Clark College instructors wage first-ever strike

By Don McIntosh

VANCOUVER, Wash.—More than 400 faculty members went on strike Jan. 13 at Clark College in Vancouver for the first time ever.  The strike came after years of the college shifting course load to lower-paid part-timers and offering salary increases that failed to keep up with inflation. It also followed more than 15 months of bargaining, half a dozen union pickets and rallies, and a unanimous strike vote Dec. 7.

Clark instructors are represented by the Clark College Association of Higher Education CCAHE, an affiliate of the Washington Education Association. In contract bargaining, they’ve asked for catch-up raises, and they want part-time faculty to be paid at the same rate as full time faculty so the college no longer has a financial incentive to limit instructors teaching time.

The strike began a week into the new academic term. Classes for Clark’s nearly 13,000 students were canceled for the duration of the strike. On the picket line Jan. 13, union members said they plan to stay out on strike until the college makes an acceptable offer.

The following day, the two sides reached tentative agreement on a new contract, which was to be presented to members Jan. 15.

“I see this as much bigger than just Clark College,” CCAHE president Suzanne Southerland told the Labor Press. “If we can win this, it will influence other colleges, and ultimately the education that students are going to get.”

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