The Early History of Our Union

By Patrick Butler

Before The Rodda Act was passed in 1976, faculty were forbidden from forming unions, and representatives of the Academic Senate of San Jose Junior College (as it was called then) met directly with the Governing Board and college administration to set salaries and teaching loads. The day-to-day operation of the college and academic and professional matters were set by the process of adopting college policies and procedures. When Evergreen Valley College was opened in 1975, they formed a Senate that joined in those discussions. It was essentially a matter of asking, as the faculty had little recourse if their proposals were turned down by the Board. We did get decent pay rates for the full-time faculty because the administration wanted those same percentages for themselves, which when based on higher yearly salaries, resulted in much higher dollar increases and an increasing wage disparity between the two groups.

In 1976 the faculty leadership decided to organize a bargaining agent under the California Teachers Association (CTA). In hindsight we should have picked the stronger alternative AFT, but we went with ‘union lite.” I became the president of CTA for the district and set about gathering the signatures of at least half of the total faculty; there was a combined full and part time staff district-wide of close to 1,000 that that time. We were recognized by the Board and cobbled together a contract by a cut-and-paste process using the District Policies and Procedures that fell under “wages, hours and working conditions.”

CTA took the “open shop” option which allowed faculty to benefit from our contracts without paying dues. The dues were very low at the time, about $13 per month for part-time (the term of the time) faculty and $38 for full-time. We in CTA were provided no release time, salary, or staff and we paid Carmen Castellano to type up our monthly newsletter.

There were a few actions of note that our bargaining agent took during those first years. I was approached by Virginia Scales who was a fully qualified ESL teacher, with a master’s degree in the field, who was teaching ESL lecture classes alone in the classroom but was paid as a classified employee. For about $12 per hour, she was teaching six hours per day, five days per week for eleven months per year. In addition, these classified faculty had to hold two office hours per day. This group of over a dozen faculty was supervised by two full-time faculty at SJCC who received 100% release time and signed the huge stack of the grade sheets and attendance reports. We started a grievance with the district and they ended the program and hired the faculty as certificated employees. There were two of these teachers who only had a BA and they lost their jobs until they could complete a master’s, as that was required by the California Educational Code.

One of the few benefits of CTA was that they represented, as I remember, about 2,000 of K-12 teachers in our district and we were able to get those mailing labels and some financing to run several candidates for the five member Governing Board, which were then elected at-large. Over six years a broad group of faculty successfully ran the campaigns of Chuck Blackmore, Ester Ono and Zoe Lofgren for the District Board. At the first meeting where all of those members were present they fired the Chancellor, Otto Roemmich. It felt good at the time as Roemmich was hardly a friend of the faculty, but it started us down a path of confrontation, which proved, I now believe, less productive than we predicted. Zoe Lofgren moved on to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and the faculty proceeded to fund a string of candidates, a few of which were turned away from the faculty in short order.

When Zoe left for the Board of Supervisors in early 1982, I took some time off from teaching and joined her staff and that of San Jose City Councilman/ Mayor Tom McEnery. Several years later the faculty then left CTA, joined a small group of independent unions, then, voted to join the AFT in 2002. I supported that move to AFT and served as the grievance officer for AFT #6157 for several years before I moved to the administration and retired.

It took some time but our faculty finally ended up with a powerful representative who focused on all of the faculty, making major gains for our students, adjunct staff and full-time instructors.