Coast Federation of Employees, Local 1911
Turbulence, calm, ruggedness and serenity characterize the Pacific Coast and AFT Local 1911. The Coast Federation of Employees has demonstrated continuous militancy to carry on the battle for educational quality, teacher rights, equitable salaries, and employee working conditions on whatever ground and in whatever circumstances were necessary.
Chartered as the College Teachers Guild in August 1968, Coast Federation of Employees today represents fulltime faculty and classified staff in the Coast Community College District: Orange Coast, Golden West, and Coastline Colleges. From those early years as a first line of defense for faculty, the union pursued the goal of collective bargaining while defending the rights of individual faculty members and speaking out for academic freedom, due process, and control of the curriculum. Half the charter members, including Mike Finnegan, Mike Copp, Pierre Grimes, and Rich Linder still teach in the district; Jay Zimmermann, the first secretary of the local, currently serves on the executive council. Phillis Basile, another charter member, went on to become a vice-president of the California Federation of Teachers and served the local as president during the fight for collective bargaining.
In 1972, the District opened a PBS TV station on the Golden West Campus and sought to offer classes without adequate review by the curriculum committee. Peggy Staggs, Phillis Basile, Bob Ennis, Barbara Deakin and Pierre Grimes, among others, working through the Academic Senates and the AFT, presented 74 questions about all aspects of the impact of a public television station being run by a community college district, beginning a long struggle to protect academic quality while using new technology.
The passage of the Rodda Act in 1976 gave impetus to the local’s efforts to achieve bargaining representative status, and events surrounding the television station and exacerbated by the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978 created a sense of urgency, bringing to a head the issue of financial priorities within the district. The chancellor’s “savings” preserved funding for the TV station while slashing teaching programs, starting with increasing teachers’ workload, putting some administrators and non-teaching certificated employees in the classroom, and freezing salaries. Sabbaticals previously approved were abruptly cancelled.
When faculty questioned both the figures and the plan, Local 1911 responded by forming a United Faculty Organization of AFT, CTA, and CSEA to fund the first independent fiscal analysis of the District. Don Ackley and Margaret Holtrust were among those gathering data for the analysis team; the District fought access to the figures, and it took legal resort to the public records act to obtain the data. The independent analysis found violation of the 50% law, under-reporting of KOCE-TV costs and over-reporting of income, and, despite District statements that there was no “reserve,” an ending balance for 1978 of $9,000,000.
Organizational difficulties, primarily unit determination hearings with CTA, delayed collective bargaining until 1979. Finally two faculty bargaining units were created, with the full-time unit defined as faculty teaching 7 ½ or more units. Kelli Gardner and Jacki Ruby of the AFT worked with Judy Ackley, Phillis Basile, John Buckley, Carol Burke-Fonte, Barbara Dilworth, and many others to insure victory. On May 17, 1979, 70% of the 572 ballots cast in the Full-time unit were for AFT.
When Phillis Basile, Nancy Rubinstein, Bob Hancock, Margaret Holtrust, Lee Bradley, and John Jensen sat down at the table to begin negotiations, they little realized that it would be well into a new year before, after round-the clock mediation, the contract would be settled. The contract ratified in May, 1980 provided for a 17 1/2 % raise, but more important for the future, it included language preserving the rights for which the union had fought: academic freedom, classroom management, curriculum control, and due process.
That language was soon to be tested. The significance of the contract was proved when 67 faculty members signed a letter expressing their opinion of course content in English composition telecourses and sent it to transfer institutions throughout the state, members of the state legislature, and chancellor’s office. Individual reprimands were issued to the faculty, without due process, for exercising freedom to express publicly their opinion. The union filed a grievance, the reprimands were withdrawn, and, eventually, so were the telecourses.
