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California College of the Arts Staff Union Strikes, Citing Unfair Labor Practices

Members of the California College of the Arts staff union point to salaries at the administrative level, which they see as excessively high, and question why the school isn’t paying their lower wage workers more. The school’s 2020 990 filing shows four administrators made well over $270,000 in 2019. President Stephen Beal made a base salary of more than $580,000 while working 37.5 hours per week. Such a salary is over $150,000 more than both the current Mayor of San Francisco and the President of the United States. The 990 also estimates Beal made over $100,000 in addition to his base salary in “other compensation from the organization and related organizations.”

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Members of the California College of the Arts staff union march outside of the school's Oakland campus on February 9. Photo by Zack Haber.
Members of the California College of the Arts staff union march outside of the school's Oakland campus on February 9. Photo by Zack Haber.

By Zack Haber

The staff union at California College of the Arts (CCA), a small, private college founded in 1907, engaged in a four-day strike and protest. They’re accusing the school of unfair labor practices that include stalling contract negotiations in an effort to withhold pay increases and benefits.

“We have a unionized workplace now,” said SEIU 1021 chapter President Matt Kennedy, who’s worked in the tech department of the college for 10 years. “CCA needs to acknowledge that. It’s taking forever to come to an agreement because they aren’t.”

The protests featured rallies, teach-ins, group art-making projects and daily pickets that started February 8 and end on February 12. The actions are taking place on the school’s San Francisco campus every day except Wednesday, when the protest moved to the school’s Oakland campus. Around 200 people, including union members and their supporters, showed up each day to the pickets.

In interviews with this reporter, Kennedy, along with three other current or former workers at CCA, all accused the school of bargaining in bad faith.

“CCA has been stonewalling and dragging their feet,” said Kēhau Lyons, an academic advisor who’s worked at CCA for about two and a half years and has been observing the bargaining sessions. “The management side just doesn’t want to get this completed.”

CCA’s staff successfully voted to unionize with SEIU 1021 in April of 2019. Since then, staff members say they have not received any raises outside of those required by law. While contract negotiations started in October of 2019, CCA’s staff is still working without a union contract. A study by Bloomberg Law based on National Labor Relations Board data shows that, between 2004 and the first half of 2021, the average amount of time it took employers and unions to agree on a first contract was a little over one year and one month. The union and CCA’s negotiations have, thus far, taken over two years and four months.

In an email, CCA Director of Communications Daniel Owens-Hill, disagreed with staff who accused the college of stalling negotiations.

“CCA remains ready and willing to negotiate as frequently as needed to achieve a fair and mutually beneficial collective bargaining agreement,” Owens-Hill wrote. “The college has a comprehensive proposal on the table that provides wage increases for our valued staff while also maintaining our ongoing commitment to student financial aid and a financially sustainable future.”

On September 27 of last year, National Labor Relations Board Regional Director Valerie Hardy-Mahoney sided with the union by issuing a Complaint and Notice of Hearing stating that CCA had “been failing and refusing to bargain collectively and in good faith with the union.” In that same document, she also proposed new bargaining guidelines for the college to follow going forward.

CCA is currently offering a 2% wage increase to all staff in the union. Workers interviewed for this article see that raise as inadequate and stressed that their most important request while bargaining has been “raising the floor” for staff salaries. To pay the expenses needed to live in the Bay Area, staff said, they want a minimum wage of $55,000. Kennedy said salary records show 40% of CCA staff makes less than $55,000 per year, and 10% make between $36,000 and $45,000. For many workers, the 2% increase would fall short of providing the minimum salary.

CCA workers point to salaries at the administrative level, which they see as excessively high, and question why the school isn’t paying their lower wage workers more. The school’s 2020 990 filing shows four administrators made well over $270,000 in 2019. President Stephen Beal made a base salary of more than $580,000 while working 37.5 hours per week. Such a salary is over $150,000 more than both the current Mayor of San Francisco and the President of the United States. The 990 also estimates Beal made over $100,000 in addition to his base salary in “other compensation from the organization and related organizations.”

In April of 2020, Beal’s base salary was cut by 25%, while the senior vice president’s was cut by 10%, and the vice president’s was cut by 5%.

CCA staff union members say they have noticed a high employment turnover rate which they attribute to their co-workers not receiving high enough pay. Emails from CCA’s Human Resources Department show that, since August, 19 staff union members have stopped working at the school, which is about 15% of the total union staff.

