs to be clear expectations, and limits, on our professional duties and responsibilities.” Another faculty member brought up student learning outcomes, which is commonly mentioned when faculty discuss their overloaded schedules. “SLOs were pushed by those at the top and has led to an increase in bureaucracy over the years. I don’t see how SLOs help with our teaching. While I have support in my department with SLOs and other tasks, many others do not, and it makes them want to retire early.” Another instructor talked about their overly large classes: “I teach classes with over 90 students that could be broken up into smaller classes to better serve my students, and that could allow for full-time employment. The district won’t do this because they know they save money. The administration seems to be spending money on so many things, but not investing in faculty.”
As we walked the campus at Skyline wearing our bright red union T-shirts, many faculty members greeted us and began talking about their working conditions, their exhaustion at being pulled in too many directions, their frustration with the behavior of deans and upper administration, and their hope that we can win a fair contract. We waited outside the doors of classrooms while faculty members spent extra time helping their students and walked with colleagues to meetings because they had no free time in their schedules, but they wanted to talk about the issues that mattered to them.
Part-time faculty express frustrations
We met with many part-time faculty members, who raised various issues specific to adjuncts. One part-timer talked about the problems of commuting to multiple colleges and the minimal medical coverage: “I’m a freeway flyer. I also teach at S.F. State and De Anza. I wish I had more opportunities to teach here so I didn’t have to commute all over the Bay. At S.F. State, if you are part time and teach 2 classes you receive benefits. Why can’t we have that here?” The most common theme among adjuncts was pay parity and some full-time faculty also expressed support for addressing the part-time parity issue: “It’s a problem that part-time faculty get paid so little compared to us full-time faculty, even as they do comparable teaching work.” Although many part-timers raised their concerns with us, most were reluctant to talk about any of their problems publicly: “As an adjunct faculty, I’m afraid to speak up about issues because of possible retaliation.”
Many faculty members we heard from also expressed frustration with deans and upper management who don’t seem to really understand how much faculty do and how hard they work. As one counselor said, “I wish the administrators could walk a day in our shoes to learn more about all the work we do. It would be good to identify ways to collaborate with our instructional faculty to better understand our working conditions and build support for each other and our students.”
During the Skyline outreach drive we:
• Covered 21 outreach shifts over five days with 15 different volunteers
• Spoke with over 50 faculty members and gathered feedback around contract priorities
• Collected 58 “Count On Me” cards detailing actions faculty would take to win a fair contract
• Signed up 15 new COPE (Committee on Political Education) members (who donate a few dollars from their pay checks to a fund that supports pro-faculty Board of Trustees candidates)
We’re counting on you
We will continue reaching out to faculty to continue to provide updates and gain feedback regarding bargaining and other issues. Our next outreach drives are planned for the week of November 4th at CSM and then during the week of November 18th at Cañada! Feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested and able to volunteer for a couple of hours to help us reach all of our faculty!
Please continue to show your support for AFT’s contract proposals:
• Remember to wear your AFT 1493 T-shirts on contract negotiations days. The next bargaining session is on November 5.
• Please post a “Faculty deserve a fair contract!” door placard on your office door. (If you need a placard, contact your college Chapter Chair or Co-Chair.)
• Keep an eye out for other upcoming activities and events where faculty can support our proposals.