Exploring Classified Vacation Variability Within California Community Colleges
By, Michael Monsour, M.A.
Chief Union Steward, CSEA, Ch. 725
It would be logical to assume that California Community Colleges, as part of a singular higher education system, would offer relatively similar vacation benefits for Classified employees. However, this assumption does not appear to be supported in practice. For example, at the Palomar Community College District in San Diego, a starting classified employee will accrue 18 days of vacation. In contrast, within the Peralta Community College District, Classified employees will start at the legal minimum of 10 vacation days and maintain this rate for five years. But the variability isn’t just between the starting vacation days that districts offer. All districts use some form of a tiered vacation accrual system tied to years of service. However, the timelines used by districts, and the amounts of vacation accrued at each major milestone year, is inconsistent. Take for example Compton Community College District, which offers 22 days of vacation starting at the 9th year of service. Compare this to Desert Community College District, where Classified employees will earn the same 22 days of vacation starting at the 25th year of service. Of course, some variation is to be expected with different unions and negotiation practices at each site. Still, the differences for this benefit are striking, and signify a need to update the current education code to provide more structure across the system. For reference, California Code, Education Code – EDC § 88197 states the following:
“The vacation shall be as determined by the community college district, but shall be not less than five-sixths of a day for each month in which the employee is in a paid status for more than one-half the working days in the month, if the employee is regularly employed five days per week, seven to eight hours a day.”
To create better parity within the system, the Code needs to speak to fair levels of initial vacation accrual rates and to the length of time districts can impose before classified employees can earn longevity vacation benefits. For example:
“The vacation shall be as determined by the community college district but shall be not less than
five-sixths of a one day for each month in which the employee is in a paid status nor less than two days for each month following the completion of ten years of classified service. This applies to Classified service employees who are employed for more than one-half the working days in the month, if the employee is regularly employed five days per week, seven to eight hours a day.”
By adding these basic parameters into the Education Code, it would immediately create more equitable leave practices (equal vacation for equal work) amongst the California Community Colleges. Of course, districts and unions could still bargain higher levels than these prescribed baselines, but the Education Code could provide better safeguards to protect against unreasonable vacation accrual rates or arbitrary vacation timelines, all while eliminating any associated low-cap vacation maximums.
Notes: Below are the specific collective bargaining agreement excerpts referenced in this article as a single PDF with the referenced pages extracted. In addition, a chart is provided of the initial vacation days offered by each district we reviewed. This article is opinion only, and we encourage all of our readers to independently verify the findings herein, and to send us corrections as needed. While ideally, the contracts being compared would be from the exact same year, unfortunately, this was not feasible, and the most recent publicly available contracts were used instead. It is possible that the Districts noted in the article/charts have changed their CBA vacation articles in the interim periods between the contract date and the time this article was posted and/or read. I would welcome any change that improves Classified vacation rights, but maintain the plea for updates to the affiliated Education Code.
Beyond Reason, a Look at Classified Release Time
By, Michael Monsour M.A.
CSEA Ch. 725 Union Steward
The Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA) Government Code Sec. 3543.1 states that “A reasonable number of representatives of an exclusive representative shall have the right to receive reasonable periods of released time without loss of compensation when meeting and negotiating and for the processing of grievances.” At question, is how California Community Colleges (CCC) interpret and operationally define what a reasonable amount of time is? In addition, one could argue that if a union has more members, they’ll need more time to operate proportionally. This article looks to discover the amount of variability in release time for Classified Professionals amongst the CCC Collective Bargaining Agreements.
To begin our investigation, we selected six medium-to-large sized districts (10,000-20,000 FTE) and reviewed their contracts. There are many different reasons a district might offer release time, including for professional development, attending conferences, or serving on a local or state committee. The focus of this article is to review the amount of release time given specifically for the on-going “association business” – what it takes to run a union on a day-to-day basis. To complicate matters further, districts offer release time using per-week, per-FTE, per-month, or per-calendar/fiscal year allocations. To make comparisons, we need to adapt these into a standardized measurement of time. Using the following conversions: 1 day = 8 hours, one work week= 40 hours = 1 FTE-week, one month = 173.3 hours = 1 FTE-Month, one year = 2080 hours = 1 FTE-year, we can adapt contract language into total annual hours of release time. By including the CCCO Datamart 2021-2022 total FTEs for each district reviewed we can roughly measure district size, and by association, Classified membership needed for those hours in the classroom. Admittedly, union membership count would be a better measure, but this information was not readily available at the time this article was written. What follows is a collection of release time quotes from the affiliated collective bargaining agreements reviewed, along-side a summary of the total annual time allowed using the conversion rates listed above.
Sample One: Pasadena CCD (FTE 21-22 = 17,425)
Summary: 40 hours annually + 2 hours of release time for new employee orientation for 2 members + 5 days of release time for 1 member to attend association conference + release time for safety committee + members may adjust their lunch periods to attend monthly meetings and be released to attend the contract ratification meeting.
