Faculty Voice Newsletter: November 2017: News Update

by David Lau

CFT President Joshua Pechthalt Goes to CCFT Council

Attacks on public sector unions are set to escalate in a new way. The Janus case before the Supreme Court—court observers predict the case decision will reverse the precedent of Abood (1977)—will weaken the money power and membership levels of large unions in education and government jobs. In this challenging climate of pending changes for our union, we received CFT President Joshua Pechthalt at a recent council meeting. President Pechthalt began by talking about community college issues, including the crucial changes that have happened at ACCJC since the departure of Barbara Beno. CCSF has its accreditation and Compton College is on the path toward full status again. More faculty will now be involved in ACCJC observation and accreditation teams; Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) are being decoupled from the accreditation process.

CFT President Joshua Pechthalt speaking at City College San Francisco

He spoke to CFT’s continuing legislative activities, including a bill that provides for six weeks of paid maternity leave. Statewide races are also being carefully watched. Tony Thurmond has already been endorsed by CFT for Superintendent of Education. The governors race is also unfolding. Charter schools have surfaced as an early issue of the campaign. With Janus looming, and its twin consequences of the loss of agency fee and the disaffiliation of union members, it was clear from his visit that it is time for all hands on deck. Charter schools can be unionized; community college should be tuition free. But the short-term developments will feature exotic forms of anti-union offensives.

Indeed, it’s time to meet the right-wing, door-to-door campaign against public sector unions. The Guardian ran a story on the anti-union “think tank” called Freedom Foundation. They’re running paid door-knocking campaigns to encourage members to understand the Janus decision as a pay increase. If you disaffiliate, you never pay dues again. Ta-da. Forget about the fact that you weaken the collective bargaining agent that makes gains and progress on social spending possible in the first place. If you abandon the union, you weaken the one source of money power capable of supporting and preserving our pension system from a coming wave of attacks.

The Guardian called the Freedom Foundation campaign “a highly unusual offensive against public-sector unions in the US north-west.” After mailings and dozens of robo-calls, members of childcare unions were visited at work with pamphlets and assorted anti-union literature. Washington State is the subject of such fierce backlash from the Koch brothers and other Tea Party types because of its recently enacted progressive legislation: 15$ hourly minimum wage and a law allowing Uber drivers to unionize.

The right will continue to roll out other multi-pronged anti-union campaigns in Illinois and Pennsylvania. They hate and fear the power of Washington’s unions: SEIU, Washington Education Association, and AFSCME. The deep-pocketed reactionary billionaires can throw considerable resources at the labor movement. We know the political role the labor movement plays in our society. The public sector and other unions allied together with social movements form a strong pole of political attraction, one of the only forces holding the drifting, arrogant leadership cohort of the Democrats to account. In California the teachers unions fought for Propositions 30 and 55, both of which increased taxes on the wealthy to fund public education. So much is at stake in these struggles coming out of the Janus Supreme Court case.

Napolitano PR Tour Coming to Cabrillo

Janet Napolitano at legislative hearing following a scathing State audit

On November 20th current University of California President and former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is coming to Cabrillo College for a forum about the UC campuses and transferring from the California Community College system. At CCFT, we’ve worked with other campus organizations like the Cabrillo Hispanic Affairs Caucus (CHAC) and Faculty Senate to respond forcefully to the Trump Administration’s immigration policies; so it is troubling that Cabrillo College would host an anti-immigrant politician like Napolitano at what many have struggled to make a sanctuary campus. Immigration hawk of the Democrats, Napolitano was a chief architect of an extreme deportation system, complete with private contractors in the detention industry making obscene profits on the backs of our immigrant communities. Since 2013, she has overseen deepening inequality at the University of California, where her actions threaten to alienate the public from the University. A recent State audit revealed that Napolitano’s Office of the President was concealing a $175 million slush fund of money that should otherwise be going to the many needs of UC campuses. Her public relations tour of community college campuses comes at a peculiar juncture in her tenure as UC system President.

In September, Napolitano made headlines by suing the Trump administration over its immigration policy changes around DACA. This is a welcome development of UC policy. But under Obama, Napolitano’s record-setting deportation system eclipsed the Eisenhower administration’s notorious total deportation numbers—by 2011! Indeed, her record on immigration is extensive and goes back a number of years. As US Attorney in Arizona in the 1990s, she aided and abetted the abuses of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio; she had the chance to prosecute Arpaio over the jail he operated. Instead she let him go. Arpaio would later back her run for governor, even appearing in a campaign TV spot in 2002. In a tight race, Arpaio’s endorsement was decisive. Later she would be the first governor in the country to pursue 287g agreements between ICE and local police, allowing for local cops to be deputized as immigration agents. She was supported in her reelection bid by Arpaio in 2006; in 2008 she refused to support Arpaio’s Democratic challenger.

