Guild Membership Meeting Caps a Successful Academic Year
A parody of Gloria Gaynor’s 1978 disco anthem “I Will Survive” was an apt opening to the Annual Membership Meeting and dinner held at the Guild Office on May 21st that culminated the 2018/2019 academic year for AFT Local 1521. Attendees swayed to the rousing singalong led by Los Angeles College Faculty Guild president Joanne Waddell at the start of the late afternoon’s festivities.
A catered buffet and music by jazz quartet Ostia (some of whom are LAVC Job Training employees) complemented an agenda that included dancing and raffled prizes, as well as a celebration of retiring faculty and a warm welcome to newcomers.
We were teetering over a cliff, but we survived!” Waddell said, referencing the summer of 2018’s Supreme Court decision in Janus vs AFSCME, an attempt to eviscerate public sector unions. “We went ‘all in’ on our goals of organizing, communication, bargaining, politics, and labor and community alliances. As a result, it is with confidence and without hesitation that I can say the state of the Guild is strong.”
There was a lot to celebrate. Of the more than 4,500 AFT Local 1521 members, there has been a net loss of only 35 members since the Janus decision. Meanwhile, on the organizing front, the Guild has added 300 new members, significantly advancing the goal of 85 percent membership strength.
“Collectively we achieve more than any of us can as individuals,” Waddell said, citing the Guild’s participation in AFT’s nationwide campaign to “Fund Our Future,” which includes California’s “Schools and Communities First” campaign. She said that Local 1521 supports the California Federation of Teachers’ recent vote of no-confidence in California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley and noted that the Guild passed a vote of no confidence in LACCD trustee Scott Svonkin.
“Our contract expires on June 30, 2020, and at the same time we’re going into a [U.S.] presidential election as well as election of our board of trustees,” said Secretary Mindy Chen. “This is a great test in a post-Janus world to show our solidarity, commitment to each other, and willingness to take action.”
Guild Treasurer Sharon Hendricks noted that the AFT’s finances are strong, having grown in a tough market climate to maintain a secure ending balance.
But it wasn’t all good news. Guild Executive Vice President William Elarton-Selig anticipated “a perfect storm of horrible” in the near future. “Our enrollment is decreasing, which, if nothing changes in the legislature, means our funding will decrease at a time when healthcare costs are rising, district costs are rising, and we’ll be in the middle of negotiating a contract,” he said.
The collective bargaining agreement between the District and the Guild ends June 30, 2020 and preparations for negotiating a new contract are already underway.
At the dinner, AFT Local 1521 also bid a fond farewell to retiring members, including Los Angeles City College music professor/orchestra conductor Dr. Luther Henderson and West Los Angeles College history professor Patricia Siever, a married couple who have a combined 75 years of service.
The Guild also welcomed a newly tenured member, LACC’s Yanwei Cai. “I was a union member when I was teaching high school. It’s important to be part of the union and have them represent us,” Cai said, adding that although she teaches chemistry, her math skills are sharp enough to recognize that “there’s power in numbers.”