Part-time faculty at Columbia College goes on strike

CHICAGO -- Hundreds of part-time staff at Columbia College Chicago hit the picket line on Wednesday.

Wednesday was the first of a two-day walk-out over wages and job security. The union said Columbia has seen programs eliminated, faculty leaving and the students suffering.

“This is not the Columbia that I met 30 years ago,” Prexy Nesbitt, a faculty member, said.

Members of the Part-Time Faculty Association of Columbia College (PFAC) hit the picket line on Michigan Avenue.

PFAC represents 650 to 700 faculty members, each semester. Their contract expired in August.

The union and the school remain at odds over issues including job security and wages.

“Our November 10th proposal included salary increase as well as other things we're looking for,” Mark Rosati, interim vice president of strategic marketing and communications at Columbia College, said.

“Really they want to remove any protections for our part time faculty and no union protections,” Diana Vallera, PFAC president, said.

“We in fact sought federal mediation so we could meet a resolution. The mediator offered to meet twice last week. The college accepted the union declined,” Rosati said.

“You don't get to do that you get to have a federal mediator when you bargain in good faith,” Vallera said.

On Wednesday, representatives from other unions and some students rallied in solidarity.

“I think everyone knows from faculty to students alike, their teaching conditions are our learning conditions,” Liz Johnson, a student, said.

School buildings remained open but the union said dozens of classes had to be canceled.

“This is a clear message to the college to knock it off or we're prepared to take whatever next steps are needed,” Vallera said.

The faculty will strike again on Thursday. The next bargaining session is scheduled for Friday.