As I come into the final six months of my presidency, I’m struck by how much greater the need is for workers to organize than when I started this position five and a half years ago. This pandemic has shown us a lot – humanity at its best and at its worst – but what it really showed was the difference between those workers represented by a union and those who were not. Things we might not think twice about like, the right to bargain around returning to work, the prevention of layoff for workers whose jobs couldn’t be done online, or something as simple as paid time off. Fun fact, state law does not mandate that an employee be paid for a holiday they don’t work. And, if they do work, there is no state law that an employer is required to pay a special premium pay. CA Ed Code 79020 requires a community college to close for ten holidays in the academic year but there is no provision that a worker must be paid for them. In our agreement, you get 17 paid holidays and if you have to work a holiday, it is the regular rate of pay plus overtime rate of pay.
But none of it is a guarantee unless we all step up to support and protect our association. 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 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.
In the last year alone ACE has been successful in removing letters of warning, representing members when there is discipline, protecting positions from being outsourced, 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. As an independent labor association, ACE was able to forgive dues for a whole year to help members affected by the state shelter-in-place order. This was only possible because we’re independent.
As we navigate returning to campus, negotiate for fair pay and benefits, finalize the classification study, or anything else that affects your wages, benefits or working conditions, it is incumbent upon all of us to provide participate. At the risk of repeating myself for the umpteenth time, this association only works with the active participation of all its members. When I step down as president on January 1, I will be the first person in line to support the next generation of workers who step up to continue this fight.
Chris White, ACE President
(650) 949-7789, office
“The fight is never about lettuce or grapes. It is always about people”. – César Chávez
It’s almost the end of the academic year. Where are we?
COLA and the Budget: We have already negotiated to extend the 2.5 percent temporary adjustment, slated to end June 30, 2021, through June 30, 2022. We have the option to reopen the 2021-2022 salary negotiations after June 30 of this year and with the governor’s state budget May revise and subsequent legislature negotiations, things are looking promising for 2021-2022 and beyond. From a proposed 1.5 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) in January to 4.05 percent in the Governor’s May revise, the legislature has responded with a 5.07 percent when it goes to the governor on June 15. The last time we saw a 5+ percent COLA? 2007-2008. There is also money to offset employer pension costs for multiple years and pay down deferrals. Combined with a plethora of one-time dollars for programs and initiatives, this state budget frees up limited ongoing dollars for other uses like investing in employees.
Health Benefits: One of those investments could be health benefits. We can’t argue that health care costs aren’t rising. Last year, the overall increase to premiums was 5.3 percent. Over the past five years, the average increase has been three percent a year. During that time we’ve been able to offset the increase through a Rate Stabilization Fund (RSF) so it wasn’t passed on to employees. The RSF covers the difference between what employees and the district pay and the actual premium cost. The RSF started with $10 million and to date, we have used approximately half of it. To help sustain the fund, in the past five years the bargaining units have been able to negotiate an additional $2.8 million in one-time money and increase the amount the District pays towards health benefits per employee per month (PEPM) from $976 to $1,011, but the continual increases in premiums are drawing down the RSF at a faster rate than in the first five years of its existence. In our annual survey, the cost of health benefits ranked high amongst member concerns. It may be time, once again, to invest in the RSF or PEPM or both to keep health benefits affordable for many more years. We will have a better idea of costs when CalPERS releases its 2022 rates in the next couple of weeks.
It is important to remember, the bargaining units and the District negotiate who pays how much based on the plans offered by our administrator, CalPERS, but neither has any say in what plans CalPERS offers, the cost of a plan including deductibles and co-pays, or what practitioners are included in those plans.
Holidays: The Faculty Association (FA) has ‘negotiated’ Juneteenth starting with the 2021-2022 academic year. Let’s be clear, it is a long-overdue acknowledgment that black lives matter and a tangible result as a part of a conscious choice we, as a District, made to address systemic racism in our institution. It was our students who advocated for this holiday to push for recognition to go beyond the proclamations and words of support we typically offer. I applaud them for their advocacy and the District for listening. As part of the education code, instructors are obligated to 175 academic days a year. In order to maintain 175 days, they could not add a holiday to their academic calendar and chose to swap Juneteenth for another holiday. They chose the Friday of the President’s Weekend in February. We aren’t bound by that same requirement but I would ask how we reconcile celebrating a holiday for a founding father who enslaved black Americans and enshrined slavery in our constitution at the same time celebrating a holiday that celebrates the end of slavery in America?
