2021 Reopener Update #8

Last Friday, the joint bargaining team met with PCC administration to continue working toward an agreement on Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) for 2021-22 and 2022-23. Administration continues to bar observers from meetings, refuses to allow meetings to be recorded, and refuses any type of accommodation that might let members observe what they are trying to do, which is cut our COLAs despite having received $54 million in federal relief money, $21 million in unanticipated state funding, and untold cost savings from cancelled sections and facility closures during the pandemic. 

We recently learned that the College has decided not to increase tuition over the next two years, foregoing an estimated $11 Million in revenue. It’s worth asking why, if the College’s financial situation was as dire as they are trying to make it seem, the College would do this. And if the answer is: to support students, we posit that another way to support students is by NOT cutting COLAs of faculty and staff who have delivered services under unimaginably difficult circumstances over the last 17 months! 

You can read a real-time account of the bargaining session in this Twitter thread. By the end of the session, PCC had come up a tiny bit, offering 1.9% COLAs plus a lump sum of .5% or .6%, subject to costing (they want to keep the cost of the lump sum under $2M). The offer is obviously not acceptable as it is a decrease from the 2.5% COLAs agreed on in 2019, and does nothing to compensate members for the added stress and workload of the last year and a half. 

Our counteroffer was 3.4% COLAs, plus $200 per month lump sum payments through June, 2021, retroactive to April, 2020. Our next meeting will be August 26, 2021 at 2:00 p.m. We will continue pushing for observers and will keep you posted on that front.

2021 Reopener Update #7

On Friday morning July 16, the joint FFAP/FCE bargaining team convened for what we hoped would be a productive bargaining session. But the administration team didn’t show up. We waited for two hours, staring at a screen that said, “Waiting for the host to join” as the administration team repeatedly called and texted individual members of our team demanding that we abide by ground rules we never agreed to. To say it was frustrating would be an understatement.

Prior to the meeting, we sent administration a proposal that included:

  • 3.7% COLA in 2021-22 and 2022-23 
  • $200 per month lump sum payments through June, 2021 (retroactive to April, 2020—a total of $3,000 for employees who worked every month of the pandemic)

We also had our first in-person, indoor solidarity event! A fantastic group of about 20 members came out to the AFT-OR offices to support the bargaining team. Two of us (Frank and Michelle) were in attendance at the solidarity event, and the plan was to provide real-time updates on bargaining and involve them in caucus discussions and strategizing. 

You can read the run-down of how events unfolded in this Twitter thread. Basically, administration demanded that we provide assurances that no one other than bargaining team members were in the meeting. Since they have repeatedly torpedoed the ground rules discussion (where the rules around observers would have been set), we’re under no obligation to provide such assurances, any more than we can demand that no one be present in their homes or offices during online bargaining meetings. 

Eventually it became clear that administration was not going to show up to their own meeting, and we believe this is grounds for another Unfair Labor Practice complaint (ULP), as it is against the law for a public employer to refuse to bargain collectively in good faith. When we notified them of our intention to file a ULP, they responded with “To be clear, the college did not refuse to bargain today” — a truly bewildering statement after an entire morning of them refusing to join the google meet that they set up and insisted we use for bargaining! 

So what comes next?

We think it is possible that administration will respond to our offer via email. If that’s the case, we’ll let them know that we look forward to further discussing it at the next bargaining meeting. We’ll continue to push for observers, but administration has made it clear that they are willing to grind negotiations to a halt in order to prevent members from seeing their attempts to cut our COLAs. And we know the most important thing to our members is protecting the COLAs we negotiated in 2019. 

We have to step up the pressure. Here is our plan, and how you can help:

  • Show your union support online! We’re asking every union member to download and use the Zoom/Google Meet backgrounds or add a solidarity message to your email signature. 
  • We will continue to live-Tweet bargaining sessions. Follow along and share your union support with your social media followers. Use the hashtag #NoCutsToCOLA
  • SAVE THE DATE for the next PCC Board of Directors meeting, August 19 at 6:00 p.m. We need to let the Board know that our members reject closed-door bargaining. 

We hope to have the next bargaining meetings scheduled soon and we will update members with more information when we have it. Thanks for your continued support – our solidarity is our greatest asset at the bargaining table!

2021 Reopener Update #6

We were pleased to see some movement in yesterday’s (July 8) bargaining session, with both sides inching closer to a deal. You can read the play-by-play on PCCFFAP’s twitter thread. Here is a summary:

Administration continues to be very concerned about enrollment declines, and doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge 1) the cost savings of facility closures, a hiring freeze, and cancelled sections, 2) the $54 million in federal relief money the college has received, or 3) the extra $21 million in unanticipated state funding the college will receive for the 2021-23 biennium. They want us to believe there is no money to honor their COLA (cost of living adjustment) commitments. Their first offer yesterday was:

  • 1.825% COLAs in 2021-22 and 2022-23 (an increase from their original offer of 1%, but not the 2.5% of salary that we bargained for in 2019.) 

Citing the 4.7% increase in the consumer price index, on top of the multiple challenges of the past year, PCCFFAP countered with:

  • 4% COLAs in 2021-22 and 2022-23, plus a lump sum payment of $200 per month through June, 2021, retroactive to April, 2020. (This would amount to roughly $3,600 per employee). 