Randy Nakamura has taught as an adjunct at CCA’s graduate design program for the last six years, and is also part of CCA’s adjunct union’s bargaining unit. CCA’s adjunct union is separate from the staff union, but Nakamura and other adjuncts are also trying to reach a contract with CCA.

Nakamura says that since the CCA adjunct union contract expired in June of 2020, he and his fellow union members’ experiences bargaining to renew their contract have been similar to the staff union’s efforts to get CCA to agree to a first contract.

“CCA has taken every opportunity to not bargain with us,” said Nakamura. “Sometimes they’ll make us wait an hour and a half in a three-hour bargaining session just to talk.”

After a year and a half of bargaining, the adjunct union has not yet been able to renew its contract with CCA. Seeing themselves in a similar struggle as the staff union, over 100 CCA’s adjunct union member supported CCA’s staff union by sympathy striking, and not teaching classes during the strike.

Some adjuncts also joined staff on the picket line. Additionally, members of the CCA Student Union and some other CCA students who sympathize with the staff strike criticized CCA’s 2% wage increase offer as too low and picketed and did not attending classes to show their support.

“The staff and adjunct’s working conditions are student learning conditions,” the CCA Student Union wrote on a recent instagram post. “We as students completely benefit from union bargaining and a fair contract for our beloved staff.”

CCA faculty who are tenured or on tenure track are not part of the staff union and have separate independent contracts. But they also showed support.

“We are not willing to cross the picket line,” reads a support letter released on February 7 that 99 such faculty members signed. “[We] will instead find ways to express peaceful solidarity during the strike, including engaging in strike-related teach-ins and pedagogical activities.”

Through their spokesperson, David Owens-Hill, CCA criticized the strike.

“At a time when we are making rapid progress in negotiations and have reached agreement on so many items, a strike benefits no one,” wrote Owens-Hill in an email, “not our staff, not our faculty, and certainly not our students, who have just returned to fully in-person classes for the first time in nearly two years.”

CCA staff union members disagree with Owens-Hill.

“It’s important to show in our strike that CCA can’t get away with this,” said SEIU’s Kennedy. “Better working conditions and compensation make better learning conditions, and the college needs to make that a priority. But they’re not.”

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Activism

Over 500 Attend Police-Free Event to Reimagine Safety in Oakland

Night Out for Safety and Liberation started in 2013 by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch captain and is held as an alternative to the police-centric National Night Out. Since 2013, the event has spread across the country with over 50 events scheduled this year where communities make the night about the power of community, not cops.

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Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson
Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

Night Out for Safety and Liberation Events Held in More Than 50 Communities Across the Country

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

OAKLAND, CA — Over 500 people and families filled Josie de la Cruz Park in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood on Aug. 2 to enjoy performances, kids activities, and mutual aid to celebrate Night Out for Safety and Liberation (NOSL), an annual national event that redefines what safety and joy is without policing. The free community event included free diapers and books for all ages, food, bike giveaways, air purifiers, self defense training, a drag show, and performances from poets and artists such as Lauren Adams, TJ Sykes and Voces Mexicanas.

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

Night Out for Safety and Liberation started in 2013 by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch captain and is held as an alternative to the police-centric National Night Out. Since 2013, the event has spread across the country with over 50 events scheduled this year where communities make the night about the power of community, not cops.

“We have been reimagining what safety means beyond police for our communities for over 25 years at the Ella Baker Center. When we create safe spaces for our community to come together and support each other, when we provide living-wage jobs so people are able to put food on their table, when we empower our children and provide opportunities for them to thrive, when we invest in healthcare and mental health resources, this is how we create real safety,” said Marlene Sanchez, Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center.

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

Through Night Out for Safety and Liberation, communities are creating safety not through policing but through healing and restorative justice, through creating gender affirming spaces and protecting trans and LGBTQIA communities, through reinvesting funding into community-based alternatives and solutions that truly keep communities safe.

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

“We don’t need more police in our streets. We don’t need more surveillance. What we need is resources!” said Jose Bernal, Organizing Director with the Ella Baker Center. “What we need is housing, diapers, legal resources, jobs. This [Night Out for Safety and Liberation] is what keeps us safe. This is resilience.”

