BY HANK REICHMAN
City College of San Francisco (CCSF) faculty members were arrested on Friday while protesting the current direction of labor contract negotiations. Dozens of teachers were taken into custody in downtown San Francisco following a march and rally that ended with a sit-in that blocked the office door of Jeff Sloan, the chief negotiator for the college’s administration.
The action followed the announcement the previous day that members of the CCSF faculty union, AFT Local 2121, had voted in favor of a strike if there is a failure in collective bargaining. 92 percent of union members voted to authorize the strike. The vote came nearly two months after the union first announced it was at an impasse with the college in contract talks. The union has been in talks with the college for around a year and without a contract for 9 months.
Of the sit-in, California Federation of Teachers President Joshua Pechthalt said: “Our action today … represents a statement by our members that California’s students – not only at City College (of San Francisco), but from preschool through university – deserve to be made a priority.”
AFT 2121 president and CCSF faculty member Tim Killikelly said that he and his colleagues would prefer not to go on strike:
“We would much rather be in the classroom. … (But we were) willing to risk arrest today in order to defend the college that San Francisco deserves and we hope that drawing attention to our struggle with help our elected Board of Trustees come to their senses.”
Faculty at the two-year community college in San Francisco are being paid below levels in fiscal year 2007-08 after they took a voluntary pay cut. Meanwhile, union leaders argue that the college is sitting on reserves that exceed 30 percent of the school’s budget. And the administrator salary budget reportedly leaped 29 percent overall during the past academic year. The school also unveiled plans to shrink the college during contract negotiations, union negotiators say.
Killikelly said faculty pay is currently more than 3 percent below 2007 levels and the college’s bargaining proposals would leave the pay for many at 2007 levels for several more years, despite the rising cost of living. In addition, City College officials are talking about cuts to college programs of around 26 percent over the next six years, although full details have not been announced, Killikelly said.
“We understand strikes have consequences for everyone, it has consequences for faculty, it has consequences for students, it has consequences for the city,” Killikelly said. “We understand that, but the situation has become intolerable over the past several years.”
CCSF officials claim the school is faced with sharply reduced enrollment and must prepare for a funding decrease of $24 million each year when additional stabilization funding provided by legislation passed in the wake of the decision by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) to revoke CCSF’s accreditation expires after the 2017-2018 school year.
Killikelly said the enrollment decline was caused by a lack of public confidence due to the accreditation problem, and the board should be taking steps to recruit students and improve offerings, not making it harder for students to get the classes they need by making cuts. “San Francisco is not 26 percent smaller than it was in 2007, in fact it has grown,” he said. “People need to know that the college is open, the college is accredited, and the education quality has never been in question.”
With over 50,000 students — down from nearly 80,000 before the accreditation crisis — CCSF remains one of the largest educational institutions in the country. The vote to authorize a strike comes as some 26,000 faculty members in the California State University system are preparing for their own strike in mid-April.