After a series of layoffs and college-wide restructuring, the adjunct union formed and began bargaining with the College in May. As of August, no Fall 2014 contracts for adjuncts have been made. Because changes cannot be made until contracts are drawn, bargaining will resume Fri., Sept. 12 when the two bargaining teams will discuss ways to structure the contracts of adjuncts at Mills. The discussion will revolve around finding ways to meet the demands of the union.
Nely Obligacion, Field Director and Lead Negotiator from Service Employees International Union (SEIU), sent an email to the Provost on May 21. The email demanded that there be no more cuts or changes to staffing to respect the bargaining process between the College and SEIU.
In the email Obligacion listed changes that could not occur without bargaining first including employees’ hours discipline, layoffs, termination and the removal of benefits.
Obligacion also stipulated information the bargaining unit would need before discussion could begin, most of which have been met. However, according to union member Professor David Buuck, information requested in the May 21 email to the Provost regarding the administration’s finances is still undisclosed. According to Buuck, the administration’s finances must be given in order for bargaining to commence, copies of “all fringe benefit plans” must be handed over, as well as copies of employees’ salary plans. If salary plans are not provided then a “statement and description of all wage and salary plans” must be provided instead.
A main point of contention on campus has been the recent layoffs of multiple staff and faculty members. Some members of the community claim that the layoffs are because of the unionization efforts. However, other members of the Mills community say that the layoffs occurred because of redesignation of specific cutbacks due to budget restrictions. In an interview, President Alecia DeCoudreaux explained that these cutbacks were due to an unexpected 5.5 million dollar deficit for this fiscal year.
“We did the major restructuring of the College throughout the course of the summer months at a very high-level, looking at operational issues that cut across the College,” President DeCoudreaux said. “What we have done since is to ask individual areas to take a look at their structures and to continue the work of looking at how best to ensure they’re operating as efficiently and effectively as we possibly can.”
As of last year, the College’s budget was balanced. However, President DeCoudreaux said that while the college was on its five-year plan, the yearly budget was balanced because of benefactors of the college passing away and leaving money to the college. However, during the fall and spring of last school year, 38 more students left the college than what was previously projected. The loss of that revenue from tuition threw the college’s financial plan through a loop, adding to the projected deficit for the 2014 school year, DeCoudreaux said.
Because of the campus-wide cuts, the English department was left temporarily without leadership. However, as of September, Professors Patricia Powell and Ajuan Mance have been appointed as co-chairs, filling the vacancies left by Juliana Spahr and Diane Cady when they resigned over the summer. In addition to these vacancies in the English department, staff across all disciplines received a 1.3 percent cut in salary as part of the budget reassessment.
The lack of staff in the graduate English department caused by the budget cuts forced second-year graduate students to lead first-year orientation. Due to this turmoil in the English department, one graduate student dropped out of the program in protest.
On the first day of classes,graduate students of Mills Action held a protest in the form of a print-in, during which they handed out flyers to passerbys and printed t-shirts on a screen press. President DeCoudreaux allegedly did not accept any of the fliers being handed out.