Staff union still at odds with college

By Lauren Kelly

After almost three years of negotiations between Columbia administrators and the United Staff of Columbia College to establish a contract dealing with wages, hours, terms of employment and working conditions for non-faculty staff members, an agreement has yet to be reached.

Following an announcement from US of CC on Sept. 15 saying it would be holding a leafleting campaign on Sept. 16 to distribute information to the college about the situation, President Warrick L. Carter issued an incensed statement in response to the group’s actions via e-mail with the intention of setting the record straight regarding the negotiations.

“Columbia College Chicago has had enough of the misinformation about the bargaining process and wants to correct it,” stated Carter’s message.

The US of CC, which represents more than 1,000 non-faculty employees at the college, was officially certified as a union by the National Labor Relations Board in April 2006. Since then, the college and the union have been involved in ongoing contract negotiations.

This past July, the union declared an impasse, or stalemate, claiming the college was no longer bargaining in good faith, according to the Sept. 15 e-mail from the group announcing the leafleting event.

However,  Annice Kelly, college vice president and general counsel said, “To this day, I don’t know if the administration has a clear understanding of why they [US of CC] felt the need to say ‘we’re at impasse in the negotiations.’”

Much of the specific information regarding negotiations between US of CC and the college is confidential.

Michael Bright, an administrative assistant and president of US of CC, said there’s nothing really holding up the contract, and the main reason the union is not at the bargaining table right now is because there was an unannounced change in hours for part-time staff employees.

“This demonstrated to us that the administration has very little respect for this organization,” Bright said.

However, according to Kelly, “The union has yet to provide [the administration] with any information that established hours were cut.”

Negotiations are not over between the college and US of CC.

“I’m assuming negotiations probably will restart in the near future,” Kelly said.

For more information regarding negotiations between the college and US of CC, be sure to pick up next week’s issue of The Chronicle.