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February 2020

The state of our union
Dante Morelli

 

  map of NYSUT community colleges in state
 
When negotiating with the college and county, the FA stays in contact with other NYSUT community college locals across the state to keep abreast of issues and trends. (graphic by Cynthia Eaton)
   

Happy New Year and welcome to spring 2020 semester. I am proud to say that the state of our union is strong. I am also proud to announce the contract proposal was supported by 89% of the membership. 633 ballots were mailed to the FA post office box and the breakdown of the vote is as follows:

  • Adjunct members: 322 voted yes and 26 voted no
  • Full-time members: 235 voted yes and 41 voted no
  • Nine ballots were invalid.

The FA is grateful to the following members for taking the time to count ballots: Courtney Brewer, Kristie David, Cynthia Eaton, Laura Galletta, Sophie Painchaud, Kerry Spooner and Andrew Stone. 

The Board of Trustees unanimously passed the contract (10-0) at their January 16 meeting. The final step is to seek approval from the Suffolk County Legislature at one of their upcoming meetings.

We are also proud that our colleagues, friends and sisters and brothers in labor of the college’s Association of Municipal Employees have a contract proposal. The leadership of AME has communicated to me how grateful they are for the FA’s support and solidarity. We also hope that our sisters and brothers in the Guild of Administrative Officers will also have a fair contract.

While the state of our union is strong, the work lives of our sisters and brothers in labor across the state are not going well. I attended the NYSUT Higher Education Policy Council this past weekend at FIT where many community college union presidents were in attendance. Here are some of the struggles that our colleagues are facing, which have put their union and institutions in a fragile state:

  • The Corning Community College president met with the union president in December and discussed plans to terminate 10% of the tenured faculty.

  • Fulton-Montgomery Community College’s enrollment dropped 12% since last year and of their entire head count one-third to one-half are high school students. They have lost a massive number of traditional college students.

  • The Federation of Teachers and Administrators of Onondaga Community College successfully negotiated a contract with victories in healthcare. For the first time, they now have vision coverage and they were successful in negotiating down their employee contributions to their healthcare to 20% payment of premium and 10% payment of premium for dental care.

  • Members from the union at Hudson Valley Community College were notified in early December that 11 of their 20 members, who serve as department chairs, would no longer have their positions due to reorganization efforts and would return to their faculty positions. This reorganization includes consolidating a number of existing departments. (Also, last fall, HVCC was in a battle about administrative plans to mount cameras in classrooms.)

  • Our colleagues at the Westchester Community College Federation of Teachers are beginning negotiations. The college administration is demanding changes in schedules for academic counselors, including a major reduction of vacation time, increased mandatory advisement requirements for full-time faculty, removal of department chair responsibilities from their bargaining unit coverage and mandatory student evaluations for all courses—with administrators having the ability to use those evaluations “in any appropriate manner.”

    They also want to link pay scale increments to successful post-tenure review. The college is offering a 1% increase in pay for full-time faculty and 1.25% for adjuncts. The administration is also asking for assistant professors to increase their healthcare contributions from 10% to 15% and 15% to 20% for associate and full professors.

  • The Long Island University Faculty Federation is getting ready to negotiate and they are expecting some major changes coming from administration. These changes include removing the nursing faculty from the union contract so they will not be able to earn tenure. They are also expecting the administration to ask for givebacks on healthcare and retirement.  

In addition to these challenges facing our sisters and brothers at other NYSUT community colleges, the enrollment picture is quite bleak for a number of institutions. I wrote about this in the December edition of The WORD and our enrollment for spring 2020 is down approximately 4.5%.

The Times Union of Albany published an article on January 18 that discusses the enrollment decreases that all SUNY community colleges have been experiencing in the last ten years. The following chart details those decreases:


While the enrollment picture at SCCC is not perfect, we are in better shape than many of the other SUNY community colleges. And while our contract proposal is not perfect, we are in a better situation than our colleagues across the state.

Whatever challenges we continue to face in the future, we must always strive to have great strength and solidarity in the state of our union.