District Implements Layoffs for Classified Staff at City College

Yuchen Xiao/The Guardsman

By Emily Margaretten 

City College laid off 42 classified employees on Jan. 3 after the District failed to reach a labor agreement with Services Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021, which represents classified staff.

The layoffs impacted 67 employees in total, as Civil Service rules and regulations (Article 21) allow for classified employees to displace or “bump” other employees based on seniority within each class. 98% of those affected by the layoffs were women and people of color, according to SEIU 1021 leadership.

Martin addressed his decision to implement layoffs instead of furloughs in an email to the campus community on Jan. 3. “I do not believe that furloughs are in the best interest of our college and the financial sustainability and long-term viability of the San Francisco Community College District,” he said.

Martin also referred to an unspecified independent audit and a report from the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) to justify the layoffs. FCMAT stated in 2021 that City College needed to adjust staffing and other expenditure categories to offset its decline in revenue from lower student enrollments.

The number of classified staff positions has reduced in size from nearly 1,000 to just over 500 since the year 2000, according to a press release from SEIU 1021.

SEIU 1021 leadership denounced the layoffs as unjustified and unnecessary and accused the chancellor of regressive bargaining at the Board of Trustees’ special meeting on Dec. 30.

“What is regressive bargaining?” Vice President of SEIU 1021 Karl Gamarra asked. “It is when one side moves backwards, offering less on a proposal than they previously offered.”

Yuchen Xiao/The Guardsman

Adding another twist to the proceedings, the Board of Trustees dismissed Dianna Gonzales from her position as Deputy Chancellor when they reconvened from closed session. Gonzales was the chief negotiator for the District’s bargaining team.

Gonzales met with SEIU 1021 leadership several times to identify cost savings to avoid layoffs. The District had assigned $4.8 million of the projected $8.3 million budget deficit to classified salary lines.

“We were real close to the $4.8 million,” President of SEIU 1021 Athena Steff said in an interview. “Both sides, when we left that meeting [on Dec. 12], we felt like we had a resolution. We had an agreement.

“And you know,” she continued, “we had gotten to the point where we weren’t even going to challenge where they got that number [$4.8 million] and whether it was accurate or not. We were trying to get to a solution.”

The framework for settlement included 18 furlough days through June and a salary freeze to step increases for 18 months. There would be no layoffs or salary reductions.

However, the District’s bargaining team said the chancellor would not authorize furloughs when they reconvened two days later, according to SEIU 1021 leadership.

The chancellor told Steff and Gamarra that he wanted ongoing savings in the form of salary cuts or layoffs when they met on Dec. 22.

“He totally withdrew the District from any kind of negotiations with SEIU,” Gamarra said. “And he imposed the layoff of our workers. That’s what the new chancellor has done.”

SEIU 1021 submitted an unfair practice charge with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) on Nov. 24. The charge cited the District’s failure to fulfill the Union’s requests for information, which it said it needed for concessionary bargaining.

The Union added an amendment to the file, charging the District with regressive and coercive bad faith bargaining tactics.

The District responded to the allegations with a position statement on Jan. 14. It said it met the Union’s requests for information adequately, implemented the layoffs properly, and engaged in good faith bargaining.

“SEIU surely knew that layoffs would be implemented if salary concessions were not provided,” the District said.

“Unfortunately,” it continued later in the statement, “the parties were unable to come to an agreement before the layoff notices went into effect.”

The District also said that “although 67 employees were initially notified that they would be laid off, only ten employees actually lost their jobs.” This took into account bumping rights that went into effect per Civil Service rules and regulations.

The unfair practice charges leveled against the District still were in the investigation phase of processing by a board agent, according to a PERB spokesperson.

Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration John al-Amin revised the end-of-year budget deficit at the Board of Trustees meeting on Jan. 27. He projected a $5 million to $6 million budget deficit, which was less than the $8.3 million figure projected in early December. He also referred to “savings that have occurred as of Jan. 3.”

City College administrators did not respond to multiple requests for interviews for this story.