by Isabelle Saber
These two words have, for many years, formed the bedrock of our negotiations practice across employee groups on campus. The premise is quite simple: salary augmentations and health benefits agreements reached with one bargaining unit are offered to the other and extended to the non-unionized Management and Confidential (MaC) group as well. This practice--coined “ME TOO” at GCC--seems unusual to outsiders, as it may appear to infringe upon the autonomy of each union. However, many contend that it has been essential in creating a culture of cohesion on campus.
In recent years, this harmony has been disturbed a handful of times. Digging below the surface, one could hypothesize that the majority of disagreements across groups may be traced to differing definitions of “ME TOO.” While the “ME TOO” methodology has served us reasonably well within the framework of gains, it appears to be less adequate in the context of reductions. Classified employee layoffs of a decade ago have left some wounds unhealed, whereas short session cancellations, sharp reductions of pro-rata pay, and the loss of assignments for faculty have been difficult to digest in recent years. Added to the mix of “permanent” employees is the fate of adjunct instructors and unclassified individuals retained on an hourly basis; these two groups enjoy no protection whatsoever, are let go at a whim, and receive little or no benefits from the District.
These losses, devastating on their own merit, have been exacerbated by the perception that one group has suffered the brunt of our fiscal difficulties while other units have been relatively spared. During the last few years, the methodology of choice for cutting cost was to cancel classes; in some ways, the choice was warranted as we carried a very large number of unfunded FTES between 2007 and 2009. In fact, over this two-year period, we had accumulated close to 6,000 unfunded FTES: we were educating a LOT of students without receiving a penny of apportionment for them from the state. However, we are now at a point where we can no longer cut instruction without going into decline and losing funding. Furthermore, additional reductions would put us in violation of the Fifty Percent Law, a rule that requires that a minimum of fifty percent of unrestricted funds be expended in direct instruction.
If course offerings can no longer be reduced, the District has to cut non-instructional programs, reduce salaries, or lay off permanent employees. All three options are currently under review and might be exercised collectively or independently depending on the outcome of the election. As we hold our collective breaths and pray for the passage of Proposition 30, we need to ready ourselves for the worst case scenario and be able to cut several million dollars from our operating budget. While we engage in this difficult task, our understanding of “ME TOO” will surely be tested again. How do we grapple with permanent layoffs of classified employees and managers, the loss of assignments for adjunct faculty, the elimination of short session courses for all faculty, huge pay cuts for all remaining employees, and arrive at a solution that is equitable to all? I personally do not have a good answer.
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