NORWALK – Inclement weather was not enough to deter several Cerritos College faculty and students from rallying last Wednesday evening in protest of what they believe to be unfair wages and working conditions.
Clad in matching read shirts that adorned the phrase “the power of a thank you” across their backs, a moderate sized group of individuals comprising of full and part time staff and a handful of their students assembled in the college’s administrative quad prior to Cerritos’s Board of Trustee’s meeting.
Solomon Namala, co-chair of the Cerritos College Economics Department and Cerritos College Faculty Federation (CCFF) President said that negotiations are not going well.
“One of the main reasons is we’ve been a union for 13 years and we don’t have a complete contract yet,” said Namala. “We’re the only community college in the state without a complete contract yet.”
Currently, the Faculty Union is fighting for paid and expanded office hours for both part-time and full-time staff, fair compensation for other activities such as serving as department chair, and reduced class sizes.
In a statement prior to the rally, the CCFF stated that “the District sits on a $50,000,000 dollar reserve. This is tax payer money that should be invested in students and should be spent toward their success.”
According to information provided by the CCFF, the District’s reserve funds are over eight times the state mandate; more than the nine community colleges that Cerritos is often compared to.
Lyndsey Lefebvre, vice president of part-time faculty and member of the negotiating team, said that negotiations are expected to go back and forth, however what has been offered is “kind of sad.”
“We were trying to do a three-year salary deal; the last two, three years they offered 2 ½ percent, but anything we wanted to negotiate beyond our contract, so for example if we wanted to pay for office hours, we would have to pay for it out of our salary increase,” said Lefebvre. This also included paying department chairs, according to Lefebvre.
Lefebvre went on to explain that currently staff is only paid for eight hours of office time over the entire semester period, which is 18 weeks during a normal semester.
After the rally, the group addressed the Trustee Board directly during their meeting. Several people spoke.
Sandra Weese, Organizing Director for the California Federation of Teachers, described it as “shameful” that the Faculty Union had gone 13 years without a contract.
“You have the money,” said Weese. “There’s a clear case about what’s going on here. Work load is getting bigger, class sizes are getting bigger. In aggregate, they’re losing money, 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, said that collective bargaining agreements are a right.
“The fact that the Cerritos faculty has been denied that right has caused me to be here tonight to stand with my Cerritos sisters and brothers in their fight for their right to a collective bargaining agreement,” said Waddell. “... In the face of such backward budgeting, Cerritos faculty remain loyal employees, and continue to professionally develop to stay current in their fields. In return they’re told to take money from one pocket, put it in the other pocket, and call it a raise. That’s not a raise.”
In response to the recent negotiations, the Cerritos College Community District also released a statement, saying “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…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 and above other colleges in the region. The Union has asked the District for more than 30% in salary increases.
"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.”