Faculty union argues for better pay during SFCC budget discussion

May 1, 2019

Santa Fe Community College faculty members, frustrated that their union lacks a contract and complaining that they are overworked and underpaid, pressed the school’s governing board Monday evening to reach a deal before the two sides are forced to use an arbitrator.

Dozens of union members, students, staff and community members lined the walls of the board room during a discussion of the school’s 2020 budget, some holding signs asking for better working conditions and good-faith bargaining.

On July 1, college employees received 3 percent raises except for members of the union, who were excluded from the raises by law due to their ongoing contract negotiations.

Full-time faculty voted 39-3 in March 2017 to unionize through the American Association of University Professors, but have never been able to reach an agreement with the governing board on a contract.

Mediation sessions in October did not produce a deal, and the two sides are scheduled for further mediation on May 8 and 9, when both will present a last and best offer. If the second round also fails to produce an agreement, both parties say they will be forced into arbitration.

Linda Siegle, who chairs the governing board, began the meeting by removing from the agenda the approval of a full-time faculty pay schedule for fiscal year 2020 because negotiations with the union are ongoing.

“Any pay raises for full-time faculty members must be negotiated through the collective bargaining process,” she said. “The college cannot implement faculty pay raises until a ratified collective bargaining agreement has been established.”

She expressed hope that a deal can be reached, saying the board and college administration are “invested in the success of all of its employees” and will work with union representatives in good faith.

English professor and union President Marci Eannarino said the main grievances of the 54-member union are what it sees as an excessive workload and a lack of raises. According to the union, a typical work week for a full-time faculty member can run between 45 and 65 hours.

“The last couple years that I’ve been full-time faculty, I’ve never worked so hard and [have] been so stressed out that it started to impact my classroom,” Carole Chavez Hunt, who chairs the World Languages Department, told the board. “That’s when I realized that this is a big red flag. The shouts for help about some things that need to be addressed — the workload and pay for full-time faculty — are critical.”

English professor Bethany Carson, who made her public comments with her two young children at her side, said, “When standard raises are denied, real individuals in our community suffer. An extra 50 dollars a month means a lot in a single-parent household like mine.”