Blue Mountain Community College faculty union files labor grievances over layoffs

Supporters of the Blue Mountain Community College faculty union rallied at a June board meeting to protest the job cuts. After the college made layoffs, the union filed 10 grievances in an effort to restore the positions.

Antonio Sierra / OPB

Blue Mountain Community College finished laying off five full-time instructors last month as part of budget cuts, but the faculty union is not giving up.

In an interview on Friday, Blue Mountain Faculty Association president Sascha McKeon said the union is filing 10 grievances against the college for violating the collective agreement.

McKeon said the union filed the grievances — on behalf of five full-time faculty and five part-time staff — because the college violated a “last in, first out” contract policy when it decided who to fire. If the union were to prevail, the college would be forced to rehire the laid off staff.

“We would like to solve this problem together,” McKeon said. “And we think there’s no reason why we can’t maintain the strong course offerings with our current faculty and meet budget constraints. They don’t need to be mutually exclusive.

Enrollments have been declining for years. The BMCC administration argued that it needed to cut 10 full-time faculty positions to balance its 2022-23 budget. The teachers’ union negotiated privately and mobilized publicly to save the jobs of its members.

The college administration eventually narrowed its layoff list to five full-time instructors, but union members had hoped they could avoid the layoffs altogether.

BMCC President Mark Browning said he was not surprised by the grievances, as the union had been open to legally challenging the college’s decision for months. He maintained his position that the collective agreement gave him the ability to make firing decisions based on program enrollment and that maintaining the five full-time faculty members would overburden the budget.

As both sides prepare for mediation, Browning and McKeon said efforts to resolve grievances could drag on for a long time.

“We’re trying to expedite resolution as much as possible for those who are affected — these five people — so they know what’s going on, as well as the college,” Browning said. “We need to close a chapter and move on.”

McKeon said the union is willing to reopen negotiations with the college during the mediation process. She said she remained confident the union would win the grievances.

If the college and its teachers’ union fail to reach an agreement in mediation, the conflict will be resolved in arbitration.

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