The threat of pink slips has reared its head at Southwestern Community College District for the first time since l987.
Only a few months ago, when voters passed Proposition 30, a tax to fund K-12 schools, community colleges, and state universities, governor Jerry Brown told the San Jose Mercury News, “Here we have a vote of the people, I think the only state in the country that says, 'Let’s raise our taxes, for our kids, for our schools, and for our California dream.'”
Last week, however, the Southwestern governing board met and discussed “worst-case scenarios” for negotiations with teachers. The worst-case scenario includes issuing pink slips on March 15.
Prior to the board meeting, superintendent Melinda Nish sent out a letter that advised faculty: “An information discussion of workforce reduction does not mean we stop negotiations or the meet-and-confer process.”
The faculty response was quick.
On February 14, the Southwestern College Education Association Representative Council passed this resolution unanimously: “Resolved: The [association] directs its negotiations team to not agree to any salary cuts, no layoffs, and, furthermore, that the administration should take a 5% cut.”
In a February 20 interview, the president of Southwestern’s board, Humberto Peraza, said, “Both sides have been working diligently to find common ground. I am confident that when both sides come back to the negotiating table, there will be a solution that meets the college’s financial and academic goals.”
A Southwestern faculty member commented on February 20 that the budget gap could easily be closed through pending retirements. (Attrition is part of the solution that the San Diego Unified School District has employed to close budget gaps.)
Jim Mahler, president of the AFT Guild 1931 (the local chapter of the American Federation of Teachers), which includes San Diego Community College and Grossmont-Cuyamaca, said his district is not experiencing the same fiscal problems because it is “better managed and isn’t overreacting.” Mahler also said, “The Southwestern employees shouldn’t agree to these drastic measures, because they are unwarranted.”
Last year, all Southwestern employees accepted a 5 percent pay cut. According to Mahler, no other community colleges in San Diego experienced such a cut.