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

The event was emceed by Nifa Akosua, Senior Organizer and Advocate with the Ella Baker Center, and TJ Sykes, author and community activist–both natives of Richmond, California. The show included entertaining performances from Oakland Originalz break dancers, Voces Mexicanas mariachi band, singer Lauren Adams and a drag show from Afrika America.

“Night Out for Safety and Liberation is about neighborhood love and neighborhood safety. It’s about connecting, showing up for each other and staying connected as a community. That’s how we keep each other safe,” said Nifa.

More than 20 organizations and vendors participated in Tuesday’s event, offering community resources, face painting, giving away 500 books for all ages, and free diapers. Those participating included: Help A Mother Out, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, ACLU of Northern California, TGI Justice Project, Urban Peace Movement, Ella Baker’s Readers & Cesar Chavez Public Library, Alliance for Girls, Bay Area Women Against Rape, Centro Legal de la Raza, Common Humanity Collective, Street Level Health Project, Malikah – Self Defense, East Bay Community Law Center, Unity Council, Young Women’s Freedom Center, East Bay Family Defenders, Bay Area Workers Support, L’Artiste A La Carte, Education Super Highway, Cut Fruit Collective, and WIC.

Other Night Out for Safety and Liberation events were held in Oakland, San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, Phoenix, Denver, Minneapolis, Atlanta, St. Louis, Dallas, Houston, Waco, Hampden, Conway, Washington D.C. and other cities. Follow the conversation and see photos from events in other cities using #SafetyIs and #NOSL22.

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Activism

OPINION: Are We About to See the Permanent Exclusion of Most Black People from Construction Jobs in Oakland?

How is that possible in this city that is believed by the world to be very progressive? Most of the work goes to members of the construction unions that have historically and currently excluded Black people through a complex set of membership requirements.

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The City Council established a task force to discuss the racial issues involved in construction and the possibility of a Project Labor Agreement. The task force included some community members, including the publisher of the Oakland Post, and was mandated to address racial discrimination first.
The City Council established a task force to discuss the racial issues involved in construction and the possibility of a Project Labor Agreement. The task force included some community members, including the publisher of the Oakland Post, and was mandated to address racial discrimination first.

By Kitty Epstein

For decades Black people in Oakland have obtained 9% or less of the work hours on publicly funded construction projects. So…for jobs that are paid for by all of our tax dollars, Black residents, who make up 23% of Oakland’s population, get only 9% of the relatively well-paid work doing construction.

How is that possible in this city that is believed by the world to be very progressive? Most of the work goes to members of the construction unions that have historically and currently excluded Black people through a complex set of membership requirements.

Nationally, only 7.2% of the carpenters’ union members are Black; 8.3% of the electricians’ union members and so on. The City of Oakland has done two very thorough reports of these racial equity issues. You can find this important information at the end of this story.

But the leadership of the construction trades now insist that that they should obtain an even larger portion of the construction hours and that this practice should be set in stone by something called a Project Labor Agreement. It is now being inaccurately called a “Community Workforce Agreement,” which is nonsense because it doesn’t help the community.

Why would progressive Oakland consider giving exclusive benefits to organizations that practice well-documented racial discrimination? At least one part of the reason is that the construction unions spend enormous amounts of money on Oakland elections. They were instrumental in former City Councilmember Desley Brooks’ defeat in District 6, for example, because they did not consider her sufficiently compliant with their demands.

The City Council established a task force to discuss the racial issues involved in construction and the possibility of a Project Labor Agreement. The task force included some community members, including the publisher of the Oakland Post, and was mandated to address racial discrimination first.

The community members proposed that the entire task force work collectively throughout the process of making proposals and negotiating solutions. The City rejected this proposal and began meeting with the building trades alone, saying that they would return with a proposed Project Labor Agreement, although there has been no demonstrated change in the racial exclusivity practiced by the construction trades.

This is outrageous on three levels:

  1. These are the tax dollars of Black residents, as well as others.
  2. The community’s interests in racial justice have not been resolved in any policy venue.
  3. The community belongs at the table throughout whatever process takes place.

