PAnorama: January 2009
Food and Festivities at January Luncheon
The PA's January luncheon always provides a great opportunity for friends and colleagues to reconnect and socialize, and this year's gathering was no exception.
The 2008 PA Scholarship winner, Oleg Andriyenko, was announced (please see page 4, his essay on the value of a community college education); we were able to applaud the new retirees (Bob Clarke, Jim Gifford, Angelo Lattuca, Dennis Lee, and John Siegenthaler) and to welcome those previous retirees who were able to join us; we welcomed new members, and we heard a brief but informative PA update from our 1st VP, Lew Kahler.
1st VP Kahler urged the members to fax legislators regarding cuts to funding to community colleges. He told members that the PA will be involved in five lobbying efforts this semester in Albany to fight for funding so that we can continue the good work that we do.
Another thing Lew conveyed was that the PA has been studying the academic reorganization plan as it unfolds. For more information, please see the president's article on page 3.
From the President's Desk
by Ellis Gage Searles
Over the last few weeks, I've had conversations with several of you about the College's reorganization of Learning and Academic Affairs, and I know that others in the PA leadership have been having those conversations as well. Since we all share at least some concern about the changes, I thought it might be helpful to provide an update on the involvement of the Professional Association in the process. As always, we have been proactive, examining each aspect of the reorganization through the lens of our contract.
Although academic reorganization has been under discussion within the College administration for some months, the details of this proposed plan have been coming into clearer focus for most of us in the college community only since the all-faculty meeting at the start of this semester. At that meeting, and at the College Senate meeting the following day, a new organizational chart was unveiled, outlining an extensive restructuring of the academic departments. In draft form, it was discussed at those meetings and at two subsequent open forums on January 28. Additional open forums are anticipated, and comments and suggestions have been invited by VP Eannace, but the plan is to be finalized in the next month or so and then presented to the Board at its March meeting.
I missed the meetings earlier in January, but others in the PA leadership were there, and I naturally learned about the substance of the presentations from them and from other colleagues when I got back to campus. Also, I did attend the January 28th open forum, as did many of you.
Of course, as the proposed plan has been articulated, the Association has been attentive to any aspects that have collective bargaining implications—anything that might affect contractual terms and conditions for PA members—and we've been studying it carefully. Four Executive Board members (1 st VP Lew Kahler, Grievance Chair Dawson McDermott, Negotiations Chair Sam Drogo and I) met recently with Jim Henck, our NYSUT Labor Relations Specialist, to review what we have learned so far, and we continue to communicate as questions arise.
In addition, Dr. Eannace and I have begun what is to be an ongoing dialogue about the potential impact of any proposed changes on our contract and our members. Our first meeting was cordial and productive, and we have committed ourselves to maintaining this open communication, based on the full awareness of our mutual obligation to adhere to the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement and to negotiate any proposals that may change it. In keeping with the mutually cooperative, problem-solving approach that has characterized the relationship between the PA and the new College administration, I fully expect that we'll be able to work out satisfactory solutions to any potential problems.
Naturally, I'll keep you informed about developments. And I hope you'll let me know if you have questions along the way.
Internal Communications: The Value of a Community College Education
by Oleg Andriyenko, 2008-2009 PA Scholarship Winner
“Receive my instruction, and not silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold.” (Bible, Proverbs 8:10)
In the U.S., education is very important. To have a good-paying job, people need to have an education. There are many educational institutions in America, among them community colleges. Is there any difference between community and private colleges? What is the value of a community college education?
Many community colleges offer courses to high school juniors and seniors. High school students can select courses for which they receive both high school and college credit. This saves families considerable money in the short term and encourages young students to continue their education. With dual enrollment classes, teens earn high school and college credits at the same time.
Many community colleges offer English as a second language classes for international students. This gives an opportunity to non-native speakers to learn English faster and go forward for better employment. I studied ESL 4 at Mohawk Valley Community College and that was a great help to improve my English. From my own experience, I can say that it is awesome encouragement when professional staff help international students to achieve their goals in learning English.
Community colleges are part of the government educational system. Articulation agreements between two-year and four-year colleges are quite common. After finishing community college, students can easily transfer to the state university. Most universities offer equivalent courses with community colleges, meaning that the first two years of study should transfer with no problems along the way to a higher degree.
