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By CCA President Eric Kaljumägi

Joining a union is one of the very first things many faculty do when they start a new position. Much like signing up for health insurance or receiving a benefit like a faculty parking permit, joining a faculty union is often done during the HR intake process.

If you know someone who isn’t a union member, I hope you will encourage them to join as soon as possible. Online registration in your local, CCA, CTA and NEA is now possible at join.cta.org.

Union membership is in some ways a type of insurance. CTA members benefit from a $1,000,000 educator employment liability insurance plan, but more frequently utilize CTA’s group legal services. Just last month, CTA reported that they have begun to work on a threatened permanent teacher dismissal from Barstow CCD, a district retaliation case from North Orange County CCD, and a disability accommodation from the College of the Siskiyous. While only a small percentage of us will ever need legal support during our careers, the support of lawyers familiar with public employment laws and regulations is a tremendous benefit whenever it becomes required.

Our union membership is also in some ways an employee benefit. There are CTA and NEA member benefits departments that provide disaster relief funds, travel discounts, and well-vetted insurance deals. In addition, a new faculty member accomplishes their work in an environment supported by past and current union efforts. The salaries and benefits we enjoy are noticeably higher than in similar non-union employment; our contracts provide clear processes and a measure of protection from capricious managers; and the policies and procedures that direct each college undergo careful faculty review. Although many faculty don’t think about their retirement plans when they are first hired, their union does. CTA leaders currently occupy two of the 12 seats on the CalSTRS Teachers’ Retirement Board, and a third seat is held by a community college faculty member with significant experience in her non-CTA union.

Union membership is certainly membership in a faculty advocacy group. This year, the state budget included a 4.07% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) that combined not just the increase for 2021-22 but also the 2.31% calculated COLA from 2020-21 that was not previously funded. CTA’s advocacy helped to add an additional 1% to community college funding for an effective increase of 5.07% to most unrestricted accounts. That’s money that can go into faculty salary and benefits! Along with other community college advocates, we succeeded in convincing the state to spend $100,000,000 to hire new full-time faculty and to provide another $100,000,000 for part-time office hours. Our advocacy works!

At its heart, union membership in your local, CCA, CTA and NEA allows us to come together to accomplish what we could never individually achieve. This winter, some CCA members will learn how to process grievances or will refine their negotiation skills. Some will reach out to their local legislators, and others will review the dozens of legislative bills to recommend which should be supported or opposed by CTA’s professional legislative advocates. Still others will work toward racial and social justice or engage in one of the many support roles that a large organization requires.

I am thankful for our union infrastructure, and I hope that you will spread the word to your co-workers about the good we have done and will continue to do.

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