“During each fiscal year the District shall grant CSEA 40 hours of release time, useable in one (1) hour increments to be designated as "chargeable release time". Use will be noticed to the user's supervisor prior to use on the District approved form bearing the signature of the CSEA President of his designee. Additionally, the District shall grant CSEA two hours of release time for the CSEA Safety Committee Chair to prepare for the CSEA Safety Committee meetings. Such release time shall be granted only for each meeting actually held. Maximum release time for a fiscal year shall be twenty-four (24) hours.”
“The District shall be entitled to reimbursement for release time exceeding the limits set forth”
“The District shall provide one (1) hour of paid release time for two CSEA representatives, to be chosen by CSEA president or designee. Said release time shall not be counted against the total release time contained elsewhere in the collective bargaining agreement. The CSEA Labor Relations Representative may also attend the orientation.”
The District shall release one employee at no loss of pay for up to five days for the purpose of attending the CSEA annual conference.
The District shall release one designated CSEA officer or steward from duty for the purpose of grievance meetings, disciplinary meetings and evaluation appeal meetings as the employee's representative.
All bargaining unit members shall have the right to adjust their lunch period for the purpose of attending the monthly CSEA meeting. All bargaining unit members shall be released from duty up to one hour for the purpose of attending a contract ratification meeting”
“Grievance meetings normally will be scheduled by the District so as not to conflict with student services. However, if the meeting is expected to be of such duration that it would extend beyond the normal business hours of the District's central office, the District shall provide released time with no loss of pay to one authorized employee representative of CSEA so that the session can be accommodated within such business hours. This shall constitute "reasonable periods of released time" within the meaning of the applicable provisions of the California Government Code.”
Sample Two: Rio Rondo CCD (FTE 21-22 = 10,818)
Summary: 160 hours annually (20 Days for association business a year = 8 hours X 20 days = 160 hours) + release time for three members to go to the association conference + release time for certain committees+ 3 hours per member annually for CSEA special dinner+ 30 minutes annual to attend a Ceser Chavez event + time participating in grievances
“The Association's representatives shall be provided with a composite pool of 20 days paid release time for each fiscal year for Association business” “The Association may request and purchase additional release time, as appropriate, if additional release time is needed for investigating/processing grievances, and subject to the prior approval of the District.” “The Association may request and purchase additional release time, as appropriate, if additional release time is needed for investigating/processing grievances, and subject to the prior approval of the District. It is understood that the time necessary to meet and confer with management representatives or to attend meetings at the request of the President or his/her designee for purposes unrelated to grievance investigation/processing shall not be deducted from this time.”
The President of CSEA Chapter #477 or the President's designated representative shall be granted five (5) days release time with pay to attend the CSEA Annual Conference. In addition, two (2) other representatives of the Association, designated in writing by the Chapter President, shall also be granted five (5) days of release time
Any unit member scheduled to work after 5:00 pm who will be honored at the annual CSEA Decade Dinner shall receive release time (up to three hours) between 5:00 pm and 8:00 pm to attend the dinner.
Employees may be granted up to 30 minutes of release time on Cesar Chavez Day to attend an event commemorating or celebrating Cesar Chavez Day
Two members of the bargaining unit shall be recommended by CSEA to be appointed by the District to the District Safety Committee. The bargaining unit members of the committee shall be allowed release time to attend committee meetings
The employee is entitled to release time from duties within a reasonable time to review the derogatory material. If desired, the employee may attach his/her own comments to the derogatory statement
Sample Three: San Juaquin Delta CCD (FTE 21-22 = 16,363)
Summary: 300 hours annually + conference release time+ 48 hours a year for job representatives (stewards).
Reference Quotes: “Reasonable release time shall be defined as 300 total hours per year, in addition to the release time allocated for chapter delegates to attend annual conferences.” “The right of reasonable release time for employees who are CSEA state officers, state committee members, and chapter officers to conduct necessary CSEA business.” “The right of reasonable release time for CSEA chapter delegates to attend the CSEA Annual Conference.” “CSEA shall receive reasonable release time at no expense to CSEA or the employees it represents for meeting and negotiating, and the processing of grievances. Reasonable release time shall be defined as 300 total hours per year, in addition to the release time allocated for chapter delegates to attend annual conferences as defined in Article V, section 5.1.9, and the release time allocated for Job Representatives as defined in Article VI, section 6.4.3.” “CSEA members appointed to serve on governance committees shall receive release time for participation on shared governance group committees, including time to prepare for participation on the shared governance committees, at no expense to CSEA or the employee.” “Job Representatives shall be restricted to an average four (4) release hours per calendar month (not to exceed forty-eight (48) hours per year)”
Sample Four: Santa Clarita CCD (21-22 FTE 13,109)
Summary: 1,248 hours annually + up to 2 hours per month for members to attend chapter meetings + separate time for grievances and negotiations + one (1) week for each unit member attending CSEA conference. Note: time is shared between the Union and the Classified Senate.
