A safe place to speak our minds about FUSE operations, whether good or bad, and not risk being made a public target & outcast.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Union Improvements

After posting some constructive criticizm about how the Eboard was running the union, I feel it's only fair that I comment on the improvements that I've noticed recently. Specifically, Communication. We've been getting E-Board agendas and minutes in our emails - I don't remember ever getting those before, so thank you for that! It's nice to feel included in what's going on with our union. I was also pleased to receive the Bucket Formula ratification packet over a week in advance before the votes were due. Even this last General Meeting agenda came in a timely manner, however the revised agenda sent out today might have been missed by most classifieds. It was sent as an attachment to an email with the subject line of "Surplus Furniture Information", so if you want a printout to review before the meeting, that's where to find it. It was probably just an oversight, but could create some confusion if people show up to the meeting with old agendas and aren't aware of everything that will be discussed. (Just a word to the wise when sending out an email - be sure that the subject line accurately reflects the contents.)

What's on this revised agenda that was not on the previous one is the mention of 29K going to Step G, increasing it from 2% to 2.5%. Now, I'm sure many of you heard the rumor that went around a few weeks ago about how this .5% would be applied as a retro to the G step back to July 2004. If you think that this money could be used in a better way, bring those ideas to the meeting tomorrow - afterall, it's our money.
The revised agenda also lists "Contract Extension" - I'm unclear as to what that means exactly. I know that our current contract expires June 06. Maybe there is fear that the Orange Petition group is still around and "trying to destroy the union". Trust me, I haven't seen any petitions going around for quite some time, there aren't any secretly organized groups that I know of, and it seems that 99% of the concerns posted by everyone on this blog site are about wanting this union to continue, just in an improved way! Why rush into some major decision out of fear, like locking ourselves into another 3 year contract that could perhaps be improved, without taking some time to really think about & discuss what we want in our contract?

We will also be approving the Eboard minutes from the last few months, including November 1, which has a particular item of interest to me. There's discussion on there about starting a FUSE Retiree Council which would consist of elected officers. It says that this council wouldn't have a vote in contract ratifications, but they would be able to vote on "issues that would affect them (medical benefits, etc.)". I don't know if the FUSE E-Board is the proper venue for retirees concerned about their medical benefits - rather the District committee in charge of procuring medical benefits is a more appropriate committee for retirees to be a part of. I have reservations that some of those "etc." issues concerning retirees might also be issues affecting us active employees. The minutes don't explain the capacity that this Retiree Council would have in relation to the Union E-Board, but it feels like us active employees aren't being trusted to make the right decisions down the road in regards to retirees. I think there's a fear by some that because the Post 94 employees will very soon outnumber the pre-94 employees, somehow their benefits will be voted away by the remaining classifieds. It's an understandable fear, I suppose. However, retiree medical benefits are not something that we as classifieds have control over, nor could we legally vote them away if given the chance. Even the Sierra Board of Trustees are in support of putting aside district funds now so that there will always be enough money to cover retirees' medical - our Retirees will be taken care of, obviously! I just don't know the purpose that having Retirees sit on our Union board would serve - it seems like it would eventually cause problems since it's hard enough for just the active classifieds to agree with one another! I'm only bringing this matter up because it's in the 11/1/05 minutes which we will be approving at the General Meeting. If it turns into a ratification item, then we need to have much more information and time for discussion about the subject before voting on it.

Just be sure to review the revised agenda as well as all the minutes before the meeting so you can bring any comments or questions with you.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Is this the Magic Formula?

Since this blog site is about having an open forum to discuss Classified issues, I thought it would be good to have a section where we can all talk about the new formula. There were two meetings today and one more tomorrow, and since we all can't be at every meeting, it would be good to have a central place for anyone who would like to voice their comments and concerns before we cast our votes next Friday. Please share issues that you talked about at whichever meeting you went to, since no two meetings are alike, so everything that was discussed can be available to all. Feel free to post your take on the new formula - do you think it will work? Do you see any problems with it?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

False Accusations & Ratification Rumors

I had originally written this in the comments of a previous post, in response to a false accusation of who was behind this blog site. But I felt it was more appropriate as a separate post, so here it is:

