PAnorama: February 2007
Good News for PA Members: A Contract and More
by Alison Doughtie
Once things finally started happening, they happened fast.
A new collective bargaining agreement between the Professional Association and the College has been signed by all the parties and is now in place.
Ratified overwhelmingly by the membership on December 15 and approved by the MVCC Board of Trustees the following Monday, the contract was then expedited by Oneida County and received final approval by the Board of Legislators on January 10.
Agreement had been reached in November after more than a year of negotiations between the PA team—Sam Drogo, Marie Czarnecki, Paul Halko, Rose Patterson, and Jim Vitale along with NYSUT Labor Relations Specialist Jim Henck—and the College's representatives. Impasse had been declared, mediation unsuccessful, and the fact-finding process initiated when a series of intensive, off-the-record bargaining sessions were undertaken in a final attempt to reach a settlement independent of fact-finding. These talks, which focused on a limited number of issues and ultimately proved successful, involved College President Michael I. Schafer and PA President Ellis Gage Searles, who was guided and supported by the PA team.
Highlights of the new five-year contract include 4% annual salary increases plus $350 in the last year of the agreement, longevity payments, and higher minimums for each rank and grade.
Among the benefits are a new health insurance option, a retirement benefit that continues as is until 2009-10 and then becomes sick leave conversion, and ongoing provision for the PA Benefits Trust Fund.
New promotion language creates an additional level for professional staff.
Improved sick leave allows for its application to overload teaching and up to two weeks for adoption or foster care. Bereavement leave can now be used for the death of a brother-in-law or sister-in-law.
These provisions, and the new contract as a whole, have been received very positively by the membership.
Further good news for PA members was also announced in January as Oneida County supplemented the MVCC budget with $150,000 for the purpose of increasing the salaries of the faculty and professional staff represented by the Professional Association. The College's local sponsor, in doing this, demonstrated its recognition of the need for better salaries to attract and retain highly qualified professionals at MVCC. To be distributed across the board, it represents another 1.7% salary increase for each member of the bargaining unit.
The full text of the 2005-10 collective bargaining agreement can be found at www.mvccpa.org .
by Ellis Gage Searles
The checks, as they say, are in the mail. Our benefits are in place, and new contract provisions improve the terms and conditions of our professional lives. It was a long time coming, but we have a good, solid, fair new contract at last.
First, we express our gratitude to those who made this happen. Our fabulous negotiating team tops the list, of course—Sam Drogo, Marie Czarnecki, Paul Halko, Rose Patterson, Jim Vitale—along with our wise and wonderful NYSUT LRS Jim Henck. Next is our tireless Executive Board. Special recognition must also go to Alison Doughtie and everyone on the Internal Communications Committee, whose cheerful creativity and high-energy planning made our mobilization efforts so effective. And we can't forget all our brothers and sisters in the membership who were “blue” on Mondays, who walked the walk, who spoke truth to power.
Solidarity led us here, and it sustains us still.
On campus, the year ahead looks promising. As always, we're encouraged by the success of our services, our programs, and our students. We continue to devote ourselves to the work that brought us all together in the first place, the work that makes MVCC the institution we're so proud of. With fewer distractions, we meet the special challenges before our college community—searching for a new president, renewing our accreditation, and maintaining our well-deserved reputation for excellence.
A new year is ahead for the PA, too, as we keep building on what we began decades ago. Our work is not finished. Even when we have a contract, we still have much to do. Standing up for what's right—supporting members, reaching out to our community socially and politically, joining together with brothers and sisters around the region and around the state—is what our union does. And it's what makes us strong.
So, together, we move forward.
Internal Communications: The Value of a Community College Education
by John Leuenberger (Recipient of 2006-2007 PA Student Scholarship)
Community colleges are the best value for education and self development available for most students. I am able to make this statement with a high degree of confidence after having experienced Clarkson University, a private four year school, and Mohawk Valley Community College. An obvious difference between the two schools is the cost of the education, but I feel it is the intangible benefits of a community college that have set the schools apart. My experience at Clarkson University was great. I received an excellent education, participated in many college activities, and became friends with people that I will remain in contact with for the rest of my life. I can also say the same about MVCC, but I can add to that list a local area focus and personal attention that each student receives from the faculty and staff.
