PAnorama: September 2006
College Pays $ 42, 255 for Outside Negotiator
by Alison Doughtie
As a result of two Freedom of Information requests, the Professional Association has learned that the Syracuse law firm Hancock, Estabrook had been paid $42,255.03 as of September 18 for legal services, including retaining attorney John Corcoran to act as chief spokesperson for the MVCC Board of Trustees in negotiations with the College's faculty and professional staff.
Documents provided to PA President Ellis Gage Searles on August 1 and September 27 show billings for services in increments ranging 15 minutes to 12 hours. The hourly rate, while not specifically noted, appears to be $175.
The precise nature of every billable service and expense is unknown because MVCC's Freedom of Information officer, Vice-President Ralph Feola, declined to provide all the information requested, citing the College's right to exempt from disclosure certain portions of the records.
It is likely, however, that the quarter-hour service portions are for such things as telephone calls. Others, representing several hours, could be for coming from Syracuse to appear in person at meetings in Utica. Some dates coincide with mediation sessions and Board of Trustees meetings. Expenses for long-distance phone calls, postage, faxes, photocopies, “computerized legal research,” mileage, and support personnel are listed.
These documents cover the period from July 2005 to August 2006. Therefore, costs for fact finding—with the possible exception of time involved in filing the application itself with the Public Employees Relations Board and reaching agreement on the selection of a fact finder—are not yet shown. Future billings for travel to and attendance at fact-finding sessions, researching and writing a brief, and related consultations with MVCC administrators and Board members will likely add significantly to the total.
In negotiations of the past ten years, the College Administration and Board of Trustees have been represented by two MVCC employees, the Human Resources Director and the Vice-President of Administrative Services. The Professional Association team, elected from within the membership, represented the faculty and professional staff.
The Board of Trustees having opted this time for an approach that includes professional negotiators has meant that the PA's Labor Relations Specialist Jim Henck now acts as chief spokesperson for the Association team. Such assistance with negotiations is provided to locals by NYSUT, our statewide union, as one of its services, a benefit of affiliation.
VOTE/COPE: The Right Time to Get On Board
by Bill Perrotti
October is now upon us and for the Professional Association, it is VOTE-COPE month. VOTE-COPE is the political outreach effort that enables NYSUT to be an ever-present force in Albany and Washington in support of labor and education issues. NYSUT works constantly as a non-partisan force to preserve and improve state aid to public education (including community colleges), preserve teacher and public employee pensions, protect teacher rights, and safeguard the right to organize (to name but a few issues). Most importantly for us locally, the PA uses the 40% of our local contribution that is returned to remain visible in central New York and to participate in the local political scene. The PA's visibility and consistent, ongoing, local political involvement have been significant elements in recent contract settlements and it will be even more important in the effort that will surely be required for us to prevail in the current round of bargaining.
As VOTE-COPE Coordinator, I hope that every member of the PA can be contacted individually and personally about donating to the NYSUT VOTE-COPE effort within the next thirty days and that an increasing number of colleagues will decide to support this important and effective initiative. We have entered this new academic year clearly aware of what this administration thinks of faculty and professional staff. Now that we are nearly 400 days into this negotiations cycle, you most likely have a level of frustration that matches your anger at the fact that so much of what we hold dear in terms of compensation, workplace conditions, and retirement benefits is under serious attack.
The solution to the College's approach is for us to bring every resource at our disposal and all of our resolve to this fight for our institution and our jobs. A very important element in that arsenal is VOTE-COPE.
Given that, this is a perfect time to contribute to this essential NYSUT (and PA) initiative. Many members are already contributors. Every officer and committee chair contributes. Members of every department or administrative area are represented in the list of contributors. Payment is as easy as payroll deduction. If that's not to your liking, you can write a personal check. If you are not as yet a contributor, this is a perfect time for you to start.
Consider $1 or $2 per pay period. If you already contribute, please consider increasing your donation by $1 each pay period. Remember, none of the real progress we have made in recent rounds of bargaining could have happened without the help of VOTE-COPE and the PA's involvement in the community and in the local political process. We need to continue that now more than ever . For that, we need you all to contribute.
It's an investment in ourselves and it only makes us stronger. Please decide to join this effort today. Thanks.
Several Questions - But Only One Good Answer
by Ellis Gage Searles
Our contract expired almost 400 days ago. During these many months, PA members and others—friends, family, and people in the community—have expressed their concern, often in the form of two questions: “Why?” and “What can be done about it?”