Contrary to what some believe, this blog site was NOT created by Jory or Tim, nor requested by them. There are actually others of us out here who can think for ourselves and have our own personal issues with how the Union has operated over the last few years. I am actually "pro-union". I'm thankful for all the strides that have been made in working conditions for Americans over the last century because of union involvement, and I agree that we'd probably not have the same level of benefits at Sierra without our own union. Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world - everyone's human. It's a natural instinct to push for one's own survival. What I think happened over the last few years is simply that a little human nature took over, which we're all guilty of from time to time. For argument’s sake, let's say you have a choice between a 1% raise for all employees, or a 2% raise for half the employees, and you're part of that lucky half - which option would you choose? (Be honest with yourself, now!) I know many of us would choose the latter, because we’re all human. The problem, however, is that if you were elected to represent the best interests of a union membership and make decisions that affect EVERYONE, you can't let your own human nature take over. You need to rise above and look at the whole picture, find out what your constituents want, and make your decision based on what's best for everyone. That's why it's so important to survey the membership each year, and to give options & choices instead of "all-or-nothing" ratification packages that were pre-decided before membership input. I'm not suggesting to get rid of this union; I'm only suggesting ways to fix the problems with it.

Now to add to my previous comments: We’re up for another ratification this week, and I’m concerned because nothing has been officially communicated to the membership for input or discussion. It seems that this is another “All-or-nothing” package, which is also a concern since it’s OUR bucket to use however we see fit. If the ratification that is proposed to us is not acceptable and it doesn’t pass, we don’t lose that money. Please don’t let yourself be pressured into ratifying something you’re not comfortable with. I only say this because there has been NO communication regarding what’s going on, and what I have heard is not what I would consider the most ideal way to apply that money. I hope that everyone can attend one of the meetings this week and that there is plenty of room for discussion – please make an effort to be there, especially if you have concerns too.

Monday, October 03, 2005

FUSE Survey

I would like to commend our new Business Manager, Sue, for being willing to send out a survey to the membership and find out which direction we would like the Union to move. This is a great opportunity for those of us who have been less than pleased to let the E-Board know how we think things can be improved. Please take the time to fill it out with your positive, constructive ideas and suggestions - if you would like to remain anonymous, you can print it out and mail in the hard copy. Don't miss this opportunity to make your voice heard!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Family Re-union?

There is an immediate concern with some recent budget talks of the Sierra College Board of Trustees. An email has gone out to all classifieds and faculty, and has been posted on the faculty blog site at www.scfa-members-speak.blogspot.com if you would like to give your feedback.

Ok, I just have a couple comments about the postings on this website. There are many frustrated people who have posted their concerns, and there are others defending the actions of the Union, not seeming to understand why people are upset. We're all entitled to our opinions, but I don't think it's fair to be accused of whining in the shadows when people have been retaliated against for speaking out in the past, negotiators have been removed for having differing opinions from the E-board on policies or processes, and when the group of concerned people were attending the weekly meetings, some of the board members made them feel as though they were intruding - and in a few instances, agenda items were moved around purposely so that there would be no time for community comments because particular board members did not want to hear it. One even suggested that they switch to closed meetings, but luckily the rest of the board thought that wouldn't be right, or at least it wouldn't look good. I'm not saying that every single board member was always rude, but none of them should be when answering questions asked from their dues-paying members. These are factual occurances, although I'm sure there are people out there that just want to stay in denial about anything negative regarding Union activities. If you weren't there, then you can only beleive what you are told, but please keep an open mind that there are always two sides to every story. We aren't a bunch of paranoid lunatics who have nothing better to do than to trash the E-Board - there are genuine reasons that we feel a change is necessary. Give us some credit.

Regardless of what's happened, it's out in the open now, and people can choose to beleive it or not. And, we have a new Business Manager now - let's give her a chance to move the E-board in a direction of more open communication and member participation. It would be nice to know who the Union has appointed to the Presidential search, although it would have been nicer had they asked for volunteers like the Senate did. It would be nice to have the financial reports emailed out each month, or even to be made available in the FUSE Public Folder for accessing at our convenience. It would also be nice that if there is a large expense or decision coming up, that we as members can give input and be heard before it's decided. It would be nice to know what this convention in Hawaii has to offer and how it would benefit the 3 or 4 board members attending. I think most members would be supportive of E-board activities if we were just given advance notice and justification - if we are given a chance to express our concerns before decisions are made, and the E-Board is willing to listen, I think that alone will put some of the "function" back into this disfunctional "family".

