President’s Message

Benefit of Belonging

“What say does ACE have when the District decides to cut positions?” is a question i’m often asked.  The short answer is none. The education code is clear and grants the District the right to layoff positions when there is a lack of funds or a lack of work.   These decisions are made at the senior management level with input from constituents through the participatory governance process.   Ultimately, all decisions must be approved by the FHDA Board of Trustees.

The long answer is ACE will always work with the District to minimize reductions when they are not obligated to do so. For example, during previous budget reduction cycles, ACE has been successful in saving people from layoff through placement into vacant positions when they didn’t have any bumping rights. There are built in safeguards in the education code for classified workers at community college districts but during a time of layoffs, it is a good reminder why it is important for us to stand together as a union.

Without the union the District can unilaterally, without any input from you, make all decisions that relate to the terms and conditions of your employment. They can decide which health plans and benefit packages to provide to employees. They can decide how much, if anything, the District contributes toward those benefits. They can decide your classification, what work you can do in that classification, and how much they will pay you for that work.

They can make any change to your working conditions, that they want, any time they want, without ever asking any classified employee. They can give your work to contractors or temporary employees, they can make you punch in and out on a time clock, they can make you report to a coworker or a faculty member, they can deny you access to a telephone, or discipline you for using District property such as the computer for your personal use.

Without a union, working together for the good of all, how will you enforce the few statutory rights given to you as a public employee? An example, is that the District can only terminate your employment if it follows the proper procedures and provides the safeguards provided by the statute. A union will make sure the District follows the proper procedures and represent you through all facets of the discipline; but without a union how will you enforce your rights?

The void when there is no union is the same for every issue you face as a classified employee. The union is always there to advocate for you regardless of the issue and whether it is part of the contract or not. Without the union you would have to pay someone, use a friend, or do it yourself. ACE has attorneys that know the law, both the education code and the government code. They know the administrative and the judicial processes. They help negotiate the contract and enforce the contract when the District violates its provisions, and they represent members when they have an issue/concern or discipline.

ACE has been successful in removing letters of warning, representing members when there is discipline, getting members paid for out of class work, getting laid off employees their job back and back pay, getting back pay for overtime and meal allowances. Many times the issue is one that has nothing to do with your performance and could be as minor a mistake is made, they overpay you and want the money back immediately, ACE can intervene and assure that the repayment isn’t a burden.

In other words your union exists solely for your benefit and the benefit of your coworkers. Without a Union there would be no Agreement and no one there to help you when there is an issue with the District. The strength of any association is in its numbers.

Of service,

Chris White, ACE President
(650) 949-7789, office

Classification Study:  Draft Class Descriptions

As promised, Koff delivered draft class descriptions by Jan. 31. Unfortunately, only two-thirds of them were completed. The Joint Labor Management Classification Committee (JLMCC) met with them last week requesting an updated timeline and ACE addressed our concerns regarding the length of time this is taking to complete.  Koff acknowledged the delay was on them and estimated it would take another two weeks to complete the final class descriptions.  With a 20-year old classification system, it has taken them longer than anticipated to develop a clear path and framework regarding certain areas.  Taking into consideration that classification is directly tied to compensation, it is in our best interest to have them to take their time and get it right.

What has been delivered is well structured, comprehensive and clear.  Career paths are identifiable and similar work is grouped accordingly and every member of the JLMCC feels good with what Koff has produced. Once we receive all of the draft class descriptions, we will distribute them with a clear instructions for the feed back process.  As part of that process, we are working with Koff to set up drop-in review for those who have questions regarding their classification.

Budget Reductions – Your Role

Senior management, with recommendations from the participatory governance process, make the final recommendations for reductions. Before those recommendations can be implemented, they are presented to the FHDA Board of Trustees for approval.The best way to separate fact from rumor is to participate in the process.  Participatory governance meetings are open to everyone.  Go. Ask questions, like where does the work go?  Can’t make a meeting?  All decisions/recommendations are posted to their appropriate governance web page. A few to review on a regular basis would be:

PaRC –  At the Feb. 7 meeting, PaRC updated their timeline included guiding principles for reduction.
De Anza
College Council  & Campus Budget – The Jan. 19 Finance & College PBT updated their timeline and included some guiding principles for reduction.
Central Services

District Budget & Advisory Committee – This tends to more informational and provides a budget update for the district as a whole.

Why I Think A Union Is Important 

by Art Hand, Foothill chief steward

The reasons are many.

I’ve often said that one of the reasons I’ve served so long as chief steward is because I can remember the job description: it is “to represent the workers to management.” That phrase also encapsulates why it’s important to have a union. We are “represented.” No one of us needs bargain alone with management as is the case in workplaces that are not represented by a collective bargaining agreement. No one of us need face disciplinary action alone should it come to that. No one of us is alone, except by choice.

