Welcome to the new FFECC Broadside.
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ECC’s 2017 commencement was held on the evening of Wednesday May 17 in the Buffalo State College Gym. FFECC Broadside attended. Our thoughts:
If you haven’t been to graduation recently, do yourself a favor and go next year. As an ECC faculty/staff member you will not experience a more inspiring evening anywhere at any price. ECC’s are the happiest, proudest graduates we have ever seen at any college commencement anywhere, and they bring with them the happiest, proudest collection of friends and family. Given the challenges overcome and sacrifices made by many of our students to get onto that stage on Wednesday, and their obvious joy at their achievements, it reminded us all of exactly why we do what we do. Almost every person walking across that stage had accomplished something that required more courage than anything we have done in our lives. It also reminds us that, all in all and despite everything, collectively we are doing a damn good job!
College Senate Task Force to Study Safety and Security
ECC students, faculty, and staff have recently expressed a desire for more timely, appropriate, and widely disseminated information about potential safety issues within the college, and for more guidance and training about reporting potential safety issues, emergencies, and unsafe behaviors, and about protocols for handling such situations. A widely collaborative process for addressing these concerns that includes all constituencies will create the best solutions. Furthermore, NYS Education Law Article 129-A states there must be an advisory committee on campus security that reviews current campus security policies and procedures and makes recommendations for their improvement.
ECC’s College Senate has established a taskforce to study and make recommendations about improving training, guidance and communication for students, faculty, and staff about campus safety issues and to create the advisory committee on campus security mandated by state law. This taskforce will examine existing college policies and procedures with respect to reporting, responding, resolving, and communicating emergencies and unsafe behaviors, including student and employee codes of conduct, and identify any weaknesses or gaps. The taskforce will also research best practices across the SUNY community colleges and other institutions. Representatives from Senior Executive Staff, administration, teaching faculty, counselors, appointees from all unions, and students will comprise this group.
The taskforce will report its initial findings and recommendations to the College Senate at the first session of the Senate in the fall 2017 semester. By the third session of the Senate in fall 2017 at the latest, the taskforce will present its complete recommendations.
What Having a Union Does for You
The Supreme Court will likely hear one or more cases this term that could affect your ability to have a union at ECC. Seriously. One such is Janus v AFSCME, but there are others.
The essence of these cases is whether to allow agency fees. In 21 states including New York, agency fees are the fees that public sector unions collect from employees in the bargaining unit who choose not to join the union. These fees are not union dues but consist of a large portion of the money that union members pay as dues, excluding that part used for political activities.
Public sector unions, such as FFECC, are required by law to bargain for and represent non-union members in their bargaining unit, and to protect all their rights under the contract. These fees support these activities on behalf of non-members, preventing what is called “free riders” or sometimes “freeloaders” to benefit from the activities of the union while doing nothing to support it.
If the Court decides in favor of the plaintiffs in any of these cases, all states will become “right to work” states, which means agency fees will be outlawed. However, the union will still have an obligation to provide all non-paying non-members the same protections as paying members. If this happens, and a public sector union’s paying membership falls below 50% of the bargaining unit, the union can be de-certified. Then it would no longer exist.
Let us pause for a moment to consider what some of these protections are. The median weekly earnings of unionized workers are nearly 30% higher and more secure than non-union workers in equivalent positions. Without salary schedules in your union contract, individual employee salaries could be changed arbitrarily without regard to any fair standard. Union contracts prevent employees from being arbitrarily fired – it is your contract, not the law, that provides this protection. In our case, your FFECC negotiated union contract secures tenure/permanent status for full-time members, which entitles those members to multi-stage progressive discipline, due process, and mandatory arbitration in cases of termination. Without these protections all college employees would become “at-will” employees subject to termination for no reason at all. Furthermore, without the contract, management would be free to change our health insurance without bargaining, or reduce it to the bare minimum coverage currently required by the ACA.
Furthermore, many powerful New York anti-union activists would love to eliminate the Tri-borough Amendment to the Taylor Law, which enforces the pre-existing contract agreement during possibly lengthy new contract negotiations. It was this amendment that ensured us our step/pay increases and continued health care coverage during our recent six and a half years of contract negotiations. Without this law, as of August 2009, management could have stopped any pay increases or changed our health care coverage, or eliminated full-time employees without regard to seniority. Considering the college’s ongoing financial struggles, it is not inconceivable that management could have seen this as a good way to balance the books, and of course getting rid of the longest-term full-time employees creates the most savings. Eliminating the Tri-borough Amendment is one of the motivations for the push to hold a Constitutional Convention next year.
All public sector unions are under threat. Please inform yourself about the upcoming Supreme Court cases and talk with your union representatives about these topics.