Negotiations pending for college, union

By LauraNalin

The United Staff of Columbia College is hoping to settle the ongoing negotiations with the college’s administration over contract issues.  Since Nov. 1, 2006 the union has been attempting to finalize its first contract dealing with wages, hours and working conditions with the administration.

As previously reported by The Chronicle,  the US of CC announced on Sept. 15 that they would be holding a leafleting campaign on Sept. 16 to distribute information to the college regarding the situation.  Columbia’s president, Warrick L. Carter, responded to the union via e-mail, suggesting the association was misinforming the college in regards to the bargaining process.

Until recently, the union and the college had been meeting regularly to clarify the details of the contract. However,  according to the union, members of the administration amended the contract during the negotiation process, resulting in an upset.

The union claims that during the negotiations, the administration cut the hours that the part-time staff were permitted to work, which resulted in the union leaving the negotiation table.

The union also feels that the e-mail was misinforming because it failed to mention the alleged changes implemented by the administration regarding the limitations placed on the part-time faculty’s hours, which has become the sticking point for the contract.

“Why we left the table is the reduction from 30 to 20 hours,” said Michael Bright, president of the union. “We had a conversation with the provost about rescinding the order because it went out across the college. He said he was going to do it, however  when he came back to the table, he had forgotten to do it which, to me, showed a lack of respect for the association.”

Linda Naslund, union member and administrative assistant of the Fiction Writing Department, also said that the mid-negotiation change was peculiar.  She said she believes that because they were negotiating the staff hours and working conditions, it should have gone through the negotiating committee before the changes were made.

“Ideally, if you are negotiating something, you should include the whole package rather than doing separate stuff on the side,” Naslund said. “I don’t know if it was a big misunderstanding, but it was a little bit strange.”

Annice Kelly, vice president and general counsel of the college, said that although the union keeps making the allegations, they have yet to present any names of part-time employees that may have been affected.

“If the union has any evidence that the administration or college has done this,  we more than welcome them to present it to us,” Kelly said.

However, the union challenges this, reiterating its charge that an edict went out across the college. This being the case, Bright said, no list should be necessary.

If the administration did, in fact, make amendments to the contract during the negotiations, the union is protected under the National Labor Relations Act, 8 (a) n. The act states that it is a violation of bargaining in good faith to make changes without

bargain or giving the union notice, said Joseph Barker, regional director of the National Labor Relations Board for Chicago.

Barker said that unless there is a case filed to the board, there is no proof that the negotiations are proceeding in bad faith.

“At this point in time there’s no allegation that the negotiations have been in bad faith,” Barker said. “If there is, they’d need to file a charge. We don’t have any at this time, so basically as far as we know, they are bargaining in good faith and we don’t have anything to the contrary.”

Barker also said the fact that negotiations have been ongoing for the past three years makes the case somewhat unique.

“We don’t see situations go on like this very often, but like I said, I don’t know how the bargaining has been going because no charges have been filed with us,” Barker said.

Kelly said that the college is using interest-based bargaining.

“It elongates the process because it involves talking about things thoroughly in trying to reach consensus, so it is what it is,” Kelly said.

According to the US of CC,  the administration had allegedly pitched an idea of 50 days association leave,  which would  be 50 days per year that staff members would spend on additional job training.

Bright added that the 50 days would be  spread out between the 1,500 members, not just the “leadership” of the union.

“[The e-mail] was framed as if it was just for the officers of the association, [but] it was for the entire 1,500-member bargaining unit,” Bright said. “We are trying to get people more on an even playing field, so saying that we are going to take 50 days just for me and the secretary and whomever else is just kind of goofy.”

The administration, however, denies having sought after the idea of the 50-day leave contract, citing the unions’ allegations as “not credible.”

“They said [the leave days] were for union leadership at the negotiations, so that’s what we interpreted it, but no, it was not our idea,” Kelly said.

Despite what was stated in Carter’s e-mail, members of the union said that the 50-day issue is not a sticking point for them.

Along with rescinding the hourly working conditions, the union would also like to establish processes for creating a full-time or part-time staff members handbook to accompany the college’s faculty and student handbooks.

“The purpose of the contract is to cover all the terms and conditions of all unit members’ employment with Columbia,” Kelly said. “All of their terms and conditions will be covered by the collective bargaining unit so I don’t know what the purpose of a handbook would be when there is a contract.”

Approaching nearly three years of negotiating, the union would like to finalize the process.

“We have a big school year coming up and it’s going to be a busy year as usual, so I want to have the contract ratified, and I want to do it soon because it has gone on for way too long,” Naslund said.

The administration was unable to provide an end date for the negotiations, stating that it would be “arbitrary” despite the union’s requests for a set date.

For more information on the US of CC, visit