By J.C. Casarez
While the Board of Trustees met on Wednesday afternoon at East Los Angeles College, angry protesters representing the American Federation of Teachers College Staff Guild, Local 1521A gathered outside.
According to Union President Velma J. Butler, the cause for protest is over the removal of their representative chair from the board’s meetings.“For 25 years we have been a part of the decision making (process), but now we have a new chancellor, Dr. Daniel Lavista, that believes hiring committees do not fall under shared governance. Therefore, we’re not getting a seat at that table,” said Butler.
Butler is head of the group who represents various faculty members, with the exception of administrators, professors and custodians, who work at the various colleges throughout the district. The exclusion from having a seat at the board meetings is something, Butler says, that takes away their ability to be a part of the hiring process that directly affects the people they work with. “They’ve left us out of the hiring, so they can hire who they want. If we’re not on the table, we’re probably on the menu,” said Butler.
According to Butler the decision to remove them from the meetings was made 10 months ago. “It’s been going on since the chancellor and the associate vice chancellor put an email out to not include us. There was no obligation from the district to include us. Which is terrible because we’ve been included for 25 years,” said Butler.
Butler and the ATF feel they were used for support and to garner support in order to pass bills and other actions that favored the board, but now have been pushed aside only to be told they are no longer needed at these meetings. According to Butler, an email was sent out to all the administrators telling them that there was no obligation to include union representatives in the meetings. “Now they get someone else to sit at the table during the hiring committee, but not the union. That’s union busting,” said Butler.
Butler and her group have been showing up at the location of the last four board meetings in hopes of spreading their message. They also plan to attend the next meeting on March 24 at the district office in Los Angeles. “We’ve been following them for the last four meetings, and we will continue to until they straighten this problem out,” said Butler.
Butler also serves as vice president of the California Federation of Teachers, which is a state affiliate to the AFT. She says the issue of decision making is beyond the district and is viewed as a state issue. “So if we, the largest community college district, doesn’t fight for shared governance, then the smaller districts don’t have a prayer, “said Butler.
As students walked by the Performing and Fine Arts Complex buildings where the protest took place, Butler and her group passed out flyers and tried to inform students and anyone who would listen why the importance of the message mattered. “We’re the life blood of operating the L.A. Community College District. If we’re not here, you can’t graduate, you can’t transfer, you can’t get a transcript. You can’t get your financial aid if we’re not there to process you. So we play a very important role in the district,” said Butler.