Once again, the Allan Hancock College administration, with the tacit support of the Board of Trustees, is making bad choices that negatively affect students, employees and taxpayers.

In the summer of 2011, eight part-time counselors had their hours arbitrarily reduced. This change took place after the summer session had started and they had all signed offers of employment. According to the California Education Code, a change like this needs to be negotiated with the agency that represents the affected employees. Instead, it was simply done.

Counselors do extremely important work, helping students choose the right classes as they pursue their career and educational goals. Like all the other employees at Hancock, they love what they do. They also have moments when they feel overworked, underpaid and unappreciated. But they continue, often seeing dozens of students each day. Like their colleagues who teach part-time, they receive no health benefits, no vacation pay or any of the other perks enjoyed by the administration and the board.

The Part-Time Faculty Association sent a demand-to-bargain letter to the college president June 27, 2011. We then had several meetings with representatives of the administration in an attempt to resolve this matter. We suggested the counselors’ hours be restored, and they be allowed to work the hours they were promised and earn the pay they deserved before the change was made.

The administration chose to take a hard line, rejecting every solution we offered. When it became clear we could not resolve this matter through negotiation, we sought legal counsel. Our attorneys told us we had the basis for an unfair labor practice charge, and on our behalf they have been filing the necessary motions with the Public Employees Relations Board. Attorneys representing the district have filed counter-motions, and the usual back-and-forth legal wrangling ensued.

On May 10, we were informed the Public Employees Relations Board has issued a complaint against the Hancock College District.

The case is not over, and a final determination has yet to be made. But it is important to point out the college district is spending more money opposing this matter than it would have spent had it simply done the right thing and restored the hours unfairly taken away from the counselors. When you consider the high cost of attorney fees, and the time spent on this by well-paid administrators who have many other matters to attend to, it is easy to see the administration and taxpayers would have been better served if common sense had prevailed.

In the bygone days of Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller, companies often spent more money fighting their workers when they asked for a raise than they would have spent had they given the modest increase in pay their employees were seeking. Stubbornly, and to the detriment of all, these titans of industry would refuse to yield and ended up paying for it in the long run.

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The college administration and board have adopted a similar mentality. They need to remember they are educators, not corporate chieftains. They need to remember this is not a Fortune 500 company, but an institution of higher learning, whose task is to serve the students and the community. A common-sense approach would serve them, the community, the students and education much better than the us-vs.-them philosophy that has prevailed in the past.

 

Mark James Miller is president of the Part-Time Faculty Association of Allan Hancock College, California Federation of Teachers Local 6185. He can be reached at sunrune@charter.net.

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