Clark College and its faculty union remained locked in negotiations Friday afternoon as the clock ticks down to a potential strike approved by the Association for Higher Education.
The association, which represents about 400 full-time and part-time faculty, is advocating for improved salaries in light of a 2018 change to state law allowing faculty unions to bargain for salary increases using local funding.
The two sides have been bargaining for more than a year, culminating in union members voting unanimously this month to strike if a deal isn’t reached soon.
The union and college scheduled another mediated bargaining session on Jan. 2. Winter quarter will start Jan. 6.
A statement released by the Clark College negotiations team said the college is “hopeful” a settlement can be reached.
“The college is deeply concerned about the possibility of a strike and its detrimental impacts on students and employees,” the statement reads. “Clark College is committed to our students to ensure they are able to start and successfully complete their winter quarter.”
Union officials are advocating for adjunct pay tied more closely with full-time professorships. President Suzanne Southerland said the college bargaining team acknowledged that proposal for the first time during the 14-month negotiations. She added, however, that the college’s latest offer takes five years before it is fully implemented.
“I hope the administration comes to the table (on Jan. 2) with an offer that results in our part-time faculty getting a living wage now,” Southerland said.
The average salary for full-time professors at Clark College was about $63,970 during the 2017-2018 fiscal year, the latest available data from the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. That’s slightly ahead of the state average of $62,095.12.
Part-time faculty, meanwhile, were paid slightly less than the state average. Adjuncts at Clark made $3,565.33 for a single five-credit lecture class taught over the course of an academic quarter, while the state average was $3,680.98.
Clark College has 363 part-time instructors and 188 full-time instructors.
Clark College officials did not provide specifics of their latest proposal Friday, and Southerland declined to go into further detail, citing pending negotiations.
Clark officials have said the college is facing budgetary challenges due to declining enrollment. The college operating budget is $73.2 million.
A faculty rally attracted 75 teachers and supporters Friday morning. Southerland said she believes the college’s latest proposal shows administrators recognize the union’s organizing efforts.
“I think they see we are unified to make sure part-time professors are paid a living wage,” Southerland said.