A Tentative Agreement — with Real Gains

President's MessageColleagues,

After more than five months of negotiating, the PCC Federation of Faculty and Academic Professional​s (PCCFFAP) and PCC Federation of Classified Employees (PCCFCE) joint bargaining team reached a tentative agreement with the PCC Administration team at 8pm on Friday, September 15th.  This agreement is for the two-year reopener for wages and benefits from summer 2017 to summer 2019 for our collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

The budgetary challenges were great. The state is funding community colleges at a meager 1.8% annual increase for the upcoming two years​ while PERS employer rates are increasing at double-digit amounts for the upcoming several biennia.

We didn’t get everything we wanted. Yet, with your support–we had over fifty members of the two unions observe negotiating sessions over the summer–and the hard work of our negotiating team, we made important gains towards equity of pay for employees–and towards greater stability for many of our most vulnerable members.  And some of the provisions I detail below truly are stepping stones to accomplish more in the next negotiations in 2019.

The short story: we fought and won

  • a COLA for all employees each year;
  • new top steps for APs and PT Faculty;
  • greater support for PT Faculty participation in the essential work of running the college;
  • increased funding towards health insurance caps.

Again, it’s not everything we want–or everything we deserve. But given the conditions, we believe it’s a fair settlement.

Below, I’ve broken down each of the major changes. For now, I offer a huge thanks to our negotiating team. When you see them or if you wish to email them, please do extend your thanks for their dedicated and passionate work! The FFAP team included Allison Gross, Peter Seaman, Shirlee Geiger, and Frank Goulard. The FCE team included Jeff Grider, Cherie Maas Anderson, and Elisabeth Garcia Davidson. We also thank federation support staff Michael Cannarella, who will be retiring soon. On the administration team were Lisa Bledsoe, Cheryl Belt, Jim Langstraat, Eric Blumenthal, Jessica Howard, and Kurt Simonds.

And again, thank you to our more than fifty members who, for the first time, actively played a part in each session to make this new contract. Their support was truly transformational for our union.

The Changes

COLA (Cost Of Living Adjustment):

These adjustments are in addition to the regular step increases for all members who are on steps.

For FT Faculty, AP, and Classified:

  • 1.25% first year (2017-18)
  • 2% second year (2018-19)

For PT Faculty:

  • 2% first year
  • 2% second year

NOTE: With all of the above groups of our employees, along with all administration employees, there is a 1% rollback each year (2017-18, 2018-19) in our salary schedules, for a total of 2% rollback over the next two years.

Why? In PCC’s 2013 negotiations, in addition to our COLAs and steps, we had agreed to accept an additional 1% COLA to our salary schedules for each of the following four years (2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17) due to the Oregon Legislature passing into law PERS retiree cuts. Those retiree cuts increased available state dollars to community colleges. We also agreed at the time, that if this legislation was overturned by legal challenges, that we would take a reduction of 1% for the next full biennium. Soon thereafter, the Oregon Supreme Court did rule to overturn the legislation, thereby restoring retiree benefits. Therefore that triggered the aforementioned 1%/year rollback to our salary schedules, slated for the 2017-2019 biennium. So we are now rolling back that additional 1% that we had gained in 2013.

New Top Steps

For APs and Classified, a new top step (in addition to deleting Step 1). The new top step will be phased in over two years for APs in October 2017 (a half-step 1.75% increase) and October 2018 (the remaining half-step increase of another 1.75%)

For Classified in July 2017 (retroactive, a half-step 1.5% increase) and July 2018 (the remaining half-step increase of another 1.5%).​

For PT faculty, two new top steps. This moves their existing 9-step salary schedule closer to the 17-step FT faculty salary schedule. This is one of the most monumental changes in our contract. Along with these two new steps is an agreement for a joint faculty and administration task force to begin work in Fall 2017 to thoroughly analyze PT faculty work and compensation with an eye towards equity with FT faculty. This will be done in advance of the next contract negotiations, which will start January 2019.

For now, a new step 10 will be in effect in October 2017. Those PT faculty who have taught 3200-3599 hours will be placed on step 10. Then in October 2018, those who have taught at least 3600 hours will be placed at step 11. These steps, like the FT faculty steps, are 3.5% apart.​

Faculty Department Chairs in CTE and Counseling programs will receive additional points in their calculation to determine release and stipend. This should result in most chairs receiving additional release to meet the growing  demands of their programs and students.

PT faculty pay for essential college meetings, including SAC inservice day and other SAC meetings​, will double. They had been paid stipends of $25 for up to two hours, $50 for over 2 hours and up to 4 hours, and $100 for over 4 hours and up to 8 hours. This was roughly $12.50/hr, not even including the preparation or travel time for these meetings–and would soon fall short of Portland minimum wage.

