Faculty at Green River College on 3-day strike

AUBURN, Wash. — Faculty members at South King County’s Green River College are on a three-day strike after voting three times that they have no confidence in the college's president.

More than 100 union faculty members are striking on Monday, protesting against the proposed elimination of 11 programs.

Faculty and students have staged numerous walkouts over the past few months.

It is not something the faculty are taking lightly, says longtime faculty member John Avery.

"No, not at all, Avery said.  "I mean it's taken 42 years to have another strike."

The strike would be the first at the college since 1974. Green River said anyone with questions about the strikes should reach out to them at this link.

Green River faculty will be striking for 3-days starting May, 23. See Emergency and Closure Status for ongoing updates. Students and staff can also check their email for more details. http://ow.ly/7YYp300stnX

Posted by Green River College on Sunday, May 22, 2016

Months of anger over the way President Eileen Ely has handled a nearly $4.5-million shortfall have finally boiled over, says John Avery.

"So you think the way the college is being managed is at the core of your issue?" he was asked.

"That is absolutely right," Avery replied.  "We feel it is a matter of mismanagement and bad labor practices."

The college is proposing cutting 11 programs to save money. And though students will feel the impact, protest leader Amanda Bentz says the faculty is putting action behind the words.

"It just gives more volume to what we've been saying," she said.

Bentz cites the college’s automotive program as a prime example.

The program, slated to be housed in the college’s new multimillion-dollar Trades building, was cut soon after the building was completed.

"They built buildings and they completely equipped them with auto body equipment, " Bentz said. "Then they cut the program."

College officials insist the situation is dire. State funding is dropping along with student enrollment even as faculty salaries rise.

"We need to reduce expenditures absolutely, yes," said Catherine Ushka, college spokeswoman.

In an email to students, Ely explained that the college’s budget is in the red, adding up to a deficit of nearly $4,440,000.

Ely said state funding dropped by $1.5 million and that $1 million in temporary funding will soon disappear.

She also said that faculty salaries have risen nearly $970,000 and that tuition has dropped by roughly $700,000.

Additionally, she said the school must chip in its portion of a $270,000 lawsuit alleging that part-time employees were cheated out of some health care benefits.




But Bentz isn’t buying it. She, like other students and faculty members, believe mismanagement runs rampant.

“There is no doubt in my mind,” Bentz said.

The group sent out a letter to student explaining why they were striking and how it would affect students Sunday night. You can read it here.

College officials have made it clear a strike at the college is illegal. And they are considering the legal options.

RCW 28B.52.078  Strikes and lockouts prohibited—Violations—Remedies.

The right of college faculty to engage in any strike is prohibited. The right of a board of trustees to engage in any lockout is prohibited. Should either a strike or lockout occur, the representative of the faculty or board of trustees may invoke the jurisdiction of the superior court in the county in which the labor dispute exists and such court shall have jurisdiction to issue an appropriate order against either or both parties. In fashioning an order, the court shall take into consideration not only the elements necessary for injunctive relief but also the purpose and goals of this chapter and any mitigating factors such as the commission of an unfair labor practice by either party.

But John Avery says he is unwavering.

"I'm committed," said Avery.  "And I think the faculty here are committed to doing what is needed to get things turned around and to get us on solid footing."

The college says it will be open for business.  Whether classes are held will depend on whether individual instructors are on the picket lines.

The Green River College Board of Trustees is holding a special meeting Monday to address the faculty strikes. The meeting will be held at 1 p.m. in the Board Room at the college.   It appears much of it, however, will be behind closed doors.