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Broadside March 13, 2019

Broadside – March 13, 2019

Dear fellow union members:

The start of the spring semester has been more hectic than usual, with major extremes in weather and campus closings.

Your FFECC leadership team has been very busy working on some longstanding issues with the College administration:

  • We reiterated, and the College agreed, that the 2017 arbitrator’s decision in the “snow day” grievance says that if classes are cancelled then the campus is closed, and by our contract, an emergency closing is a paid leave day for all FFECC employees, not chargeable to benefit time – meaning that everyone, full time and part time, must be paid (in the case of part time employees, for the time they were scheduled to work on that day.)

  • We negotiated and signed an MOU for free tuition for the families of all our part-time members, including adjuncts.

  • We successfully advocated for an upgrade for two RPT Counselors and one RPT Mentor to full-time status. The Executive Vice President for Administration and Finance has indicated a willingness to continue discussions to reclassify all RPT employees to full-time status over time.

  • We negotiated and signed a continuation of the Northland Training Center agreement to provide a framework for expectations and compensation for our members teaching and providing other services at this off campus site.

  • We clarified in an MOU the right of our retirees to change their healthcare plans due to life changing events.

  • We negotiated an additional healthcare plan option for our active members and retirees living outside the eight counties of Western New York.

  • We negotiated an extension of the “Assessment Mentors” MOU.

  • We achieved an agreement in principle to continue the extended course scheduling deadlines.

  • Another agreement in principle (MOU being crafted): not requiring administrative membership on FFECC appointments committees for part-time hires.

  • A commitment to discuss Mentor salaries.

  • A commitment to discuss creative ways to increase adjunct compensation.

  • A commitment to starting adjunct paychecks much earlier in the semester.

If you don’t know what some of these items mean, that’s OK. Give your FFECC campus VP a call if you have questions. All in all, we have been very busy and gotten a lot accomplished.

My, how times have changed at SUNY Erie! We have an open line of communications with College administration to solve problems.

But in other ways, things have not changed as much as we might have hoped, considering all the new players at the top. Organizational culture has a life of its own, and it marches on despite changes in leadership. The “bad old days” urban myths about our members and about our union continue to be spread. College senior leadership has a habit of announcing new initiatives (e.g.: Facebook, WOZ-U, cannabis cultivation, others?) without vetting them with stakeholders, as Middle States had mandated. Many of these announced partnerships and initiatives may have contractual implications that require FFECC input. Many of these conversations are simply not happening. It is also hard to determine which of these partnerships are real and which are speculative.

This unfortunate method of communicating new initiatives is not good for the institution, our members, and the College’s position as a quality educational institution within the community. Some in the College leadership team do seem to understand the FFECC’s concerns, or those of the College Senate.

At present, I believe we are experiencing the growing pains of a new administration that may not fully understand the culture of SUNY Erie or the stakeholder buy-in needed for successful implementation of any new initiative. Your FFECC leadership team believes that, in time, these concerns will be resolved through faculty/academic vetting processes (now under discussion) that will involve all constituencies.

I am especially concerned about the continuation of the urban myths about bad faculty, bad (insert any category of FFECC member.) Almost without exception our members are true professionals who care about our students and often exceed the expectations of their jobs.

We still have many outstanding issues to resolve for our members within the College, but progress does takes time and we have come a very long way in the past few years. College leadership has expressed an interest in possibly meeting with FFECC for a contract negotiation process that includes only a few items rather than the whole contract, and then extending our current contract beyond its 2020 expiration date. We will keep everyone updated as to any proposed time frame for this process, if indeed the College moves forward on it.

It has become a year-round task to advocate for incremental increases in funding from our state and county sponsors. The last year’s county budget included an ongoing $500,000 per year increase in College funding. We are currently lobbying our state representatives for additional resources. FFECC leadership will be holding our annual legislative breakfast with elected officials to discuss the current state of SUNY Erie and its financial needs.

It is Union leadership’s responsibility to ask the hard questions about how any proposed policy or program will affect the daily lives of our members and not be unnecessarily burdensome to them. If we don’t do this, no one else will. We take this responsibility very seriously. We believe that, fundamentally, we share the same ultimate goal with administration – finding the best ways to educate the students of Erie County in an open admissions environment. However, we often disagree about the best path to get there. This disagreement is inevitable and healthy. Disagreement and discussion is what academics do, and we hope that through that process we arrive at the truth (or the best solution.) But everyone in the discussion must be doing their job and advocating for their main constituents. Otherwise a power imbalance is created.

The FFECC leadership team as always will promote our profession, to continually elevate our intuition and the students we serve.

In solidarity,

Your FFECC leadership team:

Andrew Sako, President Patricia Kaiser, VP City Adrian R. Ranic, VP North James Ruggiero, VP South Michael Delaney, Grievance Chair

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