The lump sum payment addresses administration’s oft-stated concern about federal relief money being one-time only. We get it. But we also think some of that relief should be passed along to employees who have kept providing services to students through a pandemic, social unrest and racial justice protests, and a climate crisis that has led to multiple hardships for members, from wildfires to ice storms to an historic heat wave. 

At the end of the meeting, administration presented a verbal offer of 1.825% COLAS, plus 0.675%/year in a lump sum payment. This gets us to 2.5%, but only 1.825% of that would be permanent. So, progress, but obviously we can’t accept what is essentially a cut to our COLAs. 

The meeting ended on a sour note as FFAP offered to set up the next meeting and administration staunchly refused, because they don’t want observers at the meetings. They stated,  “We are not going to continue having a conversation about observers.”

It’s very telling how administration doesn’t want observers. It’s almost like they know that their argument for cutting COLAs would not go over well with our members!

Remember to save the date for our in-person solidarity event next week – July 16 from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. (venue and other details TBA)

2021 Reopener Update #5

Thanks to the 100+ members who showed up for yesterday’s pre-bargaining rally and bargaining session! Sadly, the strong support for the FFAP/FCE bargaining team seems to have spooked the administration team, who were no-shows to the actual 1pm zoom bargaining session.

We had a feeling this would happen, as the administration team has repeatedly objected to the presence of (silent, off-camera, chat-disabled) observers because it would be too “disruptive.” It seems like the only place they are willing to make the case for cutting COLAs is behind closed doors.

As frustrating as it is to have bargaining proceed at this glacial pace, we are confident the momentum is with us, particularly due to your support. To keep the process moving, members of the bargaining team met with administration briefly and secured additional bargaining dates in July. Who knows, maybe they’ll even give us a proposal!

Stay tuned for more information about observing—we remain hopeful they’ll come around and make their nonsensical case for COLA cuts directly to you, the members—because sunlight is the best disinfectant!

Of course, the Federations are staying open to any communications from administration regarding changes in their position on cutting COLAs in the first place.

Want to help spread our message? Don’t forget to download and proudly display our new virtual backgrounds: “No Cuts To COLA!” and “Solidarity Forever.”

2021 Reopener Update #4

The FFAP-FCE Joint Bargaining Team (JBT) met for the fourth time with PCC administration on Thursday, June 10. Thirty five days and two meetings have passed since the JBT responded to the College’s opening offer of 1.5% COLA reduction. Instead of the back and forth that is typical of good-faith bargaining, they have simply restated their initial offer during the last two meetings. The ball is in their court, and we will wait. 

At yesterday’s meeting, the admin team also notified us that they were no longer willing to discuss the ground rules for bargaining, effectively taking the issue of observers off the table. As a result, we are looking into the option of declaring a public meeting, per ORS 192.660: 

“Labor negotiations shall be conducted in open meetings unless negotiators for both sides request that negotiations be conducted in executive session. “ (emphasis added)

The JBT is committed to transparency with members. We’re sad that it has come to this, but the College—by refusing to be even a tiny bit flexible about observers—has left us with no other option.

You may have seen the email from the President’s cabinet* about the reopener. If not, here is the TL;DR version of the communication:

  • The pandemic-related decline in enrollment has led to a decline in revenue, and the College can no longer meet its commitment to the COLAs agreed to in 2019. (Note: The 1.5% COLA reductions they are demanding would save the college $6 million over two years.) 
  • The $54 million in federal relief money is meant, in part, to help the College weather the pandemic-related decline in revenue.

They go on to state that the $54 million in federal relief money cannot be used to fund employee compensation—in fact this is not clear (see #21 here and this FAQ). Either way, by using one-time federal funding to close the budget gap, there is no question the College would be in a position to honor its COLA commitments!

It’s interesting that the college is reaching out directly to members about the reopener while at the same time barring observers from the meetings. According to the Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act, it is illegal for an employer to attempt to influence the bargaining process. To that end, the federations are exploring the possibility of filing an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) complaint against the College for this confusing and misleading communication. Stay tuned for more on that. 

In related news, the state of Oregon is expected to approve a historic funding package for community colleges—one that could lead to an additional (and unanticipated!) $20 million more in state funding than the College was budgeting for. 

The college will keep telling us there is no money for COLAs. Members should judge for themselves.  

*Among members of the President’s Cabinet, the average annual salary is $178,000

2021 Reopener Update #3

Our reopener negotiations on compensation resumed Thursday, May 27. We had hoped management would come prepared with a reasonable counteroffer on COLAs.

Instead, the Administration presented PCC’s anticipated budget and projected cost factors, then reiterated their original proposal to lower the planned COLA increase from 2.5% to 1.0% in each of 2021-22 and 2022-23.

This is why we need transparent bargaining sessions – as we have had for many years now – so that members can observe first-hand what is happening at the table. But management insists on closed-door bargaining. Three sessions in, we have yet to reach agreement on ground rules for negotiations.