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

United We Stand

This blog site was created one night when I was particularly frustrated to find out that our union dues were paying for a temporary employee and a soon-to-be retiree to fly to New York for two weeks. It frustrated me because I could see no reason that either of those two people needed any training from Liuna. That was the Last Straw after many previous upsetting instances, mentioned throughout this site by myself and others. That's when I decided that I had to speak up, and emailed this link to a few of those I knew were concerned as well so they could anonymously vent their frustrations just as I did.

But, to be fair, I am now emailing the link to all classifieds, since Union processes, policies, and activities are something every dues paying member should be part of and have a voice in. I do not wish to start a war. I do not wish to destroy the Union. What I do wish is that these issues that many of us have can be resolved now that there will be a new Business Manager on the E-Board. That's not to cut down the previous Business Manager - I am fully aware that she's been on the E-Board for many, many years and that throughout that time she's fought many, many battles on behalf of the classifieds. The problem is that during the more recent years, it seems that the circle of "beneficiaries" of union activities and negotiations has gotten smaller and smaller, and the black hole of communication has gotten larger.

A couple years ago, there was the "secret orange petition group" of around 40+ people who were tired enough and brave enough to go against the grain and try to create a new & improved Union that would benefit every member just as well, if not better, than the existing one. Obviously, that endeavor was unsuccessful, possibly due to a large misunderstanding of what the group was trying to accomplish. Unfortunately, people's frustrations did not go away as evidenced by the postings on this site, and have only gotten worse.

This blog site is NOT another attempt to start a new Union or get rid of the current Union. There have been NO secret meetings. The last thing I want to do is start another upheaval and division of the Classified body. We must stick together and act as one body, but to do so, each one of us needs to feel that we are all equally important to our Union representatives, and that we are all equally heard. Let's all try and work together to come up with a resolution. United we stand, divided we fall. That does not mean that those of us who disagree should just keep quiet and blindly follow the leaders - it means we as a group need to figure out a solution that we can all live with, since many of us will be working together for the next decade or two.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Word of the Day

There is a clear issue in most of the comments that’s coming across loud and clear, and can be summed up into one word: ACCOUNTABILITY. So, perhaps before we decide where we want the union to go, we need to decide how the union should go.
  • What would the best way for the E-Board to find out what the membership wants as far as negotiations, E-Board release time, temp positions, & other areas?
  • What are the processes currently in place as far as E-Board decision making, and what ways can they be modified so that the membership can take a more active role in those process?
  • In regards to our dues money, would we be ok with just a heads up before money is spent so we can submit any concerns, or should expenditure requests be approved by the membership? And would this process be for just the large expenses, like travel and temp salaries, or every minor expenditure? Or, should only certain categories be required to have membership approval, like travel, food, donations? Another possibility would be for the membership to approve a detailed budget at the beginning of the year.
  • What kind of timelines do we feel are appropriate for recollections, expenditures, and contract ratifications? And how easily accessible should they be? Public Folders? FUSE website? By request only?
  • Finally, what is an acceptable majority of the membership? Is 51% enough, or should decisions/approvals be based on a higher approval rate? (I would hope that the E-Board would have serious reservations with anything less than a 75-80% approval rate, and that it would go back before the membership to further discuss the issues & come to an agreement.)

Obviously, if we, the members, needed to approve every little detail, then our Union leaders would not be able to meet certain time lines in their negotiations and operations – however, the current state of operations is not the way many members feel it should be. The accountability factor needs to land somewhere in the middle, and we all should have a say as to where that point is.

I suggest that the Union survey the membership about all the issues mentioned in these posts and that all members have a way to respond anonymously. (Numbered paper copies or emailed voting buttons won’t work – we need the guarantee of fully anonymous responses so that everyone feels comfortable to say what they really think.) The results should be available to all members as well, and the E-Board should take into serious consideration what its members are telling them.