For nearly two years I have been blogging about the efforts of faculty members at the City College of San Francisco (CCSF) to resist efforts by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) to revoke the school’s accreditation. As ACCJC has lost credibility and its own status as an authorized accrediting agency grows increasingly troubled at both the federal and state levels, CCSF faculty members have turned their attentions to contract negotiations between their union, American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 2121 and the CCSF administration. Last month union members were arrested protesting the school’s failure to negotiate in good faith. The action followed the announcement the previous day that 92 percent of union members voted to authorize a strike. The union has been in talks with the college for around a year and without a contract for 9 months.
On Tuesday, the union’s governing body voted unanimously to conduct a one-day walkout this coming Wednesday, April 27, to protest the administration’s unfair labor practices in negotiation. The following is an op-ed piece published in the San Francisco Chronicle April 21 by AFT 2121 President Tim Killikelly, a political science instructor, and Vivek Narayan, a CCSF student:
Next Wednesday, faculty and students at City College of San Francisco will not be in their classrooms. They will be walking picket lines in front of their campuses throughout the city, in a first-ever faculty unfair labor practice strike.
Faculty and students at City College are deeply committed to ensuring the future of the college, as demonstrated by our efforts over several years to roll back the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior College’s illegal disaccreditation attempt. Our efforts to fight back, at first scoffed at, have resulted three years later in state and federal action to reform and replace the ACCJC.
Earlier this week, we joined with San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim and many other stakeholders to unveil a proposal to make City College tuition-free. If approved, this will increase and stabilize the college’s enrollment, restoring access to the gateway to higher education for thousands of low-income students of color who were frightened away by the ACCJC’s destructive actions and resultant bad publicity.
The top administrators of City College, however, have not been leaders during the accreditation crisis — in fact, just the opposite. Now their refusal to negotiate seriously with the faculty union in collective bargaining has unnecessarily plunged the institution into deeper conflict.
While hiring more top administrators and lavishing pay increases on them, the administration of Chancellor Susan Lamb has kept faculty salaries at 3.5 percent below 2007 levels. Administration is negotiating in bad faith and committing the unfair labor practice of going around the union bargaining team with offers, among others.
The administration bargaining team seems to still be listening to the ACCJC, which demanded a downsized City College as part of its deal to keep the college open.
The administration’s wrong-headed plan to cut 26 percent of classes over the next few years is already beginning. As colleges around the state restore classes and student programs and instructional staff lost during the Great Recession, thanks to Proposition 30 revenues and a recovering economy, City College is moving in the other direction.
City College students deserve the best education possible. And faculty, living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, will not accept a downsized school that doesn’t protect educational quality or an unfair contract that doesn’t allow instructors to live in the community in which they teach.
Earlier this year, faculty voted by 92 percent to authorize a strike if necessary. This week, the union’s delegate assembly unanimously voted to move ahead with a one-day strike next week. The students’ governing body has voted to walk out alongside their instructors.
Faculty and students do not take this decision lightly. We hope we don’t have to walk out on Wednesday. A fair administration proposal would make our action unnecessary. But we cannot sit idly by while the college administration allows the discredited ACCJC to dictate our contract and our future. The damage that this rogue accreditor has wrought on our students, college, community and faculty must stop.
We envision a City College with a broad mission — one that cares for and elevates students and workers. San Francisco needs the educational opportunities City College creates for Bay Area working families and the vibrancy it brings to our economy and culture.
Stand with us to defend the City College that San Francisco deserves! We hope you will join our picket lines Wednesday.