CCC union to Board: ‘Invest in your faculty’

PLATTSBURGH — Clinton Community College’s Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday night was at max occupancy.

Twenty-eight people were allowed to be in the boardroom where the meeting was held at the college, and 28 people, plus some standing in the hallway listening in, attended.


The meeting was of particular interest to many as it was the first board meeting held since Faculty Association Union members, consisting of both teaching and non-teaching faculty at CCC, moved to a “Work to Rule” status in early February after contract negotiations between the two sides had, once again, stalled out.

In protest of the stalled negotiations, several FA members, donning buttons with “NO CONTRACT, SIX YEARS, NO RAISE” written on them, addressed their ongoing contract frustrations with the board during the public comment section of the meeting.


FA member Lee Ann Thomas, professor in the humanities department at CCC, was the first to speak.

Thomas, who has been at the college for 31 years, thanked the board for being able to reach a new contract with CCC’s other union, the Coalition Union, but reminded them how important it is not to ignore other vital contributors.

“Like a home, you don’t protect your investment when you build up one part of the foundation of your house and you let another part deteriorate. That’s not stable. It’s, actually, it’s corrosive. It accelerates damage, which is costly to repair and it prevents us from building and expanding on solid footing,” Thomas said, reading from a prepared statement. “There’s a path forward.”

“(The) Faculty Association, we’re not saying that we’re more important than these other areas of the foundation, but what we are saying directly, we are as important.”


Thomas also took issue with “negative statements” she heard regarding the FA’s ability to receive compensation above their base pay through overloads and stipends.

“Faculty can’t budget our lives on the same base pay from six years ago. We may never be asked or even be qualified to take on extra work to increase our pay,” she said.

“…After six years without a pay increase, it is time to invest in the last piece of the foundation of this college: the faculty. Invest in your faculty and you make a good investment in the future of Clinton Community College.”

In FA member Joanna Jackson’s address to the board regarding their need for a new contract, she outlined the increasing extra work she has taken on in her time as an assistant professor for English at the college.

Work that included developing a new course: American Sign Language.

“My contract requires that I complete 30 credits each year. Teaching that’s typically divided in semesters. However, as the number of our teaching faculty drop, I’ve often taught courses as overloads, as well as in the summer because there was (a) need for someone to teach the courses,” Jackson said.

“For the past several semesters, I’ve continued to carry an overload number of courses, but now, it’s in addition to fulfilling the duties of English department chair. I’m working an extraordinary amount of hours because if I don’t, classes will not be offered and students may not be able to complete their degree requirements in a reasonable amount of time.”


Jackson continued by saying she has served on committees, task forces and work groups, volunteered for open houses and other events, all while making herself available to meet with students far beyond her contractual obligation of five office hours each week.

“With all of this, my work-life balance has significantly skewed toward work for a long time now,” she said.

“As a Faculty Association member, I deserve an increase in compensation.”

The Work to Rule status that FA members are in outlines that faculty at the college will fully embrace the duties outlined in their current contract and nothing extra.


During the meeting, student trustee Kristy Martin raised concerns she had heard from students that Work to Rule was affecting them negatively.

“It was brought to our attention that students participating in online classes are reaching out to professors and receiving an automated response reiterating the Work to Rule and their contractual agreements. They do not receive a response until the next day,” Martin said.

“The student who brought up the issue required help on his assignment and subsequently was marked late because he did not receive the help he needed.”

The nursing program’s pinning and capping ceremony and an athletic credit offered to students will also look to be impacted significantly because of the guidelines of Work to Rule, she said.

“I just think it’s unfortunate that we were promised Work to Rule will not affect students yet students across several clubs campuswide are feeling the effects.”


Board Chair David Favro told the media afterward that was the first they had heard about students being affected by Work to Rule

“It’s a little bit disturbing to see students get impacted that significantly,” he said.

“I did not know that students were reaching out to people for help and they weren’t getting it, that they’re turning their back to them. It’s very unfortunate. We’re going to try and get back to the table and get that rectified as quickly as we can. We can’t impact the students. I mean, that’s our end goal … and we need to keep that goal in mind and then stay focused on that to provide the best learning environment that we can for the students.”

When asked if this information would now impact negotiations in any way, Favro said “Our … Negotiations Committee is always willing to sit down at any point in time and discuss with the faculty.”

“Obviously, there are attorneys involved for both sides and the attorneys have to, you know, come up with with their schedules and things, but I think it shows the importance of having to get back to the table and having to have those discussions and resolving all of the issues collectively so that we can move forward with the great educational institution that we are.”


The next step in negotiations, Favro added, will be getting a fact finder to hopefully resolve the impasse they’re currently in.

“They’ll actually be reviewing what’s been presented so far, and come up with recommendations and directions of how we can move forward,” he said.

When asked about students being affected, FA president Denise Coughlin told the media that they offer plenty of opportunities for a student’s question to be answered besides email after class.

“Let me say this, I teach online. I know a number of people that teach online, a lot of questions and answers happen in the online environment. So I’m not sure why a student would be separately emailing a faculty through campus email,” she said.

“In other words, there’s a question-and-answer-raise-your-hand area in all classes, where students can get their questions answered in the context of the online classroom or course room.”


She said she doesn’t think Work to Rule was at fault for what happened with the student’s work being marked late.

“I don’t know about that situation, but we have processes in place, the student would be directed to contact the department chair, and they would work that out … that could happen in non-Work to Rule situations,” Coughlin said.

“Classroom student-teacher communications should be considered part of typical normative processes, and if a student is saying it’s because of Work to Rule that may be ill informed, but again, I haven’t spoken to the student.”

Coughlin also acknowledged that negotiations continue to stall out between the two sides because of the board’s reluctance to raise the FA’s base pay before negotiating the rest of the contract.

“It was always money on our base, and then we’ll work on it. and it really became money on our base and we’ll work on it when the Coalition got two years on their base without any conditions,” she said.

“There seems to be a disconnect between the college and the administration, understanding that teaching and learning is at the center of what we do here at Clinton. It’s the relationship that we have with our students. That really dictates everything. and yet it seems that every other bargaining unit in the college has received an increase …”

Though she did not realize fact finding would be the next step in negotiations, Coughlin said she would now welcome it.

“If the college would like to move to fact finding, we’ll check that out with our attorney and we’ll support that,” she said.

“It might be what we have to do, because it does sound as if impasse exists with a capital I. and I hope that’s not the case. I’ll still try to have more mediation meetings, but if that’s not the case … then fact finding will certainly help us along the process.”

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