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Cuesta College faculty members rally for pay raise

Cuesta College faculty rally Wednesday in front of the library in support of the faculty union’s goal to seek a pay raise. At right, Tony Rector-Cavagnaro, chair of Cuesta College's languages and communications division, speaks to the group.
Cuesta College faculty rally Wednesday in front of the library in support of the faculty union’s goal to seek a pay raise. At right, Tony Rector-Cavagnaro, chair of Cuesta College's languages and communications division, speaks to the group. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the number of Cuesta College faculty; there are 448 full- and part-time faculty members.

Holding signs reading “United for Education. Fair Pay Now!” more than 50 Cuesta College faculty members gathered Wednesday on the San Luis Obispo campus to rally support for the faculty union’s goal to seek a pay raise.

“When will the (college) president and trustees decide that it’s time to invest in the well-being of Cuesta employees?” Cuesta College Federation of Teachers President Debra Stakes said to the group of colleagues and some students who stopped to watch the lunchtime event.

Faculty members have only received a 2 percent salary increase in the last seven years, she said, while at the same time, employees are required to contribute more toward their retirement.

“As a result we’re actually getting less real dollars than we were during the recession,” Stakes said. “Rents are going up. We need an across-the-board increase — bigger than 2 percent.”

Stakes said the faculty union initially asked for a 14 percent increase over three years. Cuesta College officials offered 2 percent, she said, and the union countered with a 7 percent increase in one year with an option to renegotiate for the next two years.

Shortly after the rally Wednesday, the Cuesta College Federation of Teachers’ negotiating team met with the district’s team.

Stakes said the two sides are not at impasse and faculty members are not going on strike, but she did ask faculty Wednesday to consider pre-authorizing a strike. Cuesta College has 448 full- and part-time faculty members. Of those, 313 are union members.

In a statement, Cuesta College Superintendent/President Gil Stork said: “Cuesta College is committed to enhancing compensation for all of our employees, especially to offset the local cost of living and inflation.

Stakes points out that the college is experiencing its healthiest budget in years.

Stork did not dispute that the state’s budget is the best Cuesta has seen since the recession but added: “Much of the increased funding comes from dollars designated to specific programs and are considered ‘one-time’ monies. In addition, the successful passage of Measure L did alleviate some pressure on our facilities debt and needs.

“However, the college’s enrollment challenges and corresponding state reductions to the college’s general fund remain major concerns in supporting the ongoing costs associated with salary and benefits increases,” he said.

The Cuesta College Board of Trustees in June approved a three-year agreement with Stork that makes him eligible for 2.5 percent increases in 2016-17 and 2017-18 upon successful completion of board-approved goals.

Over the past few years, Stakes said, Cuesta College faculty members have supported Measure L, the college’s $275 million bond measure, and supported the college’s efforts to break free of sanctions and see its accreditation status reaffirmed.

“We are valuable,” said Matt Fleming, who teaches English. “We do great work for this college, and we deserve to be paid for the work that we do.”

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