Why is there still no new contract? Hard to say. Going into these negotiations I, for one, did not expect this to happen. Based on the events since our last agreement had been reached, I was optimistic.
During those years, as always, PA members individually and collectively had continued to sustain the College, developing innovative programs, teaching with energy and enthusiasm, serving students, and reaching out to the community. We bring honor to our institution every day and we've been recognized for it with state and national awards. We uphold MVCC's reputation for excellence.
This is a source of pride for us, and we're not the only ones who are aware of it. Praise for our work comes from every quarter—including the College President and the Board of Trustees.
Why then, when the time comes to reward these extraordinary efforts, the very ones that make us the “best community college in America,” would we have trouble? Why the impasse at the bargaining table?
It's truly puzzling. Before we sat down to talk, the situation looked promising. In addition to widespread acknowledge-ment of the crucial value of our ongoing professional contri-butions to the College, so much else seemed to point in a positive direction.
For instance, there are the College's own stated goals and objectives. Time and again, the problems of low salaries and bad morale have been discussed on campus. From very early on, Strategic Planning saw that correcting this had to be a priority goal. President Schafer has repeatedly stated his desire to raise our salaries to the level of our peers. The College has not hesitated to say publicly that poor pay is an obstacle both to attracting and retaining high-quality faculty and professional staff and to rewarding dedicated service.
Wouldn't this be the time to address it?
First of all, there doesn't seem to be any real fiscal reason not to.
We know that increased state and local funding has come to MVCC in each of the last few years. Shouldn't it have a positive impact on the admittedly inadequate salaries of the faculty and professional staff?
As PA president I have often urged the membership to reach out politically, to get involved in informing the budgeting and policy decisions that are made here in Oneida County and in Albany. I tell everyone, “What's good for the College is good for us.” And our efforts have made a difference. Budget allocations from our state and local sponsors have gone up. The PA's statewide affiliate, NYSUT, with our help and on our behalf made increased funding for community colleges a high priority in its legislative agenda, and the result was more base aid than community colleges had seen in a decade. Our local sponsor stepped up, too, increasing the College's funding last year when many other County agencies faced cuts. Local legislators understand what a serious impact low salaries have on MVCC and express support for increasing them through the budget process.
So, dialogue with lawmakers has helped to raise awareness of our issues and to bring more resources to the College. But the PA's effort to improve communication has not been limited to elected representatives.
As an organization we've reached out in many ways to our communities both on and off campus. We've contributed to fund raisers and volunteered for good causes. Here on campus, we've reached out as an organization to our students, honoring them at commencement, providing pens for registration, and funding an annual scholarship. And we've sought in a variety of ways to open up better channels of communication with the College's Administration and Board of Trustees.
In view of all this, why would the Trustees decide to hire an outsider to deal with us on their behalf?
For years, members of the College community—representatives of the Administration and of the Association—sat down together in negotiations and discussed the vital issues affecting our professional lives. Everyone there had a real stake in the outcome, and real understanding of its impact. Heated though they might have occasionally been, these talks led in a timely fashion to agreements acceptable to both parties. It was a system that had been working well for a very long time.
Why was it changed?
I still don't know the answer. But I do know that we now find ourselves in a very bad place.
Negotiations have been at impasse for months. Morale is at an all-time low. Meaningful, productive communication between the Administration and the faculty and professional staff is almost non-existent. And these realities distract us from the very important work we do. This would be a problem whenever it happened. But it's especially troublesome this year when our expertise and energy will be needed not only for meeting the full-time demands of educating our students but also for guiding a Middle States accreditation self-study and searching for a new president.
Why are we without a contract? Good question.
What can be done about it? Another good question. To this one, though, I can respond.
Negotiations so far have been unsuccessful, and mediation has failed. Now we go to fact finding. This means our team will continue its work in a new arena with the opportunity to articulate our positions and defend our proposals before a neutral party. Sam, Marie, Paul, Rose, and Jim are hard at work organizing data and completing preparations. Our NYSUT representative, Jim Henck, continues as our valued advisor and spokesperson. Whatever can be done at the table will be done—superbly—by our team.
But we all know that success in negotiations doesn't just come from what happens at the table. It comes from the steady, daily determination of every member of the Professional Association. To secure the fair contract we know we deserve, we stand together. In every way possible, we demonstrate our unwavering support. We don't get tired. We don't leave it to someone else. When our team needs us, we are there.
Solidarity. That's what we do about it. It's the only answer.
