Dec. 2018 Advocate: Yosemite College District faculty go on 2-day strike


Yosemite Community College District faculty go on 2-day strike after 3 years of unsuccessful bargaining

By Paul Bissember, AFT 1493 Executive Secretary

At the November 26 meeting of the Bay Faculty Association (BFA) meetings, our union received a report on the Yosemite Faculty Association’s (YFA) contentious contract negotiations. After three years of bargaining sessions, mediation, factfinding, and several Unfair Labor Practices (ULP), the YFA faculty went on a two-day ULP strike throughout the Yosemite Community College District (YCCD) on Tuesday, November 27 and Wednesday, November 28. The YFA, which represents all full and part-time faculty at Modesto Junior College (Modesto, CA) and Columbia College (Sonora, CA) in the Yosemite Community College District, passed an emergency resolution on November 13th outlining the numerous violations and bad faith bargaining efforts including:

  • YCCD agendized Board resolutions illegally threatening faculty engaging in protected union activity with discipline and termination,
  • threats of ‘emergency strike resolutions’ if the union went through with their strike authorization,
  • regressive bargaining measures including takeaways and less compensation than their ‘Last, Best, and Final Offer.’

The faculty at YCCD did not back down in face of these threats and the union went forward with a strike authorization vote on November 16, 2018. The vote had high participation with 86% of members voting and 89.7% voted in support of the strike.

The district’s ‘Last, Best, and Final Offer’ failed to guarantee a decent contract for the YCCD faculty. In a YFA press release the union explained that the district’s offer requires untenable class size increases to 45 students per class, while the union proposed “pedagogically-driven process with class size determined by faculty and administrators together.” The offer included an 8% salary increase over 4 years which would keep the faculty 22% below the median of their peers at comparable campuses.

In order to learn more about the YFA contract negotiations and strike, AFT 1493 interviewed YFA President Jim Sahlman.

AFT 1493: How long have contract negotiations been going on and what are the key issues for YFA faculty?

JS: We started negotiations on November 6, 2015. Our contract expired on June 30, 2016, so we have been without an updated contract for over two years.

AFT 1493: How has the District responded to your contract priorities?

JS: The YCCD has made a unilateral change in the conditions of our contract which require that total compensation (salary plus benefits) are based on a cohort of comparable districts. That cohort agreement was unanimously approved by the Board of Trustees in 2007 following a joint 3-year study between the YFA and YCCD. Three of the current Board members were part of the same Board that approved the agreement, including the person who made the motion to approve and the person who seconded the motion. The YFA’s lead negotiator at the time of the cohort agreement has since become an administrator and is on the District’s negotiating team. He now says the cohort is “bad” when, at the time he was with YFA, “it was great.”

Further, when he left the faculty ranks to become administration, he failed to return YFA proprietary information and did not notify us. Further, he used that proprietary information in an addendum sent to the fact-finder AFTER fact-finding was completed. This is part of our ULP [Unfair Labor Practice charge] against the District. Additionally, the Board placed 3 resolutions on the October Board agenda that threatened to discipline and terminate faculty who participated in a post-impasse strike. The YCCD has also engaged in regressive bargaining numerous times, which finally caused the ULP strike we just had. If things don’t get resolved, then we will strike for at least two weeks at the beginning of the Spring semester.

AFT 1493: Could you describe the significance of YFA faculty going on strike?

JS: We’ve never been on strike before. We literally had to write the strike manual from scratch from day-to-day. But the participation was overwhelming. We basically shut-down the colleges. (See Modesto Bee article and CBS news coverage.)

AFT 1493: How did you organize in preparation for the strike?

JS: As I mentioned, we had no real manual to use as a guide, so we created it from scratch. But I think we have a good template, not only in terms of supplies, leaders, and scheduling needed, but also in terms of media coverage. MJC is an Hispanic Serving Institution, so in addition to the local newspapers and TV stations, we also had coverage by Telemundo and Univision and used one of our Spanish professors as a liaison.

We also provided further pressure on the YCCD by getting State Senator Cathleen Galgiani to write a letter to our Chancellor and the Board Chair. Her letter demands written answers from the District.

What we found is that we were able to organize very well and very quickly utilizing each others’ strengths. The graphic arts people created logos and branding. Several social media pages were created. We connected with the activist students on our campus who really organized student support and participation very well.

AFT 1493: Finally, how can other educators and faculty unions support the YFA?

JS: The biggest support we can ask for from other Unions is to help spread the word to NOT cross the picket lines in our District IF we do a post-impasse strike in January… The District claimed it could cover ALL of our sections and we knew they hadn’t planned for it, so we were able to call the District’s bluff. But given some time before January, they may be able to do some recruiting for substitutes. So, please help spread the word to NOT cross the picket lines (either face-to-face OR online classes) in YCCD. That will drastically reduce the District’s options.