October 12, 2022

Union action gets results for SUNY Broome faculty

Author: Ben Amey
Source:  NYSUT Communications
SUNY Broome Faculty Association
Caption: Screenshot courtesy BinghamtonHomepage.com.

After more than a year without a contract and facing a hostile bargaining team on the other side of the table, the Broome Community College Faculty Association knew it had to take action. Against the odds, they landed a buzzer-beater deal. The college relented and agreed to terms that included a pay increase and class size caps.

For over a year, college negotiators were trying to strip out the soul of their previous contract; gutting class size restrictions for online classes and taking away caps on payments for retiree health insurance. The BCCFA wanted only what their colleagues at other area colleges including Corning Community College and Tompkins Cortland Community College had gotten: a fair deal with a modest pay increase.

Negotiations with Broome CC have been ongoing since May 2021. The BCCFA’s contract expired on Aug. 31, 2021, and the union and college reached an impasse and went into mediation. Two sessions with a state appointed mediator revealed no tangible results.

Prior to the final mediation session scheduled for Oct. 4, BCCFA made the decision to take their concerns public in a way they had not done up to that point. Rallying faculty and staff outside the Wales Center on SUNY Broome’s campus on Sept. 29, BCCFA members raised awareness of their plight. And with the help of NYSUT’s Communications Office, local media was there to cover their story. In the minds of those at the negotiating table, the rally and subsequent media coverage made all the difference.

“I think it was absolutely key,” said NYSUT staffer Michael Lynch Jr., a labor relations specialist out of the Vestal Regional Office. “The rally was our first attempt to take this argument to a broader audience. We made sure the college knew we were ready to go farther. It made a difference in the settlement.”

“Community college is a key step on the pathway to a better job, economic security and higher quality living for our students,” BCCFA President Suzanne Shepard said. “If we’re not investing in the people dedicated to helping our students reach those heights and preserving key student supports like smaller online class sizes, it sends the wrong message about our college’s priorities.”

In the final mediation session things looked disappointing at first. The college’s negotiators were still pushing for the same unacceptable conditions the union had turned down multiple times before. Union negotiators were getting ready to leave, coats on, because of the lack of progress when the mediator told them the college had relented. The items the college’s negotiators were trying to gut from the contract were off the table. An agreement was reached after a 10-hour session.

The four-year contract comes with class-size protections, caps on retiree health insurance payments and a 3 percent pay increase per year. The settlement is nearly identical to those reached at Corning CC and Tompkins Cortland CC.

“When union might stands in solidarity, we win,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. “We will always fight for a fair deal for our members, and we will always fight to ensure students at every level get the education they deserve.”

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