CCSF teachers’ contract negotiations difficult amid accreditation fight

Beth LaBergeThe City College Chinatown/North Beach Campus at 808 Kearney St on Nov. 7

City College of San Francisco’s faculty union is in a tough spot.

It has been leading the fight against reforms being carried out by the current administration at the behest of the organization that revoked CCSF’s accreditation in July. But the union is also in mediation with that same administration for its roughly 1,500 members who could lose their jobs if the school closes.

The outcome of ongoing negotiations could throw a wrench into efforts to stay open.

“This is a challenging situation to be bargaining in,” said Alisa Messer, president of American Federation of Teachers Local 2121. The threat of closure gives the union little bargaining power, she said, since its members have as much to lose as anyone if CCSF closes.

“We’ve had constant concessions over the last three years,” said Messer, adding that it’s one indication of the union’s willingness to step up during times of budget cuts.

Last fall, Local 2121 ratified a 2.8 percent pay cut, which was followed by a 4.4 percent cut imposed by the CCSF administration, Messer said.

While the details of negotiations are confidential, the union hopes to regain what has been lost since 2007, Messer said.

For its part, CCSF had little comment.

“We are currently in mediation with our faculty union,” said spokeswoman Jennifer Aries. “We are in negotiations with three other unions.” Negotiations with another union, Services Employees International Union Local 1021, have been completed, she said.

Local 2121 and college administrators last met Oct. 23 and plan to meet again Nov. 11 under the eyes of a state mediator, according to the union. The union has been working without a contract since December, when a three-year deal expired.

Local 2121’s parent union, the California Federation of Teachers, sued CCSF’s accrediting body, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, in September on similar grounds to another suit filed by City Attorney Dennis Herrera. Both lawsuits accuse the accrediting body of acting improperly in the year before it announced CCSF’s accreditation loss.

This summer, the CFT also filed a complaint with the accrediting commission and sent a copy to the U.S. Department of Education, claiming the commission broke “federal law, state law and their own guidelines.”

In July, the commission announced that CCSF would lose its accreditation if it does not transform itself into a viable institution. And unless officials can successfully appeal the decision by July, the college, which serves roughly 85,000 students, will lose its accreditation and effectively close.

Special Trustee Robert Agrella, who was appointed in October 2012 with veto power over accreditation issues, was given near-total power in July by the California Community Colleges board of governors after it stripped CCSF’s elected board of trustees of its powers.

Area schools plan to absorb CCSF students if school closes

If all efforts to avert the closure of City College of San Francisco fail, 21 regional community colleges have said they will absorb its students, and San Francisco State University has said it will take their transcripts, according to a closure plan.

The plan also includes handing over faculty information and records to Cal State University East Bay.

CCSF must notify faculty by March 15 if the plan is going to be carried out.

The San Francisco Community College District would continue to maintain the $896,971,000 worth of buildings and personal property used by City College if the school closes.

The closure plan was released this month. It’s required as part of CCSF’s loss of accreditation, which was revoked in July and could be made final in July 2014.

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