The Black Hawk College Board of Trustees passed a resolution Tuesday outlining personnel policies that will take effect should members of the Illinois Federation of Teachers Local 1836 decide to strike on or after March 19.
The board passed the measure 7-0, with board member Heidi Mueller, the student trustee, absent.
The resolution is in response to the union’s notice of intent to strike that was delivered to the college’s board and interim president John Erwin.
The board held an opening meeting during which several people spoke. The board then went into a short executive session to talk about the resolution, and then came back into open session.
Among those addressing the board before it went into closed session was Susan Sacco, disabilities coordinator for the college, who has been there for 11 years.
During that time, she said, she has seen faculty, staff, board members, presidents and vice presidents come and go. Sacco said the past two years have been difficult as she watched how the college was run.
“I’ve seen morale take a dive again, and again, and again,” she said.
While everyone has asked what the board wants, the union wants, the president wants and the lawyers want, “No one has asked the students what they want,” she added.
Sacco said the students want, “a good, dedicated, and educated faculty. We need to have helpful and trained advisers, recruiters, retention staff, trained financial aid workers and good disabilities services staff.”
She asked the board and union meet without the attorneys present. “Ask us what we want and hear our reasons for asking it,” Sacco said, adding that she expects the board to be “fair, honest and give us what we deserve in order to provide for our families, do our jobs well, and more importantly, serve the students here at Black Hawk College."
Union president Douglas Davidson told the board the resolution was not necessary. What is necessary is that the two sides begin talking again, he said.
“We were never told why our last offer by the union was rejected,” Davidson told the board, “despite the fact that it results in lower costs to the college.”
Davidson told the board that the union wants to ensure the financial stability of the college and that the board wants to attract students. “Our union is willing and ready to do our part,” he said.
After the passing of the resolution, Erwin said that the letter of intent to strike left him, “no recourse but to protect the college’s mission, which is the education of our students.”
“It’s the framework under which we will operate,” if there is a strike, he said. While it may be restrictive, he added, it protects both the college and striking union members.
“My desire is that we get back to discussions for a resolution for a contract,” Erwin said, “and I believe you will find that in short order some information from us that will communicate that.
Union spokesman Acie Earl, a professor of business, said after the board’s vote that the union will have an executive session, possibly by Thursday, to discuss the board’s actions and Erwin’s comments.
Speaking after the board went back into closed session, Earl said that, “I’m a little bit optimistic they may be talking about a counter offer.”
Earl said that board knows the union is serious about its intentions. “We’re hopeful that if the president’s comments are taken to heart that maybe the board will come back with a counter offer that will allow us to move forward.”
Before the board cast its vote, Earl explained that Black Hawk is part of a seven-member peer group of colleges, which are about the same size, and have the same tax base, programs and enrollment.
In 2009, he said, Black Hawk ranked in the middle of average salaries for its professors, technical staff and professional staff.
“Today, we’re dead last,” Earl said. “Our administrators, however, rank number one."
In 2009 the college had a fund balance of $5.4 million, he added. “Since that time we the union and college have worked together to make reductions in our college costs. Today the fund balance is in excess of $14.5 million. A lot of that fund balance has been on the backs of staff. “
Earl said the union has been working without a contract since August.