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First, some background. Cerritos is a one-campus college with its own district located in the city of Norwalk. It has an elected board of trustees and a college president/superintendent. The student population is primarily Latino and working class. The Cerritos College Faculty Federation, CCFF (CFT Local 6215) represents the faculty in collective bargaining.

The issues that have led CCFF to organize a strike committee are several, but the one that stands out is the withholding of Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). The governor and State Legislature presents every college with COLA earmarked for faculty and other staff employees, that is built into the annual budget. It is not meant as a one-time bonus, but a permanent increase in salary to address inflation. At Cerritos, the faculty have not received a COLA for three years. Instead, the district’s leadership has pocketed these funds into other uses, including amassing a $40 million reserve, while also holding $30 million in unused federal COVID19 funds. They have offered faculty one-time bonuses and modest increases in the salary scale, far below the COLA the State awarded. Yes, we received some stipends taken from federal funds but why have college leaders built such a vast reserve?

The Trustees gave themselves a 10% increase, presented the college President with a $40,000 bonus and a new contract for four years. In the meantime, they refuse to release COLA for employees at a time when inflation is the highest in a decade. We have some non-faculty employees going to the food pantry. True, the non-faculty staff (clerical staff, plant workers) are presented by their own union, the California School Employees Association, Chapter 161. However, they and the faculty are having their COLA denied, money for their families. And the money is there! CCFF has presented the Board of Trustees with specific evidence based on a careful budget analysis showing that a modest increase is reasonable, will not hurt college programs, and is the right action to take given the rising cost of living. This is why Cerritos College employees through their unions are now collaborating against the anti-employee posture of the Board of Trustees.

I will not attempt to explore what motivates college President José Fierro and the Board of Trustees. None of whom have supported faculty. Furthermore, the administration engaged in unfair labor practices by twice releasing confidential negotiation information directly to the faculty and the community via President Fierro’s email and a press release. A complaint is now pending with the Public Employee Relation Board. This is the same administration that refuses to grant faculty the right to know why they are being investigated in a special review. Think about it, the right to know the “cause” is denied!

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Given the economic situation, the state’s future strong resources, and the governor’s funding, the faculty demands COLA and a fair wage increase. The faculty demands the appropriate use of taxpayer funds.

If you, the readers are interested in learning more about this situation and how you can help, I urge you to contact CCFF President Lynn Wang at president@ccffcerritos.org and Vice President/Lead Negotiator April Bracamontes at fulltimevp@ccffcerritos.org. Progressives, this is not an isolated struggle. Stand with Cerritos College faculty and staff. These are my views as a faculty member.