ESL teacher Ruth Voetmann (left) pickets alongside other educators near the Edmonds Community College campus in Lynnwood on Tuesday. (Joey Thompson / The Herald)

ESL teacher Ruth Voetmann (left) pickets alongside other educators near the Edmonds Community College campus in Lynnwood on Tuesday. (Joey Thompson / The Herald)

EdCC teachers picket for pay raises as negotiations stall

Talks have been ongoing since April, but administrators won’t budge on salary hikes, faculty members say.

*Updated to clarify the faculty union’s interpretation for the current contract not being extended

LYNNWOOD — Students walking to class Tuesday morning at Edmonds Community College got a different kind of greeting from their instructors.

A group of about 20 faculty members stood on the corner of 196th Street and 68th Avenue and picketed Tuesday morning, calling on college administrators to meet their demands for higher salaries.

“We can’t keep putting students first if faculty can’t get a living wage,” said Gabrielle McIntosh, a full-time math instructor.

The union’s contract with the school ended in July and negotiations for increased pay aren’t going anywhere, members said.

In a statement Tuesday, an EdCC spokesperson said the school is “hopeful there will be a successful outcome for both the faculty and the college soon.”

Normally, the school extends the contract during negotiations as a courtesy, local union President Kay Latimer said. This year, EdCC leaders opted not to.

McIntosh suggested EdCC President Amit Singh did not extend the contract because he hoped it would “encourage us to accept a less beneficial contract.”

Singh, through a spokesperson, declined to respond to the comment or discuss the state of contract talks due to the ongoing negotiations. The spokesperson said the college is honoring the process and is committed to a fair negotiation.

The public, two-year community college serves about 11,000 students per quarter and employs more than 600 faculty. Some 478 are part time.

In the previous agreement, it took about two years for part-time faculty to get their first raise, with the second bump coming after 10 years. Beyond that, part-time staff weren’t eligible for raises.

For a full-time instructor, raises were given every three years at $350 intervals, faculty say. To reach the top of the pay scale, an educator would need to work at the college for 39 years.

During salary negotiations in higher education, most schools “plead poverty,” said Karen Strickland, the Washington state president for the American Federation of Teachers.

“When you’re in a robust economy like we are, it falls a little flat,” she said.

Educators say the EdCC leaders are prioritizing their own pay over faculty salaries.

They cite a 49% bump in administrative wages in the past 10 years. In that same time period, instructors’ salaries have increased 7%, they said.

In August, the Board of Trustees gave EdCC President Singh a 3% cost-of-living raise, making his salary more than $250,000 per year.

The disparity in pay has caused some teachers to leave for nearby school districts, EdCC instructor Linda Carlson said. One instructor took a job in Mukilteo and makes $40,000 more than his former colleagues.

Additionally, the Legislature recently gave state workers in King County, including community college instructors, a 5% cost-of-living pay raise.

About a quarter of EdCC instructors live in King County, according to Latimer, but won’t see the increase.

“We were left out of that for some reason,” Carlson said.

Latimer said she expects the Legislature to “play catch up” and give similar increases to other colleges in the state, but at the end of the day, “it’s up to our college to pay us fairly.”

Since negotiations started in April, the union has canceled a meeting with administrators “maybe once,” Latimer said. But school leaders have frequently bailed on scheduled talks, she said.

Strickland and Latimer agreed that a strike would be a last resort, saying instructors want to stick to methods that won’t affect students.

“You only do it when you run out of options to do what’s fair and right,” Strickland said.

But, nothing’s off the table, Latimer said.

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

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