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By Brian Hews
NORWALK – Several Cerritos College faculty members, with vocal student support, attended last Wednesday’s Trustee meeting in protest of what they are claiming to be unfair wages and working conditions.
Solomon Namala, co-chair of the Cerritos College Economics Department and Cerritos College Faculty Federation (CCFF) President said that negotiations have not been going well.
“We’re the only community college in the state without a complete contract yet, we’ve been a union for 13 years and we don’t have a contract, ” said Namala.”
The Faculty Union is fighting for higher pay, expanded office hours for both part-time and full-time staff, fair compensation for other activities such as serving as department chair, offering more classes, and reduced class sizes.
In a statement sent out on Feb. 12, the CCFF stated, “The faculty of Cerritos College believes they are not fairly paid compared to nine other community college districts. Part-time faculty at Cerritos College is paid one of the lowest salaries when compared to surrounding community colleges. The District sits on a $50 million reserve. This is taxpayer money that should be invested in students and should be spent toward their success. The number of sections being taught across campus is still 15% below the peak prior to the recession in 2007. There are fewer courses offered across campus and class sizes are larger, while spending on administration has risen.”
Dr. Shin Liu, Cerritos College Board president told HMG-CN, “The District does not have $50 million in available reserves. We have about $30 million for student success initiatives, class expansion and reserves for when we have another recession. We’ve already committed about $1.3 million for tutoring, more student programs, and we are hiring more counselors and faculty.”
Miya Walker, Director of College Relations and Public Affairs said in a statement, “The District and the Board of Trustees highly value the contributions of our full-time and part-time faculty toward the success of our students. Negotiations are sometimes difficult; but it is unfortunate that the Faculty Union has rejected the District’s contract offer. The District offered its other employee groups a 10% raise over the course of three years, which they accepted. The District extended a 10% increase to the Faculty Union for full-time faculty and 16% to part-time faculty over three years, which is far above other colleges in the region. The Union has asked the District for more than 30% in salary increases. The District is hopeful that the Faculty Union will return to the negotiating table to reach a fair resolution.”
“That statement by Cerritos College that faculty is asking for a 30% salary increase is absolutely false. We have presented a copy of our proposal, so the facts speak for themselves,” said Namala.
Lyndsey Lefebvre, vice president of part-time faculty and member of the negotiating team said that what has been offered is “kind of sad. ”
According to Lefebvre, the group was trying to complete a three-year salary deal. The last two years, the College offered 2.5 percent.
Namala commented, “There are couple of issues here. First, our part-time faculty is the lowest paid in the area, if they were working full-time at those wages, it would be barely above poverty level.
“Many of our full time faculty members are stuck on their salary schedules, with no increase in pay for some in over a decade, while management can move up a step in pay within six months, its not fair.”
Namala gave HMG-CN documentation that outlined part-time salaries for a neighboring district, El Camino College. The documents showed a difference in hourly pay of over $20 per hour. The documents also showed that El Camino faculty move up in pay increments much quicker than Cerritos.
When asked for comment, District officials said, “The District is committed to improving wages for our part-time faculty and all employees so that we can remain competitive with our neighboring institutions. We proposed a 16% salary increase to the Faculty Union for part-time faculty over the next three years starting this fiscal year with an 11% raise for 2016, another 2.5% in 2017 and 2.5% in 2018. Our offer also includes retroactive pay dating back to July 2015.”
Namala commented, “Cerritos College is not competitive. Cerritos is the college where you have to fight for things other colleges have enjoyed for years; academic freedom, a complete union contract, low class sizes, paid office hours, seniority rights for part time faculty, on and on.”
Namala went on, “We are so far down, we have no other place to go but up. And the District response of 16% for part time faculty sounds good, but what it does not say is that the 2016 11% increase is not for all part-time faculty, many will receive only an 8% increase. And what the District doesn’t say is that we are already 50% lower in salaries from some other colleges in the area; even with this raise there is still a 40% difference.”
Several people spoke in protest at the Trustees meeting.
Sandra Weese, Organizing Director for the California Federation of Teachers, blasted the Trustees and President Fierro saying, “it is shameful that the Faculty Union has gone 13 years without a contract. You have the money and you can see what is happening here. Workload is getting bigger and class sizes are getting bigger. You guys are making more money in terms of administration. It’s despicable, it’s not fair, and you should fix it. ”
Joanne Waddell, president of the Los Angeles College Faculty Guild, was equal in her anger, “I stand with my Cerritos colleagues in their fight for a collective bargaining agreement. They are loyal employees, this is not a raise. ”
In response the District commented, “The District remains fiscally prudent to ensure that all students are served with the best possible resources. The District is hopeful that the Faculty Union will return to the negotiating table to reach a fair resolution that does not jeopardize the financial health of the institution. ”
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