My purpose at MVCC is to complete the prerequisites that are necessary for applying to medical school. I feel that I am very fortunate to have a school that is not only able to provide these courses at a reasonable cost, but is able to provide the intangible benefits that enhance the experience and provide motivation to excel in these areas. The local focus of the college has many benefits to the students and to the community. Being from the local area, I am able to stay with my family while attending classes and work on my family's dairy farm. I see how MVCC caters to local students by offering a variety of night classes to students who have families and jobs and are not able to take classes during the day. The flexibility of the college to meet the needs of a diverse group of students is proof of the commitment to the community.
Perhaps the largest difference in my experiences at a four year university and MVCC is the value of the professional staff's commitment to the students. The atmosphere of the community college lends itself to a personal relationship between students and their professors, advisors, and other faculty members. The university environment tends not to foster personal relationships because of class sizes and many professors' priorities are their research projects. Throughout my three semesters at MVCC I have developed several relationships with many of the faculty members that have had a significant positive impact on my educational experience and career goals. The professors are truly interested in the success of their students and have shown this by going above and beyond what is required of them. I have experienced this on several occasions, specifically with the honors projects that I have worked on. Last semester I did an honors project for Nutrition II and I received support from not only my mentor but also from several other faculty members. The day of the project presentation, several members of the Life Science Department had made themselves available to come and see the results of the project. It was quite overwhelming to see such support for student activities and to encourage participation in the honors program. This semester my honors project is in Organic Chemistry. I have already received a high level of support and enthusiasm from the Chemistry Department, not only from my mentor but also from a former professor, who has made it possible for me to complete the project on time by going out of his way to answer questions or make the lab available.
The quality of the community college education surpassed my expectations and prepared me for future challenges. The cooperation and individual attention that I have experienced while at MVCC has made my experience extremely valuable as I embark on a new career.
2006 Community College Conference: Building Solidarity
by Lew Kahler
“ I don't want to memorize the Gettysburg Address, I just want to find the bar.”
It was with these words from our fearless captain, Vice President Bill Perrotti, that he, George Zook, the official union navigator, and I set forth on a journey to this year's NYSUT Community College Conference at the Sagamore Hotel in Bolton's Landing. We arrived at the Sagamore late Friday night and were met by the other conference attendees: President Ellis Searles, Secretary Marie Czarnecki, Mike Sewall, Bill McGowan, Steve Getchell, Lorie Phillips, Jed Kimball and Alex Piejko. We settled into our accommodations, and prepared for a day filled with workshops and informative seminars.
On Saturday morning, several of our attendees started the day with a “new members” breakfast. Here we were given the history of the labor movement, and participated in a discussion of its conspicuous absence from today's history texts. The talk was led by Anne D'Orazio, President of Westchester Community College Federation of Teachers, and highlighted some of the most tragic, and heroic, moments in organized labor's history including the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire and the 1935 Labor Relations Act. Then the microphone was passed around the room, and many people shared their “Union moments.” These are the moments that each person felt was the defining moment in terms of their union activism. Our own Bill McGowan shared the story of his family and their history of involvement with organized labor, and Jed Kimball shared his experiences with the camaraderie and community involvement that was his entrée into the union world.
Once breakfast ended, we were ready for the several workshops that lay ahead. The first workshop I attended was a discussion of online and hybrid courses and the impact they have on union issues. The workshop was led by former MVCC instructor Cynthia Villanti, and was, to use a cliché, informative and fun. Along with several useful tips for the individual courses we design and teach, there was discussion about the language that should be used when discussing online courses and distance learning in contracts. We were given web sites to help guide individual locals in their own struggles to maintain autonomy over their courses and curriculum.
While I attended the online discussion, our very own political outreach liaison, Mike Sewall, was giving what I am told was a wonderful presentation on political outreach.
Several of us then attended either a session on the Taylor Law or “The role of student evaluations in the union.” George Zook said the discussion of the Taylor Law was incredibly engaging, and the evaluations session offered insight into the best practices of our fellow community colleges in terms of student evaluations.