The usual arguments for labor/employer negotiations do not apply. The construction unions are NOT city workers. If they were city employees, they would have both the rights (negotiations) and the responsibilities (non-discriminatory hiring) of the city. Since they are not held responsible to Include Black people in their organizations, they should not have the right to exclusive negotiations about anything

I am hopeful, of course, that the City will reject the continuation and expansion of racial discrimination policies practiced by the leadership of the trades unions and will insist on the drastic changes necessary for Black people to obtain 23% of the work hours they are due by virtue of their proportion of the population and tax dollars contributed.

These two documents below provide information that is both illuminating and horrifying.

Oakland Equity Indicators: https://www.oaklandca.gov/projects/oakland-equity-indicators

Disparity Study – https://www.postnewsgroup.com/disparity-study-examines-patterns-of-discrimination-seeks-remedies-for-city-practices-of-selecting-contractors-in-construction-goods-and-services/

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Activism

The California Department of Aging: There Is Help for Elder Californians

Part of the statewide plan for addressing the Black elder community is to partner with ethnic media organizations to spread the word about the resources that are available to Californians in the advanced phase of their aging process. DeMarois, much like Nevins, acknowledged that a large portion of the state’s plan to reach Black elders is through local churches.

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Sharon Nevins, director of San Bernardino County’s Department of Aging and Adult Services, Cheryl Brown and CDA Director Susan DeMarois talk to a group of community members. CBM staff photo.
Sharon Nevins, director of San Bernardino County’s Department of Aging and Adult Services, Cheryl Brown and CDA Director Susan DeMarois talk to a group of community members. CBM staff photo.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles California Black Media

The St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church’s Commission on Social Action held a community meeting on aging last Thursday in San Bernardino with representatives from the California Department of Aging (CDA) and the Bernardino County’s Department of Aging and Adult Services.

Held in the sanctuary, the discussion featured state representatives and Social Action Commission members led by former Assemblymember and Commission Chair Cheryl Brown, who represented the 47th Assembly District in San Bernardino County from 2012 to 2016.

Brown spoke with community members and leaders from San Bernardino and Riverside counties about programs and resources available for elderly Californians and the caregivers who look after them.

“The state has set aside millions of dollars to help older Californians have a better quality of life through the Master Plan for Aging. And caregiving is fourth of the five goals established in the state’s Master Plan for Aging,” Brown told California Black Media.

CDA Director Susan DeMarois also attended the meeting.

CDA administers programs that serve older adults, adults with disabilities, family caregivers, and residents in long-term care facilities throughout the state. It has a $450 million budget and according to its Strategic Plan, CDA’s first objective is to advance Gov. Gavin Newsom’s California Master Plan for Aging.

Newsom’s master plan was introduced as an executive order in the summer of 2019. Conceptualized as a five-point plan, its framework encompasses housing, health, equity, caregiving “that works” and affording aging.

According to DeMarois each point of the governor’s master plan has its own budget and will be implemented over the next eight years.

During the meeting — titled “Lunch, Listen and Learn” — community members expressed their concerns and suggestions specifically regarding how to take care of elderly Black people in the Inland Empire. A major theme of the discussion was ensuring familiar (traditional) modes and channels of communications that were being employed to reach Black elders.

Sharon Nevins, director of San Bernardino County Department of Aging and Adult Services, spoke about ways in which the county has been involved in addressing those concerns.

“We have staff out there in the community, putting information in hands,” said Nevins.

Nevins emphasized the significance of Black churches and their unique influence on Black elders in California.

“We definitely reach out to the churches. We’ve always done that,” Nevins said.

DeMarois hailed San Bernardino as a model for the rest of the state because the city has been “meeting the needs of the whole person.”

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), California was tied with Hawaii in 2019 for the states with the nation’s highest life expectancy at an average of about 81 years.

Riverside County has a life expectancy of 80.3 years and San Bernardino County has a lower expectancy at 78.8 years.

Part of the statewide plan for addressing the Black elder community is to partner with ethnic media organizations to spread the word about the resources that are available to Californians in the advanced phase of their aging process.

DeMarois, much like Nevins, acknowledged that a large portion of the state’s plan to reach Black elders is through local churches.

“It’s multi-pronged,” said DeMarois. “We know in the Black community faith is a proven path.”

One of the organizations mentioned during the community meeting – an organization that DeMarois claims she took note of – is the Inland Empire Pastor’s Association.

DeMarois expressed the need for the state and local agencies to implement “coordinated strategies” to approach challenges facing the state’s aging population.

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Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson
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