P-Fac complaint charges Columbia

By Lisa Schulz

In an official complaint issued Sept. 30, the National Labor Relations Board charged Columbia with unfair labor practices against P-Fac, the college’s part-time faculty union.

The complaint alleges the college refused to collectively bargain with the union, specifically mentioning Louise Love, interim provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, who “threatened that she would no longer meet informally with union representatives to discuss individual matters because of the charges and grievances that the union had been filing.”

Love could not be reached at press time.

The complaint also states that warnings were issued to Diana Vallera, president of P-Fac and adjunct faculty member in the Photography Department, after she requested her personnel file and when she encouraged other part-time faculty to join the union.

According to Annice Kelly, vice president of Legal Affairs and General Counsel, Columbia will be contesting these charges at a court hearing, scheduled for Dec. 13 at the NLRB offices, 209 S. LaSalle St. Rm. 900, at 9 a.m. The college will be represented by outside trial counsel. Kelly said P-Fac has asked for

a continuance.

Throughout the bargaining process, which began in March 2010, the union filed a total of 36 counts of ULPs but withdrew 31 counts, said Kelly.

According to Interim Associate Provost Len Strazewski, the union proposed settlement of all the ULPs it alleged, which the college rejected “because it rightfully believed that many of the 36 original charges would not be upheld by the NLRB.”

Vallera said P-Fac is gratified by the NLRB’s findings, “but I can’t emphasize enough that I wish the settlement talks would’ve just gone through. I’m still hopeful,” she said.

The complaint was signed by Irving Gottschalk, regional director of the NLRB in Milwaukee, Wis., who told The Chronicle his decision was based on the evidence and legal research.

Asked about the likelihood of the NLRB prevailing at the hearing, he said, “When cases are held to have merit, statistically 85 to 90 percent settle, and 2 to 5 percent are litigated. Statistically, we win those cases 80 to 85 percent of the time.”

The ULP complaint is unrelated to pending contract negotiations at which, according to Strazewski, the parties “are not in dispute” on the language describing evaluation of part-timers. Vallera described that phase of the negotiation process as one of the best experiences she had at the negotiation table.

The NLRB’s complaint also alleges that, despite repeated requests, the college refused to turn over information about a change in policy on the number of courses part-time faculty could teach per semester. Kelly, however, insists the college made the information available several times.

“We’re at a loss at what we can give them because we gave it to them already,” Kelly said. “We don’t know why the charge

still exists.”

The college is contesting the complaint because it restricts the flexibility Columbia has always had in assigning faculty, Kelly said. Having the most qualified teachers is the most beneficial to students, she said.

As previously reported by The Chronicle, P-Fac has alleged that the college hired new, younger faculty, thus reducing the courseload of more senior adjuncts higher up on the pay scale. Kelly said their courseloads were decreased because of the decline in student enrollment.

Vallera said she was concerned about the aggressiveness of the college’s policy changes, especially regarding the prioritization process.

She said more people need to be educated about the purpose of a union and to understand violations of labor laws.

“We’re certainly training more and more of our members to be able to recognize that,” Vallera said. “I hope the school is doing the same so that we can avoid these violations and start working together.”

Additional reporting by Sam Charles.