Collective bargaining has passed a faculty vote at Western Nevada College. The 51 eligible WNC faculty voted 28-15 in favor of joining the NSHE Collective Bargaining unit, with eight ballots not returned. These results were certified by the American Arbitration Association on May 23.The voting was conducted via mail from May 7 to May 20, with two on-campus voting days on May 9 and 10.
The percentages of yes votes were 54.9 percent of eligible voters, 65.1 percent of those who voted. A simple majority of eligible voters (26) was required to vote yes in order to join the CB Unit.
The key to victory was educating the faculty without being emotional and without slinging mud at the administration. The intent was to show that CB would allow us to establish true shared governance at WNC via a cooperative relationship with the administration. The goal was to engage as many faculty as possible in the discussion about how faculty could best effect positive change. I would like to thank all my colleagues – both those pro and those con – for engaging in the process in a most professional and dignified manner.
That relations between the faculty and WNC President Carol Lucey's administration need to more deeply embrace the tenets of shared governance is a widespread sentiment among WNC faculty. The question was whether collective bargaining would facilitate the change.
"There were concerns about whether collective bargaining would be viewed as overly antagonistic by the administration or viewed negatively by the community," according to past Faculty Senate chair Jeff Downs. "Also there were concerns about WNC autonomy within the bargaining unit, since Truckee Meadows Community College has long been the sole member."
In addition to a months-long email education campaign, the WNC chapter held two collective bargaining forums at the Carson City campus. NFA state board members Scott Huber and Robert Correales attended the forums, answering questions and clarifying the process. In this sense, it was a statewide effort. The support of the State Board was invaluable.
Two weeks prior to the vote, a group of five faculty members – acting independently of the Faculty Senate and the NFA chapter – met with President Lucey to explore the possibility of developing a workable and less formal alternative to collective bargaining. The result was an offer by President Lucey to create a faculty advisory board to provide non-binding advice on faculty welfare issues directly to the president. The group of five presented this alternative to the faculty at the second forum prior to the vote. While it is something of a step in the right direction, the chapter pointed out that the Faculty Senate has been operating on an advisory basis for the entirety of the Lucey administration.
The WNC community is now in a federally mandated 60-day cool off period. The real work has yet to begin. We will be preparing to engage the administration by consulting with the NFA state board and the AAUP national office. It is our hope that the negotiations will be cooperative so we can focus on improving WNC. Our students and constituents deserve this.
NSHE has had collective bargaining since the early 1990s, with TMCC having been the only member of the collective bargaining unit until the recent vote by WNC faculty. The community college bargaining unit does not bargain for wages or benefits, but adheres to overall NSHE policies in those areas. Rather, it bargains for institutional working conditions such as workload, evaluation, hiring, retrenchment policies, placement on salary schedules and policies concerning stipends for additional responsibilities. Under collective bargaining, both administration and faculty are contractually obligated to the terms of the included policies.