While negotiations between the University of Alaska and the Alaska Community Colleges' Federation of Teachers have dragged on for over a year, one is reminded of the story of David and Goliath. The university, with its bloated $35 million administrative budget, professional public relations and negotiations staff, and a president who happens to be the highest paid state employee, appears to be attempting to bully the union into submission.
If it is true, as both sides agree, that the major sticking issues are not financial, then this becomes simply a power struggle over who will control education. The UA administration would like to strip the teachers' contracts and have them take a major step backward. If the university were given its demands the teachers would take a substantial hit in their medical plan. A teachers' contract could be changed from 100 percent to 51 percent with no recourse. Grievance procedures would all but disappear and UA employment would become more like the military than that of an academic institution.
The university has offered to go to binding arbitration, yet restricting the conditions so as to make arbitration a farce. Is there some reason UA teachers aren't entitled to the same protections as other state workers? Is the UA administration so insecure it must hold all the cards? Is the administration trying to break the union? Does top-quality education enter into the administration's equation? What is the reasoning behind this mean-spirited approach?
The UA and its instructors are important to each and every one of us. An intelligent and educated Alaskan population can only serve as a positive attribute for our state. As a way to achieve this end, we need highest quality instructors, both on the major campuses and in the outlying schools, who are happy and secure in their positions, not in constant fear of what Big Brother might do next.
Currently we have those top-quality individuals and must keep them. They need an equitable, relevant and fair contract.
Let UA President Mark Hamilton know what you are thinking. Whether you are a student, legislator, state worker or just a resident who hopes to see our fine state prosper, this is a time for solidarity. Let us support our university staff.
As David prevailed over Goliath, may the ACCFT do likewise.
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