Union vote

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After more than a year of legal wrangling and often vitriolic exchanges, SRJC full- and part-time faculty will vote this week new union representation

The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) called for the election after United Faculty Santa Rosa Junior College (UFSRJC) collected signatures in support of the election from 30 percent of the faculty currently represented by the All Faculty Association (AFA).

PERB will send ballots to eligible voters’ home addresses on May 18. Each ballot will also have a secret ballot envelope, a postage-paid return envelope and instructions for casting the ballot. All ballots must be received by PERB in Oakland by June 8. The votes will be counted on June 9.

The election follows more than a year of efforts by Michael Ludder, an adjunct political science instructor, and other organizers trying to change AFA. They presented a list of grievances and a petition in the spring semester of 2010, then revised the petition in the fall 2010 semester. This latest installment calls for a decertification of AFA and for UFSRJC to become the exclusive bargaining unit for Unit A faculty.

An election can only be called when faculty contracts are set to expire. SRJC’s faculty contracts will expire on June 20, but will stay in effect until a new contract is negotiated.

UFSRJC has not given many specifics on what AFA should have done differently or how UFSRJC will handle the coming financial challenges differently from AFA. “However bad it is, we’ll deal with it from a position of equity,” said Michael Kaufmann, an adjunct ESL instructor and organizer for UFSRJC.

The group has instead stated its ideals. UFSRJC wants the new union to be member driven, value every member, share sacrifice among all faculty and save adjunct jobs, Kaufmann said. They would also push for more full time hires.

UFSRJC put on an informational meeting on May 11 in Doyle Library. During the question-and-answer session an audience member asked how the union could save adjunct jobs and hire more full-time faculty at the same time. Kaufmann talked about long-term goals but didn’t answer the question.

The new group has also not answered faculty questions about how the new union would work. At the information meeting Kaufmann said they were waiting until they had a membership to vote on the structure of the union. After the election, UFSRJC would set up a council, bylaws, a constitution and a negotiation team to bargain for faculty with the district.

The face of UFSRJC, Kaufmann, Ludder and Michael Drayton (adjunct ESL instructor), presented a couple of specifics. Kaufmann said SRJC could cut the summer program and use those sections to save jobs for adjuncts in the fall and spring semesters.

Another idea Kaufmann presented at the information meeting was a re-ordering of hourly assignments. Hourly assignments are all class sections left over after all the full-time faculty have a full load, called overload. Adjunct instructors or full-time faculty teaching above their required load teach the rest of the sections. The current contract states full-time faculty has first pick for overload sections.

Kaufman suggested adjunct faculty should have first pick in order to save adjunct jobs when sections are cut. Kaufmann also suggested giving non-retired adjunct faculty preference over retired adjunct faculty.

Ludder said all faculty should know what the negotiation team is bargaining for with the District. The executive council should have equal seats for part-time and full-time faculty, and all faculty members should vote for each seat, he said.

Over the last couple of months AFA tried to schedule an open forum between UFSRJC and AFA leaders. UFSRJC held its information meetings because “those negotiations with AFA broke down,” Ludder said. “They wanted to dictate who we had on stage to represent us.”

AFA wanted one forum with only faculty talking to faculty, AFA President Warren Ruud said. Leaders from the two groups met a couple of times, but UFSRJC and AFA couldn’t come to an agreement on who could and couldn’t be on the panel. Ruud said AFA was willing to meet for any number of forums, with any number of representatives on the panel, as long as there was just one where UFSRJC did not have an outside representative from CFT on stage. “It’s a little disappointing they won’t face the faculty they want to represent,” he said.

Ruud said he was concerned by not knowing who exactly the leaders of UFSRJC are. Ludder, Kaufmann and Drayton are all vocal advocates of UFSRJC over the faculty listserv, but the official letter from PERB calling the election was addressed to Terry Elverum, a California Teachers Association (CFT) representative.

PERB called for an election between AFA and UFSRJC via a conference call on April 26 between PERB, SRJC Vice President of Business Affairs Doug Roberts, AFA President Warren Ruud and Terry Elverum.

Elverum works with UFSRJC and was the spokesperson for the conference call, Kaufmann said. Kaufmann and Ludder were in the room with Elverum, Kaufmann said.

“We went to Terry when we started this because he has gone down this road before,” Drayton said.

Over the faculty listserve AFA leaders said no faculty from UFSRJC were on the conference call, only Elverum. AFA also said UFSRJC wanted to postpone the election until fall.

UFSRJC said Ludder and Drayton were on speakerphone with Elverum, but didn’t speak because they talked to Elverum beforehand.

Roberts said the only people he heard on the conference call were Anita Martinez, SRJC’s PERB overseer, Ruud and Elverum. Somebody asked to change the date but Martinez refused, he said.

Aside from being on the conference call, Roberts said the District has no part in the election. “We don’t even discuss it,” he said.

Ruud said negotiations with the District have slowed down. “This district is very conservative about anything legal,” he said.

The fall semester schedule is made, Ruud said. If there are no agreements for concessions from faculty, then the District will have to make cuts it didn’t make in the fall or spring. “This is similar to what happened this spring,” he said. This spring the rumors of 500 sections getting cut would have come true if the Tentative Agreement had not passed, he said.

“We can hear the clock ticking as we get close” to the fall semester without concessions, Ruud said. He said faculty took cuts in the spring so SRJC could run a full program. 

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