Published in the January 26 Santa Maria Times.

As bargaining begins between the Part-Time Faculty Association of Allan Hancock College and the representatives of college administration, a lot will be riding on what takes place at the negotiating table.

The entire collective bargaining agreement is up for discussion. The bargaining agreement, or contract, is bargained in three-year cycles. In the years between, two articles, chosen by either side, can be negotiated again. These, known as reopeners, can be by-passed if both sides agree.

Two months prior to the beginning of the negotiation process, both sides present the Board of Trustees with an outline of what they are interested in bringing up at the bargaining table, a process called sunshining, and it is done in accordance with the California Education Code. At the following meeting of the Board of Trustees, the public is invited to ask questions or make comments on what the two sides have presented. The actual bargaining begins after that.

There are two primary types of bargaining, adversarial and interest-based. Adversarial is what most people think of when they hear the words collective bargaining. The two sides, oftentimes hostile to one another, present their demands, such as an increase in pay, then begin to wrangle over them. This kind of bargaining is often acrimonious and stressful, with heated exchanges taking place in a tense atmosphere.

Interest-based bargaining takes place when both sides agree they have mutual interests at stake. They try to find common ground and work toward solutions acceptable to both sides. As one consultant put it, “it’s letting them have your way.”

Over the years both adversarial and interest-based bargaining have been used at Allan Hancock College. Nowadays, by mutual agreement, a hybrid of both adversarial and interest-based bargaining is employed. Both sides present proposals for changes or additions they would like to see in the collective bargaining agreement, and attempts are made to try and find common ground — not always an easy task, but not as stressful as adversarial bargaining.

The collective bargaining agreement between the Part-Time Faculty Association and the Hancock Community College District is often praised as a model for other bargaining units like ours to emulate. Collective bargaining between the Part-Time Faculty Association and the college administration has been going on since 2000, and we finished our first contract the following year. Since then, we have bargained one contract after another, the last one being completed in the spring of 2015, covering the period July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2017.

Each year that we bargain, the PFA seeks to improve upon what has been done already. For example, in 2011, after a 10-year effort, we were able to agree on true seniority rights for our members who teach credit classes. In 2013 we were able to persuade the district to place the state parity funds directly onto the salary schedule. In other years we have made it possible for our members to move up faster on the salary schedule, improved office hours, sick leave and professional development. And we have dramatically increased pay for the part-time faculty as well as counselors, coaches and all other service faculty in our bargaining unit.

Parity with the full-time unit is our reason for being, and each year we try to get closer to that. Equal pay for equal work is our battle cry. Ultimately we intend to achieve full pro-rata pay, so there is no longer any parity gap between full and part-time instructors and other academic workers at Allan Hancock College.

Mark James Miller, President, Part-Time Faculty Association of Allan Hancock College, CFT Local 6185, Santa Maria, CA