By Ron Norton Reel, CCA President
When I entered the teaching profession some 36 years ago, there was nothing more that I wanted to do than teach. I had been so inspired by my own teachers and college professors over the years, that I couldn’t imagine anything greater than to attempt to help young students achieve their own dreams.
My calling was to teach at the community college level, and so I began my career at Bakersfield College. Since then I have taught at Georgetown, Pasadena College, Cal Poly, and Mt. San Antonio College where it was my goal to help students discover their voice through speech and communications classes and on the forensics team. It was a privilege to be able to do so. Over the years, I’ve seen so many of my students go on to successful careers and lives, and I still can’t conceive of a better profession.
Yet, I’ve learned over the years that there have been obstacles that we in the teaching profession have had to overcome in order to do our best work. Much of it had to do with our working conditions, which we all know, are our students’ learning conditions. And so, I became more involved with the Mt. SAC Faculty Association, which fought for department chair reassigned time and stipends, and part-time rehire rights. I stepped out of my comfort level in the classroom to become involved in politics.
Because of our active participation in our association, Mt. SAC was able to recruit and retain excellent faculty. Over the years, the Mt. SAC Faculty Association has taken the lead on improving safety on campus by working with management on crises plans. We created our own PAC and we helped elect faculty-friendly board members who recruited administrators that have become partners, rather than adversaries.
None of that would have happened without our faculty becoming involved in politics. At Mt. SAC, we learned the wisdom behind the words of Greek statesman Peracles: “Just because you don’t take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.”
That involvement on the local chapter level propelled me to become more involved with the Community College Association, where I’ve gained a statewide perspective on the needs of our colleges. With the powerful CTA behind us, we achieved many more successes. Some of those include:
Helping to pass three major statewide schools and college facilities bonds bringing $3 billion in construction funds to colleges.
Sponsoring AB 420 that provided office hours, re-employment, health benefits, and equal pay to part-time faculty.
Successfully fighting Gov. Schwarzenegger’s attempt to eliminate Defined Benefit retirement programs improved enhance
ments to our retirement plans.
Fighting attacks on tenure from Board of Governors.
Sponsoring legislation that requires 75 percent of classes be taught by full-time faculty.
Sponsoring legislation calling for random audits of districts to make sure they follow the 50 percent law.
And that’s for starters. Our efforts continue on a daily basis. I can tell you, none of these achievements would have happened without CCA and CTA working on behalf of faculty. But CCA/CTA is only as strong as its membership. We need to keep CCA strong.
That’s why you need to know that there is an initiative on the November ballot that will silence our voice in advocating for our profession and the students we serve. Prop. 32, the “Stop Special Exemptions Act” as CTA calls it, would prohibit CCA/CTA from using union membership dues for political purposes, such as electing faculty-friendly boards of trustees, or supporting funding initiatives to bring more resources into our classrooms – another proposal that is on the ballot.
The initiative purports to prevent corporations from the same thing, but corporate interests don’t use payroll deductions, they use their profits in order to have their way. And, since corporations already outspend unions at a margin of 15 to 1, this would really only have an impact on unions and their ability to advocate for the middle class in this country.
Although the initiative specifically goes after our political donations, it would eventually erode our ability to work on behalf of our members in the state Capitol and at our local bargaining tables. We’ve come too far to go back to the days before we were able to collectively bargain contracts, and make no mistake, that is where this is leading.
CCA will be working with chapter leaders over the summer on local campaign plans to register our students to vote. Please take the time to leaf through this Advocate to find out about the upcoming election and what you can do.
As always, have a restful summer and save some energy for the fall campaign.