Classification Study – Next Steps
Follow-up interviews with the consultants, Koff, will most likely begin the week of June 14. Some delays with contract approval pushed back the timeline. Keep an eye on your email for a meeting request. The interviews will:
- be held via Zoom;
- take approximately one hour to complete; and
- include the employee, their supervisor, and the consultant.
ACE and human resources have no influence on this part of the process. The resulting classification recommendation from the consultant will be based on your PDQ and the information provided during the follow-up interview.
A note about changes to classification: If your classification – either as a result of the study or through this appeal process – was/is moved to a higher salary level, it DOES NOT mean the people in those classifications should now be doing higher-level work. It means those people were being underpaid for the level of work they were doing.
Salary Increase and Retroactive Pay
On Monday, April 5 the Foothill-De Anza Board of Trustees approved the results of the classification/compensation study along with the new corresponding salary schedule. As we noted back then, you most likely would not see the increase until late June. After a conversation with human resources, the process is going to take longer. Why? From human resources:
“The process of changing classifications is surprisingly challenging. We are working as quickly as possible to:
- update the salary schedules in our Banner system.
- restructure the classification information in the Banner system.
- manually enter the changes in salary and grade levels for every impacted employee (which includes accessing multiple screens in the Banner system for each record).
- conducting testing to ensure the information works with the system.
Why is this taking so long? You have every right to ask! Just as the classification study was being completed and accepted, on April 6, 2021, after Board approval on April 5, 2021, we had to pivot our focus to adjusting the salary schedules for all bargaining units and meet and confer groups to maintain the temporary salary increase of 2.5% that was due to sunset June 30, 2021. The urgency of that adjustment forced human resources, payroll, and ETS to scramble to rework the salary structure that had already been input into the Banner system. Now the that temporary salary adjustment has been implemented and is in place, we are able once again to shift substantial focus to implementing the classification study results.
How will I get paid? Once we have input and tested all the new salary grades and associated salary schedules, you will begin receiving your new, adjusted salary. We are anticipating full implementation by September 1, 2021 (with payout in your September 30 paycheck). If you received an increase, you will also be receiving a separate retroactive check for the amount due between the period between July 1, 2019, and the start of your new rate (again, hopefully, August 2021).
A couple of caveats.
- We still have to verify if ETS has the bandwidth to pull off the 9/1/21 implementation
- Still have to determine if it is better to process two checks – one for retro and then the “new normal” check”.
ACE is working on two things:
- Potential interest payment for delay of payment; and
- Working with payroll so our members can schedule to defer the retroactive payment and better understand tax implementations.
Return to Campus
ACE has formally requested to meet and confer with the District regarding a return to campus. As essential workers, we can be required to return but issues around safety and challenges for high-risk groups and families are just a few items that need to be addressed. It’s also rapidly changing and it is going to take a minute to get concrete answers. We continue to use the California Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board (CalOSHA) approved emergency regulations and guidelines from the Santa Clara County Public Health Department, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
In preparing for a return, both campuses are surveying students to better align programs and services with student demand.
- De Anza Student Survey:
- Foothill Student Survey: https://foothill.edu/irp/2021/FH-2021-Q4-Presentation-FHPlanningSurveyResults_PresBriefing.pdf
An employee survey went out today, Tuesday, June 8. Check your email and make a plan to respond.
Return to campus plans and policies can be found here:
De Anza Return to Campus planning: https://www.deanza.edu/return-to-campus/
Foothill Return to Campus planning: https://foothill.edu/return/
Central Services Return to Campus planning: https://hr.fhda.edu/_covid-19/index.html; https://www.fhda.edu/_chancellor/_ReturnToCampusInfoSession05.26.21.html
Potential Vaccine Mandate
A district consultation task force is working on a potential mandate for the COVID vaccine. Tonight, Monday, June 14, Chancellor Miner is recommending the Board of Trustees approve a vaccine mandate which requires “(a) all employees working on any campus or performing off-campus person-to-person services for the District to be vaccinated for COVID-19; and (b) all students attending in-person classes or using in-person district services to be vaccinated for COVID-19”. If the Board approves the mandate, the Chancellor’s Advisory Council on Friday, June 18 at 10 am will have the first reading for draft Board Policy 3507 COVID 19 Vaccination Interim Policy. Both meetings are open to the public and I encourage you to attend.
