Pensacola, Florida
Wednesday September 20th 2017

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PSC: Both Sides Closer

By Rick Outzen

Inweekly sat down with Dr. Ed Meadows, president of Pensacola State College, to discuss his labor negotiations with his faculty and the claims of censorship.

Dr. Meadows said the letter sent to union leaders regarding faculty being interviewed by Corsair reporters was based on incorrect legal advice.

“Ever since I’ve been here, our labor attorneys have told us that there was a state statute that prohibited faculty from engaging students in bargaining issues,” he said. “When it had come to my attention that an article online had been published in the student newspaper regarding a bargaining meeting, I had our attorney send a letter to the union leadership citing that state statute.”

Not until he was interviewed by the website Inside Higher Education did Dr. Meadows learn the union leadership’s response had cited two court cases where the court had overturned that statute as unconstitutional.

“I conferred back with our attorneys who sent another letter, at my request, to the union leadership saying that we had no intention of censoring the press, which this had turned into,” Dr. Meadows said. “We were just trying to maintain that it was inappropriate to engage students in labor disputes and labor matters.”

He added, “That’s still my personal opinion. I think that what is active on the table needs to play out at the table. It should not be played out in the press because that compromises both sides in labor negotiations.”

Pensacola State College’s negotiations with its faculty went to impasse in September. Dr. Meadows said the faculty had rejected the school’s offers.

“On the table were four big ticket items: $120,000 for salary compression, a 2 percent across the board raise for the last year, a cap of 15 percent on non-tenure track faculty that we would hire, and a condition that we move the adult high school faculty from 18 contact hours a week to 22 1/2, which is the same number hour other adult education teachers are teaching.”

When faculty didn’t ratify that proposal, Dr. Meadows countered.“I offered an increase for most faculty and overloads,” he said. “I offered to decrease the time between promotion from five years to four years with a 4 percent increase for each one of those promotions. I compromised on the clinical side (in health sciences) halfway, but I still wanted the adult high school teachers to teach the same as the rest of the adult education teachers.”

However, the college had to cut the salary compression offer in half. “We had our fall numbers by then, which showed about a 10 percent decrease in enrollment, so we had only $60,000 that we were offering for compression,” he told Inweekly. “We also couldn’t give them the 2 percent raise retroactive to the past year because of the loss in enrollment, but we could give it retroactive to this fall.”

Under the impasse process, PSC could continue to negotiate before going to non-binding arbitration. “The arbitrator makes a recommendation that either side can accept or reject,” Dr. Meadows said. “If either side rejects any part of it, then it goes to the board for final resolution.”

Since then, Meadows met on Dec. 1 with union leaders and reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement that will go before the faculty in January. Both agreed to the college’s last proposal with a few modifications. The cap on non-tenure track faculty was increased to 20 percent and a $2,000 supplement would be given to each of the eight faculty members teaching 22 1/2 hours for the adult high school.

“There’s one other issue. We had said that we didn’t have enough money to give our employees across the board raises, but we could try after we saw our fall enrollment, to give a $350 one-time supplement,” he said. “I informed the board at our last meeting that we could do that for all eligible employees and that the faculty association would be able to negotiate that as well, so part of the package is that if they ratify what we’ve agreed to.”