Internal Communications: Speakers Present Variations on a theme to Board of Trustees
Professors Kathy Bernstein, David Katz, and Beverly Quist have addressed the Board of Trustees in recent meetings. While each has presented her or his own perceptions of the state of morale on campus, there has been one central theme: disappointment with the College's lack of collegiality and forethought.
Each of the speakers has had a long, involved, and distinguished career at MVCC. Kathy Bernstein has taught at the College for 27 years, David Katz for 25, and Beverly Quist for 17. Aside from the length of their tenure, they have all been deeply involved in and contributors to the well being of the College. All have made teaching and the best interests of their students their top priorities.
Kathy has coordinated placement testing, developmental studies, and the English as a Second Language program. David has represented MVCC in and out of the College. He's been a member of the College Senate, a contributor to the Speaker's Bureau, a coach, and a teacher of social dance, among other roles. Beverly has also served the College in her work on various committees such as the Senate, the Strategic Planning Committee, the General Education Committee, and the College Curriculum Committee. She's represented the College in the broader community as president of the Justice Studies Association as well as by serving on the boards of the YWCA, the Peacemaker Program, and GroWest, to name a few.
All commented on their professional and personal connections to MVCC, and noted that their experiences are not unique. David stated many think of MVCC as family “and that we often spend more time on campus than with our real families.” In fact, the College community and, more practically, health-care benefits and job security supported his recovery after a cycling accident prevented him from teaching for a year. Beverly emphasized that her work in restorative justice has led her to emphasize the importance of a “community of care” in day-to-day relationships.A community of care rests on belonging, a sense of membership, and a sense of reciprocity. MVCC has been her “community of care,” she said.
Aside from the personal and professional connections to the College, however, these speakers expressed their frustration at our current state of contract negotiations.
Kathy Bernstein voiced her concerns about attracting and retaining new faculty, not to mention a new president, in the current atmosphere. David Katz seemed mystified by the College's refusal to recognize and reward all of the efforts—big and small—of the faculty and professional staff. As he said, “you need ‘lots of little' to start a fire. We are the ‘little.'” Beverly Quist noted that the Board has acted “as if it had no family” and asked three striking questions: What kind of college climate do we want?Are we colleagues? Is MVCC the Board's “community of care”?
These three professionals represent the commonalities among the teaching and professional staff: our dedication to our students and community, but at the same time our frustration and disbelief at the Board's seeming lack of interest in working cooperatively to ensure that “MVCC is the best community college in America.”
Internal Communications: PA's "News and Views" Sets the Trend
by Bill McGowan
Never did I think I would be recording broadcasts at my dining room table. Time and technology have shattered the way messages and advertising are made and delivered to the masses. Podcasting was inevitable—it was the next logical step in the evolution of “blogging.” Although many of my friends and colleagues are familiar with blogging, not many have heard of podcasting (sometimes referred to as webcasting), and fewer understood how it was done.
When the contract negotiations began to falter, the union needed ideas to advertise its plight to its members, and to reach a broader audience with other unions. So, in the early spring while sitting next to my pool, I peeked into the bottom of my Corona bottle and there was the answer—Podcasting! After bringing the idea up at a PA ICC (Internal Communications Committee) meeting, I got a few blank stares. Then, after processing all my “techno-babble” about podcasting, eyes began to light up and they decided to give it a try. The ICC committee became the vanguard of union podcasting and ushered in a new era of electronic activism . We are actually the first union in New York State with our own podcast—but not for long. NYSUT in Albany spoke with me recently about the idea and is also interested in the concept of podcasting
Podcasting was in its infancy in 2005. With the help of I tunes and other syndication feeds, the concept began to grow up in 2006. The growth of podcasting has been tremendous. Business and industry quickly began to see the value of this highly targeted “on-demand” type of broadcasting. On some of the bigger named podcasts, businesses began to pay for advertising—another Internet cash cow! It is now a popular method used for delivering lectures in an academic environment. The concept is simple: record your show on your computer, and clean it up with a sound-editing program, like Apple's Sound Track Pro, and save it as a streaming MP3 file. Then, add some music and a little advertising and a star is born. You now have your own Internet radio show.
Once your show is recorded, it must be submitted to an “RSS Feed.” Wikipedia defines RSS as “ . . .a simple XML (extensible mark-up language) based system that allows users to subscribe to their favorite websites. Using RSS, a webmaster can put their content into a standardized format, which can be viewed and organized.” RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication . Another form of RSS is referred to as an Atomic feed . Since I tunes has an RSS feed, I decided to submit it to Apple where listeners can subscribe to our podcast. Listeners also have the option to access the PA podcast from either the PA website, or in I tunes itself. Our podcast is listed in the Education Category under Higher Education in I tunes.
