Dear fellow FFECC members:
First and foremost, I hope you and your families are healthy and safe during this pandemic.
As of today, Sunday April 5, there are 122,596 confirmed cases of Covid 19 in New York State, with 1,057 cases in Erie County and growing. To put these numbers into perspective, there are 328,861 confirmed cases in the United States, while the global total is 1,216,422. New York State has nearly 37% of the nationwide confirmed cases.
In Erie County there are now 167 recovered cases, and 26 deaths have occurred due to the virus. Unfortunately, some models are predicting a quadrupling of cases in the coming weeks nationwide.
In New York State and Erie County we have yet to reach the peak of infections according to most competent public health experts, who predict between two and four weeks before we see a decline.
With all this information at hand and the State and County emergency declarations, I ask, why are the ECC campuses still open?
And to that portion of College leadership who seem to be operating in a bubble, I say, this is not business as usual, it is a pandemic!
It has been the position of the Faculty Federation that the College should be closed until this pandemic peaks and declines.
Early on in this crisis, the College did not include your FFECC leadership team in the conversations leading to decisions on our working conditions. Thankfully, after several Board members and political leaders applied pressure, the tone changed. Additionally, we had the foresight to recognize the possibility of a pandemic and sent the college a Taylor Law demand for impact bargaining on the subject.
Recently the College has been working collaboratively with FFECC leadership and our negotiations team to solve problems and clarify concerns. The College and the FFECC have agreed to a short-term MOU that is in force only during the pandemic which allows the majority of our members to work from home. It was also agreed, thanks to Executive Vice President and CAFO Penny Howard, that all full and part time members will continue to be paid their regular salaries and wages (unlike most private sector and some public employees in this state.) We are grateful to her, Dan Kaufmann, and Tracy Cleveland for this decision.
We have had some contentious conversations with the College about the “essential” versus “non-essential” status of our NTP’s and NTTP’s. There have been, and continue to be, exhaustive conversations about the libraries and the status of tutorial labs. As a result, the College has agreed to reclassify the librarians as non-essential employees and allow them to work with students remotely. The counseling unit has also been deemed non-essential and allowed to work from home, after a lengthy discussion with the College. Our skills lab personnel are in the process of implementing a remote platform for tutoring students.
We are extremely concerned for the safety of our Technology Support Specialists (formerly ETs and AV Coordinators) who are presently classified as essential. In our conversations with Employee Relations Manager Dan Kaufmann, we have continually asked for the Information Technology Services department to demonstrate why these members need to be classified as essential and required to work on campus. We have been pushing the College to provide personal safety equipment and provide social distancing procedures to these members. Currently the College plans to set up temporary computer access in the north and south campus cafeterias and city atrium. Even with limiting building access, social distancing of students, and sanitizing the computers, there is still a danger of individuals or their family members becoming infected.
The transition to a partly remote College because of this pandemic has not been easy and may not work in all areas. We can only do the best for our students within the limits of technology and time constraints. The FFECC has continually scheduled meetings with the College to address health and safety issues and contractual concerns.
Now is not the time to argue about insignificant issues that might be important to you under normal circumstances, but not in larger picture of this pandemic. But please do continue to advocate for yourselves and your students as you normally would. Your concerns can be dealt with now or after the peak, as the College and FFECC Leadership review the membership’s issues at weekly Labor Management meetings. For now, please keep track of your time and activities outside of your normal work duties. Please also try to understand that this is (we all hope) a once in a lifetime event.
We need to understand that the College Community has had concerns about a real or perceived leadership void. This could be a reason for some of the perceptions of dysfunction at the College. We also have a few individuals within the SES and several mid-level administrators who insist that this situation is just “business as usual.” It is not.
I know that only our FFECC members understand the needs of our students and how best to provide them with educational and other services, despite the arrogance of some at this College. FFECC members and our students will survive this crisis, and when it is over, we and our College will be stronger for our efforts. We all know which members of our college community truly stepped up during this crisis.
Be well and be safe.
FFECC Office: (716) 270-2938