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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 19, 2019 - Volume 47 Issue 16
Community College instructors walk out April 16
Section One
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Community College instructors walk out April 16

Seattle Central College instructors rally and march down Broadway

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Instructors at Seattle Central College walked out of their classes on April 16 and - joined by students, college staff, and community supporters - marched down Broadway to dramatize their demands that the state invest in its college system.

'The walkout is intended to illustrate the crisis faced by the community and technical colleges (CTCs) because of the state legislature's failure to adequately fund programs, salaries, and student support,' organizers from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 1789 said in a statement.

The walkout also extended to the North and South campuses of the Seattle Colleges system, schools represented by AFT 1789. Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, herself a member of AFT 1789, spoke at a noontime rally at Central College's South Plaza.

Other AFT locals also staging walkouts or rallies: Shoreline Community College AFT 1950; Bates Technical College AFT 4184; Peninsula Community College AFT 3439; Pierce County Colleges AFT 4821; Green River College AFT 2195; and Edmonds Community College AFT 4254.

Bellevue College and Highline College, which are represented by the Washington Education Association (WEA) are hosting a social media campaign in support.

'For over a decade,' the union said in a press statement, 'the state has covered only 65% of salary increases that [it has] approved, forcing the colleges to cover the other 35% with increases in student tuition or taking money from reserves, or often by cutting programs, staff, and services to students to reduce costs.

'While the McCleary decision has forced the state to adequately fund K-12 education, the tens of thousands of students and employees who participate in the state's open-enrollment colleges have continued to bear the brunt of offering college courses and job readiness programs without sufficient funding to maintain excellence and fair salaries for the employees who support our students.'

Erin Gibbons, and adjunct instructor in chemistry, said that she is funded for only part-time work as an instructor, forcing her to take a second job in order to pay her bills. Although she has an MA in electrical engineering and a PhD in chemistry, she must work at nonacademic jobs because her work at Central College simply doesn't pay her enough.

Her situation is typical in the Seattle College system, she said.

A recent survey conducted by AFT found that 84% of faculty work more than one job and/or are dependent on the income of others in order to live in the Puget Sound Region on their current salary. Some 20% work 3-5 jobs to make ends meet.

Sixty percent of faculty with additional jobs either don't teach or do both teaching and nonteaching at their extra jobs, and nearly 70% of the faculty who work more than one job do not work their extra jobs in the Seattle Colleges District (SCD), meaning they don't get the benefits and protections that come with AFT membership.

Fully 75% considered leaving the SCD because of insufficient pay or because they hoped for better career opportunities elsewhere.

At the same time, King County teachers have to cope with a cost of living 52% higher than the national average, with salaries that are as much as 61% lower than those other parts of the state.

'Everyone recognizes the value the community and technical colleges bring to individual lives, employers, and the economy,' said Karen Strickland, president of AFT Washington.

'What has yet to be taken seriously is the dire need to support the human infrastructure that makes our colleges hum - the people who process financial aid, teach in the classroom, clean the buildings, provide counseling, and more - and to make sure students succeed. The economy is strong, and the need is great - now is the time to [Re]Invest in Our Colleges!'

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