LRCFT Contract Survey: some concerns and responses
By Robert Perrone
Thank you to all of you who took the LRCFT contract issues survey. The survey attracted 475 responses, which translates to an almost 20% response rate—definitely statistically relevant. Here, I want to focus on the comments at the end of each question and in the comments section at the end of the survey. Responding to all of the comments would require me to continue writing this article into retirement and beyond. So, forgive me if your comment doesn’t make it into this article.
Question: If we are happy with something, but it’s important to keep it that way, does that mean we don’t want to negotiate it, or that it’s a priority to negotiate in order to maintain it?
Answer: If the Negotiations Team sees from survey responses and all the other forms of input that we have sought that an issue is not pressing, or that faculty do not see it as a concern, then we most likely would not include it in the “sunshine document,” the document that outlines in broad terms the issues the Union wants to address in negotiations and which is presented to the Board of Trustees and for public comment. There is another variable that enters the equation—the District may want to address an issue that the Union has not included in its “sunshine document.” If that happens, the Union is bound by law to negotiate that issue. That doesn’t necessarily mean that something will change; it just means that the issue must be addressed in negotiations.
Question: Why not create more tenured part-time faculty?
Answer: That’s a question that would best be asked of the District, since the Union is not involved with hiring decisions. I will say this, however, most tenured part-time positions in Los Rios came about as the result of administrative error, where someone failed to keep track of the workload of a part-time temporary instructor. Approximately forty years ago, some of those part-timers sued the District and won tenure rights at the level of the then-current FTE they had been assigned. Thus, there are part-time faculty tenured at .20 FTE, .30 FTE and greater.
Question: Why is there never any mention by our union of the issue of CalSTRS being
underfunded? Stanford research, politicians, and even CalSTRS say this is a big issue. I feel this is a much bigger issue than any other topic included on this survey. It is strange that this issue is never discussed with members.
Answer: While the Union can certainly be faulted for not raising this issue with members, there is little we can do through negotiations to remedy any CalSTRS underfunding. Speaking of which, that underfunding was a direct result of the Wall Street-induced economic crisis of 2008. Public employee pension funds were some of the biggest losers in that economic debacle. As Matt Taibbi and David Sirota have written, “…data show that stock market declines from fraud in the financial services industry were most responsible for those [pension] shortfalls.” (SF Gate, October 10, 2013)
Comment: As the reach of the Los Rios Community College District expands, adjuncts have to drive farther and farther away to patch together a living wage. Los Rios has to find a way to let adjuncts work more. It is ridiculous to limit the amount the majority of your faculty can work because of not wanting to offer benefits. PLEASE work something out to remedy this. It’s only right.
Response: Over 200 part-time faculty are recipients of the District’s medical benefit plans. Since the cost of those benefits are charged to the faculty bucket, that pot of money used to provide everything from salary schedule improvements to paying for part-time faculty office hours, there is no impetus for the District to limit the workload of part-time faculty just to avoid providing benefits.
Comment: Lack of merit pay/existence of life-long tenure (twin sides of the same corrosive coin).
Response: I wonder who is going to decide that an individual’s performance is meritorious enough to deserve extra pay. No study of which I am aware (okay, so that’s not saying much) has established that merit pay results in improved teaching and learning. Merit pay schemes are divisive and subjective. As for “life-long tenure,” show me a study that indicates that job insecurity, which would be the case without tenure, would improve education.
Comment: Overload cap is being incorrectly limited to the preference value of .40. Overload used to be allowed up to .533 to .60.
Response: Section 18.104.22.168 addresses adjunct and overload assignments. That section reads, in part, “Preference for the purpose of assignments for any individual [emphasis mine] shall not exceed 40% of a regular full-time load per semester.” That language has been a part of the contract since at least 1987.
Comment: Hold people accountable for their student’s learning.
Response: Sure, as soon as we hold government accountable for students’ health, employment, economic stability, affordable education, ad infinitum.
Comment: Part timers have none of leave of pay rights that full timers have. Staying home when your child is sick results in loss of pay.
Response: Not true that part-timers have none of the paid leave rights that full-timers have. Part-timers receive sick leave pay, personal necessity leave, industrial accident or illness leave, quarantine leave, bereavement leave, critical illness leave, jury duty leave, and judicial appearance leave. As for staying home when a child is sick, both full-time and part-time faculty can use personal necessity leave for that.
Comment: I still think we adjunct should have some kind of disability insurance.
Response: I agree, but the last time the Union polled part-timers, there was not enough support for it. Many of those polled seemed to think that 1.2% of gross Los Rios income was too much to contribute to receive 55% of your income should you become disabled.
If you submitted a comment about which you’d like additional information, you can contact me at email@example.com.