Community colleges differ from private colleges in that they are much cheaper to attend. “Let's look at some numbers. The average cost for a full-year of tuition and fees at a community college is just $2,076, compared to $5,100 at a public, four-year university and $20,081 at a private, four-year university, according to the College Board” (“Community College: A Stepping Stone to Higher-Education Savings” by Lucy Lazarony, bankrate.com). Not everyone can afford to go to private college. People with a low income and international students prefer to go to community college. Tuition at most community colleges is about half the price of a public four-year college or university and about one-tenth the price of a private institution. This makes community college an affordable option for the students interested in pursuing new careers and garnering the skills necessary to land secure employment with high wage-earning potential. This is the way in which students can greatly reduce their overall expenses, when it comes to getting a college degree, by attending a community college for the first two years of a college educational experience. Students can literally save thousands of dollars over the course of spending two years at the community college level.
The value of a community college education cannot be underestimated. I think this is an awesome idea to have government support educational institutions. In my native country, Ukraine, I did not have that opportunity. People have to pay big money to get an associate's degree, and there is no guarantee they will have a job after finishing college. I am a nursing student at MVCC right now and very glad to have an opportunity for a better future which I would not have in Ukraine. Students looking for a real value in education—whether or not they only go for a two-year degree or move on to a university in order to finish a four-year degree—will find that a community college education offers a significant value.
Employee Free Choice Act - Good For America
by Pat Costello
Pat Costello is a member of IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) and the current president of the AFL-CIO Central New York Labor Council. The CNY Council is the oldest continuously operating central labor body in the United States. The PA delegates to this body are Ellis Searles, Lew Kahler, and Bill Perrotti.
In Central New York, as in every area in the country, the working men and women are struggling to make ends meet. The middle class, once the envy of the world, is disappearing. Our belief that our children will be better off than we were is quickly diminishing. How do we reverse the elimination of the traditional American Dream? One way would be to encourage our federally elected officials to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.
The Wagner Act of 1935 established the National Labor Relations Administration. This law allowed for workers to petition to hold an election for a union or to win union bargaining rights when a majority simply signed authorization cards. Over time, court decisions have weakened this law. Many employers have ignored the law and the government has largely failed to enforce it.
In a recent Cornell University study, it was found that when employers are faced with a workforce that wants union representation:
92% of private sector employers force employees to attend closed door meetings to hear anti-union propaganda
80% require supervisors to attend training sessions on attacking unions
78% require supervisors to deliver anti-union messages to workers they oversee
75% hire outside consultants to run anti-union campaigns
50% of employers threaten to shut down their worksites either partially or totally if employees form a union
25% of union organizing campaigns result in illegally firing workers who want to unionize
33% of employers do not negotiate a first contract even after employees successfully form a union
More than half of U.S. workers, nearly 60 million, say they would join a union right now if they could. American workers are scared. They know that with the current system companies routinely intimidate, harass, coerce and even fire people who try to form unions. All of these are violations of the laws; however, penalties are so slight that corporations simply consider it the cost of doing business, if they get caught. We need to level the playing field.
If the Employee Free Choice Act were to become the law of the land it would:
? Allow employees to choose between two options for gaining union recognition: either a card check or the NLRB election process.
? After union recognition is obtained, the law would allow for either the employers or the employees to request mediation by the Federal Mediation and Coalition Service if no agreement is reached after 90 days of bargaining. If there is no agreement after 30 days of mediation, the dispute will go to arbitration to produce a contract that binds the parties for two years.
? Adopt stronger and quicker penalties for violations by employers against employees who are attempting to organize a union or obtain a first contract.
Do not be fooled by the lavishly funded opponents of this bill who will try to make the case that this law eliminates democracy in selecting union representation. Employees can still opt to hold an election, like they currently do, or they can utilize the option of a majority of cards signed.
Protecting workers' freedom to form unions will be critical if we are serious about stopping the erosion of the middle class. We are very quickly becoming a nation of those you have and those who have not.
In closing, I will quote from the U.S. Catholic Bishops in a 1996 release, “All people have the right to economic initiative, to productive work, to just wages and benefits, to decent working conditions, as well as to organize and join unions or other associations.” Amen.
Member Services - New Member Profile: Emily Hantsch
by George Searles
The Professional Association welcomes Emily Hantsch, a Rome Campus mathematics instructor .
Originally from Binghamton, Emily dual-majored in math and philosophy at the University of Scranton. "The Jesuits got to me," she explains. She then earned her master's in math at Syracuse University.
Now enjoying her first full-time position after serving as a T.A. in grad school, she taught the developmental courses 045 and 050 last semester, along with Elementary Statistics and Foundations of Mathematics.
Emily told PAnorma that the Foundations sequence, intended for Elementary Education majors, is her favorite. It affords her the opportunity to "break the cycle of negativity" that's perpetuated when teachers pass along their own math anxiety to their students. The idea is to show future teachers that there's nothing to fear and that math can actually be fun, she said.