Her record at the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama era also deserves scrutiny. The signature policy of those years, “Secure Communities,” brought anything but security to Latino and other immigrant communities as it placed them squarely in the crosshairs of ICE and DHS who now work in close coordination with local police and sheriffs. Building on 287g agreements, Secure Communities led to the disproportionate arrest of Latinos, the wrongful detention of U.S. citizens, and families being split apart when a spouse or parent is deported. According to a UC Berkeley study, 39% of those deported were from families where a child or spouse was a US citizen. The program funneled people into deportation—one of the harshest imaginable punishments—without due process. Napolitano also misrepresented the program in the media and before Congress, leading Zoe Lofgren, who was then the top Democrat on the House Immigration Subcommittee, to call her “dishonest.”

While Napolitano often extols women and researchers in her speeches, those same university employees struggle for family leave in current contract negotiations with the University of California. UC labor relations have deteriorated in recent years, as Joel Warner explains in an extensive analysis for Capital and Main. Warner spoke with Christian Castro, a spokesman for Teamsters Local 2010, which represents many low-wage workers at the UC. “The wages of workers are steadily decreasing while executives are getting massive bonuses and economic packages.” UC is the third largest employer in the state so labor relations are not small issues. The practices of the UC influence other public and private employers. These practices now include the worst kind of private sector dealings.

In Spring 2017, State Auditor Elaine Howle released a scathing report on the UC, where she discovered the existence of the aforementioned $175 slush fund. This led to a leadership crisis at UCOP. As State Assembly member Miguel Santiago (D – Los Angeles) aptly put it, “You can’t have a group of employees in the UC system who are food-insecure when we are doing audits and finding that the office of the president is holding on to $175 million.” Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik noted that the audit also discovered the unaccountable private-sector mentality that emerged from UCOP’s reactions to the audit:

“What may be Howle’s most telling finding pertains to how UCOP reacted to its audit. According to Howle, Napolitano’s deputies actively interfered with her staff’s work. For weeks they delayed the production of figures and documents. They maintained that she had no legal authority to ask for some material, until her agency’s lawyers met with UCOP’s lawyers and explained chapter-and-verse exactly how far-reaching Howle’s authority is.”

In May, Napolitano appeared before legislators to apologize for her actions. She also prevaricated by offering the subterfuge of “best intentions,” which amounted to self-exculpatory double-speak with a garnish of half-truths. Public employers look these days to grow reserves even as state funding continues its decline. They put the squeeze on the most vulnerable, including janitors, clerical staff, food service workers, graduate students, and adjunct faculty. Universities and colleges are thus run ruthlessly like a business. In Napolitano’s UC, this management style is for the benefit of the growing ranks of top-level UCOP and campus management officials, some of whom will work for a few years and then receive generous pensions.

Maya Bendotoff’s Last Week Was Campus Equity Week 2017

Students wrote cards to their instructors

Campus equity week is the official time each when we turn our eyes to the adjunct crisis in higher education. CCFT adjunct chair Katie Woolsey led the organization of our October 30th equity event on the Aptos campus. Our goal was to inform the campus community about the situation for adjuncts: we teach half of all classes; we make two thirds or less the wages of full-time faculty; we can receive a two-thirds load compared to full-time faculty; we don’t have the same benefits as other faculty or staff at Cabrillo. CCFT provided free pizza and drinks. Over a quick lunch many students learned for the first time about the working conditions of part-time instructors at Cabrillo. CCFT Council representative Rachel Mitchell organized a letter-writing table where students jotted down appreciation cards for their Cabrillo instructors. The highlight of the day was arguably the shirt and poster print operation set up by CCFT Vice President and art instructor Tobin Keller. Shirts were created from a design that won a student competition. I appreciated Katie Woolsey’s speech to the crowd in the quad. In Watsonville, CCFT council representative Victoria Bañales and others created a display case with pictures and statements about part time faculty in Watsonville.

Watsonville Center display for part-time faculty

Outgoing CCFT Executive Director Maya Bendotoff was present and actively facilitating so much of this for the last time. Perhaps it was a fitting and inclusive finale to Maya’s seventeen years with CCFT. Full and part time faculty were working together on the event, just as they have worked together on salary increases and movement on parity over the years. Maya wanted to make more progress on these fundamental issues in recent years. Together we can make progress and it would be a fitting tribute to her to remember the goals and aspirations of all faculty, goals she worked so hard to maintain.