The District is legally obligated to negotiate with all bargaining units on the “reasonably foreseeable impact” of its vaccination requirement. This means both parties will be bargaining over issues such as consequences for non-compliance, among other issues, including:
- Rules for compliance
- Administration of health records
- Alternative telework
- Anything involving wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment
Our goal is to secure reasonable and fair treatment of employees and safe campuses for all.Remote Work Policy
Since ACE incorporated in 2009, our Agreement has allowed for the option to work remotely (article 13.2.6). “At the request of the worker, and if the needs of the department can be met, the worker may be permitted to work out of his or her home via a computer terminal. The request and subsequent permission, if granted, shall be in writing”. Simply put it’s an agreement between you and your supervisor. Full stop.
What the shelter in place (SIP) has taught us is that most work can be done remotely and refusal has nothing to do with liability, security, colleague interaction is diminished or any other reason that has been given when classified have asked to exercise this option. Perhaps what we need is to work smarter and change the way we operate on a systemic level. A remote work policy would help. Chancellor Miner asked Kevin Metcalk, Central Services Classified Senate President to convene a task force (we like task forces) to help develop a remote work policy. ACE’s purview is always over any impact having to do with wages, hours, and working conditions.
Know Your Agreement: Vacation Leave
Did you know? The United States is the only advanced economy that does not federally mandate any paid vacation days or holidays. About one in four workers in the U.S. don’t get any paid vacation time or holidays at all. Our Agreement guarantees that you do, and more importantly, that our employer can’t change the terms of that benefit whenever they choose. When we’ve asked, a solid majority (85%) of you do not have difficulty getting time off when requested but far too many, especially during this pandemic, don’t use the leave afforded to you by the Ed Code and our Agreement.
No one can work non-stop and be productive, particularly in the context of a global pandemic. You need to take a break before you break and while it may not be the vacation abroad that you hoped for, downtime regardless is not just a “nice to have,” it’s essential.
Basics – Article 9.2
- You must complete six months of employment before you can use vacation leave.
- Vacation accrual rate:
- Years one – three you earn 6.66 hours each calendar month (10 days annually);
- Years four – seven you earn 10 hours of vacation per month (15 days annually);
- Years eight – thirteen you earn 13.33 hours per month (20 days annually); and
- Beginning the fourteenth year you accrue 16 hours per month (24 days annually).
- Classified hourly accrual rate based on twice the length of time required for full-time workers.
- Part-time workers (20-35 hours a week) are entitled to that proportion of vacation granted to full-time workers that are equal to a full-time contract.
- Vacation must be used in increments of one (1) hour or more.
- Workers may accumulate a maximum of two years of accrued vacation. For example, if you have two years with the District and are earning vacation at 6.66 hours each month, for a 12-month employee, the balance can’t be more than 159.84 hours. The maximum adjusts with the rate your accrue vacation.
- When you retire/resign from Foothill-De Anza, you are paid out for any unused vacation.
- When the balance exceeds the limits, a worker ceases to earn vacation until the balance is below the maximum earnable. There is no other recourse and you will lose it. The District has been steadfast in not raising the cap, even during the pandemic. They want you to take time off.
- Workers who reduce their contract (partial unpaid leave, extended sick leave) have vacation accrual prorated by the percent of the contract reduced.
- You will be notified via your paystub (yellow highlight) that you are within two pay periods of reaching your maximum accrual. It is easy to miss.
- Generally, each worker should be given a choice of time for vacation but the District reserves the right to schedule leave at its convenience provided that every attempt is made to schedule vacation leave so that workers who choose to do so have at least five consecutive days off and such scheduling is not done in an arbitrary and capricious manner. In other words, don’t buy a plane ticket and then ask for the time off. Your supervisor does not have to approve it.
- If two workers in the same group wish to take a vacation at the same time, the first choice goes to the person with the longest service in the District.
- A worker can change their scheduled vacation time but only if it does not require any other worker to change their scheduled vacation.
- If a worker becomes seriously ill or injured during a scheduled vacation, they may submit a signed statement from a physician that the worker was unable to continue vacation and have the time deducted from earned sick leave.
If you are having difficulty scheduling a vacation or have questions, please contact your steward.
PGA Changes: Replacement Hours for Old Awards, Updated Guidelines for New Awards
Changes to our Professional Growth Award (PGA) program in order to do two things:
- Help those with old PGA awards have more hours count towards pensionable income after CalPERS adjusted what they would accept; and
- Update the PGA application and guidelines to move many items currently allocated under section five to section one.
