(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

City College union deal staves off layoffs, class cuts

One year agreement allows community college time to improve its finances

City College of San Francisco has temporarily averted major staff and class cuts after the administration and union reached an agreement this weekend to cut faculty wages in order to preserve classes.

The Board of Trustees unanimously approved the one-year agreement with the faculty union, reached early Saturday morning after weeks of protests, at a special meeting on Monday evening.

The college had issued 163 layoff notices in March to full-time and tenured faculty, and also proposed to cut hundreds of part-time faculty positions and classes. All of those notices will now be rescinded in exchange for across-the-board temporary wage cuts.

The deal will allow City College to meet its goal of reducing a $22.6 million deficit for the upcoming academic year while maintaining a 5 percent financial reserve. The community college’s poor fiscal outlook prompted state auditors in April to warn that it could face a state takeover if it did not improve its financial outlook.

The wage cuts will range from 4 to 11 percent, which will be a tough pill to swallow for many faculty members. But Malaika Finkelstein, president of the American Federation of Teachers 2121, said she has generally heard reactions of relief because the deal will provide stability in the fall; members overwhelmingly approved the agreement on Monday.

“I’m so relieved and so glad we got to this agreement, but nobody feels good about a wage concession,” said Finkelstein. “Of course there are people who don’t like it, but the alternative is worse. It’s still shrinking but it stops the arterial bleeding.”

Staving off the layoffs, which would have cut deeply into class offerings in many programs, also provides stability for students who may have had to make other plans for their education, or dropped out altogether. Finkelstein said she had been unable to give an answer to her students, who have disabilities and seek workforce training, when they asked each week if they would have classes available in the fall.

The layoff notices covered only a portion of the planned cuts, as hundreds of part-time faculty would have also been out of work. The English as a Second Language department, for example, would have lost 11 of its 70 full-time equivalent faculty and all 39 of its part-time faculty.

Some community members expressed anger during public comment that faculty had to bear the financial burden of the college’s troubles, and questioned why senior administrators were not considered for cuts, too.

“I’m really, really disgusted,” said Yolanda Aceves, a CCSF alumni whose son is a student at the college. “It’s always, always the people at the bottom who get cut, we’re the ones who sacrifice and it’s time that it stops.”

Trustees thanked the faculty for their sacrifice and pledged to fight hard for additional funding to remedy the situation. Alan Wong said he was “very happy” the negotiations were productive to the point of averting the layoffs.

“The tentative agreement allows us to continue our mission as a community college by preserving classes that serve all of our diverse communities,” Wong said. “Obviously, it’s not something that makes everybody happy but something we can live with for now. I really want to thank [faculty] for their sacrifice for the health of the college.”

CCSF administrators and AFT 2121 also formally agreed to formally work on legislative efforts to increase revenue. The college has requested $15 million from The City over two years starting in the fall, but the legislative effort by Supervisors Gordon Mar and Hillary Ronen is currently stalled, Wong said. The City has previously provided financial support in times of crisis, but a dispute over the future of the Bayview campus must be resolved first.

Board President Shanell Williams noted that higher levels of government wanted to see “structural change” from the college before they would provide more money.

“We have reached out to our federal, state, and local leaders and are working very hard to see what kind of long-term financial support can come to City College,” Williams said at the meeting. “They were not really willing to provide funding in that way.”

Some bright spots did come out of the agreement from the faculty union’s point of view.

In addition to preventing cuts, AFT 2121 was able to secure minimum funding for classes and student services, something that the union has tried to do in the past. Classes will be funded at 88 percent of last fall’s levels. That is still less than previous years, but it is seen as a major victory.

“We actually won something here that we’ve never been able to do,” Finkelstein said. “We’ve never even gotten close, it’s a big deal. It means we can keep our college together for a year while we fight for more funding.”

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