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Bates faculty call for HB 1535, an end to financial-emergency ‘weapon’

The following report is from AFT Washington:


Tina Smith Klahn holds up a photo of a fellow faculty member who worked at Bates TC for 33 years, was acclaimed nationally for starting a childbirth education program, and was terminated under the financial-emergency law 17 months before she was going to retire. Also testifying Tuesday were faculty union president Karen Patjens and Robert Ackein.

OLYMPIA — On Tuesday, Feb. 12, faculty members at Bates Technical College testified before the House Labor & Workforce Development Committee in support of HB 1535 which would repeal a financial emergency law created in 1981 that allows college trustees to fire faculty without cause in a budget crisis.

The Bates faculty members who testified know firsthand the damaging effects this law had at their college when their administration invoked the law in 2010 and arbitrarily gave pink slips to 42 faculty — eventually firing 10 — and closed entire programs, which denied many students access to an education.

Their union, AFT Washington, says the financial-emergency law unfairly targets a select group of public employees and allows the college presidents and boards of trustees to cherry-pick among tenured faculty, with no rhyme or reason, and break bargaining agreements to expedite terminations. Out of Washington’s 34 two-year colleges, only Bates used this unnecessary law. Other colleges worked collaboratively with the faculty union to address their budget issues.

A trustee opposing HB 1535 called the existing financial-emergency law a tool.

“It isn’t a tool, it’s a weapon,” testified AFT Washington President Sandra Schroeder. “The only time that weapon has been used — at Bates — it did just the sort of damage that weapons do. It did nothing constructive, as tools do.”

Repealing this law by passing HB 1535 is the right thing to do and will prevent other colleges from experiencing the tension, anger and loss of morale that occurred with dedicated faculty and students at Bates Technical College.

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