As we prepare for a strike vote next week, some members have been asking questions that should be answered publicly:
1) How is this vote different from the one we did last semester?
Last semester we took a vote to strike specifically in protest of the District’s multiple Unfair Labor Practices. The reason the vote was called off before completion is that the District made sufficient remedy of its practices such that a strike would no longer have been legally justified. Specifically, the District backed off on unilateral changes to our contract on how faculty underload is dealt with, and rescinded letters to our retired members asking for tens of thousands of dollars in money that according to our contract they did not owe.
Our prior willingness to call for a strike vote and the broad member participation paid off again this semester when our threat of another Unfair Labor Practice charge resulted in the District reversing their intended actions and holding faculty harmless in terms of compensation despite changes to the conference hour lab load. Thanks to the solidarity faculty demonstrated in the last vote, the District capitulated – and this time we have more power.
Last semester faculty could not authorize a strike over all the issues we were negotiating in our new contract because we had yet to reach “impasse” with the District and move into the state mandated mediation process. Public Sector unions in California are governed by the Public Employees Relations Board and our right to strike is highly regulated inside certain legal boundaries. Our union is acting as assertively as we can within the bounds of the law in order to make sure our labor rights are respected and to negotiate a fair contract.
Now that we are in the state mandated mediation process we can legally call for strike authorization over the remaining issues in our contract, as well as any Unfair Labor Practices the District might commit in the future. This vote will give the Executive Board authority to call for a strike if negotiations were to break down after state mandated mediation and fact finding are completed.
2) How long of a strike are we authorizing?
This vote will authorize the Executive Board of AFT 2121 to call a strike or job action if negotiations were to break down. Right now there are no specific strike dates planned and we are continuing to pursue the mediation process. This vote will give our union the option of going on strike for whatever length of time is deemed sufficient to negotiate a fair contract if the mediation and fact finding processes do not.
3) Will threatening to strike affect our accreditation?
Our contract is between us and the district, and the ACCJC is legally barred from interfering. That does not mean that administration will not use the threat of the ACCJC to try and break our unity. The ACCJC has already shown it is biased against us and appeasement has not worked in the past. If they try to interfere, we will take legal and collective action as we have before.
4) Will striking hurt my students? In the midst of an enrollment crisis, isn’t it too risky to even threaten to turn students away?
Our working conditions are our students’ learnings conditions. What will happen if we lose our contract demands? Faculty will continue to struggle under the increasing workload with less compensation. This will hurt our students and our college in the long run.
If the district rejects our proposals to help rebuild the college – such as ensuring minimum class sizes and alternative reassignments for faculty with cancelled classes – students will have a downsized college with fewer course offerings. In turn, more students will be forced to seek their education at for-profit institutions that require them to take on massive debt burdens.
5) Do we have community support?
Yes! Through our fight to save our college AFT 2121 has already made many connections with community organizations that understand the importance of faculty voice to the future of the college. Additionally, faculty have deep connections in the community and daily contact with students to help get our pro-public education message across.
6) How can I get involved?
We’re fighting to negotiate the best contract possible. History shows unions are most successful when members are united, engaged around a plan to win, and have relationships with each other. You can help by talking with your coworkers and spreading the word about our referendum. Call our office for more info at 415-585-2121.