Our next bargaining session is Thursday, June 10. It’s time to step up the pressure on the Administration to stop putting employees last on their priority list.

If you haven’t signed on yet, don’t forget to add your name here to show support for open bargaining and keeping our planned COLAs!

And save the date for our first socially distanced, in-person union action this year!

FFAP/FCE Honk-a-thon

When: June 9 – 12:00 pm

Where: at or near the CLIMB Center parking lot

What to bring: Decorate your car, your bike, your running shoes, bring a sign, wear a union shirt, and make some noise! We’ll have blue FFAP-branded masks for participants, too.

RSVP here to let us know you’re coming!

2021 Reopener Update #2

Click here to read Update #1.

Open Bargaining: The Federation is continuing to push for ground rules that allow observers at bargaining sessions, and the administration is continuing to object. If ground rules cannot be agreed to, bargaining will proceed without them, and the Federation will either broadcast, livestream, or record bargaining sessions for members. Our preference is to come to an agreement with administration on observers, perhaps by turning off cameras and muting microphones, but closed-door bargaining sessions violate our commitment to transparency with members and are therefore unacceptable.

COLA: The administration’s opening proposal was to lower the COLA increase from 2.5% to 1.0% in each of 2021-22 and 2022-23. Obviously lowering COLAs is unacceptable considering:

  • The college has received $54 million in federal pandemic relief funding
  • The college has saved millions of dollars due to facilities closures, a hiring freeze, and fewer class sections offered due to the enrollment decline.
  • Members have suffered financial hardship due to the cascading effects of the pandemic, wildfires, and power outages

Our counter-offer was as follows:

  • Increase COLA—from 2.5% to 8.3% in 2021-22, and from 2.5% to 7% in 2022-23. 

The two sides are always far apart in the beginning—the point of bargaining is to come to a mutually agreeable resolution. The Federation remains open to counteroffers, including a permanent percentage increase, a phase in, lumpsum stipends, or some combination. But rather than accept this as the reasonable opening offer it was, the administration seemed shocked by the Federation’s expectation that the College would pass along some relief aid to its employees. The admin team called our offer “outrageous” and “unbelievable” and said they’d never seen anything like this. After those comments, they left the online meeting.

Our next bargaining meeting is May 19. We are hoping for a reasonable counter offer from administration—one that includes allowing observers as well as increasing their original offer on COLA.  

Don’t forget to sign here to show support for the bargaining team!

2021 Reopener Update #1

Background

In 2019, the Federation negotiated a four-year contract that included an economic package with the following items: 

  • Annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to the salary schedules
  • Catchup COLAs for APs and step compression for Faculty
  • Regular step movement
  • A new top step for Full Time Faculty
  • Increasing parity between Full Time Faculty and Part Time Faculty salary schedules

For more details, you can read about the agreement here. The Federation agreed to a wage reopener in 2021 only if 2020-21 enrollment dipped below 21,196 student FTE or if the 2021-23 Oregon Community College Support Fund fell below $631 million. The Coronavirus pandemic has caused enrollment to fall below 21,000, so at least one of the criteria has been met. We will know more about state funding in June, though we do not anticipate a reduction. 

FFAP negotiates wages in collaboration with our colleagues in the Federation of Classified Employees (FCE). Together we form a Joint Bargaining Team (JBT). Other contractual issues, such as working conditions, professional duties, and assessment, are negotiated every four years during full contract negotiations. The next full contract negotiation will take place in 2023. 

The JBT is supported by our Labor Relations Specialist Vincent Blanco (vincent.blanco@pccffap.org). FFAP members on the negotiations team include: Frank Goulard (frank.goulard@pccffap.org), Matt Stockton (matt.stockton@pccffap.org), Emiliano Vega (emiliano.vega@pccffap.org), Shirlee Geiger (shirlee.geiger@pccffap.org), and Michelle DuBarry (michelle.dubarry@pccffap.org).  

Timeline

The first wage reopener meeting was held on April 22, 2021. Under Oregon state law, the teams have 150 days to come to an agreement. For more information, please see the Bargaining FAQ.

First Meeting Summary

The agenda for Thursday’s meeting was to set ground rules and work out the details for release time for bargaining team members. Administration also presented their initial offer. There were two main points of contention:

Open Bargaining: PCC administration asked that the ground rules keep bargaining meetings closed to observers, citing technical challenges of providing remote access, as well as disruptions caused by the presence of observers during the last two rounds of negotiations. The JBT feels strongly that observers should be allowed in order to promote transparency and trust between administration and the federations. The JBT presented a counter proposal to the ground rules that allowed for observers.

It is interesting to note that the main concerns with observers during 2019 was room capacity and safety. The fire marshall was repeatedly invoked as a way to limit the number of observers. Now that we are remote, the JBT is excited about the prospect of increasing accessibility to more members. 

COLA Reduction: Administration’s opening offer was for a 1.5% reduction in the negotiated COLA in years 2021-22 and 2022-23—from 2.5% to 1% in both years. Administration did not propose any changes to the other four economic contract gains described in the first paragraph. The JBT is committed to holding the line on COLA, and will present a counter-proposal at the next meeting, scheduled for May 6 at 1:00 p.m.