Now all we needed was a moderator—our star. That's when “Broadcast Bob” Musante stepped up and became the online voice of the PA. We quickly found that Bob, much like Larry King and Imus, was not afraid to ask the tough questions. He brought such a high level of energy to the podcast that he challenged even the volume control on the sound mixing board (and my supply of Corona).
In addition to being a vehicle for electronic activism, we hope to branch out and interview students and community personalities on topics and issues relevant to the MV community, and to use it as a vehicle to disseminate general information about the college and the community. Over time, as we gain experience, we hope to improve on what we started. We are always looking for new ideas and people to interview, and welcome suggestions from the PA membership. Suggestions may be emailed to
Fall has arrived, the leaves are changing, and the weather is getting cooler. Now as I sit by my pool in a down vest, I wonder what ideas I'll find in the bottom of my cup of Irish coffee. Take a peek in the bottom of your cup and see what ideas you can come up with for the PA.
Semper Fidelis . . .
Political Outreach: Candidate Endorsements by the Central New York Labor Council
by Bill Perrotti
This summer, the COPE Committee of the CNY Labor Council met on several evenings to screen candidates for a variety of local, county, state and federal offices and to decide on labor endorsements for these offices. As 1st Vice President and Labor Council Treasurer and PA delegate, I participated in these sessions. As is always the case, the delegates who participated are members of a number of different locals in the Utica/Rome area.
In addition to the MVCCPA (NYSUT), the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, United Mine Workers, United Automobile Workers, and Communication Workers of America were among the unions that were represented during these screenings. As I look back over my years of union involvement, few things stand out as more memorable and rewarding than participation in the CNY Labor Council.
It is in this arena that blue collar truly meets white collar under the umbrella of unionism and each delegate comes to appreciate and understand the range of issues that matter to fellow unionists in a wide range of occupations. There is nothing healthier than members of diverse labor organizations working together to better the lives of all working men and women.
As I have explained before, the Labor Council reviews a much wider range of offices than does the PA. PA members should also understand that recommendations of the Labor Council COPE Committee are based on a wider range of issues than are the endorsement decisions of the PA.
As I participate in these screenings and exercise my vote as a participating delegate, I hope you all understand that I check my deeply held partisan views at the door. I vote for those candidates whose views most support the agenda of organized labor and the needs of the MVCCPA as determined by the PA leadership.
Realizing that the exercise of your right to vote is a very personal and private matter, I hope you'll consider the carefully considered preferences of the local labor community as you consider your individual votes in the upcoming general election.
The Labor Council endorsements are listed below.
United States Senator :
Hillary Rodham Clinton (D)
United States Representative :
Michael A. Arcuri (D)
New York State Governor :
Eliot Spitzer (D)
New York State Attorney General :
Andrew Cuomo (D)
New York State Senator :
Joseph Griffo (R)
James Seward (R)
New York State Assembly :
RoAnn DeStito (D)
David Townsend (R)
Marc Butler (R)
Family Court Judge :
Randall Caldwell (R)
Joan Teuchert Skhane (D)
No Endorsement Given : Oneida County Sheriff
Oneida County Clerk
It is important that you also realize that the New York State United Teachers have also endorsed the same individuals listed above for the listed federal and state offices.
Benefits Fund: PA Benefits Fund to Increase Benefits
by Paul Halko
The MVCC Professional Association Benefits Fund is proud to announce the enhancement of two of the benefits provided by the Fund to bargaining unit members.
The Fund Trustees recently voted to approve the purchase of an increased level of benefit in the Group Life Insurance and Accidental Death and Dismemberment policies. Currently each benefit provides $25,000. The enhanced benefit will be a $50,000 life insurance policy and an additional $50,000 benefit for Accidental Death and Dismemberment.
Details will follow.
In addition to life insurance and AD& D, the PA Benefits Fund also provides an excellent vision plan, long-term disability insurance, and a travel assistance plan. To learn more about these benefits, you can go to the PA website www.pa.org or contact Paul Halko, PA Benefits Fund Chair.
If you have not yet signed up for the PA Benefits Fund, you can sign up on the PA website. All bargaining unit members are eligible. Eligibility begins six months after your hire date.
