Updated: CFAC members authorize strike, negotiations continue

By Blaise Mesa, Managing Editor

Members of Columbia’s part-time faculty union voted to authorize a strike, unless a contract agreement is reached.

Sixty-eight percent of union members voted, with 76% voting in favor of a strike.

“With more bargaining sessions scheduled for the end of the week, it sends a powerful message to walk in with such a strong show of unity and support for the leadership,” the union’s Steering Committee said in an April 9 email to CFAC members.

The results do not mean CFAC will go on strike, but the vote gives CFAC leadership the ability to call for one.

CFAC has not gone on strike since December 2017, but called for President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim’s resignation during an Oct. 17 press conference, as reported Oct. 22 by The Chronicle.

In an attempt to ease tensions, CFAC and the college previously met with a federal mediator but were not seeking a mediation session, as reported Jan. 18 by The Chronicle.

Updated: 4/11/2019, 6:52 p.m.:

The administration and the union are meeting Thursday and all day Friday to negotiate a labor contract.

“We believe this contract can be wrapped up pretty quickly,” CFAC President Diana Vallera said.

The two sides are not currently using a federal mediator, which Vallera said has been helpful. If negotiations do not progress as the union hopes, CFAC leadership will meet to discuss next steps, one possibility being a strike.

Vallera said the administration and the union have been meeting frequently and the commitment to discussing a deal seems to be there. Since the December 2017 strike, she said the union still has some concerns, but the bargaining relationship has improved.

“There is always a level of anxiety when you go into an authorization vote,” said Susan Van Veen, adjunct professor in the Business and Entrepreneurship Department and CFAC Steering Committee member.

Van Veen voted for the authorization of the strike and said the administration is making decisions that impact faculty without input from CFAC.

Vallera, who said having an authorization vote should not add tension to bargaining sessions, identified two main issues that contract negotiations must address.

“The contract must reflect the quality of education that we’re fighting for, and it needs to reflect the structures necessary to ensure a dignified work environment for our faculty.”

She said contract concerns encompassed adjuncts receiving living wages and having opportunities for advancement, among other complaints.

The News Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

John Moore, adjunct professor in the Communication Department, said he was unaware there was a vote and that the last communication he had with CFAC was in March. Moore said he is not sure whether he would have voted in favor of a strike.

Moore said his biggest concern with a strike would be not having the full support of union members. He also said CFAC has some legitimate concerns.

Whether he would have voted for or against the strike authorization, Moore said he would respect a picket line.