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Amid months-long contract negotiations, employees showed up in full-force at college president's State of the College Address

Divided. Overextended. Overworked. Disheartening. Disrespectful. Unsupportive.

These were the words scribbled on the picketing signs that Clackamas Community College faculty and staff members held up at President Tim Cook's Jan. 23 State of the College Address.

PMG PHOTO: KRISTEN WOHLERS - Clackamas Community College staff and faculty line the entrance to the college's Harmony West building on Jan. 23.

"I've been at the college for about 16 ½ years, but I still drive a 2002 Mitsubishi Galant." -Kathryn Long, FTF bargaining chair

The college employees lined each side of the entryway into the college's Harmony West building before Cook's address and lined each side of the auditorium during the address.

The words on the signs represent how college employees feel amid months-long contract negotiations with the college, according to Kathryn Long, the bargaining chair for full-time faculty.

"We're feeling really exhausted because we're continually being asked to do these additional things with fewer faculty, without the recognition," Long said. "Administration told us that they assume that we work 8-hour days. I work more than eight hours. I came in on Saturday and worked 10 hours. You know, that's not one of my contractual days. But this is the kind of stuff that we do to serve our students."

She added, "I've been at the college for about 16 ½ years, but I still drive a 2002 Mitsubishi Galant."

PMG PHOTO: KRISTEN WOHLERS - The college employees move inside the auditorium during College President Tim Cook's State of the College Address on Jan. 23.

The display at the State of the College Address didn't seem to shake Cook.

"I actually really appreciate all of them being here and sharing that, because they're dedicated," Cook said after his speech. "They really care about what they're doing. We just continue to kind of work through that. We'll get there."

College employees' contracts expired June 30, 2019. CCC's board promptly approved a 2.7 percent cost-of-living increase for administrative employees. Then this month, the college and classified staff finally agreed on a contract, which includes a 3.7 percent salary increase for 2019-20 (retroactive to July 1, 2019), and a 2.25 percent increase for each of the following two years.

But the college is still bargaining with part-time and full-time faculty.

After a 150-day "good faith" bargaining period, which has passed, either party can request mediation. The college has done so in relation to bargaining with full-time faculty, and mediation is set to begin on Valentine's Day, exactly one year after the first contract conversations, according to Long.

Despite the employee groups being at different points in the process of settling contracts, emails show the employees are sticking together.

Following an email from Cook informing college employees about the mediation with full-time faculty, Leslie Ormandy, bargaining chair for part-time faculty, responded in an email, closing with, "The Part-time Faculty Association will continue to stand united with the FTF. The Associations stand united!"

Likewise, Matthew Larkin and Kelly Lawrence, the classified co-presidents, responded to the email saying, "The Classified Association stands with faculty! Fair contracts NOW!"

According to Cook, the reason for the slow progress comes down to "economics."

"We're trying to be responsible, looking at the funding and where we're at with that," Cook said. "It's a three-year contract, so it's thinking about the short-term, but then also what the impacts are longer."

PMG PHOTO: KRISTEN WOHLERS - Clackamas Community College President Tim Cook gives his State of the College Address to the public on Jan. 23 at the college's Harmony campus.

During his speech, Cook painted a grim picture of the college's finances, saying the college has been operating at a deficit for the last three years and faces a larger deficit in coming years.

"With continued impacts from the Public Employee Retirement System, increased construction costs related to the completion of our bond projects, cost-of-living increases to our association contracts, and declining student enrollment, over the next biennium, we're looking at a $7 million budget gap."

This financial outlook is in line with the college's longtime narrative, according to Long.

"Can any of us who have been here long recall even one year where the college has maintained it was not heading into financial ruin three or four years out?" Long said in a letter to staff and faculty.

"The college has a history of pleading poverty. When the economy is good, enrollment drops and they plead poverty, and when the economy is poor and enrollment is high, they say we have no money," she said.

Still, Cook said he hopes to come to an agreement before mediation would begin in February. Long and Ormandy each said they hope for the same.

Part-time negotiations

"We provide Clackamas Community College students the same excellent instructional experience as the full-time faculty. We should not be compensated at a cut rate." -Leslie Ormandy, PTF bargaining chair

Part-timers' main asks have been to gain health insurance for a larger number of part-time faculty and to work toward parity with full-time faculty, according to Ormandy.

"When I walk into a classroom to teach Basic Composition after 17 years of teaching for the college, I am at lecture course rate, step 5," Ormandy said. "I am earning 43.37 percent of the full-timer's salary at the same step, teaching the same class in the same place."

Administration has made a recent offer that would increase the number of faculty eligible for health insurance by 36 percent, but the parties' proposals differ on whether the number of eligible faculty would increase each year over the life of the agreement, Ormandy said.

As for pay, the part-timers asked for a minimum 6 percent increase in the first year, depending on the employee group, according to Ormandy. They also sought to achieve a "longstanding goal" of moving up the pay schedule more quickly and gain more dollars for course preparation.

Administration has agreed to the 6 percent first-year increase but "few of the other increases," Ormandy said.

"At this point, while we understand the economic situation of the college, our membership will not settle a contract that does not move PTF toward parity with the FTF," Ormandy said. "We provide Clackamas Community College students the same excellent instructional experience as the full-time faculty. We should not be compensated at a cut rate."

The next bargaining session for part-time faculty takes place Friday, Jan. 31.

Full-time negotiations

In the beginning, full-time faculty aimed high and the college aimed low, but the two are now close to meeting in-between.

PMG PHOTO: KRISTEN WOHLERS - College faculty are currently bargaining with administration for improved contracts.

Full-timers initially asked for a 12 percent increase for the first year in an effort to catch up with inflation following concessions faculty made during the recession, according to Long.

The college offered 2 percent.

As it stands now, full-timers have come down to 5 percent in the first year, which administration verbally agreed to on Jan. 17, Long said in an email to full-time faculty members.

But Long said at the Jan. 24 bargaining session, administration proposed that the 5 percent increase in year one be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2020 instead of retroactive to July 1, 2019, which is the day after the previous contracts expired.

For years two and three, administration offered 2.8 percent and 2 percent. The 2.8 percent for year two is in line with the consumer price index for urban consumers in the area (CPI-U).

Full-time faculty agreed on 2.8 percent for year two, but for year three, FTF are asking for CPI-U (a yet unknown percentage) plus .5 percent in exchange for an extra day added to the contract.

"Administration did not seem enthusiastic about our supposal," Long said in a letter to fellow full-timers on Jan. 27. "They stated that they were fine with 5 percent in year one and CPI-U (2.8 percent) in year two, but they were not interested in anything other than a low fixed rate for year three."

The next bargaining session for full-time faculty takes place on Thursday, Jan. 30.


Kristen Wohlers
Reporter
503-263-7512
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