As Contract Negotiations Continue, Union Seeks Support from Students, Local Businesses

Beginning in late September, the College and the staff’s union, American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3980, have been going through regular negotiations of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the College’s union employees. Towards the beginning of these negotiations, students and staff marched together in unison to support the union’s goal of negotiating a fair contract, where both sides openly consider each other’s proposals.

Although the union will not comment on the specifics of the negotiation, union officials told The Point News that the negotiations have been “rough,” stating that the College’s position on the contract has been considerably “regressive.” The negotiations have also been “a slow process” due to disagreements and caucuses on certain issues. Union officials chose to remain unnamed as they would like to present a unified front, and are concerned about possible retaliation.

The College does not comment on negotiations as they are happening. In a statement on the negotiations, President Tuajuanda C. Jordan, PhD, stated that this “allows those representing the union and the College of work unencumbered by other[s] toward a beneficial mutual agreement.” The President also stated that she appreciates “the input and support of the valued individuals who work to make all of our lives better.”

The College and AFSCME negotiate MOU contracts every three years, and negotiate wages on a yearly basis. Negotiations are currently underway until Oct. 26. The current MOU is set to expire on Oct. 29 of this year and is available on the College’s website.

In an email to students, union officials discussed the related problems facing the College. On the staffing issue, officials stated “Management has refused to hire full-time staff, and are instead relying on more poorly supported part-time staff and outside contractors. In addition, positions in key areas are not being filled at all, and the number of College Housekeepers, Groundskeepers, Trades Mechanics and HVAC Mechanics has dwindled terribly over the past few years, creating unfair workloads for employees and denying students the quality of service they deserve.”

Because of this lack of staffing, union officials stated that “Staff are often required to perform work well outside of what is outlined in their position descriptions on a regular basis, and management refuses to revise these descriptions, as doing so could result in a mandatory reclassification or increase in pay.”

Union officials told TPN that there is not an overall shortage of staff at the College, as many administrative areas such as the Admissions department have remained relatively well staffed. However, in certain departments such as the Physical Plant, which employs the College’s Housekeepers, Groundskeepers, etc, staffing has been low and several current employees have had to take on the tasks of vacant positions.

In addition to students, several local businesses, including Cook’s Deli & Spirits, St. James Deli & Spirits, St. Inigoes General Store, Ridge Market World Gym, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Wendy’s have signed AFSCME’s letter to President Jordan, asking the President to negotiate fairly with the union. The letter, which has been circulated to students, staff and local politicians, as well as the local businesses can be viewed here: SMCM Letter of Support.

Union officials urged that they still need student support throughout the negotiation process. Union officials will be present at a SGA meeting “in the near future” to discuss student issues. The union also asked for students to follow it’s social media accounts for updates.

“Our campus staff spend countless hours here at SMCM, away from their families and working hard to keep this campus running,” Senior Daekwan Jacobs, who attended the staff march last month, told TPN, “They take the time to get to know us as students and maintain humorous interactions throughout our days that can be quite busy and stressful. Not only should campus staff have better livable wages and a fair contract but, also the respect from our administration if we would like our community to grow stronger and as a whole.”

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