With a faculty strike at the Community College of Philadelphia now in its second week, on Tuesday school officials and a union representing professors said they’d made their final offers toward forging a new labor agreement.
The total amount separating the two sides is $160,000, after their proposals for annual faculty compensation are totaled. That comes to $88.89 a year for each of the Philadelphia school’s roughly 1,800 full-time and part-time professors and support staff.
Stated another way, the financial chasm keeping the college closed is less than CCP President Stephen Curtis’s $185,000 yearly salary.
Against this backdrop of negotiating gamesmanship, CCP’s 37,000 students — most of whom are Black — continue to be denied access to the only community college serving the city of Philadelphia and Philadelphia County.
“We’ve made our best and final offer,” CCP spokesman Anthony Twyman says. “The college maintains that it has provided a fair and reasonable offer that includes 100 percent full medical and health benefits for both employees and their family members.”
Twyman adds that CCP has proposed “a fair wage increase of 3.62 percent annually over the life of the contract, which is a five-year contract.” The most recent contract for faculty expired in August 2006.
Deteriorating talks between CCP and Local 2026 of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents the institution’s faculty, prompted professors to go on strike March 12.
CCP has little bargaining flexibility due to spiraling employee health care costs, and because tuition and fees at the school have increased 65 percent in the past five years, Twyman says. Tuition and fees currently come to $3,500 a year.
His arguments elicit little sympathy from CCP associate professor Margaret Stephens, a member of Local 2026’s bargaining committee.
“The college has invested about $1.5 million in a new marketing campaign, including a new logo and banners,” says Stephens, who teaches environmental conservation and physical geography. “We question those kinds of management decisions at a time when we’re being told there’s not adequate money for benefits and wages.”
Stephens notes that when CCP professors walked out of negotiations on March 12, the divide between faculty and the school was $460,000 annually, instead of the current $160,000. The financial distance between the sides decreased after Local 2026’s leadership made concessions last weekend.
“We’ve moved a lot closer toward them and they have not moved toward us at all,” Stephens says, adding that additional teacher concessions aren’t in the plans.
A state mediator has been working with both sides to end the impasse.
CCP is ranked No. 7 nationally in terms of awarding associate degrees to Blacks, according to U.S. Department of Education statistics. The school says 50.9 percent of its students are Black, 26.4 percent are White, 14.6 percent are Hispanic and 7.6 percent are Asian.
–Blair S. Walker
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