Clark College faculty vote to approve new contract

Most full-time faculty will see pay bumps of around $10,000

VANCOUVER — Classes will resume Thursday for more than 9,000 Clark College students after a historic three-day strike ended with approval of a new contract Wednesday.

One of 257 ballots marked “yes’’ as the Clark College faculty voted to end a strike and accept a new deal on Wednesday. Photo by Mike Schultz
One of 257 ballots marked “yes’’ as the Clark College faculty voted to end a strike and accept a new deal on Wednesday. Photo by Mike Schultz

As a light snow fell outside, nearly 270 people crowded into Gaiser Hall, voting 257-9 in favor of the new contract, which took over 15 months of negotiations and the first-ever strike in the college’s 88-year history, to reach.

News of the contract ratification was met with loud cheers in the auditorium.

“The future is bright for us,” Union President Suzanne Southerland told the crowd after the votes were counted. “These pay raises will make a difference in our lives. You have made a difference in each other’s lives.”

Under the deal, all employees will receive a 1 percent bump in pay, retroactive to July of 2018. Full-time faculty will now start at $62,049, an increase of $8,633 over the previous entry pay. The top-end will now max out at $87,403, a bump of $11,064. That represents an additional 9 percent increase for full-time faculty, retroactive to July of last year.

Clark College faculty stand inside Gaiser Hall and cheer after it is announced that a new contract has been ratified by a vote of 257-9. Photo by Mike Schultz
Clark College faculty stand inside Gaiser Hall and cheer after it is announced that a new contract has been ratified by a vote of 257-9. Photo by Mike Schultz

Part-time educator pay will now be tied to a percentage of the full-time pay schedule. The union had pushed for 75 percent of full-time pay. The school had offered 72 percent phased in over five years. Ultimately, the sides agreed to the 72 percent number, but accelerated. Under the deal, part-timers will receive 65 percent of full-time pay, retroactive to last July, with a bump up to 72 percent by 2022. 

The union ultimately hopes to bump part-time faculty pay to 85 percent of full-time in order to tamp down on what Southerland has said is an abuse of part-time workers by the college.

Julie Lemmond and Patricia Atkinson tally votes at Gaiser Hall after union members voted to approve a new contract Wednesday. Photo by Mike Schultz
Julie Lemmond and Patricia Atkinson tally votes at Gaiser Hall after union members voted to approve a new contract Wednesday. Photo by Mike Schultz

“Our college is going to be a better institution with this new contract,” Southerland, a communications professor at the school, told Clark County Today. “This new contract doesn’t only mean better salary for our teachers, but it also means a better relationship between faculty and the administration.”

Asked for her response to concerns raised by the college that this increased expense could lead to tuition increases, program cuts, or layoffs, Southerland said they believe the strength and solidarity shown by the union will help to prevent some of that.

“We’re going to continue to organize and to stay strong,” she said. “Because we’re trying to change the relationship between the faculty and the administration, we believe that it’s going to be really important for us to resist any unnecessary cuts. I believe, because of the strength of our union, we will be able to resist anything that is retaliatory or unnecessary.”

Mike Godson loads strike signs up into a truck as union members vote to approve a new contract for Clark College faculty, ending a three-day strike. Photo by Mike Schultz
Mike Godson loads strike signs up into a truck as union members vote to approve a new contract for Clark College faculty, ending a three-day strike. Photo by Mike Schultz

The first of four finalists to take over as president of Clark College visited on Tuesday, with another due to visit on Friday, and the remaining two next week. Southerland says they hope whomever the board decides to hire will work with them, rather than fighting the union as another round of bargaining kicks off in the Spring.

“We believe that we will have a better relationship with that president, given that we have demonstrated our strength and our determination,” said Southerland. “We will demand that they respect us, as well as the board, and the administration.”

Due to the limited number of days that were missed, the school announced there would be no days added onto the Winter quarter.

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About The Author

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

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