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On the picket line

March 30, 2007 | Page 15

Philadelphia Community College
By Matthew Richman and Lee Sustar

PHILADELPHIA--The union representing staff and faculty at the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) reached a tentative agreement March 25 to end a two-week strike.

The union, American Federation of Teachers Local 2026, walked out over the administration's steep proposed cuts in health care and low salary and wage increases.

According to union co-president John Braxton, the administration backed off its demands to force workers to pay for health insurance premiums. CCP also improved its wage offer. The deal includes wage increases of 3 percent in each year of the five-year contract, and an immediate 3.75 percent wage increase.

"I feel good that we've come back with a package that has more money in it than what we left the table with two weeks ago [when the union went on strike]," Braxton told the Philadelphia Daily News. "To me, that's a victory."

Under the old contract, CCP had among the lowest wages for faculty and staff for comparable institutions in the Philadelphia region.

While the administration asked workers to tighten their belts, CCP--a public institution--refused to reveal administrative salaries and costs, according to the union. But CCP has launched a $1.5 million "branding campaign" and has increased the number of highly paid administrators by 20 percent in the past four years.

Cynthia Reid, an administrative assistant and the co-chair of the classified workers union, said that there are workers she represents who make less than $16,000 per year, while CCP President Steven Curtis makes $185,000 per year, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. "If we're in a crunch, how come he can't take a pay cut?" Reid wondered.

Many students at CCP come from union families or are union members themselves. Reid told Socialist Worker that the student government has supported the workers against the administration, especially since CCP has refused to add enough classes to meet student demand.

The CCP administration's actions represent a broader trend in changes to the structure of colleges and universities in the United States, using corporate models for education--focusing on the bottom line instead of the needs of workers and students.

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