A Message from WCCFT President Jim Werner

Jim WernerThe past year and a half have been extraordinary in so many ways—and extraordinarily stressful for faculty and students who have adapted to a radically new environment in higher education. Despite the daunting challenges, we answered the call to action, mastering new techniques and technologies as we’ve learned to deliver our services in a remote environment. The return to campus now poses additional challenges; once again, we will rise to the occasion and see that our students receive the outstanding educational experience they have come to expect from the WCC faculty.

We appreciate the generous praise we have heard from many in the College administration and the gratitude they have expressed for all our sacrifices, hard work, and innovation throughout the pandemic. Thanks to our exemplary efforts, despite COVID-related enrollment losses, the College has weathered the storm and remains on a solid financial footing. We have returned from summer with renewed energy and optimism, ready to serve our students once again.

We are also returning to the bargaining table as we resume negotiating our faculty contract and it’s only fair that words become action– that this well-deserved praise and gratitude should now translate into a more tangible form, in the pay increases and improvements in working conditions we are demanding.

We are not alone in feeling this way: we are finding sympathetic ears and potential allies among candidates for Westchester County offices this election season. Our Political Action Committee interviewed a number of candidates who solicited our endorsement. We reminded them that “we are still fighting for basic cost of living increases,” and asked, “What can you do to help us secure fair increases in compensation?” We heard strong support and constructive suggestions from all, and we look forward to working with them should they prevail at the ballot box.

We asked in particular about improving salaries and working conditions for our adjuncts faculty, who teach the majority of developmental and gateway courses serving our most vulnerable students, and who provide the support our students need to succeed. In fact, the very first question we asked the candidates was:

Fifty percent of student interactions are conducted by adjunct faculty. Yet those same adjuncts lack job security and health care as well as access to retirement options afforded full time faculty. For the past 10 years, the college has turned down Union requests to create a better work environment for adjunct faculty. How can you help us raise awareness of this issue?

Again, the positive responses were gratifying. A number of the candidates are or have been adjuncts themselves, and they demonstrated substantial awareness and genuine sensitivity to the plight of contingent faculty generally (though surprised to hear of employment conditions at the College). Many expressed enthusiasm for taking action on behalf of WCC’s adjuncts if elected to serve in County office next year.

It’s critically important that our Union helps elect public officials like these who share our values on public higher education. The Executive Committee recommended that our membership endorse nine of these candidates and provide financial support ($500) for each campaign. The resulting vote was a resounding “YES”! The funds will come from our account for VOTE-COPE, NYSUT’s voluntary and non-partisan political action organization, which enables us to contribute to candidates in County elections.

We’re happy to support these candidates and make this outlay. However, it will reduce our balance by about half; we will need to rebuild over the next two years so we are able to get behind like-minded candidates once again in 2023.

So if you’re wondering how YOU can act to strengthen our Union and advance our causes, even though you’re not on the E-board or Negotiating Team, I’ll conclude with two calls to action

Give to VOTE-COPE!
It’s never been easier: you can do it entirely online, at http://wcc.votecope.org/. A small donation made through payroll deduction of $4 or $5 can make an enormous difference in supporting candidates who are pro-education and pro-labor!

Get involved!
Pitch in by joining a Union Committee, like our Adjunct, Membership, Faculty Development, or Constitution Committees, or consider signing up to become a “shop steward” for the Grievance Committee (see WCCFT NEWS & UPDATES for further details)!

I look forward to seeing you soon—“in action”!