Faculty at Green River College have voted to strike on Monday to protest a decision by the college to eliminate 11 programs and courses.
Faculty at Green River College will go on strike for three days, starting Monday, to protest plans by the college to eliminate 11 programs and courses.
Under the proposed cuts, five tenured faculty and one tenure-track faculty member at the Auburn community college could lose their jobs, along with an unknown number of adjunct instructors.
The college faculty have been in a long-running dispute with President Eileen Ely, and three times — most recently, this month — voted they have no confidence in her leadership. They say she is using state cutbacks as a way to gut the college’s United Faculty union, which is a chapter of the American Federation of Teachers Washington.
It’s unusual for a union to go on strike when there’s no contract up for a vote. Community-college strikes are also unusual in Washington; the last such strike was in 2013, when Bellingham Technical College faculty picketed during contract negotiations.
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According to a union spokesman, 74 percent of the dues-paying members of the faculty voted this week to authorize the United Faculty board to call for a strike, and on Friday the union’s 10-member board unanimously voted to strike. The faculty set the strike at three days so as to have a limited impact on students; the quarter ends June 10.
College officials said late Friday that they hadn’t been formally notified of the strike yet, but would be posting information online once they knew more.
“Our concern, of course, is to mitigate issues to students as much as possible,” said Catherine Ushka, acting public-information officer for the college. “It’s definitely the time of year when it’s going to have the highest impact on students.”
College officials say they must cut $4.5 million from a $40 million budget over the next four years, partly due to state cuts and partly due to declining enrollment.
The college’s average annual enrollment has gone from a high of 9,370 in 2010-11 to 9,064 in 2014-15. The biggest decrease has been in Washington students. International student enrollment has grown slightly, according to college figures.
The 11 programs and courses that were identified for elimination are fingerprinting certification, design drafting, drama, a Montessori track for early childhood education, parent-child education, German, French, geography, occupational therapy assistant, study skills and business technology evening courses at the Kent Station campus.
“Nothing has been fully decided yet,” said Ushka of the cuts. She said the college will continue to look for alternatives to laying off instructors and eliminating programs.
Faculty members say the college has a $20 million surplus in international student tuition that could be used to prevent such drastic cuts, and that many of the programs Ely has chosen to cut are moneymakers, picked as a way to punish outspoken faculty members. The faculty has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the college, as well.
Ely “doesn’t collaborate or communicate; she intimidates and retaliates,” said faculty union President Jaeney Hoene in a statement. The faculty is calling for a “legitimate review process as outlined in the contract” before any programs are cut.
They also want Ely to resign.
The State Board for Community and Technical Colleges this year is moving to a new way of funding the colleges that emphasizes adult basic education classes and high-demand technical courses, at the expense of more traditional liberal-arts classes. Other colleges in the state are expected to make budget cuts as well.