Despite efforts by the Federation to focus attention on providing quality education to our students during tough financial times, the District continued to follow its pre-proposition 13 priorities. The 1982 legislative “hit-list” hit Coast hard, as predicted by the union, and, by that fall, the handwriting was on the wall. Activities rose to a fever pitch of direct action to prevent layoffs: a candlelight vigil, a coffin labeled “Education,” a Rolls Royce to symbolize mistaken priorities, and a union-produced video titled “People, Programs, and Priorities” were brought to the Trustees. The word “recall” was heard for the first time in early 1983, when, at a packed Board meeting, Trustees took action leading directly to layoffs.
On February 16, 1983, layoff notices were issued to 100 faculty and 10 administrators with other faculty being displaced and reassigned to cover the gaps. Chuck Canniff of the CFT chaired a mass meeting February 17 to advise faculty of their rights. In the months to follow, Judy Ackley worked with Jim Pierce, Sally Flotho, Bill Purkiss, Robert Smith, Ann Jackson, and other affected faculty both to insure their legal rights and to assure them that the union would not rest until they were reinstated. Larry Rosenzweig represented the faculty at the most massive administrative hearing, lasting six days, in California community college history, but the legal remedy proved ineffective, since only eight faculty were reinstated in the hearing decision.
Faculty meanwhile were carrying on a political strategy that would lead ultimately to victory. College and community feelings were strong at the February board meeting when David Warfield served each of the trustees with a recall notice. Nancy and David’s home in Westminster was soon to become action central for Helen Evers, Dick Marsh, Rick Rowe, Ginny Fereira, Rich Brightman, and the many others who worked on the recall.
During the hot smoggy summer of 1983, faculty members, students and classified staff labored collecting signatures at libraries, groceries, and discount stores in one of the largest recalls in the history of California, creating a bond that would not soon be broken. Wes Brian, Lou Clunk and others gave lessons in practical education to the public. The recall came up short, but, thanks to candidate development work by Ed Dornan, Barbara Bullard, Don Ackley and others, the election in November of 1983 resulted in a new board majority, endorsed by the union.
After the election, the Federation worked under pressure to guarantee that all the faculty and administrators would be immediately returned to work. On December 16, 1983, the new board majority took action before a packed auditorium, reinstating all the faculty who had been laid off in time to return them to classes for the spring semester. By June 1984, following the return of the faculty, the district showed a $7,000,000 ending balance–far different from the deficit predicted by the administration in justifying the layoffs.
1984 turned out to be a big year for unity when members of the classified staff approached local leadership to affiliate. Led by Helen Evers and Pat Dyer, several members of the CSEA executive council tore up their membership cards as unity talks led to a new name for the proposed new local: Coast Federation of Employees. Chris Hamilton worked closely with the classified staff to insure victory in the de-certification election that followed.
Helen Evers, Gail Deakin, Phil Riddick, Lois Wilkerson, Mark Craig, Marta Dickinson, and Jean Collins formed a negotiating team with Judy Ackley serving as Chief Negotiator and Jeff Dimsdale as a representative from the faculty bargaining unit. Again, it took nearly one year, but the contract ended up with the best raise ever for classified staff, as well as new sections on professional growth, uniforms, service on committees, and participation in evaluation.
Now led by Dave Jarman and Scotty Ross, the union has in recent years worked in creative areas of collective bargaining such wellness, employee assistance, professional growth, and retraining. Contract language insures that planning and budget processes will have participation by the entire college community. We have a healthy sabbatical program as well as alternative methods of professional development such as job shadowing, community service organizational activities, and production of educational materials. In 1987-88, a benefits committee including Sharon Salmans, Dave Jarman and others, reviewed the entire program, preserving it in face of escalating costs.
Coast Federation of Employees remains a vital organization that has shown its willingness to solve problems in whatever forum is necessary: in the 1960s we took issues to institutions, in the 1970s, to the state and the court, and, in the 1980s, to the people. The local’s philosophy of inclusive issues rather than narrow, exclusive concerns, there from the beginning, but refined and amplified during the crucible of the layoff years, has created a tapestry of leadership in our district: union, Senate, classified, confidential, supervisory, and administrative representatives work together on a multiplicity of critical issues as we approach the 1990s.
(Judith Ackley, contributor)