Community College District under fire over hiring practices

A district-wide conflict erupted this week as allegations broke that the San Diego Community College District has been reorganizing non-faculty in order to terminate hourly employees since mid August.

According to the American Federation of Teachers’ Local 1931 President Jim Mahler, a memo outlining district hiring guidelines that violate the Education Code was sent to all district managers and supervisors. The memo, sent Aug. 14, misstates the requirements for “short-term” employees and allows for a situation where a person employed in two consecutive years could be exempt from the classified service and therefore eligible for termination, according to the union.

Mahler responded to the memo, sent by district President of Human Resources Kim Myer, on Aug. 26 and outlined the alleged violations in full. In addition to confronting a misstatement outlining hourly employee hiring practices, the response addressed the problem of replacing formerly classified employees with those enrolled in a work experience program, which compensates workers with academic credit, not wage.

Classified employees are defined as any hired employees that are not faculty. They perform a number of services on campuses around the district such as secretarial work, technical work and support services. The American Federation of Teachers protects classified employees’ legal rights, such as collective bargaining agreements, vacation time and sick time. Over the last 50 years, according to Mahler, the district has inappropriately employed hourly employees and, when notified of the AFT’s awareness of the district’s hiring practices, put together a quick-fix solution that has caused more confusion and damage in its wake.

The district had not responded as of press time but according to City College President Terrence Burgess, no employees at City College have been terminated.

“We’re dealing with this on a case by case basis, and the idea is to keep [temporary hourly employees] employed until we get this all resolved,” Burgess said in an interview. Burgess said the district is in the process of reviewing its hiring practices and stretching the definition of what is considered “continuous work”. As continuous work cannot be assigned to a temporary employee, this stretching will change the employment assignment of short term employees.

“We need to create classified positions to accommodate hourly employees that are working on a continuous basis, year round,” he said.

The AFT is still worried about the impact between now and the resolution. “As an example of the scope of this,” Mahler said in an interview, “the AFT represents all of the contract staff of the district. There are 700 of those contracted staff members at the moment, but there are over 1,000 hourly staff. That’s how many are at risk.”

Mahler said the AFT is uncertain of the extent of the terminations thus far, as the whole district employee base is in a state of confusion regarding their own employment status.

The AFT is currently in negotiations with the district over the matter, but not everyone is breathing easy. June Cressy, City College president of the Classified Senate, said that though the Union is in negotiations, Departments need to know if they will be able to function in the future.

“I respect the confidentiality of the process, but those staff who are impacted by this need to be kept abreast,” said Cressy who is deeply concerned about the situation, specifically about the loss of services that classified employees and hourly employees will be able to provide for students on campuses around the district. “I’m concerned that we have waited too long to have an open discussion. I hoped that we would have been included earlier and that the process would have been inclusive. We wouldn’t have to question how much longer services are going to be available.”

Burgess said that by October, the district will have sorted out which are considered classified positions and which are temporary.

“Personally, I don’t think the district is in violation of the Education Code,” Burgess said. “We’re on the ragged edge maybe, but we want to be squeaky clean, as does the AFT.”

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Community College District under fire over hiring practices