United Professors of Marin, Local 1610
Early records of the United Professors of Marin reflect a handful of dues-paying members who began getting together in the early nineteen sixties. But this situation did not last long. Our slightly shopworn Charter shows that the College of Marin Chapter of AFT Local #1610 received a baptismal certificate on June 26, 1965, which names Robert Becklund, T. Howell Breece, R.C. Conrad, Jack L. Macaulay, Margaret D. Greene, Howard R. Blair, Gerald F. Buroni, Harry J. Crotty, Michael P. Hansen, Paul Miller, Edwin L. Braun, Irene Clark, Maryjane Dunstan, James L. Heig and John H. Myers as grantees of the Charter and which lists James J. O’Keefe, Samuel Schwartz, Leonard Weiss, Virginia O. Philbrick, Larry Snyder, Doris Whalen, William H. Scalapino and Cornelius B. Weber as the Charter Members of AFT Local No. 1610.
Tom Place, former UPM president and still a math teacher at CoM, recalls the period of the late sixties and early seventies when the College of Marin, like campuses all over the country, was seething over the Viet Nam War. Place was part of a group composed of Dunstan, Bob Flynn and Berkeley Johnson that had informally organized themselves to try to deal with the concerns of students, particularly the anti-war activists, in a constructive manner. Place recalls that he routinely checked under the jacket of one angry student to see if on that particular day he was carrying a gun. On the occasions when he was toting a gun, Place would quietly walk the student off campus to reason with him. For Place it was a difficult time, since most of his union responsibilities seemed to deal with keeping the younger teachers, who identified more with the students, out of conflict with the older faculty. The dialogue between students and faculty continued, and the College of Marin suffered none of the major disruptions that plagued other campuses.
UPM’s files contain a letter dated February 17, 1978, from then-President Raoul Teilhet to UPM’s then-President Paul Christensen congratulating him and the Union on UPM’s selection by the Marin Community College District to be exclusive representative to the Board of Trustees. “Your CB election victory constitutes the first Bay Area community college election for the AFT,” Teilhet told Christensen.
But there were storm clouds ahead for both the District and UPM. Physics instructor Bob Petersen, who had been learning to throw darts and to drink English bitter while living in Cambridge, England, as a Fulbright exchange during the 1978-79 academic year, had been informed by his CoM colleagues that negotiations between the District and the union were not going well at all, in spite of a “spectacular” job being done by UPM’s president Jim Locke. On his return to California, Petersen asked Locke what he could do to help and was told he could look into something called the “50% Law.” Aided by faculty colleague Bob Braun, the two Bobs spent the next five years “looking.” After the first three years of “fumbling with the numbers and playing amateur attorneys,” they were joined in the search by Michael Brailoff who brought a fresh approach and renewed vigor to the case. Petersen recalls he spent more of his time with attorney Bob Bezemek and Brail off than he did with his own family. It should be pointed out, however, that in spite of all the effort spent in preparing the case for trial, there were long, almost continuous – 30, 22, and 18 month – periods of collective bargaining!
The initial Petition for Writ of Mandate and Complaint for Injunctive Relief in the 50% law lawsuit was filed in November, 1979, and was amended in September, 1981, seeking additional monies owed as a result of “the District’s continuing violations of Education Code Sec. 84362.” Subsequent discovery delayed the trial for 4 more years. Shortly before the case was due to go to trial the District, having repeatedly tried to get the UPM to dismiss the 50% law lawsuit to no avail, tried coercive legal action with a plan to lay off approximately 39.5 full-time equivalent positions. In April and May the layoff matter was heard by an Administrative Law Judge who recommended the layoff of certain respondents, and this was followed on June 1, 1984, by the Governing Board’s vote to lay off approximately 40 certificated employees represented by the UPM.
But the layoffs never went through. In a settlement reached by both sides prior to trial, the UPM members won a substantial victory, which included retroactive/recalculated salaries to reimburse them for their losses during the years when the District was playing fast and loose with the 50% law. The District also totally failed in its efforts to have faculty laid off.
In its long battle for justice under the 50% law, UPM received major help from the CFT Legal Defense Fund. Many locals loaned UPM sums of money to help the Union defray its large ongoing expenses. The upholding of the 50% law has benefitted teachers all over California.
UPM this year is now at the midway point in a three-year contract, one of the best in California. Chief negotiator on this contract was Ira Lansing, who had previously served the UPM as president. Tara Flandreau, a full-time member of the music faculty, is completing her second year as UPM president. Tara, who was part-time when she began her first term as president, is one of the few part-timers to hold office as a local union president in the State of California.
(Nikki Lamott, Tom Place, Bob Petersen, contributors)