Practically everywhere on both the Yuba and Sutter campuses of Yuba College where there is Classified Staff there are photocopied signs with a red tags declaring “Classified is worth more than 0%.” This is because the Classified employees union, which is under the umbrella of the California School Employees Association (CSEA) and the Yuba Community College District Board of Trustees(BOT) are butting heads when it comes to negotiations over compensation.
CSEA’s contract expired June 30, 2014. They have completed many of the Articles of their Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), there are only 3 left; however one of the Articles is compensation. When the issue came up CSEA left it up to the BOT to make an offer and when they did they said 0%. This is what the signs around campus refer to.
The union and the district are in negotiations and are about ready to go to pre-impasse at the suggestion of the district’s attorney. An attorney was also called in during prior negotiations with faculty which Teresa Dorantes- Basile says resulted in only a 1% raise for faculty.
According to Dorantes-Basile last Fall Classified employees were asked to wait to bring their negotiations on compensation until after the district negotiated with Faculty by former Human Resources Director Jacques Whitfield.
Bargaining separately and at different times with individual unions effectively puts the power into the hands of the district and divides the ability for solidarity among employees of the college.
In October of last year Cassie Leal met with members of CSEA at Yuba College to update their job descriptions in preparation for a meeting with Human Resources over reclassificat
ion matters. When the time came to meet with HR in November the meeting was cancelled although the job descriptions were due to be posted the week prior.
One month later and to the joy of CSEA a meeting was scheduled for Monday December 4, 2017 to at last finalize job descriptions for Classified employees. When it came time the meeting was again postponed another week to the following Monday. Miscommunication and misinformation left HR to hear that job descriptions had been approved and finalized however in fact, the job descriptions could not be finalized until agendized and approved by the Board of Trustees.
Understanding reclassification issues for Classified employees can seem complicated but it is pretty straight forward. When an employee is hired or takes on a position there is a job description or a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which details what the expectations of their position will be. In some cases for Classified employees their jobs have evolved and changed after their initial hire date. Duties that were not specific to the position they were hired for are being completed and expected yet in some cases their compensation and classification ranking has not been increased. The terminology for this situation is called “working out of class.”
Sometimes, there is not a defined class for the jobs Classified employees are doing for example Rosemary McKeever who works in the WLDC. In 2007 McKeever began and was hired on as an Instructional Assistant under a reading teacher. McKeever ran several small reading groups. She also tutored English as a Second Language (ESL) alongside Brian Condrey in the College Success Center.
After a year and a half the college did away with reading labs and moved the writing center to separate area and renamed it the Writing and Language Development Center (WLDC). McKeever was
assigned to run the WLDC full-time.
Although this was a new position, technically no job description for this position existed because the job itself had not existed until the WLDC was created, McKeever saw this as an exciting challenge and figured with her hard work and accomplishments as she helped build the center the money and position would come.
The WLDC realized exceptional success. Students who used the facility saw marked increase in success and the center won awards for the work they were doing but still McKeever’s position was not defined.
The college was undergoing a severe budget crisis at the time and rather than applying for reclassification pursuant to reclass proceedure at the time McKeever waited because she did not want to create more issues during a time when the college was already laying off Classified employees.
At one point in the district suspended Article 17 of the CSEA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement(CBA), reclassification petitions, and McKeever thought she had missed her opportunity to petition. Reclassification petition submissions were reopened and in 2013 McKeever submitted her petition.
As of July 2017, McKeever has interviewed with the reclassification twice and twice the committee has agreed with her petition and reccommended reclassification. She has also written a letter to our college President G.H. Javaheripour and he has even indicated his agreement with her case and still to date McKeever’s position has not been reclassified, despite following proceedure.
McKeever is just one of many CSEA members on campus who have submitted reclassification positions to no result. Dorantes-Basile says, “There are more Classified employees working out of class than in class at this point.”
Yuba Community College District Chancellor, Douglas Houston says, “Sometimes the classification is already sufficient.” He further explained that sometimes although an employee feels that their duties have increased it is sometimes just a matter of the way in which the job is done that has changed. He gives the example in the past payroll has been done by hand and has now gone to a computer program on a spreadsheet or data base, this is not a change in duties just the way the duties are done. He went on to explain that if for example an Administative Assistant’s duties expanded to include coaching and advising that is a different story.
Houston says, “As the district costs go up, revenues are not keeping pace.” There has been a need to reduce support function and in the first 2-3 years he was with the district they eliminated many management positions in an effort to reduce staff in less student impact positions.
Houston sees part of the problem being that Classified employees care deeply for their students and want to continue serving them. He has encouraged them not to try to do “more with less” but to do “less with less.” Employees try to keep up with functions, according to Houston, and are not willing to stop performing these duties.
Public policies and law makers make funding with public dollars more complicated than it was twenty years ago, according to Houston. While attempting to increase course offerings they have had to discontinue more services. In addition the district is trying to optimize use of classrooms that for the most part sit empty much of the time. While all this is going on Houston says enrollment is declining.
Policies of funding that limit resources and force support staff to do “less with less” put students in peril. Students are in danger of not completing classes with passing grades without needed support. If classes are not completed students face the possibility of not reaching Satisfactory Academic Process (SAP) and then losing financial aid or even being forced to pay back financial aid for classes they have dropped or failed.
Part of the problem with the policies for funding has to do with something called categorical funding.
What happens with categorical funding is that schools will be allotted a certain amount that is to be only used for specific purposes. For example, if the funding stipulates it must be used for supplies that have to do with bringing technology into the classroom, then it cannot be used to pay salaries.
Categorical funding began as a way to make sure funds get to the places where they are most needed. The intention may be to level the playing field for economically disadvantaged or historically disenfranchised students, but policies are broad and often these policies on funding cripple the ability of educational institutions to serve their students in a way that best suits their needs.
Houston says this is part of the frustration. He says he does not want to run the risk that the college would no longer be a community college and that he fears that it could go the way of other institutions. “We don’t want to become a private college,” he says.
I hold both an AS in Social and Behavioral Sciences and an AA in English from Yuba College. I have been on the editorial board of Flumes, literary arts journal, and contribute to the publication of The Western Farm Worker. No one knows what the future holds!