CFAC: College retracted key points during bargaining session

By Blaise Mesa, Managing Editor

Columbia’s administration and Columbia’s part-time faculty union have not come to an agreement in their most recent round of negotiations, just days after union members approved a strike authorization vote.

According to a statement emailed late April 12 from The Office of the President, CFAC threatened to strike next week.

In an April 10 interview, CFAC President Diana Vallera did not give The Chronicle a timetable on when CFAC might strike, and said CFAC leadership would have to meet to discuss the next steps if negotiations stalled.

“We will work to minimize any impact to instruction and academic work should the union opt to strike, which we urge the union not to do,” said Chief of Staff Laurent Pernot in an April 12 email. “We urge the union to remain at the negotiating table and certainly to seek the help of a federal mediator before pursuing a strike. Unfortunately, the union has steadfastly and repeatedly refused mediation. The spring semester is nearly complete, and the parties have ample time (if necessary) over the summer, before the fall semester begins, to resolve the remaining issues.”

CFAC and the administration previously said they were not seeking the use of a federal mediator, as reported Jan. 18 by The Chronicle.

The April 12 statement, signed by Pernot and Special Counsel for Labor Relations Terence Smith, contained the strongest language yet from the administration.

“Simply put, the union is walking away from a good deal in which the college has gone farther than ever before to limit, and even reverse, the loss of course assignments for unit members,” the statement read.

The administration also released their latest 41-page contract proposal from April 12 and included in their statement their proposed compensation schedule including signing bonuses. Pernot said highlighted passages in the PDF mark new proposed language.

CFAC members voted to authorize a strike April 9, as reported by The Chronicle. Sixty-eight percent of members participated in the strike authorization vote, but CFAC was unable to give the total number of voters due to confidentiality reasons, Vallera said.

Vallera said April 10 the contract could be “wrapped up quickly” and negotiations between the two sides had improved since the last strike in December 2017.

Vallera did not expect the strike authorization vote to add tension during the bargaining sessions.

The administration and CFAC have met more than 25 times for more than 100 hours, according to the April 12 email.

“This is a clear message that the union is willing to disrupt the lives of students who are working to finish what will—for many—be their final semester at Columbia College Chicago,” the email said.

Calls to Vallera and CFAC attorney Robert Bloch after the release of the administration’s statement were not immediately returned.

Updated: 4/13/2019 7:34 pm

Columbia’s part-time faculty union said the administration has “retracted proposals and reversed positions” that had previously led the union to believe an agreement was close.

Vallera said one retraction was the college not allowing graduate student instructors to join CFAC.

“We couldn’t be more disappointed in the letter sent by the College,” said an April 13 email to CFAC members. “The dishonesty in tonight’s email from the Office of the President intentionally misrepresents what transpired, in an effort to mislead, confuse and divide our membership.”

The email stated CFAC asked the college to negotiate throughout the weekend, but that the college ‘lashed out’ and violated confidentiality agreements.

“We invite the college to negotiate in good faith and not to force a strike,” the email said.