The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

Solidarity march: Faculty protest ‘no contract, unfair labor’ ahead of Board of Trustees meeting

Federation members picket their way across campus to a Board of Trustees meeting at El Camino College on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2023. (Isabelle Ibarra | The Union)

Federation of Teachers members made their voices and grievances heard as they marched around the El Camino Administration Building on Sept. 6 in an effort to raise awareness regarding ongoing contract negotiations with the district.

“These marches are happening because the administration and board are not giving compensation comparable to other colleges,” art history professor and Federation member Karen Whitney said.

Whitney, who has been teaching at El Camino since 2003, said negotiations have gone on longer than expected, making things more frustrating for faculty.

“There needs to be an agreement,” she said.

The federation’s organizing team strategically brought together El Camino faculty in this solidarity march purposefully scheduled to take place before a regularly scheduled Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday evening.

El Camino College faculty members prepare to march into the Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2023. (Monroe Morrow | The Union)

The El Camino College Federation is the on-campus branch of the American Federation of Teachers whose goal is to improve the working conditions of their faculty members.

Whitney said with the “strong leadership” in the Federation the faculty are able to gather and support each other at these events.

By 2:45 p.m. faculty began to gather by a tent outside the Administration Building. Participants were given red Federation shirts, posters, can shakers and drums to bolster their presence for the march.

Sidney Porter, an associate accounting professor, has been employed at El Camino since 2017 and came to the event to support his colleagues.

“I’m sad we have to do this to get attention,” Porter said.

After 3 p.m. faculty began marching around the Administration Building to the beat of drums and various chants such as “fair contract now!”

The boisterous yells and chants grabbed the attention of bystanders, including many students.

California Federation of Teachers (CFT) President Jeff Freitas also came to the event to give support to El Camino Faculty. The CFT is a union of educators affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and represents educational employees at every level of public and private education.

Secretary Treasurer Lacy Barnes, left, and President of CFT Jeff Freitas, right, join the federation’s march across campus. Protesters marched into the Board of Trustees Meeting at El Camino College, September 6th. (Monroe Morrow | The Union)

As Freitas marched along with faculty he said what’s happening is an “unfair labor practice situation” where the district is “refusing to negotiate.”

“If you’re not paying faculty, they up and leave, so you lose that experience and you lose that knowledge,” Freitas said.

Freitas said the focus should be on students since they are the ones who also suffer from faculty loss.

“When you don’t have office hours for part-timers and don’t provide healthcare, they’re not available for the students,” Freitas said. “Working conditions are the learning conditions of the students.”

After marching around the administration building a couple of times, the Federation proceeded as planned to pack the board room during public comments of the Board of Trustees meeting.

As the demonstration wound down, members continued with chants of “united we win” as they waited for the board meeting to begin.

Federation members pose for a photo during a protest at the Board of Trustees meeting at El Camino College on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2023. (Monroe Morrow | The Union)

Before public comments took place, The Union spoke with Trustee Vice President and Acting President Trisha Murakawa, who said it’s a “matter of when and how” a contract will get done.

“The protest reflects frustration on the part of the faculty who would like to have a contract now,” Murakawa said. “Their contract expired at the end of last year. We’re in September now, that’s why they wanted to express their feelings.”

Some faculty members addressed the board during public comment including counselor Christopher Hurd, who has been employed at El Camino since 2016.

Hurd said he hopes all of the messages expressed during public comments were received well by the administration, since it was out of necessity.

“Our desire is not to be here, but we will be here if we have to,” Hurd said.

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