The teachers union undergoes contract discussions

The Lane Community College Education Association – which represents faculty – is pushing for new, improved contracts. Faculty members are currently under an expired contract as of June 30.

Faculty have yet to receive any cost of living increases according to Adrienne Mitchell, LCCEA president.

“So, we have a contract that exists, but it expired,” Mitchell said. “We’ve been negotiating for many months and essentially working without a contract since July first. So, faculty members are not receiving salary increases.” 

The LCCEA is asking that contract salaries be increased by 1.55% each year. They derived that number from the inflation index provided by the United States Department of Labor.

“In the grand scheme of things, we would love to of course love to have a part-time salary where we have full pay equity, but we are nowhere near that,” Mitchell said.

Compared to full-time faculty, part-time faculty are currently getting paid 60.6% of wages per credit hour.  With their proposal, the union hopes to increase the part-time salary schedule to be raised this year to 68% of full-time equivalent wages. Additionally, the union would like to increase small increments of 1% every year to part-time salaries until they reach the 75% mark. Mitchell recognizes full pay equity is a far reach but not impossible. 

“There is one community college in the state, Columbia Gorge, that does have pay equity. So it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility for what colleges can afford,” Mitchell said. 

Another heavy issue the LCCEA is tackling is the faculty compositions. 

“We have seen a significant and dramatic decrease in full-time positions,” Mitchell said. 

As faculty members retire or leave their position, their job is being replaced by part-time faculty. Over the past five years, the full-time faculty has been reduced by 20%.

The proposal from the LCCEA is to apply a minimum number of full-time faculty. 

“What we are trying to do is essentially stabilize the faculty number and ratio so that we don’t continue to have a decreasing number of full-time faculty,” Mitchell said. “We have a majority of part-time faculty indicate that they need and want full-time jobs. That results in the part-time faculty who need to work more than they are able to at Lane having to go to other jobs.”

Many part-time faculty members struggle to find extra work at Lane and need to find a second job, according to Mitchell. In many cases, wages are so low it could be more beneficial to find a full-time minimum wage job. “It’s not a living wage for part-time faculty salaries,” Mitchell said. 

The third major stake Mitchell is fighting for is to increase funding for faculty professional development. Professional funding is used to help train and teach teachers as their fields’ respective expertise advance. 

“Because of the requirements of our contracts, we are paying for other things. Some of the funding is paying for instructional time, paying for substitute teachers and paying for staff time,” Mitchell said. “So, even though it might appear that we have a substantial amount of funding, our contract requires that we also pay to support our own program and all of the administrative cost of the program.”

According to an independent audit, the LCCEA has found that LCC’s expenditures on the category of instruction have been under the national average. “That’s a concern for us,” Mitchell said. “This is really the core of our mission, and we think that it’s critical that the college invests appropriately and amply fund the instructional mission of the college.”

The audit also found that over the past five years, from fiscal year 2015 to the fiscal year 2019, LCC had decreased spending on faculty salaries by three million dollars.

Mitchell feels it is important to note that the LCCEA, along with the Oregon Education Administration, played a crucial rule in pushing for increased educational funding. The outcome of their efforts in the 2018-2019 school year resulted in an increase of $2.25 million per year for LCC. 

“We think it is important that that funding is invested in the mission, in instruction,” Mitchell said. “We’re not seeing that any of that funding is going yet, in the level we think would be fair and appropriate for faculty.”

During tough budget years when LCC was receiving less funding, faculty salaries fell eight percent behind the inflation rate. In 2014, when the college had a 12 million dollar budget deficit, the LCCEA agreed to increase class sizes. Now the teachers are still feeling that burden of extra work while their contracts have remained stagnant. 

“We think our proposal is imminently reasonable. It doesn’t come anywhere close to making up for all of those various pieces,” Mitchell said. “We’re not going to suddenly be caught up with inflation.”

The Torch reached out to LCC administration for comment but they responded saying “To preserve the integrity of negotiations we are not giving interviews at this point, but would like to share that negotiations have been collaborative and respectful and we believe we are collectively moving toward a reasonable outcome for the college.”