Contract Negotiations: Why Faculty and Allies are Marching
LACCD, Long Beach, Cerritos, SMC, North Orange County, and Rio Hondo, to name just a few of our peers, have settled their negotiations for 2023-2024. Our contract expired December 31, 2022. We are now in mediation, with a state appointed mediator.
Until we have a contract, ECC faculty and our allies will be marching on campus, showing up to administrator office hours, and speaking before the Board of Trustees. And probably taking a strike authorization vote if the District tries to impose a subpar contract like the one faculty accepted in 2010.
Why are we and our allies marching?
From 2010 to 2020, the ECC salary schedules, salaries, and health benefits have eroded compared to our peers and in terms of the actual cost of living (housing, food, insurance, transportation, utilities, etc.). Are our colleagues at other colleges doing better work than us? Is that what the District is telling us?
In the 2020 contract negotiations, the District’s negotiating team delayed negotiations for months, offering uncompetitive benefits packages, and repeatedly proposing zero COLAs during the life of the contract. At the time, the District’s team stated that the ECC budget, the state budget, and the economy all presented conditions where ECC might have to apply for high interest loans to keep the lights on because ECC’s income and reserves would not meet operating expenses. The Federation’s leadership team asked administrators for evidence to support these claims and received none.
At the height of the pandemic, the District’s negotiating team ground faculty down at the bargaining table month after month until our members, uncertain in the middle of a pandemic and working with an expired contract, accepted a contract that continued to put us on a trajectory to fall significantly farther behind our peers. Then, predictably, during the life of the 2020 contract, ECC’s unrestricted general fund grew from $34,231,353 (actuals at end of FY 2019-2020) to $56,597,101 (actuals at end of FY 2021-2022) while the proportion of ECC’s budget going to faculty salaries and benefits decreased. While we understand that some of the increase in reserves was derived from one-time money, the District’s predictions from the 2020 negotiating table were nonetheless wildly inaccurate. The faculty at ECC largely bore the burden of the District’s inaccurate budget predictions at the 2020 negotiating table in the form of significantly lower pay and uncompetitive benefits. Even after accounting for the hard-fought increases that the Federation achieved in the 2021 reopener, which still did not recover the state-funded COLA amount during that period, ECC faculty now find ourselves even farther behind their peers.
In the 2023 contract negotiations, we have repeatedly asked the District’s team how other districts manage their budgets in such a way that offering COLA (or more) to the salary schedules, competitive healthcare programs, and progressive mid- to late-career salaries is possible while maintaining a healthy reserve and functioning college. (By the way, the proposed 2023-2024 Cerritos budget will add to their reserve.) Generally, our experience has been that the District’s team recycles the same unsupported arguments from 2020 about an unknown but financially devastating future. The District’s team has not expressed what makes us different from other colleges and districts, just that it would be financially imprudent for ECC to be like them.
Taking the District’s concerns at face value, in addition to substantially reducing our proposal to well below what many of our peers have already secured in ratified contracts, we are currently proposing a shorter contract duration, ending June 30, 2024, which would allow the District’s administration and faculty the benefit of more data to better understand our budget and funding. This approach also locks the District in for a lesser total financial obligation over the course of this shorter contract. Members of the District’s negotiating team have instead decided to repeat the 2020 approach at the table with the goal of grinding us down into accepting a contract that faculty are unable to ratify. This is doing irreparable harm to faculty morale, recruitment, and retention.
Our members, tired of historic inflation gobbling up their household income, are tired of hearing how ECC can’t do what other districts do while simultaneously hearing reports of how we are hitting our enrollment goals and adding substantially to our reserves. Our members are tired of working without a new contract, and the improvements in compensation and working conditions that it would bring. Finally, we are extremely disappointed by the District’s refusal to discuss the Federation’s collaborative solutions at the table and further disheartened that the District pivoted to a final offer after presenting few, and in some cases singular, proposals on some items.
Until we have the contract we deserve from the District’s team, please lend a hand when you can, show up to actions, and speak your mind about how you feel about the current state of negotiations. Sign up here.