Change from independent union carries many advantages of size and service

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS, access to more resources, and professional assistance are just a few of the reasons more than 240 professional classified staff members at Pasadena City College voted AFT their union this spring.

Formerly an independent union not affiliated with a state or national organization, the Instructional Support Services Union represented clericals, paraprofessionals, and computer technicians. But according to local union President Julio Huerta, because of the changing economic and political climate the union “proactively realized it needed the the added power of a state and national union.”

“CFT was the best fit,” says Huerta, “because of its state and national affiliations.” Local autonomy was a key concern. “The Federation was very open to how we operate already.”

Treasurer Gary Potts, a computer technician, adds, “When we were independent, we did it all ourselves. But with CFT, we have access to professional services including a field representative and training.”

Over the summer, Huerta and Potts attended CFT Union Summer School, the CFT’s first-ever week of intensive training for local union leaders. Learning opportunities included how to grow union membership, involve members in union activities, increase the union’s political power, and establish strong union representation.

Huerta, also a computer technician, called the training “eye opening.” He attended the negotiations course and “learned techniques of bargaining a better contract. There was a lot of stuff we weren’t doing.” Some of the important points Huerta left with were, “you have to do your homework…educate yourself so you can educate the district. You have to be patient. You have to look at the ‘financials’ and use the information to get what your members want. You need to have the right team.” He adds, “You won’t get everything you want, though you have to try.”

Potts attended the week-long Treasurer Training course in which he “learned to be better organized about managing books, preparing the union’s annual budget, calculating and implementing dues, and complying with labor reporting laws.”

The local’s immediate goal, says Huerta is to “sign up as many members as possible,” as well as implement the new dues and organization structures.” He says the local’s nine campus site representatives are “diligently campaigning” to increase membership and contacting workers directly. “We want to promote the union more, be in the forefront when it comes to college committees…we want input in hiring decisions, the campus calendar, budget and curriculum coordination…anything that affects classified.”

From there, Huerta says, “We will move on to bargain a new two-year contract. We need to protect benefits and jobs, and keep away from furloughs, layoffs, and pay cuts.”

Newly chartered AFT Local 6525 already feels the benefits of AFT affiliation, according to Huerta. “College administration listens when the union has an issue or problem, whether it be about an employee or disciplinary matter,” he says. “They used to take note before, but it’s different now. They take note more now that we’re AFT.”

— By Mindy Pines, CFT Reporter

Two new laws bring improvements for classified
At press time, the governor signed bills that will improve the working conditions for classified employees. Following are the CFT-supported bills with the greatest impact.
AB 1908 will extend the layoff notice for classified employees from the current 45 days to 60 days. (Alejo, D-Watsonville)
AB 2307 requires that a classified employee placed on a reemployment list and subsequently reemployed in a new position will retain the right to be returned to the reemployment list for the remainder of the 39-month period, in the event he or she fails to complete the probationary period in the new position. (Butler, D-El Segundo)