Reference Quotes: “The Association representatives shall have a total of twenty-four (24) hours per week of release time for the purpose of conducting official chapter business in accordance with the requirements of the Educational Employment Relations Act, including but not limited to: a. Chapter Executive Board meetings. b. Chapter’s Special Executive Board/Committee meetings. c. Chapter’s Research and Negotiating Committee meetings as it relates to bargaining of wages, hours and working conditions. d. Chapter’s Health & Welfare Benefits Committee meeting as it relates to benefits. e. Chapter’s Standing and Ad-Hoc committees per chapter’s Constitution & Bylaws. f. Participation in Classified Senate responsibilities.” “One (1) week’s release time shall be provided for each unit member attending the conference and shall not result in overtime.” “Unit members shall have release time to attend Association chapter meetings, up to two hours each month, without fear of reprisal or hostility.” “Association representatives have a right to reasonable periods of release time for the purposes of meeting and negotiating with the District and for the processing of grievances and that such release time shall not count against the total release time under this Article. A reasonable number of representatives or an exclusive representative shall have the right to receive reasonable periods of release time without loss of compensation when meeting and negotiating and for the processing of grievances”
Sample Five: San Jose Evergreen CCD (21-22 FTE 10,018 )
Summary: 2,080 hours annually + additional time for negotiations and grievances, and the option to purchase 40% release time for the chapter president. Time for conferences is part of the 2,080 hours.
Reference Quotes: “The District shall provide paid release time and allow CSEA to have a total of 2080 hours per fiscal year beginning July 1st through June 30 for CSEA Chapter business.” “The District shall provide reasonable paid release time (separate from the general pool) for a maximum of eight unit members for the purpose of meeting with the District in negotiations”
“The purpose of CSEA released time is for Union leaders, job stewards and other designated unit members to have opportunities to participate in CSEA conferences and to prepare, consult, meet and resolve matters related to the District and the Union. Therefore, it is understood that this time is to be distributed among individuals and used throughout the fiscal year.” “In the event it becomes necessary to conduct a grievance hearing during the workday, the grievant, a single Union representative, and witnesses shall be granted release time without loss of pay.” “The Union president shall be provided with 40% non-paid release time upon the submission of a written request and provided, further, such request is approved by the District and the Union pays the proportionate cost of fringe benefits.”
Sample Six: Glendale CCD (21-22 FTE 10,995)
Summary: 3,432 hours annually (66 hours a week x 52 weeks = 3,432) + 500 hours for chapter meetings + Substitutes for up to 900 hours per year.
Reference Quotes: “Sixty-six (66) hours (1.65 FTE) per week shall be available for use for release time for union activities.” “The District will allow release time with pay for attendance at the CSEA Annual Conference on the basis of two (2) delegates for the first one 19 hundred fifty (150) members and one (1) additional delegate for each additional one hundred (100) members or fraction thereof within Glendale Community College, Chapter 76.” “Officers of CSEA Chapter 76, Site Representatives and Job Stewards shall have release time available for the performance of their duties. Sixty-six (66) hours (1.65 FTE) per week shall be available for use for release time for union activities.” “The District may provide a substitute employee for the Chapter President and/or Chief Negotiator with mutual agreement between CSEA and the Superintendent/President. Each substitute employee may work up to 900 hours or 195 days per fiscal year, whichever comes first.” “CSEA shall have release time equivalent to 500 employee hours per year, for the purpose of attending the monthly CSEA meeting. CSEA will provide a monthly report to the Associate Vice President of Human Resources listing the employees attending the monthly meeting and the remaining number of employee hours that may be used for attendance at the monthly meeting for that year. Attendance at the monthly CSEA meetings will not serve in lieu of the employee’s lunch period up to the 500 hour annual limit.” “The District may provide a substitute employee for the Chapter President and/or Chief Negotiator with mutual agreement between CSEA and the Superintendent/President. Each substitute employee may work up to 900 hours or 195 days per fiscal year, whichever comes first.”
Our analysis of union release time indicated a high level of variability between California Community College districts, even amongst those of similar size. Classified representative organizations should lobby to update EERA government code language on release time. Within our sample of six districts reviewed, we noted variability between 40 hours and 3,432 hours of annual release time. Clearly, there needs to be better guidance on how reasonable release time is defined and better communication about this topic between districts and union chapters.
For exclusive representative organizations to be effective, there should be a baseline minimum number of release-time hours to conduct business. For example, not less than 10 hours per member per year to conduct association business, and not less than 2 hours per member per month to hold association meetings. In addition, those serving on negotiations committees or processing grievances should be exempt from this total allocation within reason, as these activities are highly variable in the annual hours needed and members should never feel pressured by time to reach grievance or negotiated contract outcomes and settlements.
We encourage our readers to make their own comparisons, formulate their own perspectives, and help us shed light on release time irregularities between California Community College Districts.
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