WEA members unite for faculty bargaining rights
Washington’s K-12 certificated staff, education support professionals, higher education classified staff and university faculty all have the right to negotiate salary increases at the local level.
Yet current state law unfairly prohibits community and technical college faculty from bargaining pay raises from local funds. House Bill 1237 would change that. The bill gives faculty the same bargaining rights their peers have had for years. The bill has passed the House and is now in the Senate.
WEA President Kim Mead and other WEA members and leaders recently testified in support of the legislation, which is WEA’s top policy priority for the 2018 legislative session.
“Support of this bill will mean support of our community and technical college students by helping to attract and retain dedicated faculty,” Mead said.
In stark contrast, college administrators testified in opposition to giving faculty equal bargaining rights.
“We certainly want our faculty to make more money but we have concerns,” said Steve Leahy, from Seattle Community Colleges, who testified against bargaining rights for facult.
WEA Association of Higher Ed President Carla Naccarato-Sinclair, United Faculty of Washington State President Bill Lyne and AFT Washington President Karen Strickland all testified in support. So did representatives from the health care industry, who said paying faculty higher salaries would help the state’s colleges train more health care professionals.
Here is WEA President Kim Mead’s testimony, which she gave before the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
Providing equal bargaining rights for our community and technical college faculty, both full and part-time, is a priority of our WEA members.
This simple one-sentence fix to an antiquated and unfair collective bargaining law will finally provide an opportunity for our colleges to have access to local funding to improve the lives of so many of our full and part-time faculty at colleges across the state.
In good and bad economic times, our dedicated community and technical college faculty prepare 60% of the state’s higher education students for college and the workforce. They are committed to providing the 344,000 college students in this state the highest quality education possible.
The faculty have gone for almost ten years with no increments (or step movement) including six years without a COLA increase. This has resulted in tremendous lost ground in professional advancement. And without any funding to close the disparity gap in full and part-time salaries many of our part-time faculty are relegated to applying for unemployment benefits between quarters and needing food stamps year-round.
Lifting the restriction on use of local funds could help keep faculty moving up on their earned steps, provide competitive salaries for faculty in high demand fields, and increase part-time salaries that may encourage colleges to increase the number of full-time faculty through hiring or conversions.
I want to thank Chair Rolfes for this hearing and Senator Keiser for prime sponsoring this bill.
Support of this bill will mean support of our community and technical college students by helping to attract and retain dedicated faculty.
History of the college faculty bargaining bill in Olympia
For the last eight years, the state House has passed a bill extending equal collective bargaining rights to community and technical college faculty members. They’re the only public union members in Washington who are barred by law from negotiating salary increases.
The House bargaining bill passed with bipartisan support.
Yet Senate Republican leaders repeatedly killed the bill at the request of college administrators who opposed giving their faculty equal union rights. There are no guarantees, but full-scope collective bargaining for community and technical college faculty members stands a much better chance of passing under Democratic leadership in 2018. It’s WEA’s top legislative policy priority. The legislation is Senate Bill 5993, and its House companion is HB 1237.
WEA and AFT Washington have been bringing this bill to the legislature since 2009. Community and technical college faculty are unique in Washington. They are the only employees, and their institutions the only institutions, that are prohibited from using local funds to pay for step increases (increments) or any other compensation increases. K-12 and four-year higher education employees all have bargaining rights.
Here are some key points to consider in support of equal bargaining rights for college faculty.
- The bills include both full and part-time faculty, counselors, and librarians at every college in the state.
- Each local bargains separately. They are not part of any statewide bargaining coalition.
- No other state in the country limits compensation increases at community and technical colleges to only state allocated dollars.
- For six years, between 2009 and 2015, college faculty (along with other employees) received NO COLA at all.
- During that time, all other employees continued to receive at least step increases, while the community and technical college faculty received absolutely no salary increases (outside of turnover savings).
- Consequently, full-time salaries have been flat in our colleges for over 24 years falling behind other employee groups—with only irregular cost of living and no base salary increases. Part-time faculty salaries were moving closer to equity but since 2009 have not experienced any base salary increases either.
- During the 2015 – 2017 biennium the unions worked with the legislature to include a proviso in the budget allowing colleges to use local funds only for increments. About 13 colleges utilized this opportunity to get their faculty on the right steps after many years of stagnation. No colleges tht bargained these increases have indicated that it was a hardship and no colleges have closed or gone bankrupt
- When, in 1993, the legislature reversed the policy on tuition so that institutions and not the state kept the tuition for their own use, it was understood that that money could and should be used for salary. Four year institutions were then able to use that money to enhance salaries. Two-year colleges were hampered by the very statute we are trying to fix. Colleges got to keep the tuition money and faculty have never received any benefit.