By Josh Brokaw
Since Truthsayers last checked on the first contract battle between Ithaca College’s administration and its contingent faculty union, the two parties have come a bit closer on key proposals while tensions over tactics have increased.
On Monday, Feb. 20, and Friday, Feb. 24, contingent faculty members of SEIU Local 200, members of other local unions, and other folks demonstrated by Ithaca College’s entrance and marched onto campus in actions organized by the Tompkins County Workers’ Center.
Ithaca College’s public safety division took exception to the protests.
“As you are aware, Ithaca College is a private institution and our campus is private property,” public safety director Bill Kelly wrote in a Feb. 28 letter sent to SEIU Local 200 organizer Chris Machanoff. “Given the departure from protocols agreed to for the February 20st (sic) picketing and the events that occurred during the February 24th picketing, whereby the participants on that day disregarded traffic signals on a very busy highway, stopped traffic, entered the campus, picketed in violation of our rules and the ground rules I had conveyed, I want to clearly articulate for you the rules …”
Kelly continues in the letter to quote the college’s “Rules for the Maintenance of Public Order,” including requiring picketing to stay outside IC’s property lines, keep “all entrances and egressess” accessible, and asking 24 hours in advance for permission to demonstrate at “Free Speech Rock.”
Union organizers and members of Students for Labor Action, a group formed to support the contingent faculty, are taking exception to the rules. A protest is scheduled outside a Board of Trustees cocktail hour for 6 p.m. this Thursday evening.
Megan Graham, a union bargaining committee member and IC assistant professor of writing, called it a “you can’t prevent our right to protest protest” at a Students for Labor Action meeting held Wednesday night.
Union members told students they felt that what progress has been made in negotiations is “clearly connected to the rallies” and asked students to keep up their activity in support of faculty efforts.
Graham referenced the recent contingent faculty union contract agreed to at Barnard College and said they “won the whole package, and it was because they had strong student support.”
The two sides sat in separate rooms on Feb. 21 and 24 for two negotiating sessions, with a federal mediator playing go-between.
The administration said in a Feb. 24 posting that by the end of the second session, it had “made a proposal to the part-time unit to increase compensation by 14.3 percent over four years, which would bring the rate for teaching a three-credit course from the current $4,200 up to $4,800,” while offering the fact tentative agreements have been reached on at least 11 other articles. Most of those have been agreed to for weeks or months.
According to Rachel Kaufman, a writing instructor and bargaining committee member, the administration started last Friday’s session with “all the proposals in their court,” and kept committee members waiting in a windowless room for an hour and a half before their first proposal came through.
Full-time contingent faculty did get an offer from the administration that was “not just no” to their demands for more job security, Kaufman said. That is a first in negotiations.
The offer’s specifics, Graham said, included a promise to make a decision on a faculty member’s future after three years of being on one-year contracts.
“Could they fire you? Maybe. Could they eliminate the position and replace it with a three-year position you can interview for? Maybe. Maybe they can keep you on a one year contract.”
The union continues to push for more job security for full-time members, and pay parity per credit for part-time members. The last proposal they made on Feb. 24 would increase the college’s budget 0.29 percent over five years, they say, or about $700,000 per year. There are 230 part-time faculty members, that average 19.5 percent of a full-time employee in how much they teach. The faculty union estimates Ithaca College is spending $1,506,960 this year on paying part-time faculty.
In the union’s latest proposal, members would be paid $1,634 per credit hour, with a $100 bonus for people with four years of experience or more. That’s $4,902 per three-credit course, with the amount stepping up over five years to hit reach pay parity with full-time contingents at $2,050 per credit ($6,150 per course) in the 2020-21 academic year.
The administration says that future negotiating sessions are scheduled for March 8, 10, and 15.