SFCC faculty union: Board holding up contract talks
School leaders say they’re negotiating in good faith; handling of raises irks group
A union representing faculty at Santa Fe Community College says contract negotiations have stalled, and in an effort to restart talks, it has filed two complaints against the governing board with the school’s Labor Management Relations Board.
The complaints allege the governing board has failed to negotiate in good faith and accuse college leaders of denying 3 percent raises to union members that were given to all other employees earlier this year.
The complaints could lead to a labor board hearing in which governing board members would be forced to return to the negotiating table.
Marci Eannarino, lead organizer of the 1½-year-old union and a teacher in the college’s English department, said Thursday the union began negotiating with the governing board about a year ago. The two sides have met at least once a month since January, she said, but little progress has been made on a new contract.
“It is typical that contracts like this can take a year or sometimes even longer,” she said of the new union’s efforts. “And we feel there is still room to negotiate. We feel like we have lots of room to agree with them. But they just need to come to the table.”
Board President Linda Siegle said the college is still in the process of negotiations. “Obviously we feel we are negotiating in good faith,” she said. “We are doing our best.”
Cecilia Cervantes, the college’s interim president, said in an email: “The college cannot comment on the details of matters pending before an administrative body. … SFCC has been engaged in goodfaith bargaining for 12 months and the parties continue through the bargaining process in accordance with law.”
Regarding the 3 percent salary increases given to nonunion staff earlier this year, Eannarino said governing board members have said they want to
finalize an agreement with the union before deciding on raises for workers it represents.
While it’s the college’s right to “not play ball there,” Eannarino said, she believes the board could have found a way to ensure all employees got raises.
Cervantes and Siegle, however, both said that by law, the college must negotiate such raises with the collective bargaining unit.
Santa Fe Community College opened in 1983. Since that time, repeated efforts to organize unions there have failed. Then, in March 2017, full-time faculty members voted 39-3 to be represented by a new affiliate of the American Association of University Professors. At that time, Eannarino said the new union — which represents between 50 and 55 employees — would give faculty members a stronger voice.
But the road to negotiations has been paved with bumps.
One of the two complaints the group filed says the college’s governing board in September proposed a “last best offer” and then declared the two parties were at an impasse.
And during a September governing board meeting at the college, union members showed up in force to request that negotiations continue.
Former Santa Fe Mayor David Coss also attended, asking the board to “use your leadership here. … Be pro-union.
Eanarrino told the board the union was disappointed in the lack of progress. The union was beginning to question its desire to find a solution, she said.
Siegle disagreed, telling the crowd the board has faith in the negotiating process. “I don’t believe anyone on the board is not supportive of unions,” she said.
Despite the complaints, Eanarrino said Thursday that as far as the union is concerned, negotiations are ongoing. She hopes the complaints prod governing board members to return to the table to talk, she said.
The Labor Management Relations Board has scheduled a public meeting at 9:15 a.m. Friday in the college’s governing board room. The agenda indicates the labor board might discuss the union’s complaints at that time.