Our unit has been represented by three different unions during my tenure here. ACE, our present “exclusive bargaining representative” (Article 1) is the most important one, and the most successful. When we voted to decertify SEIU and form ACE, I was strongly opposed, and said so repeatedly. I have long since repented of that sentiment. My objection was simple: SEIU was a national organization of considerable power. ACE’s effectiveness would depend solely on us, as it would be made up only of us. I didn’t have sufficient faith in my coworkers to pull it off. When wrong–which I have been frequently in life–I’m usually sorry, but not this time. Almost nine years on, ACE is stronger, and more ably run than ever.

Chris can list our numerous accomplishments as an organization. She is more familiar with them, and in greater detail than I am. She’s also responsible for a lot of them. But not without considerable help from the many coworkers who have served and who continue to.

Anyway, if you are not sufficiently aware of why our union is important now, you certainly will be in the coming months and years. I’m retiring as of March 31st. I leave now at the beginning of another extended budget crisis. Having been through at least half a dozen in the past thirty-one point six eight years (I can be that exact because I’ve been to PERS), I have seen up close how we, as a District, with all its constituent parts, conduct ourselves. Nobody panics, not the way it went the very first time. In successive crises, we’ve learned more and more to contend collaboratively with the problem, to exploit the time available, to make use of the workforce we have in filling critical positions, to minimize the number of people actually laid off. This commitment starts with the Board of Trustees, and is shared by all levels of management, and ACE. ACE is intensively involved, from making sure everyone’s rights under our Agreement are observed, and that seniority for any workers affected is determined with complete accuracy.

This coming year will be critical for all members of our unit. Although I will soon be (mostly) gone, a new Foothill chief steward will be appointed by the ACE executive board to serve out the remainder of my term. I should be able before I leave to spend time with my successor to help her/him get a good start.

There isn’t enough time or space to adequately say why our union is so important. Even a weak union with an imperfect Agreement is better than no union at all. However, we are blessed to have a strong, homegrown organization that has made great progress in negotiations over the years to strengthen our Agreement and protect our interests. I’m not entirely of one mind about leaving. But I have no misgivings whatsoever about ACE, and our homegrown leadership. I think back on my strenuous opposition to forming ACE all those years ago, and can only thank you all–at least the majority of you who voted–for so wisely ignoring me, and voting to forge our own future.

Seniority: Update

Last month, we described how seniority is calculated.  ACE has received an updated seniority list and we are spot checking for accuracy.  This process takes a time and it is better to do it now than during a layoff period.  Once ACE is confident the results are accurate, we will let you know. A couple points about seniority.

  • Between promotions and resignations, the list changes all the time.  What is true today might not be true when we are addressing it if/when layoffs occur; and
  • >If you don’t have a lot of seniority, that doesn’t mean you’re automatically leaving. During the last reduction cycle, working with the District, ACE was successful in placing many affected workers into vacant positions when they did not have any right to the position but were otherwise qualified to do the job.

Classification Study: Position Vs. Classification

by Chris White, ACE President

When reviewing the draft class description, it is important to remember classifications are generalized and not every word from the PDQs will be on the final class description.

Positions and classification are two words that are often thought of as interchangeable; but in fact, have very different meanings.  In a classification plan,

Position = assigned a group of duties and responsibilities performed by one person. Positions are evaluated and classified based on such factors as:

  • knowledge, skills, and abilities required to perform the work
  • the complexity of the work
  • the authority delegated to make decisions and take action
  • the responsibility for the work of others and/or for budget expenditures
  • contacts with others (both inside and outside of the organization), and
  • the impact of the position on the organization and working conditions.

When positions are classified, the focus is on assigned job duties and the job-related requirements for successful performance, not on individual employee capabilities or amount of work performed.

Classification = may contain only one position, or may consist of a number positions.  When there are several positions assigned to one classification, it means:

  • the same title is appropriate for each position because the scope, level, duties, and responsibilities of each position assigned to the classification are sufficiently similar (but not necessarily identical);
  • the same core knowledge, skills, and other requirements are appropriate for all positions; and the same salary range is equitable for all positions.

A class description is a summary document that does not list each duty performed by every employee.

  • We have already agreed with the district that NO ONE will go down, in pay or classification, as result of the consultants findings.  Read that again.  One more time and pass it on.
  • Classifications are generalized and not every word from the PDQs will be on the final classification description.
  • The goals for this project:  To align job descriptions with the current roles and responsibilities of classified employees, create career ladders were appropriate, and conduct a market analysis of compensation in similar or like jobs in other districts.
  • Authority:  A Joint Labor Management Classification Committee (JLMCC) was established to negotiate this process. Representing ACE are Cathleen Monsell, chair of negotiations, Chris White, ACE president, and Bradley Booth, attorney for ACE.  Representing the District are Myisha Washington from human resources, Lisa Mandy, De Anza administrator, and Kevin Harral, Foothill administrator.  Neither side has more authority and the consultants report to the committee.  ACE and the District mutually agreed to the selection of Koff & Associates after independent research and reference checks.

