By Shane Nicholson
Rock Valley College faculty went on strike Wednesday morning following a series of negotiating talks with the college’s board.
“We are extremely disappointed the Board has left us no choice but to strike,” said RVC Faculty Association President and economics professor Michael Youngblood in a statement. “The faculty union’s bargaining team was ready to work all night until we reached an agreement.”
Sources told The Rock River Times that faculty relations with the board had reached an all-time low, spurred by the lengthy negotiations.
The situation leading to the strike action had been building for years, they said Wednesday morning.
Faculty reportedly went to the board as early as August 2012 to open discussions over a new labor contract. The current agreement expired January 2015.
“The strike, forced by the board’s actions to move for an impasse, has to go until at least Friday,” said George Hernandez, a professor of psychology at RVC and former faculty association president.
“We have to have 24 hours to review their offer. Since (the board) declared an impasse at the last set of meetings, we have to hold off until Friday.”
Hernandez says the shutdown is likely to go through the beginning of next week.
“Chances are, given the take backs the board is looking for, we’re going to reject their proposal. That’ll push through to next week, impacting the students and staff at the school.”
A source close to the RVC board said Wednesday that they felt parts of the faculty had been angling for a strike for months. The board offered an increasing flat-rate pay rise for faculty – $1,000 in year one to $2,200 in year five – but faculty has demanded a percentage increase across the board.
RVC faculty was set to picket the three entrances to the college, as well as holding rallies at the Unitarian Church on Spring Creek Road, and at the airport, where RVC board chairman Mike Dunn Jr. is hosting a ribbon cutting ceremony at RVC’s new aviation education center Wednesday.
Board sources say that some staff has already indicated they will cross picket lines and resume working should the strike carry on for a lengthy period of time, and that the faculty’s “strike team,” a separate body from its negotiating team, voted to strike in advance of the last round of talks.
Youngblood disagrees: “This is not bargaining in good faith. Unfortunately, the board has pushed us into this strike.”
“Hopefully, they will start taking negotiations seriously,” he said. “We meet with them again on Friday and our side will be ready to meet all night until a deal can be reached.”