On September 22 and 24, President Jim Werner, Vice President Deirdre Verne, Political Action Committee Chair Ellen Zendman, and NYSUT Regional Political Organizer Mike Grubiak met with candidates for County offices who had requested WCCFT support. They posed the following questions to each of the thirteen candidates whom they interviewed:
- The College has made a management decision to shift work from full time faculty to adjuncts. Fifty percent of student interactions are conducted by adjunct faculty who 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?
- The past year and a half have been stressful for faculty adapting to a new teaching environment. Despite the challenges, our faculty have risen to the occasion working in a variety of formats and platforms. Unfortunately, we are still fighting for basic cost of living increases. What can you do to help us secure fair increases in compensation?
- With a decrease in enrollment of almost 12 % (Fall 2020 to Fall 2021) due to COVID, it is as if a tornado has hit. The County’s maintenance of effort is critically important, but so is additional funding for Academic and Student Support Services. What commitment can we expect for future growth?
- It’s our understanding that the County appoints five members to the College’s Board of Trustees. We are very interested in having an appointee on the Board who has a strong labor background. Can we count on your support in assisting us with that appointment? (NOTE: All candidates we interviewed responded in the affirmative to this question.)
The WCCFT Executive Committee unanimously recommended and the October 6 Membership Meeting approved endorsement of the following candidates and awarding campaign support in the amount of $500 each:
David Tubiolo represents District 14 (Yonkers, Mount Vernon), with 1718 NYSUT members and 14 WCCFT members (numbers for all incumbents are from 2 years ago). He sits on the Budget and Appropriates Committee of the County Board of Legislators (BOL) and is co-Chair of the Labor sub-committee. He indicated his interest in following up on questions raised about adjuncts at the College’s last budget presentation, as well as investigating the budget, faculty compensation, and the County’s contribution to the College generally. He is an incumbent with a strong pro-labor record who is running in a district that serves as a major feeder for the College. WCCFT also endorsed him in 2019.
Benjamin Boykin II represents District 5 (White Plains, Scarsdale, Harrison). He has served four terms on the Board of Legislators, has been Chairman of the Board for two terms, and therefore sits on all BOL committees. He brings a background in education, having served 18 years as a member of the Bennett College Board of Trustees, 7 years on the White Plains School Board, and he has taught as an Adjunct Professor of Accounting at North Caroline A&T State University. He indicated he would like us to compile data on FT/PT faculty as a precursor to further discussions on these issues, and he requests that we correspond further via email regarding a labor appointment to the WCC Board of Trustees.
Terry Clements represents District 11 (Pelham, Pelham Manor, New Rochelle), including 1783 NYSUT members and 15 members of the WCCFT. She won a special election in 2017 (with the help of the WCCFT’s endorsement). She is an educator at Columbus Elementary School and a former adjunct at Fordham University. She is highly concerned with issues involving adjuncts, strongly supports additional benefits for them, and is very sensitive to the need for faculty compensation to match increasing cost of living (especially in Westchester). She is also interested in hearing our recommendations for an appointment to the BOT. WCCFT endorsed her in 2019.
Margaret Cunzio represents District 3 (Mt. Pleasant, North Castle, Pleasantville). She sits on both the BOL’s Budget and Appropriations Committee and the Labor and Housing Committee. As a member of the adjunct faculty at Iona College and Western Connecticut University, she knows firsthand the challenges of that work, and she had constructive suggestions for increasing awareness not only at the College, but in the broader community. She is also a certified NYS teacher and administrator with a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership. She is strongly in favor of additional funding for academic and student support services, and of seeing a labor appointee to the WCC BOT. She has been endorsed by the AFL/CIO.
Chris Johnson represents District 16 (Yonkers), which includes 1265 NYSUT members and 16 WCCFT members. An incumbent BOL member running for a third term, he brings a background in education (Master’s in Education from Fordham University, with concentration in School Counseling and Personnel Services), and a track record of pro-labor activity, including helping to pass the NYS Paid Sick Leave bill. He was one of the members of the Budget Committee who (at our request) asked about the representation of adjuncts in the College’s budget presentation, and the ratio of full-time to part-time faculty. He wants to follow up with the administration and is willing to facilitate a dialogue on those issues. As a school counselor, he sees a pressing need for additional support, both in K-12 and in higher education, and he is strongly in favor of increased compensation for faculty (especially with the availability of COVID-related funding).
Erika Pierce is running for District 2 (Bedford, Lewisboro, Mt. Kisco, North Salem, Pound Ridge, Somers). She is a strong advocate for improving working conditions and compensation for adjunct faculty. She had many questions regarding the status of faculty working conditions and compensation after scrutinizing the College’s budget presentation, and she shows a solid familiarity with our student body and the need for the College to be made whole after suffering the impact of COVID. She supports a labor-based appointment to the BOT, but needs to find out more about the process.
Colin Smith represents District 1 (Cortlandt, Peekskill, Yorktown). He is a vocal advocate for organized labor, and expressed a willingness to write letters of support on our behalf or meet with the College administration on faculty issues, including improved benefits for adjuncts, increased compensation for faculty, and additional funding for academic and student support services. He is strongly in favor of a labor appointee to the BOT.
Ruth Walter represents District 15 (Bronxville, Yonkers). She sits on the Budget and Appropriations Committee as well as serving as co-Chair of its Labor sub-committee, whose meetings she urged us to attend in order to inform them of our concerns and issues. She would be happy to support increased compensation and improved working conditions, possibly in a letter to our Trustees and/or the County Executive. She sits on the BOL’s sub-committee for appointments, and she strongly favors labor representation on the College’s BOT. In 2019, our Committee was impressed in our discussion with her, but wanted to build a stronger relationship before endorsing her; we now strongly support doing so.
The Committee also met with County Executive George Latimer, who is currently running for what would be his third and final term in that office. We structured the County Executive’s time as more of a free-ranging conversation, in which he reiterated his support for the faculty of the College (as demonstrated by his quick approval of our contract in 2017 after seven years without an agreement under his predecessor). He acknowledges the need for a more sustainable long-term solution than for the College to continue its heavy reliance on under-compensated and marginalized adjuncts, and he sees the sense in having labor representation on our BOT (he provided us with contact information for the person in his office who handles these appointments, so we can begin discussions and planning.) The Committee unanimously recommends that the WCCFT endorse him once again, as we have done in his past two races.