We made the case for our professional PT faculty to be paid at a more professional wage. Now the stipends will be:

  • $50 for up to 2 hours
  • $75 for up to 3 hours
  • $100 for up to 4 hours
  • $150 for up to 6 hours
  • $200 for up to 8 hours
As before, a PT faculty member must make sure with their dean, chair, TLC director, or SAC chair that a particular meeting is pre-approved for this pay.

The college cap contribution towards the health insurance premium for FT employees will increase about 3.5% each year, depending on the choice of self only, self plus spouse/partner, self plus child(ren), or family coverage. That is closely in line with the rise in PCC’s Kaiser and Moda group plan costs.

The college cap contribution towards the health insurance premium for PT faculty remains at 65% of the FT self-only cap. It will likely increase from $474.50/mo to almost $490/mo​. But we were able to garner some extra financial assistance for PT faculty who select self plus spouse/partner (or children), or self plus family. For those two group selections, instead of a $490/mo cap, it will be about a $640 cap and $790 cap, respectively.

There will be an increase to the PCCFFAP Health Insurance Trust from $36,000/yr to $40,000/yr. This is the fund that helps PT faculty who do not qualify for PCC health insurance and pay their own full premiums on the marketplace. This pays out about $100/mo to those eligible PT faculty who apply.

Classified will now have a markedly better PCC early retirement program. The eligible ages will now match the FT faculty and AP ages of 58 to 65. Classified will have a choice between a stipend or support on health insurance premiums, for 4 years or until age 65, whichever comes first. This was a big step for Classified to finally begin to have a similar early retirement program as FT faculty and AP.

Next Steps

Because this is a wage re-opener and not the full contract negotiation, there is no vote by membership necessary. The PCC Board takes the next step of a ratification vote on the reopener this Thursday Sept 21, 7:30pm, at their monthly meeting at Rock Creek. After that approval, the reopener provisions will take effect October 1, 2017, with the CBA’s end date of June 30, 2019 for Classified and August 31, 2019 for Faculty and APs.

As many of you have heard me say before, you start negotiating your next contract the minute your last one is signed. Please, let me–and all of our Executive Council members–know what you think about this settlement. We are already gathering ideas for the next negotiation.

Take care,

Frank

Frank Goulard
President, PCC Federation of Faculty and Academic Professionals​

Project ACCEPT proposal passes in the Educational Advisory Council (EAC)

A hugely important step has just been taken by the EAC — an advisory committee made up of faculty, APs, and administrators from around the college. This is the main avenue for faculty members to participate in the governance process.

By a large margin, the members of the EAC voted on 12/9 to adopt the recommendations of the Task force on work place climate for “part-time” instructors. The vote at the EAC meeting was 27 in favor, 3 opposed, 2 abstentions. (Some members are administrators, and they were among the nay and abstain votes.)

The vote was put on hold at the insistence of the administration (and their lawyer) while we were in negotiations for a new contract. But the heroic chair — Sylvia Gray, long-time PT instructor in history before finally getting a FT slot — put the recommendations on the agenda of the EAC, month after month, symbolically letting the college administration know that the concerns were not going away. The report and recommendations are both of exceptionally high quality — well researched, clearly stated, and deeply thoughtful. The process took a long time, and many of the individuals who worked long and hard on the project are no longer with PCC.

The recommendations now go to Sylvia Kelley as interim District President. In a meeting at Cascade, she said she did not think that important initiatives at the college — like moving on the Completion Investment Council — would have to wait until there is a new District President. (1) We can hope that she will see these recommendations as among the important college initiatives.

If you haven’t looked the report, we recommend it as holiday reading. There are three “best practice” examples described there, and they are helping to guide the vision of our Federation bargaining team.

A basic principle of social justice is that as soon as enough people understand that the oppressive conditions that structure their lives are NOT inevitable — that a  better world is possible — the status quo becomes intolerable. Looking at how other, comparable institutions have created ways to overcome the faculty caste system — impeding both the joy in teaching AND fully effective student learning — makes it clear that we do not have to simply adapt to the workplace structures at PCC. We can do better!

(1) as heard by Shirlee Geiger in the CA TLC 12/7/2015

Another Must-Read

There is a comprehensive account of the troubles caused by reliance on academic contingent labor, this time from The Atlantic.

Go to:
http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/09/higher-education-college-adjunct-professor-salary/404461/

Here is short excerpt, appealing to evidence-based educational practice, which supports our negotiating goals of better job security and inclusion in institutional initiatives for  the majority teachers:

So the real question is whether the shift to adjunct teaching has helped or hurt education outcomes. That turns out to be a hard question to answer definitively, because comprehensive data on student outcomes is hard to come by[…]

A study of community-college students found that those who had more exposure to part-time teachers were less likely to transfer to four-year universities. Another detailed study of six public universities within one state found that at four of those schools, freshmen who had more time with part-time faculty were substantially less likely to return sophomore year. Interestingly, however, at the other two universities in that state, freshmen with higher exposure to part-time teachers were slightly more likely to persist to sophomore year. The difference, the researchers discovered, is that these two schools gave their part-time instructors more support, including them, for instance, in new-faculty orientation programs .

