Juli Wolfgram, a part time art history teacher at El Camino College and a member of AFT Local 1388, says her working conditions have improved significantly in the past year. She thinks this is due to the union’s executive board as well as the negotiating team.
“I feel like the board has my back. If I have a grievance, I know exactly what to do. There’s a process and it’s clearly stated, and I know who to contact,” she said. “I know exactly how my evaluation process is going to take place. I know I am going to get paid for more office hours, and I know I am going to be reimbursed more than $75 a semester for health care. So, what the board and negotiations team have provided for me in this recent contract negotiations is that I am better off in terms of salary and office hours.”
Kelsey Iino, President of the El Camino College Federation of Teachers, and her colleagues at AFT Local 1388, have worked hard to get these wins. When Iino became president of the local, they were led by an executive director, and they only got 200 hours of faculty release time. This was not fiscally sustainable, Iino said, and it meant that the union officers didn’t know enough about what was going on.
“I think it negatively impacted our ability to advocate for our members,” Iino said. “We couldn’t answer a lot of questions and we were limited in our ability to know what was happening.”
When the executive director’s term was up, Iino and her team decided to let the position expire and created an organizing officer role to work with the members. They never ended up hiring anyone for it since COVID-19 started and they thought virtual training wouldn’t be practical. Instead, they used the time to make sure union leadership could be as responsive as possible to members’ needs.
“We really cleaned house,” Iino said. “We created an effective website with AFT’s help, and that’s been a very helpful tool for us and our members. We just basically burnt it down and rebuilt it.”
With new board members who are more supportive and a president who is willing to meet with her (unlike the former one), Iino says they have gotten more wins in negotiations, including across the board 9% retroactive pay for last year, part-time faculty getting up to $3,300 in reimbursement for healthcare rather than the $75 dollars that was offered before, and part-time faculty going from getting two office hours a semester to two hours a week.
Iino also wanted to make sure that the union leadership didn’t act as gatekeepers to what was happening in negotiations and made sure to share the process with members. Wolfgram appreciated that, calling the board smart and active
“The board is saying we need to have Zoom meetings so that people can attend and hear what the updates are, to hear what the issues are, and what we’re asking versus what the district is asking, etc.,” Wolfgram said. “So, there’s a lot more transparency than we’ve ever had. The board has completely changed, I believe, the relationship between the faculty and the union at El Camino.”
Written by: Emily Wilson