To the Editor…

by on May 10, 2016

Subject: SF College Faculty Strike for Justice

I appreciate Carl Finamore’s article on our struggle at City College of SF. The larger political context he provides is important to know and remember. Only by resisting the corporate reformers publicly, with the support of community allies, has momentum started to turn in our favor. Indeed, AFT 2121 has been an essential part of that fightback.

There have been some mistakes made, however, that are worth mentioning. For one, our last contract battle, settled in 2013, was a serious setback. While the administration withdrew various odious demands, ultimately, the union approved a 4% pay cut. Nearing a lawsuit with our accreditor at the time led many union leaders to feel compelled to settle relatively quickly. They didn’t want the distraction.

On top of this, there was literally no attempt by the union to build public resistance during negotiations. Not one rally or informational picket was organized. The union’s strategy at the time, actually, was to separate the contract fight from the larger accreditation legal battle. Indeed, during the contract fight, the union held a successful rally in the city with community allies against the potential “closing” of the college without including our contract/faculty fight as part of the message. I was on the Executive Board at the time and I couldn’t convince other board members to have so much as a press conference for our contract battle. What a missed opportunity to link our struggle with student access and educational quality! What a missed opportunity to build our own members confidence and organizing skills! Doing these things would only have aided us in our current battle.

Faculty haven’t received a pay raise since 2007. Adjusted for inflation, faculty are more than 20% below 2007 pay levels. Given the city’s housing crisis, this is obviously unacceptable, especially when there is money in the district for a raise. The time for concessions is over.

Thankfully, the union is now acting more consistently with the CTU’s model in organizing a public, community fightback for a fair contract. Many of us are welcoming and participating in that. The strike, overall, felt very successful. Faculty are feeling more empowered. It’s clear, though, that more public actions, including another possible strike, are necessary. Union leaders are openly talking about it being a 1 or 2 day strike only, though. Will that be enough? This administration’s business/corporate mindset and intransigence at the table are clear. The administration won’t be moved by “smart negotiating” alone. They need to feel and see the public pressure. Rank-and-file faculty should use the momentum from the strike to hold the union leadership more accountable and build more concrete actions for the future.

In struggle,

Mike Estrada, Political Science Instructor

Filed under: Letters to the Editor