[ Fighting for you ]

Union solidarity wins fair contract for SUNY Broome faculty

By Ben Amey



fter 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, a fair pact containing pay raises and online class-size caps comparable to their peers at area community colleges.

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 Broome CCFA wanted only what their colleagues at other area colleges such as Corning Community College and Tompkins Cortland Community College had gotten: a fair deal with a modest pay increase.

“Community college is a key step on the pathway to a better job, economic security and higher quality living for our students,” Broome CCFA 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.”

Negotiations with Broome Community College had been ongoing since May 2021. The Broome CCFA’s contract expired on Aug. 31, 2021; the union and college declared impasse and went into mediation. Two sessions with a state-appointed mediator produced no tangible results. The two sides had one last session with the mediator on Oct. 4.

SUNY Broome faculty members at union rally

Screenshot courtesy BinghamtonHomepage.com

Prior to the session, on Sept. 29, the union made the decision to make 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. 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 further. It made a difference in the settlement.”

In the final mediation session on Oct. 4 things looked disappointing at first; the college’s bargaining team was 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 finally off the table and, after a 10-hour bargaining session, an agreement was reached.

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 Community College and Tompkins Cortland Community College.

“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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Stay tuned

NYSUT will hold its 43rd annual Community College Conference Nov. 4–6 at the Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga Springs. More than 100 NYSUT Community College members and local leaders will gather to discuss ideas to grow their unions, make them stronger and increase participation. NYSUT represents more than 51 bargaining units at the SUNY Community Colleges and the seven campuses at CUNY. Check out nysut.org for coverage from the event.