In June of 2019, with a large retiree exodus and a new account administrator at CalPERS, some of the activities allowed under PGA were called into question regarding their eligibility as pensionable income. In fact, CalPERS made the determination that only hours earned in section one (college, adult education or trade school courses) met the definition for special compensation as defined by the California Code of Regulations, section 571:
Under topic #2, Educational Pay, where PGA is categorized:
“Educational Incentive is defined as compensation to employees for completing educational courses, certificates, and degrees which enhance their ability to do their job. A program or system must be in place to evaluate and approve acceptable courses. The cost of education that is required for the employee’s current job classification is not included in this item of special compensation”.
Your awards are still worth $90 each but for pensionable reporting purposes, CalPERS will prorate the percentage of an award to those hours attributed to section one.
To have more hours count as pensionable, we have agreed to the following changes to the PGA application and guidelines:
- Section one will be retitled as Certificate, Course, or Degree.
- Section 1a will cover accredited courses and continuing education units (CEU). We have removed the minimum hours required to use this section.
- Section 1b is new and will cover many job-related certificated skills training previously listed under section five.
- There is no maximum for either of these activities and you are allowed to carry these hours forward to future awards.
- Section five will be retitled as Job-Related Conference, Seminar, or Lecture. Participation in job-related special activities, such as seminars, conferences, conventions, institutes, and lectures offered by colleges, adult schools, professional associations, and community organizations.
For previously earned awards only:
We had already negotiated additional funding ($20,000 per year for two years) for affected employees to take courses at no cost to them to replace hours on already earned PGAs which are not pensionable. In addition, to help have more hours count we negotiated the following:
- Suspended the limit of 200 hours while on Staff Development Leave. You may submit hours for courses taken during past staff development leaves that were not counted due to the 200 hours limit. Official transcripts are required.
- Allow courses omitted from any previous PGA application. Submit hours for any course not submitted in previous professional growth award applications. Reminder, you must have been a district employee at the time the course was taken. Official transcripts are required.
- Allow courses not counted due to receiving educational reimbursement from the District. You may submit hours for classes taken that were not counted due to receiving educational reimbursement from the district. Official transcripts are required.
- Job-Related certificated training. You may submit hours for previously completed job-related activities/training where certification was provided. This refers to items previously reported in section five “Job Related Special Activities” in prior awards. Please provide copies of previous PGA applications with section five applicable items highlighted. The committee will review all items to make sure they are job-related/job skill-building sessions.
- New Job-Related Certificated training. You may submit hours for new job-related activities/training where certification was provided. The committee will review all items to make sure they are job-related/job skill-building sessions. Certificates/transcripts are required.
- Apply any carryover hours from section one. If you have carryover hours in section one, you may apply them to any previous award where replacement hours are needed.
For these previously earned awards, the review and application process is effective immediately and will continue through June 30, 2022. Current employees must submit the completed application, hours audit, and applicable documentation by the deadline in order to request a review of hours for the PGA substitution process. Applications submitted after June 30, 2022, will be deemed late and will not be processed.
To review your previous award(s) information:
- Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your CWID.
- This request is for a copy of your completed application(s) and the tally sheet(s) used by the PGA committee. No backup material will be provided. This should help you determine how many hours you have under section one and applicable hours under section five to estimate how many of your completed PGA’s are eligible as pensionable income per CalPERS. 200 hours of credit equals one award. For example, if you’ve completed eight awards but only have 1,000 hours in section one, CalPERS will credit five awards as pensionable (5 x 200 = 1,000 hours).
- Turn around time to receive the request for information is approximately three weeks. To not overburden an already short-staffed human resources department. Your patience is appreciated.
For new PGA awards:
The application and guidelines have been updated to reflect the following changes:
- Job-Related certificated training. These hours will now be listed under section 1b.
- All rules under PGA guidelines apply to new awards. The suspension of rules for previously earned PGAs does not apply to new awards.
- PGA is publicly funded. As public pensions and CalPERS continue to be scrutinized by the public it is imperative that the activities we submit as special compensation follow the rules set by CalPERS. The burden of verifying the eligibility is on the District before the income will be reported as pensionable. We do not want to provide cause for a CalPERS audit by reporting income as pensionable which does not meet their definition for educational pay.
- The authority to accept or deny an activity, along with which section of the PGA application it is attributed, is at the discretion of the PGA Review Panel. These are your colleagues who are donating their time to administer this program and who have consistently demonstrated they will do all they can to have hours count towards an award. You may not always like their answer. Be kind.
- PGA Review Panel: Kris Lestini, Mary Medrano, Kit Perales, Denise Perez, Shawna Santiago