At a rally and march for fair pay and quality public education held the Friday of the CFT Convention in San Francisco, hundreds of attendees joined AFT Local 2121, the faculty union for City College of San Francisco, as they marched from the Hyatt Regency to offices of the college’s lead contract negotiator a few blocks away. Two dozen people — community and union leaders as well as members — blocked the entrance and got arrested in an act of civil disobedience. This came right after the union’s largest voter turnout ever for a strike vote, which was approved by 92 percent.
Carla Arbagey from UC-AFT Riverside was one of the marchers, showing her solidarity with unions by giving up her lunch hour to join the rally. Another was Lori Eulberg from the ABC Federation of Teachers in Cerritos who says she supports all the goals of the organizers.
“Teachers should be paid fairly and students should be treated fairly,” she said.
Vicki Legion, a public health teacher at City College and a member of Local 2121 came out to the march, saying since the accreditation crisis, the college has lost a large number of its students, particularly students of color. Legion carried a poster depicting CCSF students killed by the police, including Alejandro Nieto, who was shot multiple times by four police officers, who were recently acquitted of using excessive force.
Legion also wanted to support a fair contract for herself and her colleagues. She said she was glad that people were willing to get arrested to show what an important issue it is.
“I think it’s time to turn up the volume,” she said.
Kathy Sullivan, a United Educators of San Francisco member and kindergarten teacher at Grattan Elementary, agrees that City College teachers need a fair contract and said that was enough to get her out of her classroom on a rainy day.
“CCSF teachers haven’t had a raise for a lot of years,” she said. “They need to be paid what they’re worth.”
In fact, CCSF faculty salaries are below what they were in 2007, says Tim Killikelly, political science teacher and local president. Killikelly, sitting in front of the college’s attorney’s office, joined 24 others who had undergone a training to get arrested. Along with Local 2121 leaders, the group included community and labor allies such as UESF President Lita Blanc, Kung Feng from Jobs with Justice, and Mike Casey, president of the San Francisco Labor Council, who linked hands and sang “We Shall Not Be Moved,” and chanted “Stand Up, Fight Back.”
There is plenty to protest, including that money for teaching has dropped 9 percent while administrators’ salaries have increased 29 percent at the college, Killikelly said. In addition, the district, with reserves of more than 30 percent of the college budget, has talked about cutting classes by 26 percent in the next six years.
“We want to let them know there’s no more business as usual,” he said. “We just had a huge turnout — our biggest ever — to vote 92 percent to strike. People have had enough.”
Ting defends City College
After dealing with the “nightmare” of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Tim Killikelly, president of AFT Local 2121 at San Francisco City College says faculty members need strong legislators in their corner, working to get rid of the ACCJC, which is trying to pull the college’s accreditation.
“We don’t want a watered down version of a bill,” Killikelly said. “We haven’t been getting a watered down version from the ACCJC.”
Assemblymember Phil Ting is the kind of legislator Killikelly is talking about. His bill AB1397, now on the Senate floor, would enact accreditation reform. Ting thanked the CFT for its activism on this issue and said labor is one of the reasons we still have public education in California. Ting pledged to work on bringing San Francisco’s community college back from the damage the accrediting commission has done.
“We have a 30 percent enrollment drop because of the ACCJC and because of their mission to frankly attack CCSF,” Ting said. “They accredit DeVry [a for-profit school named in numerous lawsuits] and the next year want to pull the accreditation for CCSF, probably one of best community colleges in the system.”