At a recent all faculty meeting AFT 1789 voted to take part in a voluntary walk-out. The walk-out is not about the faculty and our needs, but the needs of our students, higher learning and a college education.
Faculty worry about the impact this action will have on the students. For several years faculty workload has increased significantly resulting in less time for students. Faculty are already much stretched to provide instruction and services that the students need. Expecting to do even more is unrealistic. With so few full time faculty (25% overall) we have other duties like service on several committees and curriculum review, it leaves little or no time for working with students. Increased full time positions are one of the issues that has emerged as one of the “four pillars” for the faculty union, as administration desires to continue to use of part time faculty and distance education to teach the majority of courses.
This action is not about our wages. If our students are going to pay good tuition money, they should be taught by accomplished and professional faculty in the classroom. Most people are under the impression that when tuition increases, that money goes to faculty salaries. In actuality faculty do not see that money, it goes to the administrative costs of running the colleges.
At this point the college administration say their current offer is grounded in the realities facing the system: declining enrollments and the financial challenges the system faces with state support. AFT Seattle has pointed out the need for the Seattle Colleges District to make a renewed investment in instructional programs and have suggested that the District can shift funds from non-instructional areas to do so. We base this on seeing significant increases in categories other than instruction; forgetting the core mission of an institute of higher education. The financial information illustrates an ever decreasing percentage of the colleges’ money being dedicated to instruction. Additionally, when any of the colleges need to cut finances, their first action is to decrease the number of classes offered on each campus, further undermining the core business of the college and services offered to students.
Faculty on all campuses encounter inequity in work and pay. Currently some faculty teach 15 hours a week and others 18-25 for the same amount of pay. Therefore, faculty who work over 15 hours a week are paid less and are still required to prepare lessons, lecture, work with students in labs, give assessments, grade student work in a timely manner, update course materials, hold office hours, tutor students, answer communications, serve on committees and participate in college governance. This is all in addition to the daily travel to and from campus since the city of Seattle has become so expensive most faculty have been “priced out.”
According to Payscale.com, “the cost of living in Seattle is currently 24 percent higher than the national average.” An article in the Seattle PI in 2011 (http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Not-your-imagination-It-really-does-cost-more-to-2233840.php ) indicates “If it feels like your paycheck doesn't go as far as once did, it's not your imagination. A study from the University of Washington has found that the cost of living has risen in Seattle and the state, largely due to rising housing and healthcare expenses. For a family of two adults and two young kids in Seattle, the cost of living grew by 13 percent since 2009. For a single person with no kids, making ends meet is now 19 percent more expensive. Statewide, cost of living has grown by an average of 8 percent. “ Faculty have not had a pay raise since 2008.
No faculty member takes the walk-out lightly, but if it means improving the quality of education and services for our students we will make that sacrifice. AFT 1789 is hoping the show of unity in the walk-out will help to move administration to reconsider the asks from the union and that continued denial to do so as an attack on the quality of education provided and insulting to those who provide it.