Retirement Planning Workshops


Friday, March 9
Foothill College
CalPERS • Social Security • District Retirement Benefits

This retirement workshop is open to all district employees and includes sessions from CalPERS, Social Security, and District retirement benefits. Employees at all stages of their career are encouraged to attend. It is never too early to plan for your retirement.

Check Outlook for an invitation.

Classification Study: Comparator Organizations for Compensation

A classification study takes a snapshot in time of the work being performed by workers.  But that only tells part of the story.  Compensation is another key component in this process.  A study of the current labor market will provide new information to determine whether the organization’s pay structure is appropriate or may need adjustment based on the work identified in the classification portion of the study. Paying people fairly is good for recruitment and retention.

In developing the list of potential agencies for the compensation study, Koff & Associates (K&A) evaluated a number of comparative indicators related to Foothill-DeAnza Community College District’s (District’s) demographics, financials, and scope of services provided.  The following details the methodology and the specific criteria included in the analysis.

  1. Organizational type and structure: K&A generally recommends that agencies of a similar size and structure providing similar services to that of the District be used as comparators.
  2. Similarity of population, staff, and operational budgets: These elements provide guidelines in relation to resources required (staff and funding) and available for the provision of services.
  3. Scope of services provided and geographic location: Organizations providing the same services are ideal for comparators, and most comparator agencies included in the analysis provide similar services to the District.
  4. Labor market: In the reality that is today’s labor market, many agencies are in competition for the same pool of qualified employees, and individuals often don’t live in the communities they serve.The geographic labor market area, where the District may be recruiting from or losing employees to, is taken into consideration when selecting comparator organizations.

The comparator agency analysis includes specific data for each proposed agency:

  1. Geographic Proximity
  2. Educational Administrator, Tenured, and Academic Temporary (Full-Time Equivalent [FTE])
  3. Student Enrollment
  4. Classified Staff (FTE)
  5. All Funds – Revenue
  6. Revenue per Student (per $1,000)
  7. Median Household Income
  8. Median Home Price
  9. Cost of Living

The overall ranking is based on the absolute value difference between the agency on each factor and the District regardless of whether the agency is higher or lower for that factor.  The analysis includes data for informational purposes only, such as the Median Home Price and Median Household Income comparison data.  These criteria are not part of the overall comparison score, as these two factors are components of the % Above/Below U.S. Cost of Living Average.  The analysis utilizes the Cost of Living in the overall rank, as an indicator of the local economy for each agency.

The recommended agencies are those agencies that were identified as being the most similar to the District based on the eight factors analyzed above except for the recommendation to include Chabot-Las Positas Community College District and West Valley-Mission Community College District.  Koff recommended including Chabot-Las Positas Community College District and West Valley-Mission Community College District, as opposed to the other districts, because Chabot-Las Positas and West Valley-Mission are within the local geographic labor market (and is more comparable in terms of cost of living and cost of labor factors).

The list of comparator agencies for our study include:

  1. San Mateo Community College District
  2. Coast Community College District
  3. Peralta Community College District
  4. Ventura Community College District
  5. Mt. San Antonio Community College District
  6. San Francisco City College District
  7. Riverside Community College District
  8. Santa Monica Community College District
  9. North Orange Community College District
  10. Contra Costa Community College District
  11. Chabot-Las Positas Community College District
  12. West Valley-Mission Community College District

With issues of classifications and compensation, using this data-driven approach to determine comparator agencies is a change for the District and one of the key reasons we selected Koff to conduct this study.  Traditionally, the District has used the Bay 10 – West Valley, Mission, San Mateo, Skyline, Cañada, Ohlone, San Jose City, Evergreen, Foothill and De Anza –  for comparison with mixed results.  Our cost of living may be similar to Ohlone (Fremont) or Everngreen (East San Jose), but the size of our institutions in terms of student enrollment and staffing are vastly different.  Using a defined set of criteria, like the eight identified above by Koff, allow us to see real differences between FHDA and the comparator agencies, both in terms of the comparator agency itself and the factors that affect the economy in which the agency is located.

Common questions:

We’re conducting a compensation study when there is no money?
Yes.  Separate from the District’s budget challenges it is important to know if people are being compensated appropriately for the work they do.  Using a strong, industry-focused compensation survey as the foundation for pay decisions allows us to make fairer decisions and manage resources more wisely.

So, we’re getting a raise?
Most likely, no.  Based on preliminary independent research, in most instances FHDA pays more than other community colleges.  We will review the information and negotiate with the District based on what makes sense given the fiscal climate.

Will I lose pay?
No.   ACE and the District have already agreed no one will go down in pay as a result of this study.