Win for community and technical college faculty on governor’s desk

By Eric Tegethoff
Washington News Service

OLYMPIA — Community and technical college faculty scored a big win during this year’s legislative session. Lawmakers passed Engrossed House Bill 1237 to allow faculty at these colleges to negotiate local wage increases through collective bargaining.

They were the only public-education employees prohibited from bargaining locally before this bill.

Funds that colleges get through fees and tuition will now be available in salary negotiations. Jim Howe, a faculty member at Lake Washington Institute of Technology’s Kirkland campus, also is president of his local American Federation of Teachers (AFT) union. According to Howe, community and technical college faculty members need a raise.

“Compensation issues have been plaguing us since before the recession,” he said. “I can’t keep colleagues here; the turnover is terrible because of how low the compensation is.”

However, Howe added money isn’t the only issue. He said opening of collective-bargaining rights in this legislation is key. College administrators have opposed collective bargaining for faculty in the past.

Bernal Baca, government affairs director for AFT Washington, called it a historic win for faculty. Rather than driving a wedge between school administrators and faculty, Baca said he sees it as a chance for the two groups to build a united front.

“We’ve been shortchanged for a number of years,” Baca explained. “This gives us an opportunity to go shoulder-to-shoulder with the presidents, to the state Legislature, and correct the imbalance in our system so that we can get money back into the community and technical college system.”

The bill was passed in the shadow of a U.S. Supreme Court case, Janus v. AFSCME, that threatens to dismantle collective bargaining for public employees nationwide.

According to Howe, the Evergreen State is bucking the national trend on unionization and he sees this bill as evidence of that. However, he believes the Janus case is just the tip of the iceberg in the fight against unions.

“The proponents of that case have made it clear that they want to get rid of collective bargaining with public employees,” Howe stated. “So, this is a little more serious than just getting one little ‘right to something.’ This is getting stronger collective bargaining.”

The legislation now awaits Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature.

 

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