STNC negotiations still underway

Charlotte Maxwell, Staff Writer

The Sonoma County Junior College District (SCJCD) and short-term/non-continuing (STNC) employee organizing committee at Santa Rosa Junior College are in the middle of negotiations regarding STNC workers’ right to unionize.

According to the agreement between SCJCD and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021, “STNCs are employed to perform a service for the district, upon the completion of which, the service required or similar services will not be extended or needed on a continuing basis.”

The STNC organizing committee would like to be able to negotiate a seniority system, along with benefits, parking, district emails and pay rates, according to members of the organizing committee. Leaders would also like to be part of the conversation about STNC workers losing their jobs to faculty.

At the beginning of this year, SRJC had more than 400 STNC workers, some of whom have been here for more than 30 years. They provide services that the school is lawfully required to offer, such as interpreters for deaf students.

President Frank Chong announced the cuts to the STNC program at the end of last semester.

“All STNC positions will be discontinued except those that meet cabinet criteria, on a case by case basis,” Chong said in a May 3 email.

Short-term/non-continuing employees do not have the same privileges to negotiate as other college employees. To have their issue heard by the district, 50 percent of STNC employees had to go on record saying they wanted to unionize in what is called a “card check.”

Ian Maurer, president of the organizing committee, said district lawyers appealed the card check, claiming its terminology was unclear

Maurer and Cohen want to be able to unionize like the classified faculty. Cohen said without unionization, STNC workers are treated like second-class citizens.

“We have to use student parking,” Maurer said. “That’s fine, but it takes parking away from students, and it means we have to arrive an hour earlier to get a spot if we start at 9 a.m. since all the students are looking for parking at 9 a.m. We aren’t paid for that time.”

Cohen has worked as an instructional assistant for a sociology professor for 10 consecutive semesters. He teaches sociology part time and receives a set number of hours based on the number of students in the class.

The college authorizes STNCs to work 175 days out of the year and up to 25 hours a week. The end date of their service cannot exceed 75 percent of the school year—or 195 days.

Short-term/non-continuing employees do not get district emails. During the fires, when the administration sent out contingency emails, STNCs did not receive them unless department chairs who forwarded them already had their personal email addresses.

According to Maurer, the survey that went out to students and staff during the fires did not reach STNC workers unless their email addresses were already on another department’s contact list. Maurer sees it as a safety issue.

After Chong sent his May letter, the SCJCD asked what what would happen if they threatened to fire all STNCs.

“They phrased it as a rhetorical question, but let’s be honest: that’s a threat,” Mauer said. “Did the board authorize them to threaten us? We threatened to walk out.”

STNCs are passionate about what they do, Cohen said.

“I’ve had those moments where you change students’ lives,” he said. “We just want a little modicum of respect.”

Melissa Goh, a 21-year-old computer science major, has been a Peer Assisted Learning Specialist (PALS) during the Fall 2017 semester.

“I hope that the PALS program continues to receive necessary funding to support STNC staff,” Goh said. “Following the news that authorities are reclassifying PALS to be student employees, I believe a tutor’s capability to assist students in achieving success is not measured by their being an SRJC student or not being an SRJC student.”

According to Maurer and Cohen, there is no history of STNCs getting raises or being part of the conversations that take place.

“There always seems to be money for administration and consultants and we’re the lowest of the low,” Maurer said.

They want to see the district be successful and do not aim to cause disruption. But the district seems to be stalling and the attorneys defending the district are saying that the process is complicated when all Maurer and Cohen want is recognition.

“We aren’t delusional,” Maurer said. “Our issue has more to do with respect and having a seat at the table.”

Maggie Fishman, president of the Board of Trustees, declined to discuss the labor negotiations.

“As long as we are in negotiations I cannot say anything, except that I am hopeful for a positive resolution,” Fishman said.