We’ve been getting a lot of questions lately from part-time and full-time staff about what we are doing to support our C3 and C4 employees who are being laid off by the College. I will try to answer them here.
How many employees were laid off?
Somewhere between 300 and 400 employees. We are awaiting official documentation from HR and will update this when we get the exact number.
Were they really laid off or were they terminated?
These employees were laid off. The positions have been eliminated which makes these layoffs. If the positions were being retained and filled again these would be terminations.
Since these are layoffs, will the employees automatically get their jobs back after the COVID-19 crisis is over?
Unfortunately, no. Sometimes layoffs are temporary and involve leaving positions unfilled for a period of time. Those layoffs usually come with recall rights for the laid-off employees (so the employees can get “recalled” to their jobs when the layoff is over). Some layoffs (like the ones we are dealing with) are permanent because the positions have been eliminated. In our situation, recall rights are not provided by the current contract. We are still in discussion with the College to see if anything can be done about this.
Are the laid-off employees eligible for unemployment benefits?
Yes. Unemployment benefits can be applied for online.
Why didn’t the Union stop the College from laying off our employees?
The short answer is that we had no standing to fight the layoffs. What the College did wasn’t right, but it was legal.
Here’s the longer answer: The current contract does not contain layoff protection for staff who work less than 0.5 FTE. The contract was bargained for in 2016 (long before any of us were part of Union leadership or bargaining, and before some of us even worked at LCC). I do not know the circumstances around the bargaining of that contract, but I do know that we have not had the opportunity to change any of it during our time as officers because contract bargaining happens only during certain years and has not yet reopened.
Didn’t the Union just sign an MOA protecting full-time and part-time employees during the COVID-19 crisis? Shouldn’t that have prevented the layoffs?
Yes and no. We did sign an MOA to protect the pay of employees should they be sick, need accommodations, be out of paid leave time, or if the College were to close. But all the protections in the MOA were to protect employee pay. And the College found a way around it all by making our C3 and C4 staff no longer employees. You can read the full MOA language here.
Why doesn’t the Union value part-time employees as much as full-time employees?
We do. As classified, we work hand-in-hand with part-time employees every day to make our departments run smoothly. We are coworkers and friends, and value immensely the contributions part-time employees make to LCC. Like we mentioned earlier, Stacey Vasquez, our Officer at Large, is one of the employees laid off and that has really hit us hard. A few of us also have family members who are in the group laid off. We have been, and are currently, fighting for part-time employee benefits. One of the things we’ve all agreed on from the beginning of our time as Officers is that we need to fight for our part-time employees and we are working on it every day.
What is the Union doing for our part-time employees?
One of our early decisions ensured that any compensation we win from the arbitration of our “Us Too” grievance would be distributed among all classified employees. It would have made sense to distribute it as steps to only those who were step-eligible, but that would have excluded part-time employees as they were not step-eligible in 2019 when the grievance was filed. Our decision was made specifically to benefit part-time employees since we know they have it the hardest. We intend to honor that decision and will find a way to distribute those funds to all classified employees who were working for Lane when the grievance was filed, regardless of their employment status when we receive the funds.
Currently, we are doing our own investigation of the recent layoff process to make sure there were no contract violations. We are also in discussions with the College to see what benefits (if any) we might still be able to secure for the laid-off employees. We can’t promise anything, but we are doing our best.
Moving forward, we will be entering into a new bargaining session in the near future and we are examining the contract language for ways in which part-time employees are left unprotected (with the lack of layoff protection obviously being a being one). We are looking at a variety of potential changes and working on various ways to prevent something like this from happening in the future.
Why should part-time employees join the Union?
We care deeply about our part-time employees and are working hard to make things better for all classified, but the EC caring isn’t enough to ensure that all Union decisions are in the best interest of our part-time employees. Those decisions come from the Union membership as a whole. We, the EC, are the Union leaders but we are not the Union. Most Union decisions are made with at least some input from our members (and some decisions are directly voted on by the members). In order to make decisions that benefit us all, we need to hear from everyone. We need part-time voices at the bargaining table and we need part-time employees to be voting members so we can ratify a contract that takes care of all our employees.
The more part-time employees who join the Union, the more power we have to fight for part-time employee rights. The College will see that we are One Union, One Voice and that attempting to split us apart will not be successful. Prior to the layoff decisions, Union engagement and membership of part-time employees were very low and it weakened us dramatically. In short, we need part-time employees to join the Union so that we can be stronger in representing all of us.
How can full-time employees help support those who have been laid off?
You can support those who have been laid off in various ways. Valerie Munthe has started a Facebook group where you can join in solidarity and provide concrete offers of help. You can also reach out to your laid-off friends and colleagues directly and ask what they most need from you. And, if you’re as fed up as we are, the best thing you can do is join your Union! We are swamped with Union work and we need your help to show the College that this is the last straw. We need all remaining employees to join together and say never again. Never again will we allow our coworkers to be laid off in a massacre like this. Never again will we stand idly by.
What if I have more questions?
Please ask them in the comments below the original post. If you have the question, someone else probably does as well. We are trying to get answers out to everyone, but it helps us work more efficiently if we can post one comment reply with an answer rather than sending out several separate emails with repeat information. It also helps us to be more transparent with the information we share.
“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”
– Henry Ford
We know that the last couple of weeks have been one stressor piling on another and have been incredibly difficult for everyone. COVID-19 has strained our capacity to work, to think, to interact with those we care about, and sometimes even to feel human. We want you to know that we, your EC, are still out here working for you as hard as we can amidst the swirling turmoil that surrounds us.
Now, with enrollment dropping, and uncertain times ahead, the College has decided to begin layoffs. Despite everything our hourly classified employees do to serve our students, our faculty, and their fellow classified, nearly all C3 classified staff and all C4 positions will be laid off as of March 31st. If your department has not already received the notification from your manager, expect to hear more details soon. Human Resources will be sending an official notice to all laid-off employees within the next few days.
We want to take this time to thank you, our excellent employees for the hours, days, weeks, months, and years of service you have put into making Lane Community College a welcoming and wonderful place for so many students to feel at home. As we say goodbye, we want you to know that we wish you the best in whatever your future brings. Your hours may have been part-time, but your effort never was.
I know many people are concerned about layoffs of full-time classified employees as well. We want you to know that contracted classified position layoffs are not anticipated at this time, and we will be fighting to keep it that way. Though we have not yet been able to secure layoff protections for our hourly timesheet employees, Article 11 of our contract does provide many protections to our contracted classified employees. If you have heard anything about contracted classified layoffs in your area, please contact us immediately. We value full transparency and will share any new information we get with you.
We will follow up soon with additional resources and support, but we wanted to share a few essential items right away:
- Instructions for how to apply for unemployment benefits and information for workers specific to COVID-19 impacted positions is available here: https://www.oregon.gov/employ/Pages/COVID-19.aspx
- Fill out this questionnaire to find out which government benefits you may be eligible for: https://www.benefits.gov/benefit-finder. (The questionnaire will keep asking you questions to find even more benefits that apply; at any point, you can click the “results” button in the bottom right of the screen to see what has been found so far.)
- Contact any lenders or companies to which you regularly make payments. Many utility companies, banks and credit unions, credit card companies, mortgage lenders, and others currently have assistance programs in place to help anyone affected by COVID-19 (including those laid off due to business changes).
- If desired, start looking for another job as soon as possible. Some high demand services (such as grocery stores like Fred Meyer, Albertsons, and Walmart) are hiring for many new positions.
Stay strong, and expect to hear from us soon with any updates and more resources. Thank you for everything you do.