P-Fac walks the line

By Samuel Charles

Columbia and P-Fac, its part-time faculty union, continue to go back and forth, accusing each other of skewing the truth. Last week, the union took to the streets to hold what it described as an “informational” picket line to spread its message to the college community and general public.

The picketing was conducted outside the Alexandroff Campus Center, 600 S. Michigan Ave., beginning at 8:45 a.m. on March 31. The goal, according to union President Diana Vallera, was to increase public knowledge in regards to the current negotiations between the union and the college.

“We’re trying to raise awareness about the failure to make progress at the bargaining table,” said Nancy Traver, P-Fac’s publicity chair and adjunct faculty member in the Journalism Department. “We are trying to inform our membership, the public at large and students in the whole Columbia College community that we’ve been talking to the college for 15 months now, and this is the first time we’ve gotten a counteroffer from them.”

P-Fac accuses the college of unfairly dismissing long-serving adjunct faculty members in showing favor of younger, less-experienced and lower-paid adjunct faculty members.

Louise Love, vice president for academic to the college on March 23 responding to allegations P-Fac President Diana Vallera made on “848” the morning radio show on WCRX FM-91.5 on March 23.

“Diana Vallera, again, said that Columbia College has adopted a policy on course assignment that is unfavorable to the highest paid part-time faculty in favor of new hires,” Love said in the email. “Yet Ms. Vallera was present at a meeting with President Carter on March 11 when he assured P-Fac that this is not the case and offered data in proof.”

Included in her email to all full- and part-time faculty, Love gave data showing that since the 2006–2007 academic year, the number of credits taught by “top step”—long-serving adjunct faculty members—increased by 9.5 percent, while the number of credits taught by “new hires” has decreased by 3.9 percent.

Vallera said she is skeptical of the numbers’ accuracy, and she is also concerned that the stats Love supplied don’t address P-Fac’s grievance entirely.

“Until we get the exact numbers, we don’t know exactly what we’re dealing with,” Vallera said. “It doesn’t eliminate the issues we brought up. We are seeing senior faculty members [who] are losing classes.”

The bargaining stage began in October 2010. The negotiations stem from the college’s unilateral decision to reduce the number of credits adjuncts are compensated for in the Photography Department. Initially, without bargaining, Columbia reduced all four credit hour classes to three in the department, lowering adjunct faculty’s wages because they are paid per credit hour.

The union then filed an Unfair Labor Practice complaint against the college, which the National Labor Relations Board found to have merit. The NLRB then mandated the college bargain with P-Fac.

Love said the negotiation process between the two parties is slow. Vallera previously expressed the same sentiments.

“There have been a lot of delays [because of] issues other than the contract itself,” Love said. “A lot of our negotiation sessions have been spent on other issues.”

The disagreements between P-Fac and the college stem from the union’s dissatisfaction with their current contract.

On March 31, the college offered P-Fac a new contract, which included two-year teaching appointments to certain members, in addition to several other benefits.

Love sent another email to all full- and part-time faculty on April 1 detailing what some of the issues are.

In her email, Love stated P-Fac has cancelled five bargaining sessions with the college, and added “despite [the college’s] proposal being a fair offer for all unit members and Columbia following the agreed-upon process, in our negotiating session [on April 1] P-Fac attempted to mischaracterize both our offer and

the process.”

Though the picketing began early in the morning, support for the adjuncts was shown from the start. Cars driving on Michigan Avenue honked to endorse the picketers, while union members handed out pamphlets and explained their cause to those walking by.

One of the first people to be approached by union members was Jonathan Hirsh, senior theater major. Hirsh was well-versed in the negotiations and voiced his distaste for the college’s position.

“A lot of the [instructors] aren’t being paid what they should be paid,” Hirsh said. “They’re not getting paid to do the mentoring that’s not included in their class time, so they’re coming in out of their own free will, which is kind of crazy.”