More than anything else, our union provides us with a negotiated, legally enforceable contract. Our contract has evolved over decades through the continuous efforts of many of your colleagues. Without a contract, we would not have:
Tenure or permanent status. Under our contract, tenured or permanent FFECC members are entitled to three-stage progressive discipline, and any firing of a tenured member must be adjudicated by mandatory arbitration at great expense to the FFECC. Without the FFECC contract, we would all be at-will employees who could be terminated at any time for any reason or no reason. As a cost saving measure, personnel with the most seniority, and therefore higher salaries, would be most vulnerable to arbitrary termination. Before we had a union contract, there was a period when full time faculty taught on one-year renewable contracts that were sometimes not renewed.
Salary steps: Some of our colleagues in other SUNY community colleges do not have guaranteed salary steps. In those schools, salaries are stagnant while the employee holds a rank. In periods between contracts, wages stay the same until a new contract is signed. This model is favored by college administrations nation-wide. Under the FFECC contract, within each rank, we are guaranteed pay increases every year until we advance to a higher rank or we reach the last longevity step.
Health insurance: The majority of workers in the US pay for the majority of their own health insurance, or all of it, or in some cases simply go without. Employer paid health insurance has been steadily declining in the US since 2004. Our contract provides our full time active members with 85% of the cost of their health insurance. Furthermore our retirees receive continued health insurance coverage at a reduced cost, or, for the recently hired, a significant cash contribution to an HRA.
Fairness: The FFECC contract provides clear, established procedures for such processes as salary levels, rank advancement, grievances, discipline, hiring, and evaluations, ensuring a fair and equitable work environment. These procedures, as much as possible, preclude favoritism and arbitrary decisions.
A degree of choice: The FFECC contract guarantees full time faculty the right to select their courses on the basis of seniority. Faculty at for-profit colleges are simply assigned their courses.
Professional status: Our contract provides us with peer review evaluation processes and leadership opportunities, e.g., the opportunity to serve as department chair or participate in shared governance through the College Senate, CWCC, and other committees. We have an evolving shared governance system centered on the College Senate, initiated and supported by the FFECC, to discuss and make recommendations about all academic issues and policies. We have a direct influence on hiring and reappointment within our respective disciplines through our contractual Appointment and Reappointment committees, helping us enrich and sustain our professions.
Your voice at the table: Our contract requires periodic Labor Management meetings with both College leadership and representatives of County government. These can be utilized to resolve immediate issues or for your union to discuss long standing issues of concern to our members and work towards collaborative solutions.
These and many other benefits exist solely because of our FFECC contract. They do not exist without our contract, and our contract does not exist without our union. If, however, our union remains strong, we can rely on the continuity of our benefits and our contract while our union continues to negotiate for us and for our families. The FFECC will remain strong if each of us commits to full membership. If we remain committed FFECC members, there will be no consequences to us from the Supreme Court’s ruling in the plaintiff’s favor in Janus v. AFSCME.