Citing frustrations with lagging bargaining talks as well as concerns around equitable pay, enhanced workload obligations and other issues, local community college teachers rallied for a new contract this week.
The San Mateo Community College Federation of Teachers flooded the district board meeting Wednesday, Feb. 26, to share their frustrations with the collective bargaining process.
Claiming contract talks have stalled for months, dozens of teachers showed up to the board room uniformly in red shirts carrying signs encouraging officials to meet at the bargaining table and resolve lingering contract terms.
“We urge the board to take this very seriously,” said Kolo Wamba, a part-time physics and engineering professor at Skyline College, in his address to the San Mateo County Community College District Board of Trustees.
Officials could not respond during the meeting, as the issues was raised during the public comment portion of the agenda. The following day, board President Karen Schwarz deferred comment on the matter to administrators who are part of the district’s collective bargaining team. The chancellor’s office said it welcomed feedback from the campus community.
Katharine Harer, a member of the union’s bargaining team, said she is optimistic the union’s presence made concerns clearer to officials.
“I think the board and the chancellor were listening carefully to the presenters and to the truths that they shared, and I hope that compels them to give stronger direction to the district’s bargaining team to settle our outstanding issues,” she said in an email.
Beyond the lack of progress working on a new labor deal, some teachers shared their frustrations with the increased amount of time dedicated to tasks outside of the classroom with students. Those obligations include administrative work, tedious data entry, unproductive meetings and more, according to a union report.
The growing laundry list of duties leads to faculty feeling overworked and underappreciated, said the report calling on district administrators to resolve the issue through the collective bargaining process immediately.
“It is now up to the district to finally acknowledge what we all already know and negotiate in good faith for a way to attain a healthier work-life balance for faculty and give faculty more time to fulfill our primary responsibility to our students,” said the report published in union publication The Advocate.
Similar themes seeped through the action at the board meeting, culminating with teachers presenting administrators a ceremonial resolution committing to hammering out lingering terms of the deal. The comically large document was graciously received by interim Chancellor Michael Clair, who tucked it near his seat unsigned.
Some students attended the meeting in solidarity with their teachers as well, encouraging officials to consider the ways that the classroom may be harmed by dissatisfied educators.
The union’s action was the second of its kind in recent months, as teachers rallied in November over their contract as well. Harer said the previous event featured dozens colleagues from the Foothill-De Anza Community College District.
But only two from the southern district attended the most recent session, which Harer said is a testament to time management challenges faced by teachers working steadfastly inside and outside of the classroom, while also battling worsening traffic congestion and attempting to preserve some free time off campus.
Balancing the issue, Harer made it clear that teachers remain pleased with their opportunity to work alongside students in the classroom while also acknowledging the associated tasks which the union said must be addressed in a new contract.
“This is what is killing us, not the time we spend with our students teaching, meeting with them or preparing for our classes,” she said.
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