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March 4, 2021

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Clark College faculty union emphasizes unity

Members plan to pack Wednesday afternoon’s meeting of board of trustees

By , Columbian Education Reporter
Published:
3 Photos
Brett Nair, center, consultant with the Oregon Education Association, speaks during a meeting of Clark College Association for Higher Education members on campus Tuesday afternoon. Nair encouraged members to stand united during ongoing union negotiations.
Brett Nair, center, consultant with the Oregon Education Association, speaks during a meeting of Clark College Association for Higher Education members on campus Tuesday afternoon. Nair encouraged members to stand united during ongoing union negotiations. (Nathan Howard/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

In a series of forums this week, Clark College’s faculty union emphasized a need to show a united force as negotiations continue with the Vancouver community college.

The Clark College Association of Higher Education hosted public forums Monday and Tuesday, and plans to pack the school’s board of trustees meeting Wednesday afternoon.

It’s the latest rallying effort in light of ongoing bargaining for an improved salary schedule for college faculty. Union members have also rallied on campus and intend to host additional demonstrations in the coming weeks.

Clark College thus far has been fairly quiet on the ongoing negotiations, pointing to a budget shortfall of about $1.5 million due to declining enrollment and “no real prospect” of additional state funding. The college has announced its intent to cut $3.1 million or about 5 percent of its budget to overcome the deficit, which could include staff cuts.

But union leadership says the announced cuts are an exaggerated attempt at stoking fear among union members. Kim Sullivan, president of the Clark College Association of Higher Education, told the crowd of about 35 union members that the college’s negotiation tactics are “sloppy, poorly done, insulting and demeaning,” and described the cuts as “out of nowhere.”

“We had never heard about budget cuts until after we presented our salary proposal,” Sullivan said in a news release last week.

Union leadership says they’re advocating for pay equity with faculty at nearby colleges, as well as with public school teachers in Clark County who settled for significant raises last fall. According to the union’s salary schedule, faculty start at a salary of $53,281, topping out at $76,145.

Evergreen Public Schools teachers’ salaries, meanwhile, range from $51,619 to $98,279, according to the 2018-2019 salary schedule.

Union leadership also reported at Tuesday’s meeting that members have experienced stress and anxiety connected to their salaries. Kathrena Halsinger, an art professor who sits on the bargaining team, said a survey of faculty suggests that 42 percent work a second job, 83 percent experience anxiety or desperation related to work, and 73 percent worry their job is at risk.

“How can the college afford to not pay us more?” Halsinger asked the group.

Clark College’s Board of Trustees will meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday in Gaiser Hall, Room 213, at the college’s main campus at 1933 Fort Vancouver Way. There is no official budget report on the agenda, but union leadership says about 80 union members plan to attend.

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