Marie Czarnecki Honored at NYSUT Dinner
PA member Marie Czarnecki was honored for her faithful union service at a dinner held June 9, 2006 at Daniele's at Valley View. Nominated by the Professional Association's Executive Board, Marie received an Outstanding Service Award from the NYSUT Regional Office at its Fourth Annual Recognition Dinner.
Joining in the celebration with colleagues from school districts throughout Oneida and Herkimer Counties were Association members Mike Donaruma, Steve Getchell, Paul Halko, Bob Musante, Bill Perrotti, and Ellis and George Searles.
Regional Office Director Fred Monaco presented plaques to the award recipients as their names and photos were displayed on a large screen behind the podium. Souvenir booklets distributed to all guests contained tributes to the honorees.
About Marie, it said:
"Marie Czarnecki, as Secretary of the Professional Association, tends tirelessly to the needs of the organization, keeping meticulous records, meeting every deadline, and remembering all the details. Yet this is just one of her many roles.
Since the beginning of her career at MVCC, Marie Czarnecki has worked within our union to make it stronger—as negotiator, writer, editor, researcher, advisor, supporter, and organizer.
Without fanfare, she quietly and effectively does whatever needs doing.
PA colleagues past and present have recognized this truth: the Association could not be what it is without her selfless dedication.
So, today, we thank her.”
One Retiree's Perspective on the Past: Formation of the Professional Association
by Al Christensen
The PA was formed in the late ‘60s or early ‘70s after the faculty was told they were permitted to organize under the Taylor Law. The administration called a meeting of the faculty and Chuck Schmidt of the Business Department explained the Taylor Law to us. The general impression at the time was that we could now form a faculty bargaining unit that was empowered to make changes. Later, it became clear the Law did not grant any legal empowerment or the option of withdrawing services. It did not grant governance or any process to attain governance.
We were granted permission to do what we could have done without the law, form a faculty association. But now it was explicitly illegal to strike.
If you are told you can do something it's not the same as finding out you have to do it to free yourself from injustice. The law might have been a defusing device to satisfy faculty enough to avoid any real conflict over wages, benefits, security and governance. The first meeting to form a group was small, not very active, a little timid, and confused being uninitiated in independent action.
Each following meeting became larger as the faculty members became bolder and more assured they would not suffer repercussions from joining a faculty union. The first president was David Chamberlain of the Biology Department.
While I was President, the PA voted to become part of NYSUT.
The vote was close. As I recall from the discussions, many members were concerned we could not go it alone and the others thought that we had learned a lot so far and could continue to grow on our own. The dues were also an issue.
At first we were mainly concerned with local conditions but after a while the PA became much more involved with local and state politics.
Community Outreach: Walk with the Union to Fight Cancer
by Steve Getchell
Hope Starts Here when you join us for the American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk on Sunday, October 15, 2006 at SUNY Institute of Technology.
We're trying to get a PA team together to show our solidarity and to raise much-needed funds and awareness for the fight against breast cancer. Breast cancer will strike more than 200,000 times this year and claim 40,000 lives, but more women than ever before are surviving breast cancer, thanks to early detection and better treatment. Since 1993, the American Cancer Society has raised more than $130 million from two million people through Making Strides events. Let's keep the ball rolling as "PA Striders ” on October 15th .
Forms will be available at SUNY IT on Walk Day or by contacting Steve Getchell at x5717 (PH 376). More information is also available at www.nysut.org/making strides.
Please wear your PA shirts or something with our logo. I'm checking on T-shirts that may be available from NYSUT. Please contact me if you have any questions. You may also purchase raffle tickets from me or other Community Outreach Committee members. The PA did very well last year, raising approximately $1000.00. Statewide, NYSUT raised nearly $700,000!! Thank you for your consideration and support.
Community Outreach: Local Tragedy Calls for PA Assistance
by Kathy Bernstein
Tejahn Kweh, one of our ESL students, and her family have suffered a terrible tragedy. The week before classes started, her father and three of her brothers were driving to work when they were in a car accident. One of her brothers and another passenger in the vehicle were killed immediately. Her other two brothers and her father were seriously injured. One of her brothers died two weeks later from his injuries. Her remaining brother and father are still hospitalized in Syracuse and will likely remain in the hospital for some time.
As you can imagine, the family is devastated, emotionally and financially. There are other siblings living at home and their primary source of income is gone. The members of the Professional Association can help this family through a very difficult time. In the coming weeks we will begin a series of drives to assist them. Thank you in advance for you generosity.