Although Emily admits she's "still learning the ropes" at MVCC, her commitment and upbeat attitude guarantee her success here.
An arts & crafts hobbyist and board-game enthusiast, she lives in Rome with her dog, Macy, a Yorkshire terrier and bichon frise mix who "doesn't really look like either."
Benefits Trust Fund: Quick! What do you know about your new PA Benefit, the Health Advocacy Plan?
The Health Advocacy Plan is one of the latest benefits offered by the MVCC Professional Association Benefits Trust Fund.
This benefit helps PA members more easily navigate the complexities of the health care and insurance systems, identify qualified doctors, hospitals and other providers, resolve insurance claims and billing issues, save time and money on health care, locate and research treatment options for medical conditions, obtain unbiased health information to help participants make informed medical decisions, schedule appointments with hard-to-reach specialists, secure second opinions to provide peace of mind, identify “best in class” medical institutions for serious illness or injury, and access community resources for supportive services not covered by traditional health insurance.
Members can use this benefit for themselves, a spouse or domestic partner, dependent children, and parents and parents-in-law.
How do I contact my Health Advocate plan?
Call the toll-free number (1-800-695-8622). When you first contact this service with a problem, you will be assigned your own Personal Health Advocate (PHA) to assist you through the problem.
Want to learn more about this great plan? Check out the website.
http://www.healthadvocate.com/ and the PA website http://www.mvccpa.org/.
Executive Board: AFT Special Leadership Conference
by Lew Kahler
I was honored in November to attend the AFT Special Leadership conference in Washington, D.C. The conference was an opportunity for me to network with other unions from around the country and to look closely at the various issues that each union faces.
During the opening session, leaders discussed the recent presidential election and the role that labor, and especially teachers' unions, played in the entire process. This was used as a stepping stone to impress upon us the importance of political action and outreach within the labor movement.
We were briefed by an AFT liaison to the Senate about the bleak state of financial affairs in the country, again emphasizing the importance of making clear to our elected representatives the needs of our local.
On the second day, workshops were held concerning a range of topics, including approaching new members, political outreach, collective bargaining, and negotiation strategies. Each session brought to light new information and innovative techniques that could be integrated into our current system.
It was a rare opportunity to discuss union issues with organizations from states that do not have laws guaranteeing the right to organize, and who are not protected, as we are, by the Taylor Law and specifically the Tri-borough Amendment. In New York State, we certainly face our fair share of difficulties in the collective bargaining process; hearing the issues that those who have no protection face made me thankful for the protections that we do have.
One of the real highlights of the trip, for me, was networking with labor leaders from all over the country and having the opportunity to see first-hand the ways in which those unions work.
It was fascinating to see the various negotiation models that are used and the number of different strategies that union leaders employ to better serve their membership.
Some of the strategies and models may be useful for our work here at MVCC while others might not be such a good fit, but all knowledge is power, and having seen the various techniques used, I hope that I will be better able to serve our membership here at home.
PA Honors the Memory of Past President Ted Moore with Samuel Gompers Award
by Ellis Gage Searles
The Professional Association has come to be the strong, effective organization it is today through the tireless efforts of many members over many years. From time to time, we have the opportunity to pay special tribute to an individual whose impact on the Association has been particularly important and far-reaching, as we did when the PA Executive Board voted unanimously last November to honor our Past President Ted Moore with the Central New York Labor Council Samuel Gompers Award, as one of the first group of labor activists to be so recognized.
At a dinner ceremony held on November 21 st at Daniele's Banquet Facility, each Labor Council local bestowed a distinctive bronze medal on an outstanding labor leader from within their membership. The Professional Association was pleased to honor Ted and to have Ted's family with us that night to receive the medal. While Ted's wife Christine looked on, his son Derek and his daughter Colleen accepted the award in their father's memory.
In addition to the Moore family, Marie Czarnecki, Julie Dewan, Bill Perrotti, David Katz and Marilyn Murphy, Ellis and George Searles, and Don Willner and Joan Primus attended the dinner and ceremony. As Secretary/Treasurer of the Labor Council, Bill Perrotti acted as master of ceremonies. In addition, David Katz gave a presentation about Samuel Gompers, the Labor Council's founder, for whom this award was named.
Although Ted was taken from us in a tragic accident in 1996, his vision of the PA continues to guide us. He foresaw a union that could draw on the talents of many within its membership, thereby making more things possible for us all. At the same time, he began reaching out to our brothers and sisters in the larger labor community, adding the voice of the PA to those of other unions in our region in speaking out for all workers.
For all of this, we thank him. So, when the Labor Council began planning for this first annual event, the leadership of the PA decided Ted was the perfect choice to be our first honoree.