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    A Contract at Last!

    1-Photo-Columnist-Mandelman_Rafael_housesZ (1)After a year and a half of negotiating, City College and its faculty union have finally achieved tentative agreement on a contract, subject to ratification by the union’s membership. As the Chancellor and members of the Board of Trustees explained at a press conference on July 14, the agreement provides our faculty the first significant increase in pay since 2007 and the assurance that if we are successful in rebuilding our enrollment over the three-year term of the agreement, faculty compensation will also increase. The contract achieves a balance between faculty’s reasonable demands for increased compensation and the College’s need to limit its ongoing financial commitments at a time of uncertainty about the College’s future enrollment and revenue.

    The contract guarantees faculty on-schedule salary increases totaling nearly 6%, possibly more depending on future cost of living funding increases from the State, and will finally lift our teachers up above the wages they were earning in 2007. In addition, they will also receive a further 4.68% increase during the contract term, which will become permanent if certain conditions are met (i.e., the parcel tax increase on this November’s ballot passes and the College’s enrollment grows). Additional on-schedule increases are possible as well, depending on the extent of enrollment growth.  Finally, the restoration of a step increase lost during the recession and the addition of new steps will ensure further pay increases for a majority of faculty.

    The contract negotiations were long and painful, I think, for a number of reasons. The first, as regular readers of this column know, relates to the College’s steep decline in enrollment during the accreditation crisis. Although SB 860, Senator Mark Leno’s bill stabilizing funding for City College, has provided significant relief for the College, our stabilization funding runs out this year, and going forward the College’s revenues from the State will reflect the College’s actual diminished enrollment. As a consequence, the College is facing the annual loss of $25 million, and possibly more, beginning in the 2016–17 fiscal year.

    I believe a second reason this agreement took so long was related to the administrative turnover at the College. During the course of the negotiations, the College brought in a new interim Chancellor and twice switched Vice Chancellors of Finance and Administration. Plus, the College’s head of employee relations retired several months ago. That kind of turnover has a real impact on the institution’s ability to make progress in many areas, including in labor negotiations.  My strong hope is that we will see greater administrative stability at the College in the months and years ahead; City College desperately needs it.

    And a third reason relates to a breakdown in trust at the College. After surviving (barely) the worst recession since the Great Depression, the College was immediately swept into the accreditation crisis and all the disruption it brought with it: five chancellors and two State-appointed Special Trustees in five years, the suspension of the locally elected Board (only recently restored to full authority), and as mentioned above, stagnant and in fact reduced wages over nearly a decade.  City College’s employees weren’t responsible for either the recession or the accreditation crisis, but they suffered the impacts of both, leaving morale low and distrust widespread.

    In the end the mandatory fact-finding process appears to have played a role in bringing the parties close enough in their shared understanding of the facts to allow them to negotiate mutually acceptable terms for this contract. For that, great credit goes both to the fact-finding panel and the union leadership and negotiating team, as well as to the College’s negotiators, all of whom recognized, I think, that City College very much needed to settle the contract before the fall semester begins.

    With these contract negotiations finally behind us, the College is in a much stronger position to make our case for continued accreditation to the ACCJC visiting team this fall and to pursue our many other priorities, including rebuilding enrollment, extending our parcel tax and implementing Jane Kim’s Free City College proposal recently passed, at least in concept, by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors. Significant challenges remain, to be sure, but City College’s future is looking brighter and brighter. And did I mention? We remain open, accredited, and the best bargain in higher education. Now is a great time to take a class. Enroll today at

    Rafael Mandelman is an attorney for the City of Oakland. He is also President of the City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees.