Faculty members at the Community College of Baltimore County are taking their fight for collective bargaining power to Annapolis, lobbying for legislation as they continue to demonstrate locally.
Francis X. Kelly, president of the college's board of trustees, told faculty members in December that the board does not have the authority to recognize a faculty union. He said state legislation would be necessary.
So leaders of the faculty union effort appealed to members of the Baltimore County legislative delegation. And this month, Del. Joseph J. "Sonny" Minnick and Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr. introduced legislation that would grant the faculty collective bargaining power.
But the faculty members maintain that the board can grant bargaining power on its own. While Kelly is firmly opposed to such a move, he has set aside 30 minutes on the agenda for tonight's board meeting to listen to the group's concerns.
Kelly said he expects the board will vote unanimously not to endorse the legislation.
"I feel so strongly about it that, I don't think I want to serve on a board where the faculty's unionized," he said. "I'd probably just step out. I've got too many more important things I can do with my time. ... They're doing a good job of pushing me to the brink."
Union leaders say that about 75 percent of the 350 full-time faculty members have signed cards authorizing the union -- an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers -- to represent them in collective bargaining.
Kelly raised doubts about that figure. "I've talked to a number of faculty who don't want any part of it," he said.
With campuses in Catonsville, Essex and Dundalk, CCBC has about 75,000 students. Kelly said the board has worked hard to treat the faculty well, securing $2.2 million for extra compensation from 2001 to last year.
"This is very frustrating to me," he said. "We've done so much for the faculty."
But Regina Shea, a union leader and associate professor of accounting at the Essex campus, said faculty members have an array of concerns, chief among them that teachers have lost their voice in decision-making in recent years. "The management of the college has become abusive, untrustworthy, capricious and arbitrary with their decisions," she said.
Minnick said he wants the board to revisit the issue of tenure, which was abolished for new faculty in the mid-1990s. Kelly said absolutely not.
Perhaps as a result of the loss of job security, Minnick said, he senses that faculty members are afraid to speak out about problems at the college.
Kelly said the board wants to hear faculty concerns, but Shea has refused offers to meet with Chancellor Irving P. McPhail in a small group. Without union recognition, Shea said, she cannot speak for the faculty.
Of Maryland's 16 community colleges, only Montgomery County's has a recognized faculty union, formed in 1980 after legislation to authorize its creation. Faculty members at other community colleges, such as Howard County's, are discussing the possibility of unionizing.
Kelly said he cannot envision Minnick and Stone's legislation passing, much less getting a signature from Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Minnick gives the legislation "a 50-50 chance of passing."
Shea said the teachers are in the fight for the long haul.
"If it takes four years, eight years, we'll still do it," she said.