CCP union votes for authorization strike

Community College of Philadelphia faculty and staff members protested as contract negotiations were underway in 2017. They recently authorized a strike vote for their union. - TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO

Unable to agree on a contract with the Community College of Philadelphia administration, the Faculty and Staff Federation of Community College of Philadelphia AFT Local 2026 voted Monday night to authorize a strike.

"Given that 91 percent of the membership voted yes on the authorization, we are empowered to call for an actual strike vote, if needed," the union's co-president, Junior Brainard, said in a statement.

"It still leaves room open for us to settle this through negotiations, but also shows that the vast majority of our members are ready to take action if this cannot be settled through negotiations," he added.

A strike vote by the union representing 1,200 faculty and staff could occur as early as mid-March and would come after three years of negotiations.

CCP President Donald Guy Generals said the school was preparing for a strike, noting that the college was "operating absent of any formal communications" from the union as of Tuesday afternoon.

"We've been working with mediators coming to town to try to settle this," Generals said. "We've been patient."

Issues on the table include supporting more services for students, making the faculty more racially and culturally diverse, addressing faculty workloads, providing staff a voice in educational decisions and offering salaries that keep up with growing health care cost.

The administration said its best and final offer was put forth last year, and announced on Feb. 1 that it would impose a new contract if the parties hadn't reached an agreement by Feb. 4. However, no action was taken.

"We continue to believe that our best and final offer is more than fair," Generals said, adding that the union's offer would cost the college about $50 million and ultimately affect student tuition. "They will continue to have the best contract in the state of Pennsylvania."

The proposed contract would allow faculty members to maintain their current workload, but offer a $9,000 raise to any faculty member who agrees to teach five classes each semester. New faculty members automatically would teach five courses a semester.

Additionally the proposed contract would ensure that classified employees would make at least $15 an hour by September 2020.

"I've worked full time at CCP for 20 years and still qualify for food stamps," Paula Perry-Gable, a CCP housekeeper, said in a statement.

Generals says the college is cognizant of employees such as Perry-Gable, which is why the proposal would raise the minimum wage.

Employees making over $40,000 a year would have to make a contribution toward medical and prescription drug premiums that are less than 1 percent of their salary in the first year, according to the administration. To ease the transition, the college has offered a $200 offset payment.

There are also no changes to post-retirement health care benefits for existing retirees, however, the benefits slightly decrease for others and phase out for new hires, according to the college.

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