After the morning sessions, we regrouped for lunch, where we shared the information that we gathered in the earlier sessions. The speaker at the lunch was Richard E. Casagrande, NYSUT Associate General Counsel, who discussed the history of academic freedom, and the attempts that have been made to destroy it. He informed us of several landmark court cases where academic freedom was upheld, and several wherein the very foundation of higher education, and the free exchange of ideas, were nearly undermined. Casagrande's talk was a prelude to the after-lunch workshop on academic freedom and laid the groundwork for the information to follow.
Next there was a mid-afternoon break, wherein everyone could relax, shop, or sit and chat. Several of us ventured into town to continue our discussion and engage in a bit of community outreach. When we returned, we were ready for the last of the afternoon sessions.
Some of us attended the workshop on academic freedom, while others partook of a seminar on discipline and dismissal. In the academic freedom session, David Horowitz and the academic Bill of Rights was debated and the resonance that such movements have on us was thoroughly discussed.
Once the sessions ended we gathered for a reception while President Searles attended the Ed 39 session. We then had dinner and spent the rest of the evening engaged in camaraderie and conversation.
The post-breakfast Sunday morning session was a contract exchange, where representatives from all of the different locals discussed issues facing the union today. This session was particularly helpful because it gave us insight into not only what other campuses face, but also how they deal with those issues. One topic of particular interest this year was post- tenure evaluation, which was discussed at length eclipsing a couple of the issues that were supposed to follow. The entire weekend was a resounding success, and as a first-time attendee, and new union member, I found it to be invaluable.
Along with the numerous workshops and informative presentations, there was time for commiserating with colleagues, discussing issues and even a touch of community outreach. At a time when the morale on campus is low, and the climate bleak, it was refreshing and rewarding to take time to get to know the wonderful colleagues that we have on this campus. I always have been inspired by the power that a small group of committed people can have in this world, and it was invigorating to be part of just such a group. The conversations that took place outside of the formal workshop arena were an opportunity to debate issues, affect change and, most importantly, bolster solidarity.
Michael B. Sewall: In Appreciation
The Professional Association is happy to see 2007 begin. New contract in hand, we're looking forward to working together as always, building our union and helping each other—making the PA strong.
But, at the same time, we realize that each one of us will have to work harder now. Mike Sewall has retired.
For more than three decades, Mike Sewall dedicated himself wholeheartedly to the College he loves so much, and to the union he has so strongly supported since it first came into existence. As a result, there are few on campus who haven't worked with Mike, who haven't seen the energy, commitment, and good humor he brings to every undertaking. His collegiality and devotion to the profession are legendary.
And the Association has certainly seen it up close.
Mike cares deeply about this organization, and he has given tirelessly of himself to help make good things happen. We always know we can count on him. This has been true in almost every aspect of our union's life, but it is most notable in our political outreach.
Years ago, the Association realized that becoming more active politically was an important thing for us to do. But it was Mike who really took on the job. Giving generously of his time and experience, he led our efforts as we reached out to local and state legislators and policy makers. As PA Political Outreach Chair, he attended countless fundraisers, hearings, receptions, and meetings. His encyclopedic knowledge of the College's history along with his strong belief in its critical role in the life of the region proved indispensable as we worked to improve awareness of our issues. As an earnest champion of the College's faculty and professional staff, Mike gained the respect of everyone he encountered.
The Professional Association owes Mike Sewall a debt of gratitude for all he's done on our collective behalf. He has given quietly and without fanfare, not looking for praise or recognition. But he truly, richly deserves it.
In Solidarity, In Celebration: PA Raises VOTE/COPE and Food Bank Contributions
Have you seen the canned food Christmas tree? Have you noticed Rick Rosero and his length of raffle tickets?
These pictures, which have been displayed beautifully in the PA bulletin boards around campus, were taken at the holiday social in December.
Although the PA socials are always fun, this one was remarkable in the donations members made to VOTE/COPE and to the Utica Community Food Bank.
The raffle of a 19-inch Toshiba flat screen TV may have been responsible. Members who increased their VOTE/COPE contributions by $1 per paycheck received an arm's length of raffle tickets. As a result, yearly VOTE/COPE contributions increased to over $1200.
But maybe a sense of solidarity, of what the PA can accomplish together, also had an impact. An additional $470 worth of raffle tickets were purchased at the dinner; this money, and approximately 600-800 cans of food (enough to fill at least half of Steve Getchell's truck-bed) were taken to the Utica Community Food bank.