An Adjunct Manifesto

by sg

Here is a wonderful piece from an adjunct blog I recently found. I am pasting in the beginning of the manifesto, but invite you to go read the rest, and explore the archives!

The crisis of identity for adjunct faculty takes different forms, at different times, in different places, but is an undercurrent that flows through their lives. Adjunct faculty, a de facto underclass, carry the institution of higher education on their backs for just above poverty wages. Some [of us] are simply so busy maintaining a professional practice, and trying to make ends meet, under oppressive conditions, [we] hardly have time, between campuses, to consider [our] dismal fate. Rationalization is the dominant coping mechanism.

http://adjunctcrisis.com/about/

Project ACCEPT: A dream deferred—but not for long

This past Wednesday, February 25, 2015 was National Adjunct Walkout Day, a day for contingent faculty across the country to walk out of class to increase awareness of the plight of part-time college instructors across the country. PCCFFAP asked its members not to walk out; instead we and sympathetic PCC employees wore buttons and stickers with “76%” on it to show support for the 76% of PCC instructors who are part-timers.

On that same day, PCC’s Project ACCEPT was scheduled to deliver their report to the EAC, after many months of discussion and deliberation, for approval and forwarding to PCC President Jeremy Brown.

Instead, Chris Chairsell, PCC’s Vice President of Student and Academic Affairs, announced moments before the meeting that PCC’s lawyers had examined the report and decided that the EAC should not vote to put the report on Dr. Brown’s desk while contract negotiations were ongoing.

Coincidentally, those negotiations had just begun the previous Friday.

Additionally, she forbade all PCC managers (which included many at the EAC meeting) from not only voting on the matter but also discussing the issues at all. Some hesitant dialogue about the report—but not its contents—ensued, including several who stated their support of adjuncts and the work of Project ACCEPT. Then, the EAC voted to table the report until the end of contract negotiations. In the meantime, it will remain on the Action Item section of the agenda for each meeting so that it is clear that the report would not be forgotten.

PCC’s lawyers had examined the report many times. In addition, Chairsell had been involved with the drafting of the report, affecting its final language and shape; several recommendations were rephrased as “findings,” and language was inserted in order to avoid any appearance of bargaining outside of contract negotiations.

She could have brought this particular issue up many times, either in her private discussions with Project ACCEPT or in the EAC meetings during which the Project’s report was discussed. Her move was timed to be dramatic and surprising, and it certainly involved a generous reading of labor law surrounding this matter.

The timing was also ironic for PCC’s part-time instructors, since it came on Adjunct Walkout Day. On the same day that PCC’s part-time instructors showed their support for PCC by not walking out of our classes, the PCC administration reciprocated by blocking progress towards greater inclusion and acceptance of the adjuncts who represent the majority of their faculty.

We, the part-timers, offered reconciliation and support; the administration offered obstruction and silence.

While it’s easy to get discouraged by the news that the report will be deferred, it’s also clear that Chairsell and the administration are concerned that the EAC will vote to support this report, which would force the administration to take action on adjunct matters—or to at least acknowledge that PCC isn’t helping the majority of its faculty, and the students whom we teach, succeed.

PCC, it should be noted, treats its part-timers better than comparable institutions in the Portland area. (And, yes, that’s thanks to the efforts of PCCFFAP in contract negotiations). Our pay is better, and the benefits are easier to obtain, but more can be done, particularly in the area of job security.

Even assignment rights, our only assurance of ongoing job security, only guarantee us one class per quarter on a rolling basis, and that class can still be cancelled, or we can still be told “We have no classes for you” with little notice at all. One-year or two-year contracts would be a great step in the direction of job security and increased respect.

Whenever contract negotiations are concluded, the report will be again brought up for a vote. Indications are that it will be approved and forwarded on to Dr. Brown, who will then have to act on its recommendations—or explain why he cannot.

In the meantime, there’s plenty you can still do about adjunct issues. Come to EAC meetings to voice your support for Project ACCEPT or for adjunct instructors, or speak at PCC board meetings about adjunct rights.

Most importantly, if you’re a part-time instructor at PCC, be sure that you’ve joined PCCFFAP. Your voice and vote are always vital, but they are never more important than during contract negotiations—which are happening right now. Even though PCCFFAP always represents every member of the faculty, its power is magnified when it has more members.

In the case of adjuncts, low membership numbers diminishes your federation’s power at the bargaining table. When PCCFFAP tries to put forward a proposal that might benefit part-time faculty, the administration can just point to low PCCFFAP membership numbers for part-timers and say, “What do you know about part-timers? They are saying you don’t represent them.”

So increase awareness of the plight of adjuncts however you wish—speak to your students, your colleagues, to the administration—but please join us at PCCFFAP, your federation. Your voice matters.